WHEN you see an owl in flight at night, you can’t help but be awe-struck. When that bird is flying over your house, well, you're simply blessed.
Dúlra had been keeping an extra eye out for an owl after the shadow of a large bird passed the front window twice at around 11 o’clock in the space of a week recently. It could have been a crow, of course, but Dúlra just felt that, in the half-second he caught a glimpse of it, its wings were gently flapping like clothes on a washing line. An owl's wings.
It takes patience to see birds like this. Dúlra once spent the best part of a night hiding in a ditch at Lough Neagh with owl expert Ciarán Walsh to spot the elusive barn owl. But at least this time he could sit on a chair in his own back garden.
On Monday, he got a seat for his daughter as well and we settled down to watch dusk fall. Any talking or any movement at all, and birds will make a detour. Fionnuala was watching along the street, while Dúlra kept an eye in the opposite direction, towards the darkening mountain. If there was an owl in the neighbourhood, he'd put money on it coming from the mountain.
We waited and watched from 10 o’clock, and as the minutes ticked by, our hopes ebbed. You can’t perceive the light fading, but every 10 minutes or so you realise that you can no longer see what you could before and the mountain was now just a dark mound or an outline. An owl could pass in the sky, and you might not even see it.
A street light meant that the area where we were sitting was well lit, but our eyes were on the skies.
Then, at 10.59pm, Fionnuala whispered: “Sin é!” Dúlra saw her eyes as wide as Belfast Lough and he gently tilted his head to follow her gaze.
And he saw it. A giant bird had floated over the slates of the house – our house! It was so low that the street lamp illuminated its huge brown wings and we could even see those famous ears, which give it its Irish name, ceann cait. It flew on, directly over our heads, about 15 feet off the ground. Then up and over a neighbour’s garage and into the darkness. It was a breathtaking experience.
There wasn’t a sound from it – it was like a ghost. Owls’ feathers have evolved to be completely silent so those poor mice don’t hear them swooping down.
This bird was so low it was obviously in hunt mode as  Dúlra’s garden has its fair share of mice, much to everyone’s annoyance. They love the bird seed as much as the finches.
 So maybe that’s why this rare bird of the night – there might just be 3,000 pairs in Ireland – has taken an interest in Dúlra’s house.
Whatever the reason, he’s going to throw an extra handful of birdseed out. But this time at around 10pm!

The Crumlin Glen turtle raised some eyebrows as it basked on a rock

The Crumlin Glen turtle raised some eyebrows as it basked on a rock

• We’ve heard a lot of complaints about the weather this summer, but one tropical animal seems very happy indeed with its surroundings – in Crumlin River!
Local walker and nature buff Martin Lawlor nearly tripped over his walking stick when he spotted the tortoise sunning itself on a stone on Tuesday.
Marty loves his walk through the lovely Crumlin Glen, which he has done almost every day in the decade since he moved to the County Antrim town from Andersonstown.
He’s seen beautiful, rare and fascinating creatures there, including a mink and otters, but Tuesday’s was a whole new level.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he told Dúlra. “Later that day I saw a man from the Water Board at Crumlin River and I told him about it.
“He goes around all the rivers here testing the water quality, and he thought I was pulling his leg. I told him to come down and have a look, praying that it was still there or he’d think I was insane. But thankfully it was still on the rock and he photographed it.
A few minutes later it slipped into the water and disappeared. But I’ll be up tomorrow to see if it’s still there. The Water Board guy said he had never seen a turtle in the wild in his life, and neither have I. He took pictures of it and said he would put them up in the office where they have photos of unusual finds. He said his colleagues wouldn’t believe him!”
 Marty’s not sure exactly what sort of animal it is, and Dúlra has to admit that his knowledge of turtles is limited to when he had one as a kid and wrote his initials on the shell.
Marty added: “It’s slightly bigger than a saucer but not as big as a dinner plate, with a yellow streak along the side.”
So keep your eyes peeled when you're out for a dander, you really never know what you'll come across! If you’ve seen anything you’d like to share, contact Dúlra on 07801 41480.