Winter at Murlough
The wild character of Murlough in winter takes on another form, shape and challenge. The colour scape subdued now with dark browns of the heathers, the grasslands as if grey, washed out and beaten by winter rains and wind. Woodland trees long stripped bare of leaves, the last of sea buckthorn’s deep orange berries stripped by the migratory fall of fieldfare, redwing and thrushes; the russet brown bracken beds all broken and laid low.
This is the time to walk the stormy shore, meet bracing wind, or chose a day when all is calm and the winter sun can still be felt on skin. Your company will be oyster catcher and redshank feeding on the edge of the tide; look for sanderling running in and out of water’s edge like clockwork mice.
Watch the birds
Good optics will reveal a hidden world out at sea, with hundreds of rafting scoter and sea-ducks diving the shallow waters feeding on a rich sea bed harvest of clams. Look for gannets, flying in squadrons low between crests of waves journeying between Ailsa Craig and the Celtic Sea.
The inner Dundrum Bay which wraps around Murlough gives shelter to intertidal muds and is flanked by fields which give wintering birds an alternative when the tide is fully ashore. In late winter the pale bellied Brent Geese now in good number feed on the grass of neighbouring farms several hundred strong.
Signs of spring
As the year turns and days lengthen the season signals change. The gorse refusing to be dormant for long again now with new golden blossom, early primroses, coltsfoot and celandines challenging winter’s grip. As if in support mistle and song thrush, robin and chaffinch sing their first verse and look to the spring.