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Rinevella and Kilcredaun

Rinevella Bay is an approximately 1.6 kilometre long inlet south-west of Carrigaholt and one of the visually most beautiful spots on the peninsula. It is protected by Rinevella Point and Rehy Hill to the west and the headland of  Kilcredaun with its landmark lighthouse to the east. The inlet is separated by a narrow rocky headland, known as Cloonconeen Point, which divides Rinevella Bay into two separate and very different parts.

The western inlet is dominated by an approximately 1 kilometre long sandy beach and sandflat which is frequented by various resident and wintering wading birds including Oystercatcher, Curlew and Sanderling that feed on lugworm and other invertebrates. The western and eastern end of the beach is protected by layered rocky shores that feature rich lichen communities in the splash zone and upper shore. Thrift growing out of crevices in the rock is also a common sight.

The eastern inlet is very much different and one of the most intriguing places on the peninsula. It features a number of different habitats that blend into each other and form one of the most biodiverse areas on Loop Head. On the seaward side sits a layer of exposed peat about 1 meter thick in which numerous petrified tree trunks - pine and birch - are embedded. This eerily beautiful place, locally known as the Drowned Forest or Petrified Forest, is a reminder that Ireland was once heavily forested. Today the peat supports substantial growth of gut weed and other seaweeds and is an important resting and feeding area for wintering brent geese and both wintering and resident wading birds including Ringed Plovers which are breeding in the area. The peat extends for around 30 meters before it disappears under a shingle & pebble barrier but continuous underground for some 150 to 300 meters inland. The vegetated shingle & pebble barrier hosts numerous wildflowers including Yellow Horned Poppy, Sea Campion, Bittersweet and Cleavers.

On the landward side of the barrier lies a narrow strip of saltmarsh which includes a saline lagoon known as Cloonconeen Pool. This area is mainly covered by the introduced Common Cord Grass but Common Reed, Sea Club Rush and wildflowers like Scurvy Grass and Sea Aster can also be found. The lagoon is home to a resident pair of Mute Swans while Mallard, Shelduck, Grey Heron and Little Egret regularly visit the area. The reedbeds host nesting Reed Buntings over the summer.

Adjoining the saltmarsh in the east is an area of drained blanket bog which features reedbeds, wet meadows, a hedgerow and – in an elevated position next to Kilcredaun lighthouse – a small stretch of maritime heath. This area is also rich in a wide variety of wildflowers including the Early Marsh Orchid and various rushes and sedges. Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and the Cuckoo can be observed here and a pair of Raven is nesting in the cliffs of Kilcredaun.

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