Dúlra witnessed an incredible scene in our skies this week.
House martins had gathered along Cave Hill in a flock so big it looked more like a swarm of flies. Dúlra was on the Antrim Road on Monday when he noticed a few birds overhead – and when he focused his binoculars on Napoleon's Nose, the scene was truly spectacular.
Thousands of these aerial artists were zooming about everywhere, some high above McArt’s Fort, others skimming the treetops. This was their big gathering, their last farewell to the country of their birth. Tomorrow, they’d be gone.
These birds had come from far and wide. The hoard that bred on their favourite homes in all of Belfast at Hawthorn Glen would be there – thanks to the generosity of residents who let them nest on their gable walls when so many other more ignorant people don’t.
The bulk of the gathering were newborns – in a normal summer a pair can raise two broods, an average of 10 chicks. That’s a 500 per cent increase in population – and they were all here, zipping across Cave Hill. It was as if they were playing, enjoying their new lives and beautiful environment – what’s not to like when you are born with wings like that?
But it was tinged with sadness. Their food source was slowly disappearing. Maybe that’s why they had gathered here – the forest below was still producing an insect bonanza. But it was time to take their beauty somewhere else, leaving this land – or at least the skies above it – cold and bare.
On Tuesday morning Dúlra travelled across to Cave Hill. But he knew he’d be disappointed. The house martins – gabhlán binne – had disappeared en masse on their six-week journey to southern Africa. 
Next year, God willing, he knows where he’ll be on September 20. He’ll climb the slopes of the Cave Hill and sit below this wonder of the world, where the house martins of Belfast bid the city farewell with a show so incredible it deserves to be livestreamed. Maybe he’ll bring his phone and do just that.
It’s just four months since Hank the lurcher died suddenly before he had even reached his second birthday. Colin ‘Bungie’ O’Carroll was heartbroken at the loss of such a special dog. But he took the best course of action and set about trying to find another pet to help ease the pain.
And he not only got one, but two.
“People had read about Hank in the Andersonstown News/North Belfast News and on Facebook and I got two offers of dogs at around the same time,” he said. “So I ended up with these two – one for me and one for my daughter Ella.”
Hank, a black beauty, got the name because he was always ‘Hank Marvin’ – you couldn’t feed him enough. And so it was only natural that his replacement should be called Marvin.
Marvin is as lean as a racehorse. And as fast. Bungie went to Derry to get him from the owner who just didn’t have the space the growing dog needed. “He was kept in a backyard in the Bogside but he kept getting out,” Bungie said. “He was like a street dog and he hung about outside the fast food shops picking up scraps. He still loves curry!”
Marvin had never been in a car and was sick three times on the journey back to Belfast. Now Bungie just points a finger and Marvin leaps into the car – he knows it means he’s going for a walk!
Marvin is one on Saturday, he’s now got a wee ‘brother’ for company – 11-week-old Louis."I picked him up with Ella from a farm near Rasharkin on the 50th anniversary of Louis Armstrong’s death. When we got him into the car What a Wonderful World was on the radio, so we thought – why not Louis?” said Bungie.
While Marvin is a greyhound with collie blood – giving him intelligence – Louis is greyhound with a bit of Staffordshire bull terrier in his blood – giving him strength. When he grows into his ‘double merle’ coat – with patches of various colours blending together – he’ll be something to behold. At 13 weeks, he’s already house trained and follows orders better than his big ‘brother’, who was used to street life.
But the two get on like a house on fire. They spent the afternoon in Dúlra’s garden mock-attacking each other, rolling about the grass and pretending to bite lumps out of each other. They’re mates for life.
Bungie and his 14-year-old daughter now have two special animals to share their lives with. Bungie – a U105 newsreader from West Belfast whose family moved to Australia when he was young – is himself a pure-bred doggie man who spent his early youth hunting rabbits on the slopes of the Belfast hills.
In those days his special dog was a lurcher called Sonny, whose adventures are still legendary. Marvin and Louis will surely write their own legends.
If you’ve seen or photographed anything interesting or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.