The Blackwater River
Lismore is located on the Blackwater River which flows from the borders of Counties Cork and Kerry, through a limestone – floored valley eastwards through County Cork and into County Waterford where it passes through Lismore. In Cappoquin it turns abruptly southwards to enter the sea at Youghal. At some stage in its history, thousands of years ago, it seems to have entered the sea at Dungarvan Bay.
The yellow Flag Iris grows well in many of the damp fields and marshes along the Blackwater. Like reeds and reedmace they can grow in the sort of black riverside mud that has no oxygen. They have straight stiff sword-like leaves and the flowering stems are slightly flattened and grow up to 2 metres with up to 14 flower buds on each. Usually one or two of the beautiful yellow flowers are open at a time.
In summer the tall pink-flowered Himalayan Balsam completely dominates much of the riverside along the Blackwater. The ripe seed cases pop and throw seeds over a metre. The ancestors of these plants were brought to Ireland in the 19th century by gardeners. They have spread along many rivers. They grow so well here because no Irish animals eat them and no diseases affect them here. Because they support so little animal life they make rather a poor wildlife habitat.
Life in the River
The River Blackwater is home to Salmon which are important to the economic life of the valley. Other native fish include the Brown Trout, a close relative of the Salmon. Another relative of the salmon are the tiny Smelt, fish with a strange cucumber smell that visit the river to lay their eggs. Shad, a now extremely rare relation of the Herring now come in very small numbers to lay their eggs.
Kingfishers, Cormorants, Herons, Little Egrets all feed on fish in the river. The snow-white Little Egret has recently started to colonise Ireland and is now common on the Blackwater. Large flat riverside fields, liable to flooding along the river upstream of Lismore are technically called callows and are important in winter for a variety of wintering waterfowl. Whooper Swans come here from Iceland to escape the cold northern winters. Duck include Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveller and Teal, while wading birds are represented by Black-tailed Godwits and Curlews.
Ireland has one of Europe’s best otter populations and these animals are often spotted in the Blackwater. Perhaps more often their voices are heard-a long clear whistle. Six of Ireland’ s ten known species of bat are known to occur in County Waterford. The species most characteristic of wide rivers like the Blackwater is the Daubenton’s Bat which can be seen flying low over water in twilight. Bats are very hard to identify in flight but the Daubenton’s Bat is known for flying in wide circles without making sharp turns. Roosts of these bats have been found in the Blackwater Valley.
Some wild flowers are thought to grow more inolder woodlands. Among these are the Bluebell, carpets of which bloom in woods near Lismore in spring. Another spring flower is the wood Anemone which is usually white. Interestingly, an attractive clear blue cultivated variety of this species – “Lismore Blue” – was first found growing wild in a wood near Lismore. It was reproduced in gardens and several plant nurseries now advertise it on their interner websites.