A Seven image study of a Heron as it rests and hunts for Fish, standing on a stone at the river bank ……
I am always watching
the single heron at its place
alone at water, its open eye,
one leg lifted
or wading without seeming to move.
It is a mystery seen
but never touched
until this morning
when I lift it from its side
where it lays breathing.
I know the beak that could attack,
that unwavering golden eye
seeing me, my own saying I am harmless,
but if I had that eye, nothing would be safe.
The claws hold tight my hand,
its dun-brown feathers, and the gray
so perfectly laid down.
The bird is more beautiful
than my hand, skin more graceful
than my foot, my own dark eye
so much more vulnerable,
the heart beating quickly,
its own language speaking,
You could kill me or help me.
I know you and I have no choice
but to give myself up
and in whatever supremacy of this moment,
hold your human hand
with my bent claws.
Last weekend while on walk between Clonmel and Carrick-on-suir, both in county Tipperary, We came across a family of Otters, they had made one of the rivers contributor’s their home ( A Holt or Couch in otter terms ). We spent about an hour with them watching as two adults and four pups hunted and play in the waters. One of the Pups managed to catch a fish and then share this food with the other three pups on the river bank.
For a long time I have hopped to have an encounter with these otters, I knew they were around this location but had never been in luck when it came to seeing them, so this hour was a truly special time and one I will not forget 🙂 , it changes the way you feel about a river when you have the chance to view its wild life for such a long period of time.
Here are some basic facts about the otter in Ireland …..
Written by Dr Mathieu Lundy
The otter (Lutra lutra) is regarded as one of Ireland’s most charismatic native mammal species.
The otter is highly secretive and although widespread people tend to only get rare glimpses of the species in the wild. Otter populations declined throughout Europe after the 1960s and the species is now very rare or absent from many parts of its former range. The Irish otter population appears to have remained largely stable and is regarded as a European stronghold. In Ireland otters are found in a diverse array of aquatic habitats, from small streams to major rivers, upland lakes to coastal lagoons and sandy beaches. However, otters that live at the coast do need access to some freshwater habitat to bathe. Within these habitats otters feed on a range of both aquatic and terrestrial prey. Much of the information regarding distribution, habitat use and diet comes from spotting otter tracks and signs. Individual otters are highly territorial, using droppings called spraints to mark their home ranges. Favoured locations for leaving spraints are in-stream boulders, bridge footings and grass tussocks, these are called seats. These territorial signs are an ideal way to tell if otters are using an area. Within its territory an otter may have a number of resting sites, called couches and underground denning sites called holts, which can be a considerable distance (up to 1km) from a river, lake or the seashore.
The species of otter that occurs in Ireland is called the Eurasian otter and is found in Europe and across Asia to China and Japan. In other regions the otter shares aquatic habitats with species specialised to different habitats such as sea otters, but in Ireland the otters that live at the coast and those that occupy our rivers are the same species.
In Ireland the otter population is geographically widely spread. In local areas its presence will depend on the provision of suitable aquatic habitats, sufficient food and cover for resting and breeding. During different seasons male otters and juvenile otters will disperse and otter signs may be observed in areas where they have not been present hitherto.
Home ranging behaviour
The territories of otters can stretch for several kilometres; the total length of the home range depends on the availability of food. The smallest territories are thought to occur at coastal sites, where territories may be as small as 2km. The longest territories occur in upland streams where an individual may have to range more than 20km to find sufficient food. The territories of males tend to be larger than females and indeed may overlap with a number of female otters. The availability of suitable territories along the coast and inland at lakes and rivers is thought to maintain the otter population of Ireland. The entire population is estimated to be in the region of 10,000 adults.
Within their territories an individual otter may utilise a number of holts. These tend to be natural crevices, associated with the roots of trees growing along river and lake banks. These natural recesses provide the otter with a holt that has multiple entrances from which the otter can escape if disturbed. Whilst individual otters rarely dig their own holts they will use burrows made by other animals such as rabbits and foxes. It is possible to build artificial holts to attract otters to use certain areas. Artificial holts are built to resemble natural holts, with a resting compartment and multiple entrances, these are particularly important where the natural bank side vegetation has been removed.
Other resting sites are also used, frequently in dense vegetation and may be associated with frequently used runs and slides into the water.
Although otters can breed at any time of year most seem do so in spring or early summer. Scent markings by the females signal to male otters that the females are ready to mate. The pregnancy lasts for around two months after which a litter of cubs is born, usually two or three, but as many as five have been seen. The cubs remain in the natal holt for up to two months before venturing out on their own, although the mother may move the cubs between holts within her territory periodically. Unlike other resting sites the natal holts do not tend to be marked with spraints. The juvenile otters remain as a family group for around six months or longer before the young otters disperse to establish their own territories.
