Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Dublin

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 https://cliffsview.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/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 🙂

 

 


2015 Review

Gannet Stare
Sorrell Hill from Lugnagun

Sorrell Hill from Lugnagun

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D ready for new careful owner

Looking back 2015 was a mixed year, starting cold and ending with the wettest weather that I can remember.  In between there were decent warm and dry spells and from my perspective, at least, a good year for wild things and places.

January started cold with plenty of Finch flocks, particularly Goldfinch around the lakes.

Small flocks of flighty, restless Long-tailed tits tested my camera and patience and Redwing & Fieldfare appeared as usual. (Winter Birds)

It was a good time for walks and enjoying the clear winter air and views.  Lugnagun is one of our favourites offering views of the Lakes on one side and the mountains on the other with chances to see Ravens and small birds and perhaps Peregrines.

It was also the time to sell and upgrade my trusty 7D camera which had served very well for years.

 

Dunlin Flock, Bull Lagoon, Dublin

Dunlin Flock, Bull Lagoon, Dublin

February showed signs of Spring but it was our old haunt, the North Bull Island, that brought fondest memories.  Many hours have bben spent here in the past when it was on my doorstep.  Now it is a good journey but always rewarding.

Thousands of waders were there as usual, as well as Brent Geese and ducks such as Shellduck and Teal.

For me, the huge, wheeling flocks of waders in the sky when they are disturbed, beats any sight in Dublin.

Mute Swan with attitude

Mute Swan with attitude, Kensington Gardens, London

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March saw various creatures getting ready for the amorous season.

This Swan in Kensington Gardens in London seemed to have an extra dose of hormones.

He chased anything that moved and many that hadn’t intended to, seeing off all and sundry, including large Canada Geese, just for being there.

Rat sniffing air outside home, Russborough

Rat sniffing air outside home, Russborough

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Nearer home, a rat had made the base of a tree into a complex home with a network of paths and exits.

Wren on branch

Wren on branch

 

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Regularly hated, shunned and feared, these are interesting creatures and not in any way ugly to my eyes, although they are associated with a number of human diseases.

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Along with blooming plants, the nesting season accelerated in April.  Birds marked their territories by singing and despite being tiny, this little guy sang with the best of them – an unmistakeable high-pitched song to brighten any day.

Howth Head view

Howth Head view of Bull Island to Lambay Island

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May is the official start of Summer.  Flowers that had brightened Spring, spread and developed and showed the countryside at its best.

Howth Head is a great place to visit in May (or most months) and is a favourite trip of ours.

It may be unique in displaying such a diversity of scenes and habitats in such a snall area, still bustling with human life.

To the North is the well-known busy harbour with restaurants, fishing industry, Gulls and Seals.

A brilliant walk takes you all round the cliffs or up over the top of the head.  The cliffs host seabird ‘towns’ – vast numbers of closely nesting Auks, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Cormorants – while the head hosts many lovely small birds, such as Wheatear and Stonechat.

Gannet Stare

Gannet Stare, Great Saltee Island

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The Saltees welcomed us for our annual visit in June.

A bit like Howth only more remote, quieter and with better weather, this is an absolutely brilliant Island.

Puffins Courting

Puffins Courting and Bill-clacking on cliff edge, Great Saltee

Thousands of seabirds, lovely wild flowers and an island away from it all – what’s not to like?

However it is a toss-up as which of 2 birds is the greatest attraction – Gannets or Puffins.

 

Both are magnicifent.  The gannets nest in great numbers  – one of the most important sites in Europe, while the tiny Puffins vary in number each year, depending on the availability of Sand Eels.

But they are strikingly coloured and impossibly cute.

Apart from the sea birds, the island also had Choughs and Gull species as well as Oystercatchers.

Heath Spotted Orchid

Heath Spotted Orchid, Pollardstown Fen, Kildare

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Pollardstown Fen in County Kildare was visited in July.

Fed by a spring, this marsh area is now designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

It has an old feeder canal to the Grand Canal and was important to that transport system.

Many different plants and animals can be found there including a number of Orchids and a car park, path and boardwalk make access easy.

Green Vervet Monkey

Green Vervet Monkey, Nairobi National Park

 

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Business required a visit to Nairobi in Kenya in August and, well, you can’t go there even for a short time without seeing some African wildlife!

