Fermanagh is beautiful at this time of year, leaves are pirouetting through the sky, twirling russet, amber and scarlet; tap dancing along the ground, cartwheeling and tumbling. The skies seem to be draining, so the colour all around is intensified and warming these colder days. Autumn is here and its coming is my favourite time of year. 

Our Sunday’s are rambling days and although we mostly stay close to home, on this occasion we decided to go further. To the sparkling eye of Ireland, Lough Neagh and Portmore Lough. We had visited on one other occasion this year, but the light was almost gone from the sky and the mist enveloped our thoughts and later, our dreams. Contrastingly, today was glorious. Cold sunshine is still welcome sunshine. We had no expectations, we just wanted to sit in a bird hide and enjoy the peace – we have only two bird hides in the whole of Fermanagh, none of which are by any means panoramic or inspiring, to be brutally honest. As we arrived, we were greeted by the ranger, Laura who amusingly knew who I was!! I still find it funny that people recognise me. I was glued to my binoculars, embarrassingly and she chatted with dad for a bit. Picnicking in the cold (yes, you can do this!) before our walk, we listened to all the woodland birds, blasting out sound, like an orchestral symphony. 


Portmore Lough is such a fascinating place its ancient landscape still has the wisps of Neolithic settlement. Elizabethans rampaged through the now felled Killultagh – the forest of Ulster – and was one of the last places to hear the howl of the wolf and snuffle of wild boar. The ancient wild woods of twisted oak are now almost all gone…a fragmented stump of what they once were. Now, the RSPB manage the site, bringing some of the wildness back. 


As we twisted along the boardwalk, the cold biting my nose, a flash caught my eye. It isn’t, it couldn’t be. Did it follow me from Fermanagh…I had never seen one anywhere else. It disappeared and I confided with my subconscious that it was just a trick of the eye. We stopped to watch the Konik ponies frolicking playfully with each other, such beautiful creatures.


 I turned towards the reed beds as if an invisible force twisted my body and there it was. A ghost, quartering over the waving fronds of barley coloured grass. The world was sucked of sound and I watched through my binoculars as it wheeled and plummeted, perhaps sealing the fate of some unfortunate creature. 

I waited in hope, for it to rise again, but it wasn’t to be. She comes and goes as she pleases and is master to no one. If I could have chosen a bird to see here, I would never have thought (even though it’s my avian emblem of the wild) of the Hen Harrier. Yes. The Hen Harrier, my soul bird, my heart in the sky. After that, nothing else mattered. 

The rest of the day was spent, for me, staring at daphnia a favourite past time of mine, but all the while, wings darted in and out of my thoughts. 

Portmore on this day, was a place of overwhelmingly perfect beauty. Serendipitous. 

Find out more about Portmore Lough!
Thanks for reading 

Dara 🐦