Little terns: courtship feeding display on the east coast near this rare migrants breeding grounds at Kilcoole, Co Wicklow, a beautiful sight to see in May
My most recent environmental article in The Irish Times:
It was an uncharacteristically balmy late afternoon in early March, about 20 years ago. I had just taken extended leave from this newspaper to write a book, and given myself a few days to wander along midlands waterways to reflect on the challenges ahead.
One moment the air above the Grand Canal was clear and quiet; the next it was full of flickering brown wings and excited rasping calls. For several long minutes, wave after wave of sand martins, smaller relatives of the common swallow, pulsed past me.
These tiny feathered bundles had flown all the way across the Sahara desert, the Atlas mountains, France, and Britain to nest in Ireland. Pathetic though the fallacy may be, they seemed like a good omen for my own upcoming travels.
I was lucky; such encounters, where you can be quite certain from the time, place and numbers that you are encountering a mass of birds in full migration, usually require a bit more effort and specialist knowledge. But many people keep an eye out for their first swallow, or first cuckoo, each year, and associate then, like spring flowers, with new life and fresh hopes.
But bear in mind that most birds migrate. Your garden robin may have just arrived from continental Europe, though it looks just like the one you fed all winter.
We have picked a selection of more obvious migrants, some more familiar than others, which will arrive in increasing numbers over the next few weeks, and may enhance your sense that spring is coming.
This article first appeared on Saturday April 7. You can read the whole article here
Articles & Blog
Articles on the environment; Spanish, Catalan and Basque politics; travel; culture; and other subjects; interspersed with personal reflections and images