Musings and photos of wild and everyday life



Boat passing Sunset between La Frontera & Gomera islands from Fanabe Beach Costa Adeje Tenerife tri xs 9194.jpg

There are many places with more wildlife than Tenerife but with the current restrictions due to the CV-19 Virus, I thought it might cheer us all up to think about somewhere warm and inviting!

And there are many birds and animals here although I confess that we were there for a short sunny holiday late last year 🙂   So the birds and animals in this post are those found easily – without using binoculars or spending hours in a hide.  Also we were only on the West coast of the island.Red Rock Crab Grapsus adscensionis at edge of water on wave splashed rocks W Tenerife xs 9164

If you walk around the shore you are almost certain to see many Red Rock Crabs.  They are quite large and very colourful.  This one, like most, was at the edge of the rocks waiting for the next wave to wash over him bringing tit-bits of food. Turnstone bathing in pool La Caleta Tenerife xxs 9286

There are a number of birds that can be seen elsewhere including waders like this Turnstone bathing in a pool on the rocks.Short-finned Pilot Whale off W Tenerife from rib xs 8927

As an island off Africa, a boat trip is essential.  I thoroughly recommend WWT – Whale Watch Tenerife. They have a fast rib with few passengers and are very knowledgeable and keen and care about the animals.  There is a very good chance of seeing Short-finned Pilot Whales as the W coast of Tenerife is a favoured haunt.  Dolphins, Sharks and Baleen Whales are also regularly seen.Corys Shearwater in swell off W Tenerife coast from rib xs 8813

While enthralled by Dolphins and Whales, keep one eye open for birds.  This is Cory’s Shearwater which is quite common.  It flies beautifully but looks a bit awkward in the water or on land – one landed on the path at our fee one evening!Flathead Grey Mullet Mugil cephalus in Puerto Deportivo Los Gigantes Tenerife xs 8724

Many of the harbours have large numbers of Flathead Grey Mullet swimming around the boats and shadows.Southern Tenerife Lizard Gallotia galloti galloti on rocks near La Caleta Tenerife xs 8738Quite a few of the birds and animals are either species or subspecies endemic to the island or region.  This is the Southern Tenerife Lizard (Gallotia galloti galloti) sun-bathing on the rocks along the coast.Yellow-legged Gull atlantis ssp Acantilados de Los Gigantes Tenerife xs 8733

Finally, there are nearly always Gulls.  This is the Yellow-legged Gull, subspecies atlantis, found on Atlantic islands.

Stay safe.


Dublin – Looking Up

Sunrise over Guiness factory Bottle Tower & bridge from Heuston Luas bridge s 1827Climbing Sculpture on Wall Grand Canal Dublin xs 1958Its all too easy while walking or driving to keep your head down, eyes scanning for possible collisions, mind thinking of all sorts of things – troubles, dinner, family or just nothing.  So perhaps its not surprising that we see so little of what is in plain view.

While on holidays, it is not as bad.  Generally we are more relaxed and more open to seeing new things, exploring the surroundings.

However looking up is not too common, even on holidays.  A shame as skies, architecture, spires, birds and so much more can be missed.  Here I want to highlight some of the things that are easily missed by not actively looking, especially up, in Dublin.

The sky above is glowing red/orange after sunset.  But look at the array of chimneys, Guinness silos, the Bottle Tower and the Church steeple, silhouetted against the sky.  They are all interesting in their own way.

Ceilings are also often interesting – see 2014 post Ceilings







It’s easy to miss the climber sculpture  on the Treasury Building, Grand Canal St. Lower.

Chimneys Merrion St Dublin rs 0727

Statue & Copper Dome Custom House Dublin s 3611Merrion Square is famous for its Georgian buildings with windows that get smaller towards the roof  to emphasise height.  But look at the battery of chimneys !








And what about the Customs House?

The Copper Dome is a well known feature (although it is high up, it is very large and green) but have you noticed the dodgy looking statue on the top?

Justice Statue on Cork Hill gate Dublin Castle 6193xLsThis apparently is a figure of Commerce and includes an anchor!
















Consider also the Justice Statue on the Gate to Dublin Castle at Cork Hill ?

She wields a heavy sword, balanced by a delicate scales!  Hmmmm!








