Magical moment marred by murderous ‘fisher’

TO add to current miseries, my wife’s car broke down, and I disagreed with the manner in which she was acquainting herself with my big old automatic on the narrow roads of East Clare.

Too fast, I said, let me out in Bridgetown, and go on yourself alone to view that organic garden you’re interested in. She dropped me and was gone like a shot.

It was the late afternoon, the pub was not yet open, I was not in good form because of the reaction to my views on corncrakes from a powerful lobby. I sat down on a bench in the little park in Bridgetown very gloomily. I was also short of cigarettes.

You are a fool, I said to myself. Mentioning aspects of the world of Fur & Feather always lands you in hot water. Remember what happened years ago when you wrote about the coursing in Liscannor for The Sunday Press, and mildly said that you’d counted the road kill on the way there, the dead foxes and badgers, and it was five times higher than the two hares who did not survive the day? Did you not get a bullet in the post the following Wednesday?

Remember the reaction to a factual piece about the culling of pups for the Galway Blazers’ pack. Will you never learn your lesson? You are indeed a fool.

Conserving my cigarettes, worrying about my wife’s driving, practicing the sentences of a good grovel to Fur & Featherland, I walked down to the little bridge over a stream in peaceful Bridgetown.

I leaned wearily on the parapet. My world was not bright and then, suddenly, it was very bright indeed, because only the third kingfisher of my life came flying swift and low over the water. Better still, he perched himself on a rock in the centre of the stream, only yards away from me. He was absolutely gorgeous. He was the most beautiful sight I’ve seen in nature for years.

Kingfishers are so exotic, are they not, that they look like escaped cage birds, so glossy and flamboyant is their plumage, so different their shape. They look like tropical birds rather than natives. Yet, there he was in his flashy glossy reds and equally brilliant blues, my kingfisher, illuminating the entire stretch of river, burnishing the whole world beneath the parapet. The white patches on both sides of his perky head were one hundred watt at least.

He was pure poetry. And the speed of the arrowed flightpath which brought him up to his perching stone was a technicolor blur which will blaze in my mind’s old eye for a long time to come. Indeed, for the rest of my life.

Best of all is that he was silent. He made no harsh sounds of the kind which landed me in trouble with Fur & Featherland the previous week in this space. His sheer silent beauty on an East Clare stone in singing water banished my gloom immediately.

I forgot all my troubles. I was afraid to move a muscle lest he fly away and break the spell. Silently, I blessed BirdWatch Ireland for work which enabled this flamboyant element of our flora and fauna to survive and thrive. Bless them all, I said. And I meant it too.

Sadly, because this is an imperfect world, as I observed my kingfisher for the better part of four minutes, and decided to formally report my sighting to BirdWatch Ireland, I also saw something which marred a beautiful interlude. In consequence of that I now have to formally report to FishWatch Ireland (by whatever name that agency trades) that my Bridgetown kingfisher was guilty of murder and torture before my very eyes.

When he landed on the stone, he had a small fish in his beak. It was what we used to call a “striddly”, smaller than a sardine, silvery, and clearly alive and wriggling. He had hold of it by the tiny tail end. I sadly have to record that he deliberately and violently, in plain view, smashed it several times against the rock at his feet, killing it stone dead horrifically.

And then he devoured it, holus-bolus. Those are the facts.

Indeed it is an imperfect world. . .

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