Cabragh Wetlands: On a day in spring

local contributor


local contributor



A real sign of spring -lambs in the field

While science has been crucial in overcoming the pandemic it is also a pillar of environmental recovery.

“Ni bheidh sioc ar sceach ó Lá Fhéile Bhríde amach-no frost on any bush from St. Bridget’s day onwards.”

St. Bridget’s Day was always a milestone in nature’s year. Already in Cabragh the catkins are blooming on the hazel, alder and birch, at the base of the hedgerow the hart’s tongue fern seems a more vibrant green, robin run the hedge is already making its appearance while around the pond and in open spaces the spearlike translucent green of the yellow flag is beginning to emerge.

“Spring the travelling man” has been here and gone. Even by the western seaboard, February 1st was an important date. Marking one of the great sea surges of the year, plentiful supplies of kelp and seaweed were thrown upon the shore to be gathered and carted to gardens for new soil for the cultivation of crops.

Soon the children will return to school again if all goes according to plan but will they suffer from nature deficit disorder? Of course the sticky buds of the horse chestnut will burst forth in a jam jar on the nature table, butterflies will emerge and whales leap from posters in the print rich stimulating environment of a modern classroom but the need to secure that connection with child and nature was never more important.

So, in this time of two hour schooldays on zoom, why not get them to measure the temperature daily, make a simple rain gauge or anemometer or take part in a personal springwatch?

Cabragh wetlands is a great place to watch for frogspawn. Today it is a sheet of water right up to the birdhide but as we know, “Ní tuile dá mhéid nach dtránn.”-there is no flood however large that does not ebb away.

Cabragh once described by a local resident as having enough water for 1,000 cows but only grass for five is presently a mini outdoor laboratory for the study of the onset of spring with such a great variety of habitats, plants and avi-fauna all so easily accessible with no need to get your feet wet.

The pandemic has opened people’s eyes and may lead to a lasting engagement with the natural world. Stories have emerged around the globe of wildlife reclaiming human spaces, of amplified birdsong and of wildflowers thriving. Certainly nature is catching a few short breaths.

It’s too early to say that the pandemic has had a long lasting positive effect on biodiversity but it has certainly opened people’s eyes to what’s on their doorstep. People’s worlds have shrunk and they are spending more time in their locality. We have been caught up to now in the headlights of worldwide environmental destruction , unable to take it in, unable to take action. Meaningful engagement with the natural world can create more hopeful conditions for us to consider environmental issues. These interactions with nature are re-awakening a sense of care for it.

You remember climate change in 2019 when millions of people mobilised for climate justice. While science has been crucial in overcoming the pandemic it is also a pillar of environmental recovery. Pandemics typically spill from the perfect storm of industrial scale agriculture and environmental destruction. It may happen again in the future. Global scale changes in human behaviour can defeat a pandemic.

Let’s take a real look, while we have this time, at the destruction of biodiversity and the necessary solutions.

Meanwhile, the barn owl, beloved of children, continues its preparations. Many think that with its great discs that it has great eyesight but its eyes are relatively small. Instead, it has what is possibly one of the most accurate directional hearing of any animal in the world and because of this it can work at night, at times in complete darkness.

In experiments carried out in buildings where no light could penetrate, scientists have discovered that barn owls catch mice entirely by ear. They could pinpoint minute sounds in total darkness both on the horizontal and vertical planes to an accuracy of a couple of degrees.

This extraordinary ability arises from adaptations, particularly its heart shaped face. Not only do the dense feathers inflect sound towards the ears but the ears themselves are orientated in such a way that gives the bird complete mastery of its soundscape and enables it to pinpoint prey with such accuracy. The sound reaches one ear a split second before the other while its silent flight is a huge factor in the development of its three dimensional sense of hearing.

Stay safe, stay at home, wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance.

Slán go fóill.