The huge red-bricked building enclosing Georges St. Arcade is a familiar site.  However at ground level it is a bit dreary.  Old premises are only beginning to be renewed and some remain empty.

Looking up reveals a great building with a fabulous roof-line complete with turrets, balustrade, attic windows and large elaborate chimneys. This is one of the special buildings in Dublin.Georges St Arcade & Fade St Dublin xs 1783

Roof skyline NIB & The Bank Dame St Dublin s 2408dav





Dame Street and College Green contain a good number of interesting buildings.  Once again though, the roof-line is often overlooked.

This is a great pity as a variety of intricate architectural features and designs are to be found way above street level.

The Roof Windows and lovely chimney with wind vane are on the old Hibernian Bank, now a H&M shop, while the Copper cone is on the red-bricked Bank Restaurant which used to be the Royal Bank of Ireland.













Probably this grand old tall chimney wouldn’t be missed if it was on a main street.  Tucked in the back of Heytesbury St. is is less obvious but an interesting throwback.

It is octagonal, made of yellow and red bricks and was originally connected to the boilers in the old Meath Hospital.

Lion & Unicorn Bank of Ireland College Green Dublin s 6213


Looking up at the Bank of Ireland in College Green reveals one of the old empire symbols  – the Lion and the Unicorn.  These are heraldic elements and appear on the coat of arms of the United Kingdom.

The figures are still looking in good shape though I don’t think the same could currently be said of  the UK!Customs House Lion & Unicorn s 137_3726

The same animals in a different pose appear above the Custom House on Custom House Quay along the Liffey.  This time they look up to a Harp with a crown atop!  This is not the Coat of Arms of King George III  but that of the Kingdom of Ireland!Roof edging on building on Lincoln Place Dublin s 6228

Decorative edging tiles under the roof of buildings on Lincoln Place.Flying Buttresses Christ Church Cathedral Dublin s 6170

Christ Church Cathedral contains a myriad of interesting details at street level as well as internally and even below ground (including a 58 metre long crypt).  But still some some glances upwards are well rewarded.  As well as some serious flying buttresses, there are cross finials, carved limestone parapets and octagonal tapering towers with windows.

Lord Edward St & down to Dame St Dublin xs 4516Finally a picture of Lord Edward Street looking down to Dame Street.  Not to suggest that street level should be ignored in any way – Dublin has so much of interest in our old and some of our new buildings and features – but there is often so much of interest just a tilt of the neck away 🙂



Blessington Basin

Hooded Merganser M & Mandarin Duck F in Blessington Basin x 7319

Hooded Merganser drake and Mandarin duck

It’s always great to have wild places in cities. This one is a super water oasis in the middle of Dublin.  The ‘Blessington’ in the name comes not from the town in Wicklow but from Blessington Street, in Dublin.  It is reached on one side from a linear park that used to be a canal, through a small gate in the surrounding stone wall.

This gives rise to its other name as ‘Secret Garden’.The Lodge cottage 1811 Blessington Basin Dublin rc 9904 At the other end is a more salubrious entrance, gate and lodge, dating from 1811. 

The ‘Basin’ itself is a fairly simple, rectangular tank with vertical walls and an island at its centre.  This was originally built in 1810 as a water reservoir  (The Royal George Reservoir) for Dubliners and was used by a number of whiskey makers into the 1970s. Restoration in the 1990s cleaned it up and it is now well visited by people and wildlife.

Feral Pigeon head Blessington Basin Dublin x 7313Visiting from the secret end, the first wildlife encounter may well be a pigeon.  Feral pigeons know how to find feeding spots and this is a good one with some very regular patrons.  They will line up on railings and take off together at the slightest hint of danger or new food, with an alarming beat of wings.

Wood Duck M Blessington Basin Dublin x 7364However the Basin often holds some surprising bird-life such as the Hooded Merganser drake and Mandarin duck in the top picture and the Wood duck above.

These are normally found in North America but have presumably found their way here after being discarded by collectors.

Sparrowhawk imm in tree on island Blessington Basin Dublin x 7334

Immature Sparrowhawk in tree on the island

Keep an eye out for birds of prey – where there are birds feeding, predators lurk.

