Coast Diary – April 2nd

Out walking the other day I noticed a skip outside one of the last little cottages in the area. It’s occupant had died the previous week after a long illness. Her good neighbours could be seen in recent times going in to visit, or out walking her dog. Now she is gone and there is the possibility of the cottage being sold, rented or kept empty as a holiday home. The whole thing made me melancholy, not only that this lovely lady who had lived with her husband in their unassuming cottage overlooking the sea had left, but also what their departure emphasised – the accelerating creep of suburbia. Most of the houses here now are relatively modern but are modest compared to some of the newer builds which have settled like rotten teeth in the lower jaw of the coastal loop. Inexplicably it seems easier to get planning for two-storied ugly things the closer you are to the sea.

The most recent cottage to receive a makeover around here now has a shiny new roof and modern window frames. Not bad you might say but far worse is the collection of tightly packed structures dropped, seemingly at random, into the small plot which was once a shady habitat behind the cottage. Now, with the hawthorn around it cut back, the slanting black planes, unbroken by windows, redact the skyline. It’s cramped, dark angles, senselessly crowded into the small space, induces claustrophobia even walking past. But change is inevitable and I suppose those that came before mourned the new bungalows and those living in ditches despised the cottages when they were first built.

There are still one or two old cottages left, some green spaces fiercely protected. If you concentrate on them, and on the rumpled fields and headlands, the reddish brown cliffs, the wheeling birds, you can, imagine it as it once was before blow-ins like me took root. The cottages low and drifting smoke on the chill evenings as figures crossed the blue fields behind their cows. The road, then just a track where people stopped to swap tales or along which they hurried to borrow milk or share a catch of mackerel, or visit a sick neighbour. Some things don’t change. As the night closes in and the owls and badgers and foxes start their shift, the warm lights in the windows dim and go out one by one and beyond, barely visible but constant to the ear, the heaving sea.

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Last week I rock-pooled and as those in the know, know, rockpooling is like heroin – for anoraks like me anyway. So I was at it again this week. This time also saw some Snakelock Anemones, below. Those chaps can’t retract their tentacles. Awkward. The ones I didn’t name last week (even further below) are Dahlia Anenomes.

Image of the Week: Buzzard

DSC_0867.JPGLike last week I again decided to choose an image from a list instead of thumbnails. This is a bad picture of a buzzard I was watching during the week as she cruised over the fields looking for breakfast. Buzzards were rare here in Ireland but have begun to spread naturally in the last ten years. I saw my first Irish one in 2013. I was speeding along on my bike when I saw it. I was so excited I nearly fell off the bike…

‘Its a bloody eagle!’ I yelled to no one in particular.

Our buzzards are not the same as the in the U.S. and though they feed on carrion they do eat small mammals and birds. While they can be seen hunting on the wing they also favour sitting on fence posts and telegraph poles keeping an eye out for rats and the like. Some people believe the decline of the grey squirrel, once the scourge of the red squirrel population, is due to the return of the buzzard. What goes aroundcomes around.

Though the buzzard is very useful in the countryside in controlling the rat population and cleaning up carrion – not to mention that they are uplifting to see – there are still people who will shoot and poison them in case they start carrying off their dogs or cows or horses. As if. For, while at first our buzzard looks fierce and majestic, that is only a front. They are no good at catching birds on the wing.They are noisy when diving, scaring off any prey. They seem to be scared of just about everything and are often seen being chased by crows – this one was chased off by my rabble of doughty sparrows.  To top it all their feathers make them look like they are wearing a brown ‘Christmas Jumper’ all of which seems to make them pathetic characters. A sort of low end eagle. Or perhaps an Irish eagle. But they are ours and long may they soar.

 

(New!)Image of the Week: Hare

Whoo hoo. I’m back. Again!As I wrote in my last post in April I had thought of deleting the Mermaids Purse blog but I still want to publish a book of illustrated essays connected to the work here before I move on and – full disclosure – I neeed a place to advertise it. But I don’t want to regurgitate old posts and, as it turns out I am a bit too busy for new posts so, inspired by my blogging pals Rocking Fraggle and Traci York, I am going to kickstart my posting with an image of the week. If I write at all I will hopefully keep it to a minimum – famous last words! These photos will not be technically brilliant as I am notorious for my bad treatment of my cameras but they will be wide ranging of subject. First up an early morning sighting of a hare.

Incidentally this week a disease which is fatal to rabbits and hares but of no risk to humans, has been confirmed in the wild in Ireland for the first time. Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) causes death within a few days of infection, with sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. This disease emerged first in 1984 and can spread quickly and devastate hae and rabbit populations. The public have been asked to report any incidents of it they see or any unusual behaviour. It has to be said I was surprised to see this hare being so visible for so long after the sun came up and behaving a bit like a ‘mad March’ hare. Fingers crossed that its only a sign of high spirits…

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