A Good Afternoon’s Work- Summer 2003

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A sojourn in the natural tranquility of Castle Ellen wood brings boundless joy’

It’s about two years ago now. Actually it was 25th of June 2001, but I can recall it as if it happened only yesterday. Monday mornings were never the best of mornings, they signaled the start of a new week, new problems, new headaches, maybe evennew opportunities,  But first the previous week’s figures had to be checked, tallied, cross-checked, double-checked, figures to be adjusted, reconciled, balanced, etc. Telephones, faxes, computer screens, and a mass of paper had to be organized. You wonder why the figures you have inputted into the computer do not car on the screen in front of you After much staring, waiting for the figures to magically appear, and much head-scratching, some one points out very discreetly and considerately that no matter how hard you punch in the numbers on your telephone keypad they will never ever appear on a screen in front of you. After a moment it registers.


It must be nearly lunchtime. Sometimes you just have to walk away from it all. Outside, the cool Monday morning has brightened into a warm sunny afternoon. The ten-minute drive has been time enough to allow the brain to switch off; to revert to normal mode and to appreciate the simple things in life; the things we often overlook in our pursuit of greater ‘material’ happiness

This was my first visit to Castle Ellen and its surrounding woodland. Having parked the car, I set off in the direction of the big old house I felt a sense of history here. The breeze blowing through the trees told stories of times long past.

Tuneful nature

The woods were full of birdsong. Rooks were busy probing the fields for insects, “cawing” loudly as they went to and fro. Blackbirds were listening for worms on the lawn, their heads cocked at an angle. The young were keeping their parents busy Swallows were twittering’ whilst chasing insects for their rapidly growing brood. The tiny wren with its explosive loud singing was the  easiest to identify by sound, but despite searches I failed to locate her nest. I heard a faint whirr as the tiniest bird flew past into the confines of the woods. The male has already built several nests around the place. He has taken the female on a tour of the sites and she has chosen the one most suitable for the family

Winged beauty

Butterflies were abundant everywhere. The warm, sunny afternoon had enticed them out of their shady hiding places. Six different species were noted: small white, large white, greened-veined white, small tortoiseshell, specked wood and the brimstone The woods produced the regular woodland birds – robin, wood pigeon, most members of the crow family, likewise the til family and the flinch family. The elusive Tree creeper, looking just like a mouse climbing up the tree, was also added to the list. The repeated ‘tac-tac’ alarm call on the blackbird signaled that danger was about. Overhead a female sparrow hawk was hunting for dinner.

Fourteen species were seen. It was a wonderful relaxing few hours. But the highlight for me was when I was wandering the grounds admiring the house. Right in front of me was perched a spotted Flycatcher. This particular species I had only ticked once before. For several seasons I had failed miserably to add it to my list. Now here it was, right in front of me. I sat down on the big expanse of lawn and just watched and savoured the moment. Every few minutes, it darted off its perch, grabbed an insect in flight wi an audible click of its bill, and returned to the same perch. This summer visitor probably had his nest and chicks nearby, possibly the ivy-covered wall adjoining the house. It was pleasure just to and enjoy this busy little bird

But alas, the real world beckoned. I had to return to the madness of work with telephones, fax machines, computers, all designed to make our lives simpler! Yes it really was a good afternoon’s work, in fact it was a memorable afternoon. Tuesday will soon be here…..it’s just another week.

lan Brophy, former employee of Cosmo, Northgate St., lives in Corrandulla and is a keen bird-watcher and naturalist. 

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About this record

Written by Ian Brophy

Published here 02 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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