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A walk on the wild side is medicine for the soul

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The growing attention to how to maintain good mental health has empowered nature. Because time in the countryside has been found to be as good a pick-me-up as any chemical remedy we have invented. And this is especially the case in an urban world where we spend more and more time in front of a TV or telephone screen.

The experience of nature does wonders for us – children’s school performance will improve if they are allowed to take daily walks in the park or the forest. In fact, there is nothing it won’t help, improved memory, healthier sleep, and overall happiness.

But with each generation, the chances of discovering nature are reduced. Dúlra knows this to be true – West Belfast was in Dúlra’s youth closely linked with nature, but year after year the wildlife has been repelled. They say it’s a negative feedback loop, where, as experiences with nature become rarer, each generation expects even less. Alarmingly, this is called an “experience extinction” or “environmental generational amnesia,” where each generation’s experience of the wilderness is reduced.

Sometimes it is difficult to leave the comfort of a home, especially in the dead of winter. But, just like they say you’ll never regret a visit to the gym, so will a walk on the wild side.

Lacha iascán (the duck of the small fish) in Irish, it is a diving duck which only arrives here every winter in small numbers – between 1,500 and 3,000. It was a real treat to watch them in what looked like a military formation, far removed from all the other “civilian” ducks.

This week Dúlra spent two hours alone on the shores of Belfast Lough – well, alone as there was no one else there, but he was in the company of thousands of birds. A hawk has slipped in its way – it enjoys patrolling the shore here, feasting on any bird that doesn’t mind it. Pretty shelducks dotted the water, but it was a solitary bird that caught Dúlra’s attention. Through the binoculars, the duck looked as pretty as a photo, with a chestnut head and gray body. It was a male duck, rualacha (red duck) in Irish. There might have been just this solitary representative of his species on Belfast Lough this week, but he’s actually our most numerous wintering duck, with 100,000 of them arriving in Ireland from Iceland and Siberian.

From that moment on, Dúlra snorted, admiring an incredible variety of waders and ducks, many of which he could hardly identify. But near M2, well away from any other bird, stood a flock of about 100 black and white ducks. They looked smoother than our native ducks – they were elite ducks, Iceland scaups. The gentle waves of Belfast Lough are nothing to them – they are at home in the stormiest weather conditions the North Atlantic can throw at them.

Lacha iascán (the duck of the small fish) in Irish, it is a diving duck which only arrives here every winter in small numbers – between 1,500 and 3,000. It was a real treat to watch them in what looked like a military formation, far removed from all the other “civilian” ducks.

But the best treat came last. All along the coast here a corridor of trees was planted – and whoever planted them knew what they were doing. Because most of the trees are native alders, which like wetlands. As Dúlra rocked, his eyes on the water, he heard a weak familiar tweet. And when he looked up, he realized that a herd of beautiful finches had arrived. They were siskins, about a hundred, and they were moving above Dúlra’s head, hanging from the alder kittens.

These forest birds sometimes come to gardens to feed on sunflower hearts, but this is their natural habitat. Just watching them move through the mini-forest, their vivid green feathers highlighted by the gray December skies, was an unforgettable experience.

And one that no TV or computer screen could do justice to.

BUZZARD WATCH

If you want to see a majestic hawk, you don’t need to go further than the Monagh Bypass. Because you will be perched there on a lamppost – at least that has been the case every time Dúlra has passed by for the past two weeks.

It’s profiting from the destruction of the countryside here for the new Glenmona subdivision on the land around St Pat’s former home.

Dúlra cannot solve the dilemma of housing versus the environment – of course we need new houses, but at the same time the remaining green spaces on the outskirts of West Belfast, especially along the mountain, are precious remains of an environment that must be protected. . To illustrate how wild the land of Glenmona was, Dúlra has never encountered so many hedgehogs per square meter in all of her travels. With the green surface now raised like a carpet, it’s probably those fleeing or mutilated hedgehogs that the buzzard is feasting on.

If you have seen or photographed something of interest, or have questions about nature, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.

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