Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deserted Farms

The night dropped its curtain at eight. What drew me out was the chance to see Jupiter sitting just below the moon (and a dog that had those 'walk me now please' eyes). Taking the flashlight and a slightly less traversed route, it brought me down a bumpy track which ended at a gate and two weed covered pillars. The pillar on the right bore the surname 'Reidy'. Beyond stood an old two storey stone farmhouse, the Curlews called out on the shore to the north and the moon appeared briefly from behind too much cloud. It could have been straight out of a 1940s epic about old Eire. It was calm, peaceful yet a touch sad also. Wild unpopulated landscapes are magical, they hold mystery and often bring out the best in naturalists, writers, artists and musicians. Then there are these old deserted houses. I try to imagine a summers sun creeping across a flag stoned floor. A kettle on the boil, someone getting ready for the days labor. Perhaps the family 'Reidy' made that house alive until America or foreign parts called too loudly. I hope the echos within are happy ones.

Deserted Farms
Is it too much for one man to handle?
To encompass so many years with just a single theory,
The empty farmsteads - the tea bottles buried out in the bogs,
Someday nectar for some future archaeologist,
But why leave?
Was it famine that cracked the whip of starvation?
Maybe it was the isolation,
The land just wasn't enough it seems,
The weekends without the laughter of women,
The worn roads to the sea no longer bustle with those wagons of kelp,
Weed covered machinery - rusted red from Saturday nights tears,
When you rub your face free of Manhattan sweat,
It is with the hardened hands of your ancestors,
Calloused and baptised with County Clare dirt.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rambo Season Has Begun

A hunting we will go.......lets go out with big guns and bullet belts strapped to our waists and criss-crossing over our chests and blow everything that moves out of the sky. Lets not bother our lazy asses, to walk the fields or foreshore in search of our prey, lets just drive at break neck speeds down narrow country lanes and park up, take two steps, take our potshots and leave. Why, with no trained gun dogs to retrieve our targets, they can die a slow agonising death instead. How marvellous to think, these creatures have survived this far only to die in such a manner.

Yes indeed, its that time of the year again. Its really not good that I'm getting mad as hell about this and its only the start of the hunting season. These idiots I describe are not sportsmen - they are ignorant fools and whats more they are dangerous. When out hunting duck and other wildfowl, real sportsmen can identify the species which they pursue and they know when they are in season and how many they can shoot. Their gun dogs are highly trained to retrieve shot (or unfortunately in some cases winged/wounded) birds. Many of these now deemed 'old fashioned' hunters, will eat the duck/wildfowl they kill or pass the fowl on to others who will use them for their pot. Yet, in every corner of Ireland you come across the 'Rambo's who just want to kill things, I presume in some vain effort to prove how macho they are: "hey lads I just shot a big slow moving bird over there - I must be a real man". I have seen them shooting at Grey Herons and Swans and have heard many reports of them shooting birds of prey, gulls and other protected species. They roll into areas where they have heard there is "loads of birds" and start popping away. Because half the time they do not know the area, they will illegally shoot from roads and in protected areas where there will be walkers or houses nearby. This has resulted in tragedy in the past with their ignorance of firearms resulting in accidental shootings.

I am an ornithologist, I study birds scientifically and for pleasure. In a way my pursuit involves the hunting without the killing. My personal belief is that all nature should be respected. This doesn't make me an eco-extremist and I know it is hard to live 100% environmentally friendly and in harmony with nature. However when it comes to this sort of mindless murder, there is simply no excuse for it. This evening, a car with two Rambo's sped by me up a lane. A few minutes later and literally in a field next door with a high hedge, the shooting started, as Mallard, Teal, Curlew and their allies took to the sky, I willed them to safety and wished a flat tyre and worse (which I couldn't publicly declare!) on those who wanted them dead.

RainyWest has now put his soapbox away!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Sea

To be able to take off on a bicycle through a misty autumn evening, dog running alongside, dodging cow-pads and long limbed brambles. Binoculars around the neck and at the ready. Every trip outside can reveal something new or something familiar seen in a new light. This new pleasure came in the form of 12 Grey Seals lying out on an island, rolling, scratching, open mouthed and dark eyed. Curlews flew scolding the disturbance caused by my four legged friend and parked up in the dying grey light I marvelled at the sea all around.