by Paul Cormacain
THE lesser celandines looked very pretty as they boldly proclaimed that Spring had arrived.
They are one of our first flowers to arrive, and they brighten up many a corner and many a heart. The flowers are more like gold than yellow.
The lesser celandine gets another name, pilewort, but that name would not be used so often. It is a member of the buttercup family and could be described as a small perennial. It grows throughout Europe and western Asia. Then someone had the bright idea of introducing it into north America.
I don't know what the scientific views are on this, but my feeling is that it is generally unwise to introduce new wildlife anywhere.
The leaves of the lesser celandine are heartshaped, and are green in colour. They are thick, which may have something to do with the darker or lighter marks which appear from time to time on the leaves.
The celandine always seemed to have been a popular flower in England. Wordsworth wrote three poems to the flower, Tennyson wrote one, and other lesser poets also wrote odes to this flower. That's popular!
On a stone bank near where we saw the celandines were snails, loads of them. They were garden snails, Helix aspera, called because of their being frequently found in gardens.
They are also found in sand dunes, woods, rocks, hedges, parks, but sometimes they get to be garden pests. Perhaps that is why they get to be called garden snails.
I never have any problem with snails in our garden. I talk to them, and am nice to them, and I tell them not to eat any of the herbs or fruit and vegetables. They respect my wishes, especially when I put down broken eggshells or ashes to protect my prized possessions.
We were out and about, driving near the coast at Strangford Lough. As well as admiring lesser celandines and snails, we were watching birds, mostly sea birds.
There were many different types of waders, with redshank and greenshank out in force. The lapwings wheeled and flew, dived and soared, looking splendid as usual.
Curlews seemed proud of their long legs and long curved bills. I personally prefer the song of the curlew to its appearance.
Black backed gulls blackheaded gulls, herring gulls and some common gulls were all parading their style. This is the big style time of the of the year, when the birds are a-courting and looking their best.
It was nice for us to see a few Canada geese. In fact, it was nice to see the sea, the countryside, and all the wildlife. And we even saw some sunshine!
Saturday 24 April - A walk with Anthony McGeehan through the RSPB reserve in the Belfast Harbour Estate, more from RSPB on 9049 1547
If an early start appeals, Dawn Chorus at 6am, Oxford Island, more from 38322205.
What about the last bird ringing event of the season, Wildlife Trust Centre, Crossgar? Call them on 4483 0282.
Fancy a Walk in the Sperrins with Lisburn RSPB? Call David McCreedy on 4062 6125.
Sunday 25 April - Hear about Irish whales and dolphins from Ian Erlander, at Bangor RSPB meeting, contact Fulton Somerville on 90794045
Picnic among the bluebells on Coney island, phone Oxford Island On 38322205
Monday 26 April - Lisburn RSPB AGM, plus George Gilliland on Rathlin. More from John Scott, 92601864.
Monday 3 May - Green Housekeeping for Beginners, at Quoile Countryside Centre, details from 44615520.
Saturday 8 May - Bluebell Walk at Oxford Island, contact 38322205