We need predator control measures to safeguard future of endangered species
Since our island was first inhabited by man, the winter solstice has been perhaps the most important event in the annual calendar.
Those fortunate enough to be present at Newgrange on December 21 this year saw that the planetary alignment had once again advanced to herald the return of the sun.
Our ancestors knew well the importance of this and how vital it was that the sun was reborn to warm the earth and begin the renewal of the cycle of the seasons.
Huge changes have occurred in the Irish countryside since Newgrange was built, but the sun and the seasons can still be relied on to behave, more or less, as predicted.
As I write this the shoots of daffodils are emerging and the buds on the chestnut trees are sticky and swelling, preparing to burst forth in late spring.
Lamb's tails are waving on the hazel bushes and on my prized Salix acutifolia 'Pendulifolia' clusters of silver catkins have emerged, dazzling when the sun catches them against the background of a vivid blue sky.
Walking through the oak and beech woods is a special pleasure at this time of year with a thick layer of leaves carpeting the woodland floor. As they slowly rot to create rich humus they give off a wonderful primeval scent while, above them, the branches stand stark and bare against the winter landscape.
The weather up to now has been unsettled but relatively mild and the holly bushes are still laden with berries but no doubt the field fares, thrushes and blackbirds will shortly strip them.