Connemara National Park (Irish: Páirc Naisiúnta Chonamara) is one of six National Parks in Ireland that are managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and local government. It is located in the west of Ireland within County Galway.
Connemara National Park was founded and opened to the public in 1980. It features 29.57 square kilometres of mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and forests. The entrance is situated on the Clifden side of Letterfrack. There are many remnants of human civilization within the park. There is a 19th century graveyard as well as 4,000 year old megalithic court tombs. Much of the land was once part of the Kylemore Abbey estate.
Western blanket bog and heathland are the most common vegetation of Connemara National Park. The boglands are situated in the wet low lying environments whereas the blanket bog exists within the drier mountain atmosphere. Purple moorgrass is the most bountiful plant, creating colourful landscapes throughout the country side. Carnivorous plants play an important role in the park's ecosystem, the most common being sundew and butterworts trap. Bogs hold very little nutrients so many plants obtain their energy from the digestion of insects. Other common plants include lousewort, bog cotton, milkwort, bog asphodel, orchids and bog myrtle, with a variety of lichens and mosses.
Connemara National Park is also for its diversity of bird life. Common song birds include meadow pipits, skylarks, stonechats, chaffinches, robins and wrens. Native birds of prey include the kestrel and Eurasian Sparrowhawk with the merlin and peregrine falcon being seen less frequently. Woodcock, snipe, starling, song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing and fieldfare migrate to Connemara during the winter.
Mammals are often difficult to find, but are present nonetheless. Fieldmice are common in the woodlands, whereas rabbits, foxes, stoats, shrews, and bats at night, are often sighted in the boglands. Red deer once roamed Connemara but were extirpated from the area approximately 150 years ago. An attempt is underway to reintroduce red deer to Connemara and a herd has been established within the Park.
The Visitor Centre features include exhibitions, the ‘Man and the landscape’ multi-lingual audio visual show and tea room (seasonal). Entrance to the Visitor Centre is free of charge. A summer programme of guided walks and special events for younger visitors are also available at the Visitor Centre. Connemara is one of six such national parks in Ireland.
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