Irish Lives: Butterfly hunting on Strangford Lough

Father and son are spending summer island-hopping as part of Big Butterfly Count 2015

Cadogan Enright (51), with his nine-year-old son, Cad Óg, who are hoping to paddle to almost 70 islands on Strangford Lough in order to count butterflies. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation/PA Wire

Cadogan Enright (51), with his nine-year-old son, Cad Óg, who are hoping to paddle to almost 70 islands on Strangford Lough in order to count butterflies. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation/PA Wire

 

“I don’t have an X-Box or anything like that,” says nine-year-old Cad Óg Enright. “I don’t mind; I don’t really need them.”

That’s always been the way with the Enrights, says his father Cadogan (58). “We don’t do TV, we don’t play X-Boxes.”

What they do is big father-son adventures together.

Right now they are rowing in a canoe on Strangford Lough counting butterflies as Gaeilge as part of the Big Butterfly Count 2015 throughout Britain and Northern Ireland.

They set out last Wednesday and plan to land on 70 of the lough’s 170 islands and islets to count butterflies such as tortoiseshells, peacocks, common blues and meadow browns.

Naming butterflies

Downpatrick

Just as well that an Irish language chart is available on the Big Butterfly Count website.

The Irish names – súile na hEilite for peacock, donnóg an fhéir for meadow brown, an gormán coiteann for common blue and an flanndeargán for red admiral – trip more readily off the Enrights’ tongues.

The Big Butterfly Count is run by the British group Butterfly Conservation.

It was launched five years ago and has rapidly become the world’s biggest survey of butterflies.

More than 44,000 people took part last year, counting almost 560,000 butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

Cadogan and Cad Óg are veterans at these studies, having carried out butterfly counts on some of Donegal’s offshore islands.

They set out on the same venture on Strangford Lough last year but the arrival of Hurricane Bertha put paid to their odyssey at the halfway stage.

This time their boat, the Prospector has additional flotation tanks to make it more stable should the elements prove unkind. Cadogan is anxious to stress that anyone considering a similar trip should first take water safety courses.

Fishing for supper

In addition they are fishing for their suppers, flying kites and in front of the campfire at night they are reading Tolkien’s, The Hobbit together, again in Irish, and adding to their repertoire on the tin whistle.

“We’re learning the Lonesome Boatman at the moment.

“The lough is an absolutely fantastic place for wildlife,” adds Cadogan. He recalls other trips on the lough with Cad Óg: “I remember one night watching phosphorescent plankton in the calm waters.

“The whole water lit up; it was amazing . . . And the terns diving on fish in the lough like Stuka bombers . . . Another time we sat in the boat for about an hour watching a buzzard engaging in aerial combat with seagulls as it tried to raid the gulls’ nests.”

He and his wife, Brenda, have four other children aged in their 20s and 30s.

Cad Óg happily arrived on the scene as a “retirement present” when Cadogan gave up his job as a fulltime accountant, having worked for multinational companies around the world.

Cad Óg’s big brother Peter teaches windsurfing on Strangford Lough while sister Moya was formerly on the Irish kayaking team. Maebh and Claire work in electricity and hotel management.

The children are multilingual, which Cadogan puts down to their attending Irish language schools.

It also explains why the parents are Irish speakers. “When Cad Óg came along the children all said they were going to speak nothing but Irish to him and they challenged myself and my wife to do the same,” says Cadogan.

So it was off to Conradh na Gaeilge classes and then a diploma course in Irish at Ulster University.

An environmentalist and former member of the Green Party, Cadogan is an Independent member of Newry, Mourne and Down council, in charge of a group of six Independents.

He was first elected as a councillor in 2006 and because he doesn’t fit in with the Orange or the Green his appeal crosses the divide.

He and his parents left Northern Ireland for Africa when he was about five. His father, of unionist background and his mother of west Cork nationalist stock, went to work in Biafra. They came back in 1972 when he was 15.

While busy as a councillor this trip is all about the father-son bond. His mobile phone will be used only for emergencies.

Dad does most of the rowing but Cad Óg also does some oar work and operates a small sail at the front of the canoe when the wind is favourable.

Cad Óg, a cheerful and engaging boy, is enjoying his father’s company, but when asked what is the most important element of this adventure he is in no doubt. “It’s about having fun,” he says.

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