Silent Spring - Part 1

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Initially my daily "lockdown picture" wasn't much more than a way of killing some time and taking advantage of the good weather Ireland was experiencing during the Covid-19 lockdown. Over the weeks however my snapping turned into something more, a record of the emergence of spring in a remote corner of Ireland, a visual nature diary from Ireland's western seaboard.

Soon the idea was born to turn the casual "lockdown picture" into a more serious daily account of the natural world. The title for the project - Silent Spring - seems appropriate. National and international travel restrictions brought an unusual calm to the world and gave nature a chance to breathe. Silent Spring is also a homage to Rachel Carson, one of the first scientists to highlight the adverse environmental effects caused by the use of pesticides which she published in a book with the title Silent Spring in 1961.

Silent Spring starts at the spring equinox and will end with the summer solstice and I hope you will enjoy this seasonal journey in a small corner of a small island at the edge of Europe. Here are the first 30 days.

Day 1 – 20. March 2020: Spring Equinox Dawn, Kilbaha Bay

The spring equinox signals the start of spring, the beginning of new life. From now on the hours of sunlight will exceed the hours of darkness, the sun will rise high in the sky and will bring warmth and comfort. After what had felt like endless months of wind and rain, the first day of spring started with a tangible change in the weather. The early morning air was still chilly and the easterly breeze carried the bite of winter but the sky was clear and the rising sun painted the Shannon Estuary in warm pastel colours.

Day 2 – 21. March 2020: The First Rose, Ross

The name of this quintessential spring flower derives from the Latin prima rosa, the first rose and this visual spring journey wouldn’t have been complete without an image of the primrose. Primroses appear from March onward and can be found in a variety of habitats from woodland and road verges to cliff tops. A narrow inlet surrounded by steep cliffs gets transformed every spring by a large colony of this distinctive flower. Here countless primroses cling to the grassy, near vertical surface of the soft cliffs, apparently defying gravity.

Day 3 – 22. March: The Old Stone Wall, Loop Head

Boundary walls like this old stone-wall that once marked the borders around Loop Head Lighthouse have been claimed back by nature. Over many decades these men-made structures have become a habitat in their own right hosting lichen, mosses, liverworts, ferns and wildflowers. These walls are also the perfect photographic subject on a dreary and grey spring afternoon.

Day 4 – 23. March: Take-Off, Ross

Fulmars are one of the breeding seabirds around the Loop Head Peninsula. They are always the first to return from their winter domicile on the open ocean and the first birds can be seen checking out the breeding sites as early as January. This encounter was unexpected and the resulting image very lucky. Because it was another mainly overcast day I was foraging for some close-up shots of lichen along the cliff top when this bird touched down only a few meters away. After we had checked each other out for a few minutes the fulmar got ready to take off again, the sun decided to send some light through the clouds and I managed to press the shutter release at the right moment.

Day 5 – 24. March: Big Sky, Loop Head

This is a scene I never get tired of: The view from Loop Head over the Mouth of the Shannon with the skyline of the Brandon Mountain range, the Three Sisters, Slea Head and the Blasket Islands on the other side. Above it all arches a big sky, one of the kind you will only find where the land meets the sea.

Day 6 – 25. March: Linnet, Kilbaha

The Dawn Chorus, the daily morning concert of the singing birds, is one of the biggest events in spring. In late March it hadn’t reached its crescendo yet but every day more and more birds were joining in. This male linnet I met on an early morning walk was very much oblivious to my presence while singing his heart out.

A linnet who had lost her way, Sang on a blackened bough in hell, Till all the ghosts remembered well, The trees, the wind, the golden day.” (James Elroy Flecker, Tenebris Interlucentem)

Day 7 – 26. March: Clear Dawn, Kilbaha Bay

Another clear morning at the bay, the persisting cold easterly breeze, dawn colours in the sky, the cry of a passing oyster-catcher, low clouds over the distant mountains and the infinity of the Atlantic Ocean ahead.

Day 8 – 27. March: Lichen Map, Loop Head