For me the star of this show was the male Hooded Merganser which just looks so proud and ‘kingly’, somehow beyond normal reality. 

And that’s just what’s so fantastic about the Basin – it is a common haunt of locals and aficionados while at the same time an incredible revelation, haven and uplifting surprise for newbies.

Hooded merganser Blessington Basin Dublin x 7342

Trinity Trees Tragedy

Oregon Maple tree & front square Trinity College Dublin 2036x

One of the fabulous Oregon Maple (Acer macrophyllum) trees of Library Square Trinity College Dublin.  This was subject of a post in 2010:

and the picture was subsequently used in an article by the Dublin Institute of Technology on the value of trees in the city; as well as on the front cover of the brochure for Environ 2014 – a conference on Environmental Challenges and Solutions held in Trinity in partnership with the ESAI.

Anyway that is all a bit beside the point which is that these were magical trees, tall with a wide spread.  The picture is nothing compared to being near them.  They were grand, had knurled, ancient, knobbly trunks and the sheer dominance of the trees, especially in Summer when the large leaves were in full glow, was inspiring.  And their value to the city was great from their visual appeal and stress reduction capabilities to their Ozone and CO2 reducing abilities and Oxygen provision.  It has also been shown that they reduce exhaust fumes particulates.


However this is the current view of Library Square from the Trinity Rubrics.

Only a couple of years ago we toasted our College education, decades before, in a marquee underneath the shade of these fabulous specimens. Trinity ball annually has a marquee there. The trees were checked recently for health and risk assessment. But soon after a very large branch of one crashed to the ground. Happily there were no human casualties but a reassessment found that the trees were rotting inside and they were taken down for safety.

IMG_20180829_085339-2Of course there are many more fine trees in Trinity but these were special. Firstly they were magnificent, secondly they were very old – reckoned to have watched over Trinity students for about 175 years. What history and people and events must have happened here, within bough shot!

I will miss them. Thousands will. But so many more will never know what they missed.  Let’s hope that they are replaced with trees of substance and character.


Snowed-in – New Neighbours

Have you ever walked through a marshy area and been shocked by a sudden explosion of feathers at your feet, which then disappeared off at full speed with a zig-zag flight? This is the culprit but I didn’t think we’d ever see one in our back garden!

Snipe walking in snow BG xs 7548.jpg

Snipe walking in back garden

In fact we have 2 Snipe – a brace.  They have discovered that amongst the acres and acres of deep snow around here, there is one spot where the the snow is thin enough for their long beaks to reach into the soil – our old trampoline!

Snipe foraging in snow under Trampoline BG xs 7466.jpg

Snipe foraging under trampoline

There are a lot more birds in the garden than usual, drawn by the need to find food and by our feeders and seed strewn-steps etc. Today we had a Pied Wagtail our our doorstep.

It all looks cute and is great for close views of birds we seldom see close up but many birds will die during this spell. Indeed many people will suffer with some main and most side roads closed.

So be safe and help your neighbours – feathered and otherwise 🙂


Jackdaw on fence Dublkin Zoo xs 8947.jpgSome of the commonest and noisiest birds are in the crow family.

Found in most regions of the world they tend to be medium to large sized, intelligent, mainly blackish in colour and relatively brave around people.

Here in Ireland, the Jackdaw is one of the most visible members of the family which numbers approximately 40. Its white eye ring and mixture of black and grey feathers making  it easily identifiable.

Rook portrait BG 5125xLsRaven on ruins above Miners Village Glendalough xs 7243
Hooded Crow St Stephens Green pond Dublin 0005xs
Slightly bigger are the Rooks which often mingle with Jackdaws.

They are much tougher looking and have a strong beak with a whitish patch at the base. They also show a dark blue tint when the sun shines.

They make untidy large nests in colonies known as rookeries, in the tops of trees in whereas the Jackdaws nest in holes, such as in trees or chimneys.



The biggest of our crows is the Raven with a wingspan of up to 1.3m.  These are birds of higher ground, mostly scavenging on dead animals.



The other typical Grey-Black crow we have is the Hooded Crow.  It is very similar to the Carrion Crow, found in England, which does not have any grey.

This is the main crow in many European continental countries.

