Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Dublin City

Ceilings

Fox and Stork from Aesops Fables on Council of State room ceiling Aras an Uachtarain
Fox and Stork from Aesops Fables on Council of State room ceiling Aras an Uachtarain

Fox and Stork from Aesops Fables on Council of State room ceiling Aras an Uachtarain

Although most of the posts on this blog have been about wildlife, this is a bit different.

It seems that because historically most trouble came from ground level, we rarely look up.  Well that’s one theory.  As children we used to sit on a branch of a tree in our garden that overhung the path beside the main raod.  Although only about a metre from the heads of passers-by, we were seldom spotted.  How we stayed quiet, I’m not sure.

In any case it can be refreshing and interesting to look up.  this applies particularly to wildlife watching and to architecture.  The pictures are of ceilings in Dublin buildings and represent a very small sample of the interesting designs to be seen.

Ceiling of Cash Office old Parliament, Bank of Ireland College Green

Ceiling of Cash Office old Parliament, Bank of Ireland College Green

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One of the better known buildings in Dublin is the Bank of Ireland in College Green.  It was originally the old Parliament building and has some very fine features.

House of Lords Chandelier and Ceiling Bank of Ireland College Green

House of Lords Chandelier and Ceiling Bank of Ireland College Green

 

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Gaiety Theatre Ceiling Dublin

Gaiety Theatre Ceiling Dublin

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The Gaiety Theatre is equally well known and the scene of much drama.  Perhaps due to the drama or laughter, not too many look up which is a pity because the ceiling is well worth a look.

 

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Pro-Cathedral ceiling Dublin

Pro-Cathedral ceiling Dublin

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St. Mary’s Church, or  The Pro-Cathedral, is slightly hidden away in Dublin but is nevertheless a fine building.

Inside it is arguably even more impressive for its space, light and airy ceiling.

 

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Ceiling of Mary Immaculate Refuge of Sinners, Rathmines

Ceiling of Mary Immaculate Refuge of Sinners, Rathmines

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On the same theme, many parish churches boast heavenly views inside.  The Mary Immaculate Refuge of Sinners Church in Rathmines, is a very fine example.

Outside, it is the striking copper dome, oxidised by time, that catches the eye.

Inside it is the space and magnificent bright ceiling which has some echoes of the Pro-Cathedral design, partly because of the common domes.

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Commons Ceiling TCD

Commons Ceiling TCD

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From religion to learning and the old presence of Trinity College Dublin.  The Commons dining area has seen many a famous (and not so famous) face.   Some of the famous ones are remembered in large portraits.

Its not so much artistic as impressive.

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Aesops Fables scenes on Council of State room ceiling Aras an Uachtarain

Aesops Fables scenes on Council of State room ceiling Aras an Uachtarain

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Finally let’s return to the faboulous ceilings of Áras an Uachtaráin.

There are many intricate designs on the ceilings of the lovely rooms of the Irish President’s residence.

This one depicts Aesops Fables and is in the Council of State room.

A detail from it is shown in the first picture.

The final picture is of the ceiling in the State Drawing room.

There are also many important pictures decorating the walls.

Ceiling Aras an Uachtarain State Drawing room

Ceiling Aras an Uachtarain State Drawing room


Harry the Heron

Harry with fish SSG
 Harry the Heron in Pond SSG Dublin

Harry the Heron in Pond SSG Dublin

Walking to and from work can be a drudge.

Walking by or preferrably through a green space, can lift the mood and is probably a bit better for the ould lungs!  I am lucky to have 3 possible green areas to traverse depending on the path chosen.  St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin is one of those and it should already be clear from previous posts, how much I believe it benefits the city and its people.

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

One of the things that ‘amuses one’  is playing ‘Where’s Harry?’  Harry is a Grey Heron that is commonly seen in different areas of the park and finding where on a particular day is the aim.  OK, it mighn’t be rivetting but it beats listening to the news on the radio.  Also there could be 100 different Herons but if so they are all considered to be Harry:)

Sometimes he is in the open and easy to find.

Harry in Willow Tree SSG Dublin

Harry in Willow Tree SSG

Harry near bridge SSG

Harry near bridge SSG

Other times he could be somewhere in the large Willow Tree or at the edge of the stagnant end of the pond, at the SE, Baggot Street end.

Harry on Rock beside bridge SSG

Harry on Rock beside bridge SSG

Harry & friend on rocks SSG

Harry & friend on rocks SSG

Harry may not be around every day but he can often be seen although sometimes hard to find.

