by Paul Cormacain
IF the north coast ever loses its attractions, there will be many lost souls about wondering what to do with themselves.
They will talk about the 'old days', when the coast was a multifaceted attraction, with a large diversity of landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, attractions. The good news is, we are lucky.
The place is as accessible as ever, as beautiful as ever, has the same magnetic pull as ever, and when you visit it you wonder why you left it so long since the previous visit.
The curlew is a widespread bird, and you are bound to see it if you head north. It appears in open country, frequenting moors, fields, plains, marshes, mudflats and beaches.
This is the season for staying around the coast and for staying near large areas of water like Lough Neagh.
Scotland and Ireland hold many of our local curlews, with Wales having its fair share.
In England, 'improvements' on the land have driven it north and west. But in winter many Scandinavian birds fly in to fill the void.
British birds, meanwhile, move to Ireland and France. And in Ireland many birds fly through south in the autumn and through again heading north in the spring.
The call of the curlew is most evocative, one of the more exciting noises in wildlife, and if you hear it at the end of your journey north you will be happy for the rest of the day.
Then some one may say to you, enjoy the sound, because the bird is becoming rarer. Then you worry.
There have always been local, national and international problems with individual species of birds, animals, insects and others.
Now a local group has hit on the dangers to two of our birds and one of our animals. One of the birds is the curlew. Apparently we need more records of curlew sightings so that we may ascertain just how endangered the bird is. So when you are enjoying yourself on the north coast you may want to keep records of curlew sightings.
You may also want to keep records of the other local bird reckoned to be under threat. That bird is the red-legged crow, a creature which has always excited the imagination, when you manage to see it.
Some times called the Cornish crow because of its once common appearance along Cornwall's sea cliffs, it is now more generally known as the chough.
It must be a few years since I last saw the chough on the Giant's Causeway. I am just not sure if it turns up regularly or not at all, or whether it breeds there occasionally. It is also a few years since I last saw it on Rathlin, and I have not seen any records of that island recently.
Further west in Donegal the chough is holding its own. Not common, but not rare either, it can be seen in some selected spots where as usual it is a delight to watch.
When it puts on an aeronautical display ornithologists go weak at the knees. It is most famous for dropping from a great height with closed wings, or alternately riding air currents. It appears to be more common on the west coast than anywhere else in Europe.
If you do not see too many curlews, or no choughs, a visit to the north coast is still worthwhile. Apart from the scenery, and the people.
There are many gulls, and cormorants, and waders. Offshore we saw gannets diving for dinner. One cormorant we witnessed very clearly swimming underwater, and when it surfaced it flew to a very close rock, opened its wings to dry them and afforded a most spectacular close-up. You maybe so lucky
ALL EVENTS ARE SUBJECT TO REVIEW. PLEASE CHECK
Friday 12 to Sunday 14 October Head for Castle Espie, then take a trip to Caerlaverock to see thousands of barnacle geese, phone 028 9187 4146 for more.
Wednesday 17 October - Ian Rippey will talk about butterflies at Monawilkin in Ulster Museum, at 7.15
Thursday 18 October - Bird photography, help from Anthony McGeehan, 7.30, at Castle Espie, details from 028 9187 4146.
Saturday 20 October - Guided woodland walk at Carnmoney Hill, 11.30, contact Woodland Trust on 028 9127 5787
Monday 22 October - Lisburn RSPB will have Neville McKee talking about the past and present Copeland Observatory, find out about this by phoning 9260 1864
Wednesday 24 - Sunday 4 November - The pumpkins at Castle Espie have gone missing, and they are looking for volunteers to go find them. Phone Espie at 028 9187 4146
Thursday 25 October - Birdwatch morning at Castle Espie, at 10.30
Friday 26 - Saturday 27 October Spooky snacks, story-telling, games with witches, Castle Espie; phone 028 9187 4146
Sunday 28 October - Guided Walk at Sliabh Croob at 10am, details Mourne Heritage Trust, 028 4372 4059