Two miles up a single track road – a boreen – I’m cradled in the bosom of the Mourne mountains, sitting outside a cottage with a view to Carlingford Lough. The mountain silence is interrupted by a whooshing of wingbeats, and I know that a raven is about to fly over my head.
No camera in hand, I can feel its stout wings swimming through the morning air, its beady eye shining in the morning sun as it weighs me up, before an updraught sends it high and off towards the skyline, where it is joined by two peregrine falcons. Minutes later, I hear a raven call again, somewhere left of centre. This time I have my camera, but I’m so in awe as a pair of the boot‑black wonders glide overhead that I just watch.
It’s another special moment in the townland of Kilfeaghan, with its dolmen (megalithic tomb) with 35-ton capstone, the most beautiful wild chicory and the tiny Killowen distillery half a mile down the road in an old cowshed. I have a glass on hand to toast three Irish hares, an adult and two youngsters, which every morning lope down from the heather and gorse, and vanish into the lush pasture. Likewise the peregrines – now four, so probably the parents and a couple of this year’s offspring – which hug the contours of the ridge and rise up to the clouds, before dropping like a stone in a stoop at some imagined prey. These are practice flights for when they need to feed themselves completely. It’s a steep learning curve to survive the first winter.
I am soon joined by a family of five hooded crows, a buzzard, the peregrines again, my bold heroes the ravens and, finally, a small group of swallows that alight on the gravel in front of me. Once again the camera remains on the table as I watch – but no matter, the image is cached. Serendipity has always been my writer’s touchstone, and the latest happy accident of landing in the Mournes has proved to be quite exceptional.
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