Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Days Like These

These are perfect days.   Early Spring, full of hope and promise. Crisp frosty mornings remind me that it's good to have emerged from a long dreary winter.  The cold invigorating my sleepy self.  Dawn's warm fingers creep across the landscape, over the mountains and across the fields.
There's new growth and new life. Slowly the buds are awakening, ready to unfurl after the winter months. The first lambs keep close to their mothers in the fields.
All around us nature is looking forward, preparing for a new season, for birth and growth.
There's birdsong in the hedgerows. Starlings, sparrows, finches getting ready to mate, to nest, to start afresh.
Blue skies make me happy. I am glad to be alive, to be out and about, walking, plotting, planning, dreaming.  I forget the heartbreak and hard times that is life for many today.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Christmas on the Beach

Whilst walking the dog along the beach  I found someone's Christmas today
Washed up with the usual floatsom and jetsam of seaweed and driftwood,  plastic containers and tin cans, dead birds and glass bottles, was somebody's Christmas.

Baubles, some still in the box were they had been carefully  packed away, were strewn on the pebbles.

A little ceramic crib and singing carolers, one minus a head, looked strangely out of season and out of place on the edge of Dundalk Bay.

There was tinsel and fake holly twisted with seaweed.
And a cassette of  'Give up yer aul sins' would never play again.

What had  happened to the owner of this Christmas?  How had their decorations ended up at high tide mark?
Had they moved house, emigrated or passed away? Or did they just decide they didn't like this Christmas any more and dumped it at sea?
My thoughts take flight and turn to fancy. Was it a post-modern art exhibition?
One thing is sure, no bin charges were paid before this puzzling, colourful and cheap plastic ended up
on our shore.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

At the Edge of the Bay

We live close to Dundalk Bay and a short walk takes us to the shoreline.  It's a walk I do most days, except for mid-winter,  with a Labrador by my side.
Now, a Labrador (and a bright orange coat) probably aren't the best aids for bird-watching  but I still enjoy the sound made by thousands of feeding wildfowl and seabirds.

Dundalk Bay
On Dry Land 
Dundalk Bay is one of the most important locations in Ireland for migrating birds during the winter. It is designated as a Special Protection Area, especially for migratory birds, and a Wildfowl Sanctuary. Yet, apart from a handful of keen birdwatchers, most people seem unaware of this natural treasure at our doorstep.

Wildfowl Sanctuary
I'd love to say I can identify all the birds which come here, but unfortunately I don't, apart from the obvious ones like curlews, herons, mallard ducks, Brent geese, lapwings, plovers, oyster catchers and swans.

Flying Ducks
More Ducks in Flight

Low Flying Geese
The Bay supports about 50,000 wetland birds, including gulls, waders, ducks. geese, swans and divers, and gets winter visitors from Canada, Greenland Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Snowy Post

We finally got snow! The big wet flakes which didn't look very promising as we were going to bed last night were joined by several showers of 'sticking stuff', so I pulled the curtains onto a world which had been changed overnight into a place  of winter magic.

It wasn't very much but enough to blanket the ground,  transform the ordinary and conceal the  ugly.
Of course, it being a work and school morning, there wasn't much time for photography but I managed a couple shots while waiting for my tardy teenager.

After dropping him to school, I just had time to take a few photographs of the beautiful old St Nicholas Parish Church, known locally as The Green Church due to its aged copper spire, before going to work.

By lunch time the snow was gone but at least I got my snow fix for this winter. Now I can wholeheartedly look forward to spring.

Friday, 1 February 2013

St Brigid's Day

February 1st is the feast day of  St Brigid's Day in Ireland and is also considered to mark the beginning of Spring.
St Brigid is one of the great Irish saints and is closely associated with Faughart near the Louth/Armagh border.

The Shrine to St Brigid
It is believed that she was born to a pagan chieftain Dubhtach and that her mother was a Christian, possibly a slave.
From an early age, Brigid was said to display goodness and kindness to the poor.
According to local legend, she disfigured herself by plucking out her eye so that she wouldn't be considered marriageable and she became a nun, later founding her own convent in Co Kildare.
As often happens, the story of this Christian saint most likely married elements of an earlier pagan goddess or goddesses also called Brigid.
Hundreds of pilgrims visit her birthplace in Faughart, where there is a stream and holy well, a  grotto and small church.


Holy Well

Here too,  superstition mingles with religion. Pilgrims tie strips of cloth and leave offerings such as holy medals and rosary beads on a bush, they kneel on the stone said to bear the indent of Brigid's knees, while a hole in another stone is supposed to be where she placed her eye.

The Kneeling Stone


It's traditional to make St Brigid Crosses out of woven rushes and these are usually placed on the inside of the front door to ward off evil and misfortune.
The old celtic feast of Imbolc marking the beginning of Spring also falls today, although I always consider it a bit optimistic to think that Spring has arrived so soon although I did hear birdsong as I ate my breakfast this morning.