Hooded Crow pairs nest on their own in tops of tall trees.
Magpie hunting on grass Merrion Square Dublin xs 5769
However, another common crow here is the Magpie – a really beautiful bird but with a bad reputation due to their success in towns and dominance over small birds.
Jay at feeding station Dodd Wood Keswick 6264xs
Reasonably common but not seen as much is the Jay which has much less black in its plumage.

It is predominantly Brown with patches of blue, black and white and is most often seen in woods, particularly Oak woods.Chough flying Great Saltee 4021xs
The final Irish Corvid is the least known but possibly the most interesting and certainly my favourite.   The Chough is similar in some ways to the Jackdaw but has red legs and beak.  Also the beak is thinner and down curved – designed for poking into the ground.

The best places to see these are along the South and West coasts. They will probably be noticed first by their unusual ‘chough’ calls.

That’s a reasonable number of ‘Crows’ for a little country.  In a blog to follow, some of the other crows will be highlighted.


Giralda Cathedral Seville rcxs 4352This is a really majestic, beautiful and fun city. The large complex Cathedral and magnificent Giralda tower in Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, together with so many other lovely buildings, could take most of your attention.  Archbishops Palace Seville rcxs 4347
These buildings include the Bishop’s Palace in the North of the Plaza

Real Alcazar Gardens from viewing alll end rcs 4889

Reales Alcazares walled gardens

and the Royal Palaces, Reales Alcazares, to the South.

But Seville has much more and demands more time.  It is not a place to be rushed and only a hint of Seville’s treasures can be shown here.

Plaza de Espana towards N tower Seville rs 4681

Plaza de Espana looking towards North Tower

Plaza de Espana Seville at night rcs 4949Further South still and nearer to the river, you’ll be flabbergasted by Plaza de Espana, stunning at night as much as by day!

Gold Tower with Seville Tower behind rcs 4663And speaking of the river, a walk along the Guadalquivir is very relaxing with rowers and wildlife as well as other jewels including the Golden Tower and the Bull Ring, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza.

Rowing under Triana or Isabel II bridge & Capilla Virgen del Carmen rcs 4661

Rowing under Triana or Isabel II bridge & Capilla Virgen del Carmen

It is hard not to see interesting buildings and the bridges are great in their own right.

Fountain & Ducks Maria Luisa Park Seville rcs 4463Beside Plaza de Espana, Maria Luisa Park is full of trees, ducks, water and offers some quiet and shade but it is very popular and busy.

Metropole & San Pedro church Seville rs 4610

Metropole & San Pedro church Seville

Finally check out a few of the many quirky churches – many along very narrow streets and the Metropole, a sort of modern art city canopy with awalkway and great views from the honeycomb-like roof.

3 tips –

  1. Spoonbill preening in Charco de la Boca lake El Rocio Spain rxs 8082

    Spoonbill preening in Charco de la Boca lake El Rocio

    It is a relatively short trip South to Donana National Park with Imperial Eagles, Peregrines, Azure-winged Magpies, Boar, Deer, Lizards and much more are to be seen or even shorter to Charco de la Boca lake at El Rocio where Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, Egrets, Coot and many other birds thrive.

  2. Mercado de triana Seville rcs 4634

    Mercado de triana Seville

    This is a place that produces great food – enjoy.

  3. Seville Cathedral interior including ceiling organ & carvings rcss 4575Should the unthinkable happen and it rains, explore the interiors of Reales Alcatras and the Cathedral – even if not religious you will come away uplifted! 🙂

Saltees 2017

Gannet couple greeting & Bill clacking over egg in nest Great Saltee island xs 6158

Gannets Greeting in Great Saltee colony over Egg in Nest

Great Saltee Island off the SE coast of Ireland is the place to go in May or June – or most times of the year.

But in early Summer the flowers and birds are terrific.

It seems to have its own micro-climate and has been kind, weather-wise, to us on our yearly pilgrimages.

We spent 4 or 5 hours on the island but could have spent 4 or 5 days without doing it justice.