Otters that live in rivers and lakes tend to be completely nocturnal, described as being crepuscular – activity peaks at dusk and dawn. Foraging at night or in ‘muddy’ water is aided by their highly sensitive whiskers, which detect their prey items. Otters are principally piscivorous, relying predominantly on salmonids (salmon and trout), but also eel and small fish species such as stickleback. However, otters are not limited to fish and feed opportunistically on a range of prey when available: frogs are frequently eaten by otters, and the remains of invertebrates (crayfish), birds and small mammals have also been found in spraints. Otters that forage at the coast may have flexible foraging times linked to the tides. At low tide otters hunt in the exposed rock pools and seaweed covered rocks for fish and invertebrate prey.
The Irish otter population remains one of the most stable in Europe. There is some evidence to suggest that since initial national surveys in the early 1980s there have been declines in the prevalence of the species. It is hoped that the reasons for these declines will be addressed by the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), ongoing national assessments and by targeted intensive surveys. The risks to the current otter population are the availability of sufficient food within their habitats and provision of resting and denning sites. This species is protected under the Wildlife Act (1976) and Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000.
Otters have been found dead in illegal snares, which may not be intended for otters, but which still pose a threat to individual animals. A significant number of otters are also killed on our roads. There is some evidence that the incidence of these accidents increases during periods of flooding when fast flowing rivers at bridge crossing become impassable and otters must venture onto roads to find alternative routes. The occurrence of otters at any site relies on a complex interaction of the characteristics of the wider landscape and local site specific habitat factors. Broad-scale intensive agriculture and urbanisation of catchments reduces the likelihood that otters will occur, along with reduced diversity of river banks and lake shores. Maintaining prey populations and preserving the natural features of rivers, lakes and coasts will benefit the Irish otter population and ensure that the Irish population remains a European stronghold.
During last weekend we visited Fota wildlife park in county cork and spent many great hours getting to know many of the animals they have in their care.
The Siamang Gibbon at the park are all member of the same family 🙂
Here are some details and fact about them , just to help you get to know them a little better 🙂
About the Siamang Gibbon
With a Latin name that means ‘Dweller in the trees’, the Siamang Gibbon is a tailless, black-furred ape that can grow to be twice the size of other Gibbons. Like other apes, the Siamang Gibbon has quite an upright posture and well-developed brain. However, it can weigh up to 14kg and has a special throat sac to amplify its call, which can be heard up to two miles away in the forest canopy.
Native to the forests of Sumatra, Malaysia and Thailand, its home range overlaps with both the Lar and Agile Gibbons 0 though because of its largely leaf-eating habits, it does not compete for what the forest has to offer the other species.
Siamangs are very agile and acrobatic creatures and their extra-long arms help them swing up to 15 feet in one move. Its arms stretch out to help with balance while walking and because it uses its hands so frequently while traveling, the Gibbon tends to carry items with its feet.
Siamang Gibbons are considered to be Endangered as 70-80% of their primary habitat has been lost to palm oil production in recent decades. The illegal pet trade has also taken a toll on wild populations, but there are a growing number in existence in captivity across the world.
Did you know?
The Siamang Gibbon mates for life with both parents playing a role in rearing offspring. Breeding males and females also sing duets in order to maintain their bond and establish territory boundaries.
As a fellow ape, the Siamang is also the closest related animal to Mankind in the Park.
The Fota Connection
One of the noisiest crews in the Park, the Siamang Gibbons are hard to ignore and have been at Fota right from the beginning.
They feed on fruit, vegetables, nuts and willow branches and can often engage in long bouts of calling out if the Park is busy and they feel their territory might be under threat. Situated on Monkey Island, their location allows visitors get right up close.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
By Wallace Stevens
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a blackbird
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.
I took this Image of a Damselfly while on a Walk along the Kings river , County Kilkenny.
This Wonderful looking Damselfly was just resting on a leaf as I walked past and stayed long enough for me to get some great images.
1st July and our local woodlands and fields are full of life ( Bees, Hoverflys and butterflys ) are everywhere.
For sometime I have been trying to capture these great insects in flight, using a macro lens and a high shutter speed, the images I post here are of a Hover-fly as it fixed its motion for a few seconds in front of my lens.
Its was a great feeling to look at these images at home for the very first time, freezing the movement of this fly that appeared in-front of me to never stop its motion as it went about its life and fleeting tasks.
By : William Ernest Henley.
The nightingale has a lyre of gold,
The lark’s is a clarion call,
And the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute,
But I love him best of all.
For his song is all of the joy of life,
And we in the mad, spring weather,
We two have listened till he sang
Our hearts and lips together.
This Spring I am planning another visit to the The Saltees Islands, St. George’s Channel. The Islands consist of the Great and Little Saltee, they are situated approximately 5 kilometers off the coast of Kilmore Quay Co.Wexford.
The larger island Great Saltee is the most famous bird sanctuary in Ireland and is very popular with both day-trippers and birdwatchers alike. These Islands are privately owned and are one of the world’s major bird sanctuaries.
It’s a wonderful visit to make if your into wildlife and Photography or just a wonderful place to spend the day.
The below images were taken last spring.
Saltee Island Gallery