Nairobi National Park is not huge and lacks quite a few animals, such as elephants, that had to be removed for their safety.

But it is very close to the city and has Rhinos, Zebra, Lions, and many other animals and birds.

The Green monkeys are cheeky and get quite close.

Elephants bathing and playing in pool

Elephants bathing and playing in pool, Etosha National Park Namibia

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September saw most of the Summer birds and animals still around – butterflies in the garden, terns at the coast, etc.

But holidays took us back to Africa on a brilliant trip from Victoria Falls to Cape Town.

Amongst so many sights, we took in Chobe and Etosha National Parks, the dunes and deserts of Namibia and Penguins in South Africa.

So many mammals and birds but particularly, many many elephants.

A great trip in great company.

Autumn Colours Mount Usher gardens

Autumn Colours Mount Usher gardens

 

 

Water levels in the lakes were quite low in October which saw little rainfall – quite unlike the end of the year!  Now if there could just be some storage scheme to even it out (and maybe have the rain fall at night!) :).

Autumn colours predominated and few places show this better than Mount Usher gardens.

Apart from the foreign trees and plants, there are many native species and the Vartry river flows peacefully through.

Also Butterflies, Herons, Dippers and Wagtails, amongst others, are regularly seen.

Tufted Duck male

Tufted Duck male, St. Stephens Green, Dublin

 

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We had a wedding in November and a number of visitors, so it seemed a more indoors time than outdoors.

But life in the great outside continued as normal, where the mild weather was well appreciated, especially by the smaller birds.

St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, one of my regular walks, seemed to be back near to Spring levels with Ducks back in full plumage and Swans and Pigeons being fed (although too much bread, I fear).

Tufted Ducks dived and preened and water rolled off them like worries should for us.

 

Wigeon feeding in Rogerstown estuary

Wigeon feeding in Rogerstown estuary

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Rogerstown estuary in North Dublin is a very good birding site with a tidal estuary, bird hides and some pools and a wooded area.

In December it was teeming with ducks and waders including Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Pink-footed Geese, Redshank, Greenshank and Lapwing.

There were also Peregrines and Buzzards.  Not bad for one site.

As the tide receeded, hundreds of mostly Wigeon, formed a line along the diminishing channel as the light became more and more golden.  Hard to leave.

Sunken Boats on Blessington Lakes

Sunken Boats on Blessington Lakes at Russborough

Christmas came and went with more parties! The weather outside however was stormy and rainy with many places flooded.  The only good part was that it remained warmer than usual.

With cold weather creeping in, I wish everyone a great 2016.

 

 


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.


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


River Liffey. Part 1 Freshwater

Best known as Dublin’s river and for its tidal sectionKippure from Liffey Head Bridge and port area, the river Liffey rises in county Wicklow and tumbles down gathering tributaries before calming and spreading out into Blessington Lakes.  it then crosses into Kildare and meanders around before ending up for only a small part of its journey, in Dublin.

Raven Silhouette over LiffeyIts source lies in the heathery bog land near Kippure mountain in a small dark peaty pool.

Expansive and fresh, this is the land of Ravens.  Their far-carrying ‘croak’ and unusual tail shape are distinctive.

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Click Beetle at Liffey side.

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In fact the area often looks pretty deserted of wildlife at first glance.  However patience will usually be rewarded and there is also plenty of insect and smaller  life in the water and bog nearby if the beauty of the landscape doesn’t grab you.

Grouse and other ‘game’ birds used to be reasonably common amongst the heather but I haven’t seen any up there in a long time.

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Coronation Plantation & Liffey.

Gathering pace, the Liffey’s rocky descent continues through the Coronation Plantation, now looking more like a river.
Grey Wagtail F flying Liffey Ballysmutton
Merlin can sometimes be seen here while Grey Wagtails often flit from rock to rock.

Dipper with food LiffeyDippers like fast water with plenty of insects and bugs and this section of the Liffey is nearly ideal.

Dippers nest at a number of locations along the river, each pair keeping a lenght of river for their territory.  Sand Martins also nest here where the river bank is suitable.

