Big thank you from

The last Brent geese leave these shores

by Paul Cormacain

A FEW weeks ago, I thought that the last of the Brent geese were leaving our shores. Then last week three dozen of these wonderful birds appeared beside me on the north coast.

They were getting ready to depart, and I felt that they had nearly overstayed their welcome. There were no humans about, except myself, and there were no predators, yet the geese had the appearance of excitement, of imminent departure.

Irish brent geese, as they are called to differentiate between them and the different brent that visit Scotland, England and Wales, are large, strong birds. They need to be, for later that day they had disappeared from the coast and were winging their way to Arctic Canada, to an island called Bathurst. Some birds, some journey.

When they arrive there, the breeding season commences. You would think that after a long journey of thousands of kilometres they would want a rest, even a holiday, but no, they start immediately into the all important business of breeding. Then, after looking out for predators like the Arctic fox, protecting the eggs and young, then feeding the young, they take off again.

If you are at the right part of the north coast at the right time, you can frequently see the birds arrive, looking and feeling slightly tired. Make a note in your diary to go see about their arrival in the autumn.

Now is the good time of the year to see all the visitors arriving from the south, many of them all the way from Africa, and some butterflies from south Europe. The swallows were reported initially some weeks ago, now most of our birds would seem to have returned, and are now visible all over the country. Now that they have made the long journey of thousands of kilometres from South Africa, their priority is the same one as the brent geese in north Canada. The swallows are seeking a suitable partner with whom they can make little swallows.

Red admiral butterflies have been reported already this year. It may be a little early, but the insects were listening to the weather forecast in Europe, liked what they heard, then decided to come over early this year. The experts have decided that some of the sightings were genuine.

Many other reports of butterflies have been coming in. If you had the time to go galloping around the country you could see plenty of butterflies. For my part, I have only seen one red admiral, a number of small tortoiseshell, and quite a few green-veined whites. The small tortoiseshells are local butterflies, and had overwintered here. The green-veined whites are also local insects who live here all year.

The only other butterflies I saw were large whites. These creatures live here all year round, but in some years there are large

Ulster Star