Other common places include the rocks under the viewing point at the West end and the rocks on the NE side of the bridge. In both of these places he can be very close.

Harry preening SSG

Harry preening SSG

Looking around the rocks a metre or two from the pond’s edge in the middle of the park (S side of the pond) can also be fruitful.

 

Inactive can be a common theme for Harry, perhaps having a post-breakfast rest.

However if you have time or are lucky, some typical behaviour can be observed.

 

This includes preening – the systematic cleaning of feathers to keep them waterproof.

Harry calling SSG

Harry calling SSG

Herons can make quite a racket and Harry makes himself very obvious when he calls out.

You may even see him catch a fish – yes there are some fish in the pond and even large eels.

Harry with fish SSG

Harry with fish SSG

Harry waiting SSG

Harry waiting SSG

Harry on Willow tree SSG

Harry on Willow tree SSG

So next time you are in Stephen’s Green, look out for Harry.


Swans & Cygnets

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

If you go down to the pond today you’ll see 7 lovely cygnets under the watchful eyes of proud parents.

Well you will if you go to the pond in St. Stephen’s green, Dublin.  Today they are already a good deal bigger than in the photo from the end of May, but they are still seriously cute, swimming almost at random and getting into contortions as they copy their parents preening.

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These are our resident Mute Swans. (See  http://wp.me/p10npw-rX
for our winter visitors, the Whooper Swans).
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Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

Mute Swans courting St Stephens Green

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Amazingly, they were conceived while the parents were still looking after the remnants of last year’s brood.
The courtship (foreplay?) is very elegant – a kind of dance by heads – and reminds me of Gannets or Great-crested Grebes although the Grebes’ dance is longer and more elaborate.
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On the other hand the mating act looks quite brutal to us with the female risking drowning.  It is not unlike the mating habits of many ducks.
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While one of their cygnets from last year looked on in an inquisitive way, people in the park sat or walked by, mainly oblivious.
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Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

Mute Swans mating in fromt of their Cygnet St Stephens Green

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5 cygnets were produced last year and I believe 4 lasted through the winter.  In fact there were still 4 hanging around home while the parents were ‘planning’ the current lot.
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Perhaps they are mimicking the current human trend of staying home longer.
Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

Cygnets Preening St Stephens Green, Dublin

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Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

Charlie the Swan man with Swans & Cygnets & St Stephens Green 2012

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When they emerge from the egg, the cygnets are fluffy grey and grow quite quickly.  After a few months they start to get brown feathers which are slowly replaced by white and they begin to look more like teenagers!
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This is one of last year’s mob, already the size of an adult.
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Part of the success may be due to Charlie, ‘the Swan Man’, who pretty much set himself up as the granddad last year and visited the family most days, sitting closely with them and feeding them.
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Mute Swans often have reasonably big clutches – usually 3 to 7 eggs – and families but the attrition rate is often high.  Those on the Grand Canal, for example are usually lucky to bring one cygnet up.  They fall victim to dogs, rodents, humans and sometimes disease, amongst others, despite the strong defence capabilities of the adults.

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Despite this, there are large numbers of Mute Swans in Dublin, particularly along the canal!

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The current cygnets are amusing visitors in St. Stephen’s Green.  May they live long and prosper!

Moving On

Greylag Geese in Blessington FieldA very brief ‘less cold’ spell seems to have convinced the Whoopers to migrate back north.  The Greylags were not so easily fooled and still graze in Willie’s field.

Walking down the Liffey quays towards the lifting bridge, a group of Brent Geese had gathered a couple of weeks ago.  They are probably about to, or in the middle of migrating.

It is interesting to note their amazing travels while we lament their passing.

Whoopers typically fly to Iceland and northern Europe from Ireland while Greylags mainly return to Iceland.

Brent Geese, quite common flying over Dublin or grazing on grass fields, including football fields, in the Winter, head for Greenland or Canada.

Brent Geese on Liffey at Toll Swing bridge Dublin.

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It seems that when temperatures are beginning to get tolerable for us, the winter migrant birds get hot under the collar and feel the pull for colder climes.

Of course the weather this Winter and ‘Spring’ has been pretty miserable – one of the coldest March months on record.

But spring really is in full swing regardless of the cold and frost.  Witness the Crows at their rookeries, the Jackdaws sitting on wires or branches in pairs, not to mention the cute spindly-legged foals and the gorgeous young lambs.

Sheep & Lamb in Frosty field Rathmore Co Wicklow


Spring Sprung

Gulls on frozen pond St Stephens Green Dublin

Early Spring started with some severe cold as it often does.