Puffin taking off from burrow side - disturbed before delivering Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5771

Puffin taking off from Burrow with undelivered fish after disturbance


Pehthouse Suite - Kittiwakes & egg on nests Great Saltee cliffs xs 5538

Penthouse Suite – Kitiwakes nesting on cliff, Great Saltee

It is known best for its 2 Gannet colonies and for its Puffins but has so much more – birds such as Auks, Waders, Gulls, Cormorants, Choughs, Pipits etc. as well as Seals, Rabbits (inevitably), wild flowers and great views.


Razorbill flying with Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5651

Razorbill flying with fish

Great Black-backed Chicks sheltering Great Saltee xs 6628

Baby Great-Black-backed Gulls in hiding – they will grow to become the marauding Lords of the island


Great Black-backed Gull flying Great Saltee xs 5613

Great Black-backed Gull in full marauding flight

Shag & Chicks on nest under Rocks Great Saltee xs 6617

Shag & Chicks in nest under Rock

Grey Seal imm in Cave Great Saltee xs 6797

Grey Seal immature in cave, Great Saltee

Gannet collecting vegetation for nest on Great Saltee clifftop xs 5638

Gannet collecting vegetation for nest



The Gannets number over 2,000 and try to nest away from interference – one colony on a rock stack and the other at the extreme end of the island.

However over-enthusiastic visitors and camera holders constantly get too close, pushing the colony back and causing unnecessary stress and disturbance.

Gannets build a small mound of earth and vegetation – grass, seaweed, etc. – with more vegetation on top.

Gannet patterns edge of main colony Great Saltee xs 5851

Gannet Nests with regular spacing

In such a crowded place, the Gannets are very regularly spaced.  This is not so much about privacy for couples or respect for neighbours but rather fear of agression and use of agression to keep a small gap!


Gannets fighting in colony Great Saltee island xs 6446

Gannets fighting in colony

Fights do break out in the close noisy turmoil.

Gannet returning to nest in colony Great Saltee xs 6563

Gannet returning to nest in colony, Great Saltee

Gannets mostly look all the same to us but presumably they can see distinct differences and hear different calls. Nevertheless finding one’s mate in a large noisy colony can’t be easy and landing amongst defensive neighbours in wind has to be difficult.

Gannet stare in colony Great Saltee island xs 6039

Gannet head – with superior attitude



A magnificent bird and beautifully designed for life on the sea and for diving into the water from a height.

Puffin calling from clifftop rock Great Saltee xs 5802Puffin calling from rock amongst Pinks on clifftop, Great Saltee

Puffin with Sandeels Great Saltee xs 5798
Puffin with Sandeels




Hard to ignore the gorgeous, cute little Puffins though.

Puffin numbers go up and down yearly based mainly on the numbers of Sandeels available.

The last 2 years seem to have been fairly good but of course fish numbers worldwide are only fractions of 100 years ago due to over fishing, pollution, human interference and now, particularly plastics  – hard to imagine such a happy state for our seas now 😦

Puffin flying overhead Great Saltee xs 6781

Puffin flying in

Costa Rica

Green Iguana lying on branch Tortuguero xs 1892

Green Iguana, Tortuguero

A long wish-list sleeper was ticked off this year with a great trip to Costa Rica.  The country is small, about the same size as Ireland but there the comparisons seem to end.

It has kept many of its forests and regrown many others.  It has a great variety of habitats and features – highlands, beach, mountains, cloud forest, rain forest, mangroves ….And it has both Caribbean and Pacific shores!

Best of all for wildlife enthusiasts, it has brilliant birds, animals and plants.  Over a few posts, I hope to show a sample of these.

Let’s start with some common birds and animals.

While Crows, Starlings and the odd Buzzard might act as scavengers in these parts, in Costa Rica they are replaced mainly by Black and Turkey Vultures and Grackles

Turkey Vulture flying Osa Pensinsula xs 5405.jpg

Turkey Vulture

The vultures can be seen in the skies all over the country and it feels strange to hear them described as ‘only’ vultures!

Great Kiskadee on wire Tortuguero xs 1327

Great Kiskadee

A hot country with rain, breeds loads of insects which spawn many flycatchers.  One of the commonest is the Great Kiskadee, seen on wires in all regions.

Anhinga M in tree beside canal Tortuguero xs 1954.jpg

Anhinga (male), Tortuguero

The rivers and canals are home to many species including the ancient Anhingas, often seen drying their wings.  This one looks like a rock star.

