One of the joys of our sojourn here is being in communion with a whole world of wild creatures. The house, Ard Glas, is wonderfully situated, looking down over a sheltered inner stretch of Roaringwater Bay where there occurs rapid tidal movement creating – twice a day – mud flats teeming with waders, shorebirds, divers and seals.
To date the spotting scope has shown up everything we might have expected – Curlews and Oystercatchers seeming the most prolific – and some surprises, including pure white Little Egrets, which are not supposed to be here at all! I’m sure I saw a Great Northern Diver, although it’s not impossible to mistake the profile and behaviour of a Cormorant for one of these most magical of birds. In the Canadian myth-time ‘Loon’ (as she is called over there) shares a high place in the panoply of Gods – or assistant Gods – close to the great creator, transformer and trickster Raven. It was Loon who helped the Great Spirit to recreate land after the all-consuming deluge because poor Loon was lonely: she missed the company of Human and Animals, who had all lived, worked and conversed as one race before the punishment of the flood was brought upon the world, largely through Man’s misdemeanours.
The Fox (or Foxes) frequently visit Ard Glas and the lanes around the townland, as do errant Cows who are either adept jailbreakers or who are being informally grazed on the ‘long acre’ – as Finola so aptly describes the Irish verges. This necessitates that we keep the gates closed, to preserve our neat lawn – whose pristine sheen we have already disturbed by installing a bird-table: a very Irish bird-table finely executed by our friend Danny and painted a most appropriate green. It has yet to receive a feathered visitor – but it’s early days…
Up in the hills – on the Sheep’s Head Way – the quest for friends continues: rewarded, yesterday, by a glimpse of one tenth of a Hare – the first seen to date on this visit. The one tenth was its backside and tail as it disappeared into the bracken: the tail was long and black striped, thus confirming the sighting as a Brown Hare, rather than an Irish Hare. Another excitement on that walk was an ‘almost certain’ Snow Bunting – distinctively white bodied and black winged in its adult male plumage: a rarity in Ireland, and in all likelihood just passing through: the species only breeds in northern Scotland, Iceland and Scandinavia.
I am always on the lookout for more Hares: they are my passion. I’m rather afraid that I won’t see them in the fields around Ard Glas, as there is a large Rabbit population established here – and Hares don’t like land which is used by Rabbits.
But there is rough and seemingly Rabbitless land up behind us, and I am optimistic that some sightings are to be had over the next few months. I have enjoyed many such sightings in the past around Danny’s townland of Ballybane West: I have seen groups of ten or a dozen racing around a field for no apparent reason (Haring?). They do seem to be animals which have a very strong will to confound and confuse, evidenced by a great lack of logical or consistent behaviours and by a whole wealth of folklore, some examples of which I might recount in future posts.