When TV channels cover major golf tournaments, they usually try to focus a little on wildlife that’s visible in or around the manicured courses.
Crocodiles in Florida, flamingos in tropical climes, and wild red deer in Killarney offer variety from the sometimes pedestrian play.
Next July, when the Irish Open Championship is staged in the famed west Clare links, Lahinch, the cameras will surely feature the emblematic goats which have long been part of club’s lore.
On a visit to the links last week, the eye was taken by a larger-than-life statue of a male goat recently mounted inside the gate.
The goat is also featured in the club’s crest.
The Lahinch goats have long been regarded as weather vanes: When they remain far out the course the elements are usually kind, but when they start drifting towards the clubhouse rain, or worse, is on the way, according to knowledgeable locals.
There’s a celebrated story of a time when the barometer in the clubhouse was out of order.
A note, “see goats”, was placed on the broken down gadget.
Similarly regarded was a wandering herd of Angora goats on the slopes of 1,000m Mount Nebo, in Oregan, US.
Goats high up the mountain meant dry or fair weather; grazing on the lower slopes meant rain.
A phenomenon echoed by people in Headford, Co Kerry, who report like experiences with mountain goats.
A survey carried out over a number of weeks, in Mount Nebo, found the goats were right 90% of the time compared to 65% for official weather forecasts.
Nature experts believe animals’ sharper hearing and other senses enable them to tune into the atmosphere and earth’s vibration before humans, alerting them to weather changes and even disasters long before people realise what’s happening.
For instance, before the 2004 tsunami struck in Sri Lanka, some wild and domestic animals fled to safety.
According to eyewitness reports in National Geographic at the time, elephants roared and ran for higher ground, dogs refused to go outdoors, and flamingos abandoned their low-lying breeding areas, while zoo animals rushed into their shelters and could not be enticed back out.
US-based Ravi Corea, president of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society, was in Sri Lanka when the massive waves struck.
About an hour before the tsunami hit, Corea said, people at Yala National Park observed three elephants running away from a beach.
Relatively few animals were reported to have died in the tsunami, further boosting the view that animals somehow sense disaster.