This is a start of a year-long, weekly series of picture posts from the Irish coast. Our coast has begun to change rapidly over the last 18 months or so. The area I live in, once rural, is daily becoming more unrecognisable. Development is inevitable but it makes me sad – why does it always have to be big, ugly, boastful houses lit like airports and surrounded by breeze blocks clad in fakery? Suburbia has crept up on us. On a wider scale, numerous windfarm developments look set to transform our coast onshore and offshore forever. But Coast Diary is not about those developments. It is meant as a record of the things that I cherish here – the birds and animals, the sea, the good neighbours – before it disappears. Every Saturday I will post a quick, A6 sketch with a few words. For those interested in more in depth information on the windfarms – particularly their impacts on nature – when I have something to share, I will post on wednesdays.
The last day of the old year, 2021, found me in Passage East on the Suir estuary checking out the report of a dead dolphin for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). I forget how nice the little beach at Passage is, perhaps because it is unfamiliar as I am not often there. The last time I was there, was to check out a dolphin that had stranded in the harbour last March. It was stuck in the mud and could not be reached. The current carcass – which is very old – could even be its remains. I was in Woodstown last week – also on the estuary – recording a dolphin carcass there. Reports of sightings and strandings have increased over the lockdowns, in part because people are outdoors more and becoming more interested in the environment. Other animals are washed up too. A rare leatherback carcass washed up in the autumn and seals occasionally are found. As a volunteer for the IWDG, normally I don’t ‘do’ seals but I will pass on reports to Seal Rescue Ireland so when a friend asked me to check on a seal at Newtown Cove on the Saturday before Christmas I readily agreed.
I was taken aback to find the overcast car park and cove packed with people and swimmers accompanied by a coffee van and a fellow on a guitar … at 9:15am! This mass flocking to the coast is another change the lockdown has brought that I find hard to get used to. I suppose some like the socialisation but while I do have a need for occasional rowdiness, I tend to go urban for it.
When I masked up and fought my way down onto the little beach, I was a bit bewildered to see people swimming with the now dead seal. The seal had been barely alive the previous evening and, as it was washing about in the waves, it was hard to tell what it died of. Perhaps illness or exhaustion. Winter seas can be tough on them. Some months ago a young seal trying to rest on Tramore’s main beach died after being repeatedly chased back into the sea by curious walkers and their dogs.
Well that was cheery. Let’s see if I come up with something happier next week. Happy New Year to all my lovely readers, old and new. Here’s to more connection in 2022.