by Paul Cormacain
WE went to the north east of Lough Neagh last week, to go for a walk in the delightful weather along the delightful Lough shore.
The sun was out, and so also were a few butterflies. Gulls were out and about as were a few golfers. Swans were showing themselves in some numbers, and visitors were feeding them. More energetic visitors, like ourselves, were walking, and ducks were swimming.
What more could a body want out of a lovely day?
Here we are in October, when this article is published, and we were watching large and small white butterflies, red admirals, small tortoiseshells, and saw, but could not positively identify, a green-veined white.
Most books give the large and small white as being around and about in August, with a few strays in September. But the good late summer weather this year has meant that more than a few strays are about.
I still see them most days.
The small tortoiseshell remains as an adult throughout the winter. It is not seen so commonly at this time of the year, however you may see it trying to sneak into your house to over-winter.
They like their central heating in the winter and prefer to live indoors.
The red admirals looked so colourful, so bright, so healthy. In late spring and summer these insects fly over from Europe, and after such a long flight they did not look so healthy. But they bred here, and the red admirals we see today are all local and did not have the long, gruelling, European flight.
Sadly, they do not even try to overwinter here, they just die off. Some folk are of the opinion that the red admiral tries to head back to Europe in the autumn, but this movement has never been proved. So we have to wait till next spring for them to re-appear.
The gulls were common gulls. There are more herring gulls and black-headed gulls about than there are common gulls, so who picked the name?
We thought we saw black-headed gulls further offshore, but could not be certain. With those birds gradually losing their black head colouring in autumn, appearances can be deceptive, especially at a distance.
There were dozens of clever swans close to shore. They know when people are free. They know that when the weather is good, and if people have time on their hands, they will come to feed the swans. So the swans queue up, waiting patiently till the early human arrives, bearing food.
A few mallard hung around, picking up scraps from the large birds' leftovers. Most mallard seemed to be much further offshore, staying away from both swans and humans.
Also shy and retiring were the tufted ducks. They did not start breeding in Britain until two centuries ago, so I suspect they did not breed here until the same time, or even slightly later.
Now they are very common, perhaps our most common diving duck. Their range extends from northern Europe eastwards through Russia, and on to China, right the way to the Pacific. Quite a range!
We walked partly through Rea's Wood, on the tough shore, when we were enjoying the weather and the wildlife, but did not get to the end of the wood. That is for another day! Have you tried walking there?
Saturday 4th, Sunday 5th October - Join in Brent goose watches at Castle Espie or other spots on Strang(ord Lough, details from Espie on 91874146.
Sunday 5th October - The Wildlife Trust is on the lookout for volunteers, who would like to travel to Glenarm and collect seeds from native trees, a very worthwhile job! More information from Malachy Martin on 4483 0282
Thursday 30th October - Birdwatch Morning at Castle Espie, more from 91874146.