The ponds in St. Stephen’s Green Dublin were almost completely frozen over.

However the popular desire for some better weather seemed to gradually make an improvement.  March saw the beginnings of real Spring effects.

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Cherry Blossom St Stephens Green Dublin

Flowers emerged.

In Dublin’s parks bulbs such as Crocus, Daffodil and Bluebell were followed by more ornamental blooms. Eventually Cherry Blossom brought cheer and colour as well as a stronger belief that the Summer was near.
Robin amongst cherry petals Merrion Square Dublin
Mallard Duck Baby amongst reeds Grand Canal Dublin

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Birds had their territories marked and defended.  They boldly advertised for mates with their colours stronger than ever.

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Birds nested.

Ducks tend to dissappear from ponds and lakes and suddenly re-emerge with a string of tiny fluff-balls that seem too light to stay on the water let alone paddle forward!

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Moorhen on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

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Others like the Moorhen seem to flaunt their home-building skills with sticky nests built on floating leaves or rubbish, close to the bank and people.

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Little Grebe feeding Baby on small lake Tulfarris Golf Club

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In slightly more secluded areas, shyer birds nested and reared their bambinos with few to notice. This Little Grebe regularly fed its young on a small lake on Tulfarris golf course very close to golfers.  Of course (and more so on course!), golfers have other things than wildlife on their mind.

Mute Swan on grass St Stephens Green DublinJackdaw at nest in Copper Beech Tulfarris GC Blessington
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Woodpigeon on Nest St Stephens Green Dubli

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Swans were nesting in many locations. They preened and did their hissy protection routine.

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Jackdaws found holes in old trees to make their nests like this one, also in Tulfarris Golf Club, while Woodpigeons can make nests in nearly any tree with cover and often nest a number of times from Spring to Autumn.  This one in St, Stephen’s Green was just above passers by!

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Rain in Ireland can always be guarranteed although seldom heavy.  This male Blackbird made use of the rain in Tulfarris to find worms for its hungry chicks.

Blackbird M running in the rain Tulfarris GC Blessington


River Liffey. Part 2 Anna’s Journey

Dingy in sail race LiffeyCommon Tern flying with fish Dublin Harbour nr Pigeon House Dublin

Black_headed Gull hovering Liffey docks

      Anna’s   Journey

Green Bouy No 14 in Dublin Harbour nr Pigeon HouseBlack Guillemot & crab Liffey Quays

Halpenny Bridge & Central Bank Dublin

Liffey Source Pool

Snow covered Kippure from frozen Blessington Lakes

Gorse & Liffey at Coronation Plantation

Liffey tumbling through rocks at Coronation Plantation

Rainbow Blessington LakesLittle Grebe on partly frozen Liffey at boat clubs Dublin


Roots Blessington LakesLiffey at Leixlip from air

K Club Hotel & Liffey Straffan Kildare

Stream entering frozen Blessington Lake

Whooper Swan group flying over Blessington Lakes


4s race Metro Regatta Blessington Lakes

Liffey Weir Lucan

Peregrine flying & calling

Customs House & Spire from Liffey

Liffey Cruise Boat & Jeanie Johnston

Liffey Quays Dublin

Ferry coming into Dublin Port; Bailey Lighthouse & Howth in back
Liffey Mouth & Howth from South Wall
Don't go for the destination
Dockland and SpeedboatXmas Lights Liffey Quays DublinGo for the Journey


Wildlife – Saint Stephen’s Green Dublin

Right in the heart of Dublin City, Lake SSG DublinSt. Stephen’s Green is an oasis from shops and offices.  People come here to relax, to hear music from the bandstand, to sunbathe and to have their sandwich for lunch.

But this small green haven is also an oasis for wildlife.  A small stream and waterfall feed a lake / pond and a mixture of well kept lawn and flower beds contrast beautifully with large trees and thick bushes.

The lake is the usual focus for people looking for wildlife and as usual this is well represented by Ducks.

Mallard are the most numerous but there are a good few Tufteds.

In late Summer the ducks moult and tend to sit around in lazy non-descript groups keeping their feathers dry.

It is one of those places where a pocket camera can deliver good pictures.

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Mallard Duck M St Stephens Green Dublin
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While common, Mallard, at least the males, have really brilliant colours that change depending on the angle of view and the sun.

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Male Tufted Ducks on the other hand are very formal Black and White and seem to resemble the shape of the bathroom ‘rubber duck’.