Sand Martin flying LiffeyDescending further in a wide meandering circle around Dublin, the volume of water increases and the flow becomes a bit calmer.  It flows through Blessington Lakes where Great Crested Grebes and a variety of Duck can be seen including Goldeneye.  Past the Poolaphuca dam and power station the river enters Kildare.  Getting nearer  to Dublin, Herons become more common.Heron on Lock Liffey Lucan

Reaching Dublin the water is non-tidal up beyond the Strawberry Beds.  Birds such as Swans, Cormorants  and Little Grebes come to the fore. 3 Swans on Liffey Dublin

 

Cormorant Flying over Liffey………………

Serenity is now fast disappearing as the Liffey Little Grebe & young Liffey
Liffey running through Dublin Centre from airencounters the buzz of the city.


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


If you go down to the canal today…Wood Duck

.. you’re sure of a big surprise.  Well, a pretty one anyway.

Walkers on the Grand Canal Dublin may have noticed a particularly bright duck sitting quietly or chasing other ducks agressively.   It is incredibly coloured and doesn’t seem suited to our weather – which of course it isn’t.  It is a male Wood Duck. an American species similar to the Mandarin Duck often seen in zoos and other forms of captivity.  This one may have escaped from some collection.  A few years ago a pair, male and female, appeared in the Botanic gardens but the male dissappeared quite quickly, later followed by the male.

‘Our’ male has taken a shine to one of the female Mallards that are common on the canal and seems to accompany her everywhere.  His very calm demeanour belies his extreme aggression to any other ducks that get near to his ‘mot’.   He probably won’t last long here.  His undoing could come from his apparent tolerance for human presence, from some of the other ducks getting fed up with his aggression or from the many predators – animal or sub-human – that make this part of the canal a very risky place.   Or he might just go!  While he’s here he is worth seeing.

Male Wood Duck on Grand Canal, Dublin

Male Wood Duck on Grand Canal, Dublin


Dublin City, Wicklow – Baby Birds, Insects & Sport – Review of 2010 – May

MayRoof Section of NIB building Dame St Dublin 2406

Many of us get fed up hearing about how it always rains in Ireland.  Well it doesn’t.  And when it does it is usually not very heavy and not for too long.  And sometimes (usually in May) we get some weeks of sunshine!   May 2010 was one of those times.

Buildings in Dublin looked at their best.  It is amazing though, how little those of us who are used to the city, really see and how seldom we look up!  The roofline in some parts of the city is great, particularly in Dame Street (opposite) and Georges Street.    Have a look up next time you’re in Dublin but I can’t promise mediterranean style blue skies!

Garda Memorial Garden

Dublin Castle also looked well with its just opened Garda Memorial Garden.  This is an interesting design with a water feature but it’s hardly in keeping with the old castle and Royal Chapel beside it.   Still, it has to be better than squeezing another new building in.

Oregan Maple tree & front square Trinity College Dublin

Down the road in Trinity College, the magnificent Oregon

Maples were in full leaf and dominated front square.  There are many great old trees (and buildings) in Trinity and a walk around the grounds is rewarding – especially when the sun shines.

Sometimes it’s good to be a ‘local tourist’.

I am fundamentally a northsider and it was good to visit my original home area in good weather.

In the sea, sporty folk kite-surfed while in tall trees in the woods. young herons called for thier supper from large stick nests.

Kite Surfer jumping over Dalkey Island

Grey Heron juvenile in high tree nest

May usually brings the height of nature activity and this includes gardens all over the country.  Even our own unkempt parcel of private wilderness was looking well and thriving with plants, insects and birds.  ‘Friemds’ will understand how wild a garden can be!

Starling feeding leatherjackets to juvs in nest box

Lesser Housefly Fannia canicularis on Bluebell flower BG 2284xL

Finally a word about the ‘new’  birds of prey.  I have seen a buzzard in County Dublin but so far none of  the reintroduced species.  I took a spin out to the Reddross area of Wicklow in the hope of seeing one of the Red Kites but no joy.  Although the scenery was too photegenic to ignore in the sunshine.