Green Heron in stream at S end of Playa Espadilla xs 3100

Green Heron, near Manuel Antonio NP

Many herons can be seen waiting patiently for a fish to come close.


Crocodile sun bathing on fallen tree Tortuguero from boat xs 2228.jpg

American Crocodile sun bathing, Tortuguero

Rivers are not for the faint-hearted.  They host snakes, Caiman and Crocs that are way beyond ancient!

Mantled Howler Monkey M on cabin roof Pachira Lodge Tortuguero xs 1394.jpg

Male Mantled Howler Monkey on roof, Tortuguero

Meanwhile the trees are home to 4 different types of Monkeys.  Nosiest of these is the Howlers whch have a habit of waking people at dawn with their deep growling howls, produced by large throat balloons.

White-throated Capuchin Monkeys eating Palm fruit Osa Pensinsula xs 5375.jpg

White-faced Capuchin Monkeys eating Palm fruit, Osa Pensinsula

The cheekiest monkeys are the Capuchins which have learnt to rob food from tourists but ‘normally’ eat fruit and small animals.

Hoffmans Two-toed Sloth in tree Aquas Zarcas xs 2315

Hoffman’s 2-toed Sloth

Its also in the trees that Sloths can be seen. It’s hard to believe how hard it can be to see such big slow moving creatures.

It can be hard to see both large and small mammals but Agoutis and Coatis can usuallly be seen with a bit of patience.  And Squirrels often come close.

Variegated Squirrel in tree in rain Monteverdi Forest Lodge xs 2783.jpg

Variegated Squirrel, Monteverde Cloud Forest

This can only be a quick look at the common wildlife in Costa Rica but more will appear in subsequent posts.  Let’s leave with one of the iconic birds of the region – the Hummingbird – as well as bright flowers which are also a big feature of beautiful Costa Rica.

Green Violetear hummingbird feeding on flowers Monteverdi Cloud Forest Lodge xs 2936

Green Violetear Hummingbird feeding on flowers, Monteverde

Spring or Late Winter

The 1st of February is Lá Fhéile Bríde (St. Brigid’s Day) and traditionally welcomes Spring.


Tree Split,  Lough Dan

This year the ‘Winter’ was so mild that the usual flocks of Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans only made brief appearances in the fields around us.  ‘Spring’ seems to be wet, cold and windy in comparison!  Storms Doris and Ewan were not appreciated, ripping rooves, felling trees, disrupting Electricity service and ruining golf scores.


Mallard Drake walking on thin Ice, Frensham Little Pond, Surrey

The birds and animals have been ‘twichy’ – a bit like the bird watchers – for some time but many people associate the onset of Spring more with March or April  and around here the worst weather of the year offen hits us in February or even March.


R-otary Club Crocuses, Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Anyway the weather generally does seem to have been milder in recent years, no doubt a product of the climate change that politicians and many businesses around the world refuse to tackle.  It is easy to be pessimistic about the future when you couple this with radicals being elected to parliaments and higher stations around the world (trying to be polite as this includes murderers and nut cases) and the increasing violence and war threat.


Snowdrops & Helibores in Garden

Keeping the happy face on, the usual early flowers have risen – Crocuses, Snowdrops, Helibores etc. – and Daffodills are starting here although much more developed in the capital. Garden flowers such as Viburnum Bodnantense, flowered over winter as usual, improving the  fragrance of the neighbourhood.


On another note completely, Sika Deer seem to be thriving in Ireland.  Deer generally are too numerous and suffer official culls but Sika seem to appear much more commonly recently.


Sika Deer, Trooperstown Wood, Wicklow

What is really required is a reintroduction of Wolves – the 4 legged kind, we have plenty of the others.  Reading a great book, Feral, by George Monbiot, I was delighted to see the case for apex predators was well made.  It always seemed to me that the ‘wild’ here was badly skewed and marginalised.  Monbiot argues convincingly that a bottom up approach to diversity and conservation is much less successful than a top down, apex predator approach along with relieving our mountains from the catastrophies of sheep farming.

Here’s to better action from our politicians on the environment (and hopefully, more immediately,  improving weather and some sun !)

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