Tufted Duck M St Stephens Green

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From time to time more exotic ducks arrive.  This year there were a few Mandarin Ducks.  The female  below was resching for the Willow leaves for which they have a ‘sweet tooth’.

Mandarin Duck F or juv reaching for willow St. Stephen's Green

Lesser Black_backed Gull St Stephens Green Dublin

Regarding the ever-present Gulls, Black-headed and Herring Gulls predominate but other species can be seen like this Lesser Black-backed Gull which has yellow legs and whose back is a grey in between the light grey of the Herring Gull and the near black of the Great Black-backed Gull.

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Common birds such as Robins, Chaffinches, Rooks, Thrushes and Blackbirds roam freely here.

Blackbird M St Stephens Green.

As they are used to people, it is often possible to get closer than usual so that more details of the birds can be seen.  It is hard to beat whiling away a few minutes in the city park with a Blue-tit taking a bath right beside you.

Blue Tit bathing St Stephens Green

Mute Swan drinking St Stephens GreenEveryboby’s idea of a park bird, the Mute Swan, is accessible as always but nore unusually, Herons can sometimes be seen up close if care is taken.Heron on Rock SSG Dublin

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Grey Squirrel SSGMammals live in the park too but as usual are not as easily seen.  Most of the rodents such as Rats and Mice go about their foraging largely un-noticed.   Not so the Grey Squirrel which is now unfortunately found in most of the city’s parks.

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Young Foxes playing St. Dtephen's Green

A surprise for many will be the foxes which live in the park and go mostly unseen!  How many commuters pass by with heads bowed or with heavy thoughts and unseeing eyes on warm mornings when the foxes sunbathe or frolic in the foliage?

Moorhen struggling with large leaf on nest SSG pondLet’s close this short view of the park’s wildlife with a common, likeable bird, the Moorhen.

Strong colours, a busy demeanour and huge feet make them, for me, the cutest of the parks residents.

Every year they nest and rear young, many of whom are killed by predators.  Many times their nests are flooded or vandalised and yet they rebuild.  No wonder they are so common in waterways around the country.

Moorhen baby walking in pond SSGMoorhen looking to feed baby SSG pond
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Finally a big thanks to all those responsible for keeping the park so clean and vibrant and a home for so many wild things.

Flower display SSG


Wildlife in Dublin City

Dublin from WestAlthough we often prefer to go somewhere quiet to watch birds and wildlife, there are many opportunities and good places in Dublin city.

The streets see common birds such as Gulls, Crows, Robins and starlings.  There is even the odd Peregrine.

But there are also a number of good places such as parks and waterways where birds, rabbits and foxes can be regularly seen.  These include the Phoenix Park, the Liffey, Trinity College, Blessington Basin, the Grand Canal and Saint Stephen’s Green.  I will do posts on some of these separately but here are some of the birds regularly seen in the city centre.Hooded Crow on wall with pedestrians Clanwilliam Place Dublin 

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In many cases the birds have become used to people and provided you don’t go too close or make sudden movements they can be quite close.

This closeness with nature feeling does help to take the edge of the concrete jungle.

For photography purposes, this means that a very long zoom is often not needed.

Herring Gull paddling for insects Dublin
Wood Pigeon Dublin

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Grassy oases around the city, can harbour a number of birds such Woodpigeons and Magpies, foraging or nesting.   Herring Gulls often ‘paddle’ their feet to disturb insects in the grass or soil.

Magpie Denzille Lane Dublin

‘In trees on some of the busy streets, such as O’Connell Street,  Wagtails, Starlings and Long-tailed Tits often roost in numbers in the winter.

It can also be surprising to see the places that birds find for nest sites in what seems at first sight a forbidding mass of hard surfaces.

Blue Tit coming out of Nest hole Dublin Castle

Other wilflife includes rats which have been a feature of Dublin for centuries, foxes which are becoming more and more common in our cities and Squirrels.

The Reds are a bit timid for cities and in any case are being overrun by the Greys which now inhabit a number of Dublin parks including Phoenix Park, Merrion Square and Stephen’s Green.Grey Squirrel in grass Merrion Square

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Insects of course are ever present but some go largely un-noticed.

Scale insects can be seen on many trees but look more like a fungus, if they are noticed at all.

Scale Insects on tree Dublin Castle

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Still most people’s favourite is the Robin.  Alll the parks in Dublin have friendly Robins that come very close as you sit, especially if you have a sandwich!

Robin juv on tree Merrion Square Dublin