The Valley, Achill

The Valley or Tonatanvalley (Doogort Machair/Lough Doo SAC and Doogort Machair SPA).

The Valley is a coastal site lying in the north-east corner of Achill Island, Co. Mayo, adjacent to the village of The Valley, approximately 3 km east of Doogort. The site contains a good diversity of habitats in a relatively small area, including shingle beach, sandy beach, boulder beach, exposed bedrock and mobile dunes. Most of this site consists of Machair (i.e. coastal grassland on a sandy substrate), which fronts onto the shoreline.

The Machair is edged by agricultural land and peatland to the east and by a caravan park and agricultural land to the west. The structure of the plain is interesting as it provides examples of wet, dry and hummocky Machair in close proximity. However the habitat is in unfavourable status due to low plant diversity and uniformity of the vegetation structure as a result of sheep grazing.

In 1985, Doogort supported a total of 27 pairs of breeding waders. Since then, the populations have declined dramatically, with 14 pairs present in 1996 and zero pairs in 2009. In 2019, just three wader pairs were recorded; two pairs of Lapwing and one pair of Ringed Plover. Lapwing populations at the site declines from 11 pairs in 1996 to only two pairs in 2019.

The site was designated as an SPA for the population of 10 breeding Dunlin pairs it supported in 1985. This Dunlin population declined to two pairs in 1996 and by 2009 no breeding Dunlin were recorded at the site. Dunlin were also absent in the most recent survey of 2019. However, Dunlin have been recorded here during the early stages of the breeding season in recent years, indicating potential for Dunlin re-colonisation.

In 2004, the Large Red Tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus lapidarius) and Moss Carder-bee (Bombus muscorum), both listed as near Threatened on the IUCN Red List for Ireland, were found at this site in addition to the nationally Endangered Great Yellow Bumble Bee (Bombus distinguendus). The latter was recorded from the site in 2022. Pollinator species recorded from this site and their status on Ireland’s Red List of species include:

Near Threatened: Large Red Tailed Bumble Bee (Bombus lapidarius), Moss Carder-bee (Bombus muscorum)**

Vulnerable: Northern Colletes (Colletes floralis) **

Endangered: Great Yellow Bumble Bee (Bombus distinguendus) **

** listed as vulnerable at a European level.

Photos Courtesy of Michaél O’Briain.