Rape field & Moon nr Redcross Wicklow


Nests Finches, Trinity, Canal – Review of 2010 – April

April

Refpoll FemaleSiskin Female

It was still cold in Ireland but the promise of better weather was there, albeit slightly misleading as usual.  In our garden the nut feeders were being over worked by finches and tits.  Sparrows also seeem to have mastered this aerial dexterity – I don’t remember them being good at this when I was young but that was a long time ago.   Garden feeders seem to have been important  in providing energy for birds in winter, especially in towns.   As well as some beautiful but infrequent Siskins, we got Redpolls for the first time.

Loo-king ready for the ball. TCD

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In Dublin preparations were made for the annual Trinity Ball.

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It was right into the nesting season – Ducks, Swans, Sparrows, etc. were all working hard on the next generation.

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Sparrowhawk F collecting twigs

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I found this female Sparrowhawk collecting twigs in a wood.
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At home various nest boxes were occuppied – 1 Starling pair and 2 Blue Tit pairs.  Robins were happy to use an uncovered vent hole.

Robin flying with grub to nest in house vent

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Back in Dublin some sunny days brought out people and flowers.

Cherry Blossom TCD .

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Cherry Blossom brightened up parks and gardens while a barge festival brought interest to the Grand Canal.

Barge Festival Grand Canal Dublin


Tanzania & Ethiopia Birds – Review of 2010 – March

March

Work brought me to Dar es Salaam where I stayed on the coast.  There was a great array of birds on view at the lagoon.  This included Indian House Crows, Kingfishers, Sacred Ibis, Whimprel and these Crab Plovers Crab Plovers Dar coastwhich have thick heavy-looking beaks.

I’ve always liked Dar but it is not everyone’s cuppa.  Very hot and sticky in the day time with dreadful traffic and road problems for its 3 million people, it is still a great mix of styles, chaos and life.   The evenings are lovely with nice temperatures and peacedul sunsets.

Sunset Dar coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there I flew to Addis Ababa for the first time.  It is much more spread out  and spacious than I had expected.  I also expected it to be very poor which it is in parts but it is also growing fast and the economy is good – at least in the main centres.  Addis has nearly 4 million people and like all of Africa, Chinese money and projects are clearly visible.

Speckled Mousebird

 

Again I didn’t have too much time to go far but even the birds in the city look quite exotic like this Speckled Mousebird with an impressive tail.

Pied Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before flying home on the Saturday, I managed a quick visit to the crater lakes at Debra Zeyt to the south.  Here there were great numbers of birds and many I didn’t recognise.  On one of the lakes there was a huge flock of Little Grebes while Herons, Ibises and Cormorants hugged the margins.    Small birds gave voice to the trees and bushes all around the edge.

Malachite and Pied Kingfishers were reasonably common.  I was only sorry not to have a better and longer lens having to do with a 70-300 to fit in with a business-like briefcase!

Returning to the city I found many vultures flying around or sitting on the roof tops.  These included White-backed and Ruppell’s Griffons (below L&R),  Hooded and Egyptian.  There were also a few Maribiu Storks brightening the sky.

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

White-backed Vulture

Flying home there was a good view of Dublin port.  Somehow it looks more impressive from the calm sky with the hum of the jets, compared with walking on the ground where you are more aware of  litter.  On the other hand, Bull Island which was also clearly visible looks interesting but nothing like as amazing as it is from the ground.  This is one of Dublin’s jewels and still survives despite the determination of planners to destroy it through the second causeway without a bridge or channel for the water.  Silt is still filling in the lagoon.

Dublin Port and Bull Island from sky

Home in Wicklow, I was reminded that it was spring by lambs at The Lamb.

Lamb at The Lamb, Blessington Road


Granada, Alhambra Caterpillar Nests – Review of 2010 – Jan

As I still haven’t got used to 2011 and am new to blogs, I start with a review of 2010.

January

Pretty cold in Ireland so spent New Year in Granada, Spain.  Lovely city with great buildings, athmosphere and views.  Wildlife-wise it wasn’t the greatest trip but you couldn’t miss the sound of the numerous Sparrows preparing to roost in the trees in the city’s squares.

Pine Processionary Caterpillar Larval Nest

Outside the city we found a few Larval Nests of Pine Processionary Caterpillars.

Like millions of others we had to visit the Alhambra.  It has great views of the city and surrounding countryside but  is not easily forgettable in its own right.

Eventually cold Dublin had to be faced but it can look pretty good in the snow …