This is it lads! The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The prize that dangles in the distance through the dark days like a beckoning light at the end of the winter tunnel. Summer 2023 here we come! Is there ever a time more filled with hope? More anticipatory? I spend the first few months of every year longing for the summer. And then – just like that – here we are, basking in the dream, with the smorgasbord that is a West Cork summer laid out in front of us like a buffet breakfast in a four-star hotel.
I make no excuses for sounding somewhat smug. I’d even go so far as to say I’m gloating. How could I not. The past few weeks of sunshine have been spectacular; regenerative to both plants and animals. The landscape has had just the right mix of rain and sun to explode into a lush wonderland. It’s so beautiful that every drive into town, walk on the beach, mosey around the garden, or glance out the window is only gorgeous. There is a quality to the light, dappled through pale new, green leaves, that really feeds my soul. The hedgerows and woodland are crammed with flowers, the hawthorn dots every road with its popcorn blooms, and it feels like everything is rejoicing.
The soundtrack to this celebration is provided by the birds – though frankly it is more screaming than singing. It starts dreadfully early at around 4am. This is not an elegant dawn chorus. It sounds more like a huge row in the check-in area of a low fares’ airline. The swallows start early with a sunrise meeting just outside my bedroom window. They argue loudly until the sun is up and then they fly off and tend to their nests. Talking about nests, I mentioned last month that we had swallows in the garage and jackdaws in the bathroom roof. I had not noticed that there are various other parts of the house that have been re-zoned from facias and soffits to residential. It seems that we’re experiencing a bit of a property boom on the property. We will have to deal with this in the Autumn.
We have always had a wonderful variety of native birds, but this year is exceptional. In 2017, Hurricane Ophelia ripped through our hectare, practically destroying the small woods out the back. The trees that were toppled were mainly pine. When we replanted, we got a mad pick and mix of deciduous trees: oak, whitebeam, chestnut, maple, beech, birch and larch. All in all, we planted over sixty trees and have lost very few of them. Six years later the back field has been transformed from a barren sad slab of mud into a lush mini woodland. This new development out the back has not gone unnoticed. Birds took one look and decided that it would make a great place to raise a family. It’s safe to say that there are dozens of nests out there. Starlings, swallows, crows, jackdaws, and magpies. Wrens and wagtails. Blue tits and great tits. Ringed doves and pigeons. (Even the buzzards have been scoping the place out, but the settled birds are having none of it, and join forces to chase any raptors away from their airspace.) They all want to live here.
You’d think that having a large maternity ward would fill the air with melodious sounds. In fact, it makes for an almighty row. Occasionally, you get a stretch of that lovely summer birdsong, but most of the time the various bird families seem to be slinging insults at each other while the chicks call for more food in a canon of shrieks that echo around the house. It can be so loud that I have to turn up the radio. Every so often a chick falls out of a nest. This causes an increase in the volume of noise as the parents go berserk, screaming, and roaring as they swoop overhead. Then their neighbours chime in, presumably yelling at them to shut up as they’ve only just managed to put their own babies down for a nap. Our dog, a lovely gentle hunter, has made it her business to rescue these fallen chicks, which of course enrages the parents even more. Luckily, she has a very soft mouth and does not harm them. Last week she picked up four chicks in one day! I am happy to report that they all were scooped up and taken back to their homes by their parents, once we managed to get the dog back in the house.
I know that this glorious weather is not likely to last, but I’m happy to live in denial. This is the best of times, with the prospect of three months of beach, BBQs, beer gardens and fresh veg from the tunnel to look forward to. The sun is out the sharks are basking, there’s a humpback swimming around the coast, and the yellow flags are just coming into bloom. Sure, where would you be going?