Two Birds – Two Worlds

Two Birds – Two Worlds

Posted by Eric Dempsey, With 0 Comments,

Several times over the last week I have been asked the same question: why birds?

What is it about birds that captured my imagination from such an early age? I suppose

the early chapters of Don’t Die in Autumn go some way towards answering that

question…or perhaps it documents the gradual awakening of birds in my life. Just to

clarify it for everyone, I do have a love for all things natural but birds are my ‘thing’.


Well firstly they are so accessible. Living in Finglas in north Dublin, I could see

Swifts and Swallows overhead and know they had travelled a long way to be in

Dublin. In winter, I saw Redwings and Fieldfares…birds of the northern regions

spending the winter in Ireland. Hanging feeders in the gardens, the birds came to me. I

would go a long way before I would encounter foxes or badgers, while I was not

blessed to live near sweeping meadows where plants and butterflies were easy to find.


The other thing that captured me so young was the incredible migrations of birds.

Looking at Swallows, my young mind was in overdrive thinking of the journey these

birds made. My much older mind is still in overdrive as I think about it now. The

constant movement of birds marks the changing seasons, the movement of time and

the knowledge that I have somehow survived another season. I believe it is something

deep and primal within us all. The arrival of Swallows in spring brings good times


And occasionally, I am lucky to witness when two worlds meet…

Two Worlds

Last Thursday I was birding with my good friend, Michael O’Clery at Carrahane, in

Kerry. I was speaking that night in the Kingdom and enjoying birding with Mick just

like old times (we have birded together since 1983). Out along the grasslands we

found this beautiful Pectoral Sandpiper (above).

Pec Sands come from the high Arctic Tundra of North America. They migrate to

Central and South America but many young birds get blown across the Atlantic.

Yankee waders (as we call them) are always special birds. This bird was incredibly

tame, walking towards us as it fed. It is always a privilege to be in the presence of a

bird that knows no fear.

As we were watching this bird, we both suddenly became aware of a very distinctive

bird calling loudly several times as it flew overhead. The call was a sharp ‘pissih’…it

was a call that we both instantly recognised…a Red-throated Pipit! In almost 40 years

of ‘serious’ birding, I have encountered Red-throated Pipit on just two previous

occasions in Ireland. However, my ear was sharp to the call as I had experienced

hundreds of them last Christmas in Hong Kong. Yes…Hong Kong…that is where the

birds winter!

Here we were in Kerry experiencing birds which have come from two ends of the

world…one North America, the other from Asia. One was meant to be heading

towards South America, the other meant to be on its way towards the Far East. They

were both well off course yet, their respective paths crossed in one place in south-

west Ireland. It was a fleeting meeting of two birds from two worlds.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Michael and I were there to witness such a

meeting. How incredible is that? How lucky were we?

So why birds?

Do I really have to answer that question?

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