Walking home along the towpath from Lisburn to Hilden and the muddy brown Lagan was white and bright. It was like walking through a different landscape. Near the Barbour factory I stood under an alder tree while a small flock of goldfinch (redpolls as well?) shook snow dust from the branch on top of my hat. It was magical, but just an illusion because those little birds are fighting for dear life in these temperatures.
Would you like to spend day and night out in it?
The same goes for the dunnocks pecking at the ice on the path while tufted duck and coot, moorhen and little grebe look for one spot on the river that has free flowing (yet freezing) water .
The willow trees are bowed over with the strain of ice and snow clinging and block parts of the tow path.
Walking home from Lisburn along the canal I heard a bird call I did not recognise coming from behind me, a ribbony sort of chirrup. I looked to my left in time to see a kingfisher flying with his brakes on up the canal, like a F-14 coming in to land on an aircraft carrier.
There something magical about seeing the kingfisher, most of the birds on the canal are drab, dare I say it boring?
The moorhen, dabchick and dunnock are the plain janes of the towpath, the odd time a blue tit or long tailed tit will add a bit of life to the party but its the sight of the kingfisher that sets my pulse rushing.
As winter sets in I wonder how they will get on this year. Last year must have hit them hard with the freezing conditions, especially when the main way you feed is to dive into water to catch a fish. Imagine trying to stay warm after diving into an icy canal?
The kingfisher also reminds me of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem
‘As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;’
Walking home from Edenderry to Lisburn today along the towpath I reached the tunnel under the M1 and pulled my mob phone out to take a few pictures of the light at the end of the tunnel,then I switched over to video camera and recorded me emerging from the tunnel.
I’ve just uploaded it unto my laptop and if you use your imagination you can almost see a ghostly face appear at ~8sec to the left of the light…or can you?