The caged birds that inspired my 'Irish Times' debut
Connemara’s Walled Gardens: Clifden and Environs is by Gary Brow, a former surgeon, who, retiring to the west to grow vegetables for his family, was shown a “secret” walled garden in a local forest. With camera and maps, he explored dozens more among Connemara’s old estates, many still inviting a loving resurrection. (It costs €12 in hardback from connemarawalledgardens@ gmail.com.)
The Making of Meath describes a landscape that is anything but plain. Its high esker ridges, boglands and “kame and kettle” topography, legacies of the Ice Age, framed the early environment of Newgrange and Tara and the rise of Irish farming. Its author, Robert Meehan, is an accomplished geologist and native of the county. (It costs €20 in hardback from Meath County Council.)
Habitats, species and biodiversity are given engaging form in Mayo’s Wild Things and Places, prepared by the county’s heritage officer, Deirdre Cunningham, An Taisce’s green-schools officer, Aisling Wheeler, and the artist Naomi McBride. (I edited it,and I introduce it.) Aimed first at schools and community groups, its guide to the local natural world should have wide appeal. (It costs €20 in paperback from Mayo County Council, email@example.com.)
In Co Tyrone, the teacher and wildlife enthusiast Stephen Colton is alert to every twitch of feather and leaf around his primary school in Dromore. Conversations with Nature collects warm and informative pieces he has written over the years, together with some spirited drawings.
He is also keen on folklore; I value his revelation of the origin of the phrase “pissed as a newt” – a reference not, it seems, to the amphibian but to the low tolerance for alcohol of the Inuit peoples of the Arctic. (It costs £8.99 in paperback from shops around Dromore and in Omagh.)
Eye on Nature Your observations and questions
On November 23rd I spotted a pair of well-fed waxwings feeding on cotoneaster berries in my garden. Is it unusual to see them this far west, and does this mean a hard winter?
Edel Ward Partree, Co Mayo
On November 24th a large flock of waxwings (about 30) visited my garden to gorge on red berries.
Mary Regan Greencastle, Co Donegal
Waxwings were seen in Kerry and Clare early in November. They move here from Scandinavia when berries are scarce there.
At low tide I watched common gulls dropping mussel shells on to the sea wall at Seapoint Dart station to break them open, as crows waited below, trying to rob the bounty. The juveniles were copying the adults but dropping them from too low a height to smash the shell.
Michael Walsh Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin
At Doonbeg golf course, in Co Clare, I came across a stoat in a stand-off with four rooks. After a short while it retreated into dense cover, whereupon the rooks flew away.
John McMahon Clontarf, Dublin
I saw a male albino pheasant on the road near my home. It had completely white plumage and the distinctive red cheeks.
Adrian Briscoe Platin, Co Meath
Michael Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a postal address