Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Places

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.

 

 


Sardinia E

Moving towards the East side of SardiniaWild Lavender Gennargentu Area Sardinia, wild flowers were still in abundance.  It was brilliant to see and smell Thyme, Lavender and other herbs growing wild in the hills and especially around the Gennargentu mountains. This is a special area with pigs roaming fairly freely, birds flying great scenery and relatively few people.

The descent to Cala Gonone – our HQ for the second half of the week – is through a tunnel from Dorgali which lightens to reveal a great vista of sea, town, hills and shitch-backs.

Cala Gonone vista from Tunnel Sardinia.

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Spotless Starling Orgosolo Sardinia
Spotless Starling (Sturnus unicolor)

Being in the middle of the Med, you’d expect the birds to be a bit different.

The usual Gull is the Yellow-legged Gull (see previous post); the main crow is Hooded; the common Sparrow is of the Spanish variety and the Starlings are Spotless. Actually, the island itself is also fairly clean, although we were there before the tourist season really took off.Spanish Sparrow Male on chair back hotel

We stayed in a hotel above the North end of town with great views of the coast that also brought us closer to the cliffs and wildlife.Cala Luna & Caves S of Cala Gonone Sardinia

Easily seen wildlife included Alpine and Pallid (see previous blog) Swifts, the ubiquitous Sardinian Warbler,

Alpine Swift flying Cala Gonone Sardinia
Alpine Swift flying Cala Gonone Sardinia
Sardinian Warbler Male
Male Sardinian Warbler

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Dragonflies and Italian Wall lizards.
Italian Wall Lizard
Emperor Dragonfly Male

Cirl Buntings were also reasonably numerous and we saw a few Purple Herons
Cirl Bunting Female Orgosolo E Sardinia
Purple Heron flying Lago di Tortoli Sardiniabut I was delighted to see an Eleanora’s Falcon flying over the cliffs. Eleanoras Falcon flying,Sardinia

These have a well established and known breeding colony off the SW of the island.

There is also a Griffon Vulture colony – reasons, if needed, to return!

Cala Gonone Pier Sardinia from boat


Cleggan Birds & Insects – Review of 2010 – July

July

Galway Coast near Cleggan
The Wild West

Summer really humming – well not too hot of course but brimming with life.

Took a trip to Cleggan on the Galway coast.   The western coast and especially around Connemara and up to Donegal shows how poor our memories are, or at least mine.  Because every time I go, I am amazed.

Many parts of the world are truly inspiring and most of Irelands coast but somehow this coastline has something different – a kind of wild calmness.  It can make you feel that all is OK, even that most things are possible.

Probably it could also depress you if you were in the wrong mood and there on the wrong day!   The Bull Island is like that – it can amplify how you feel.

Anyway it was great as usual.

It wasn’t teeming with birds but Oystercatchers piped away and chased the waves, keeping ahead of us as we walked.

Oystercatchers taking flight Galway Coast near ClegganI always think they look too exotic for Ireland with their striking black and white wings and long, bright orange beaks and legs.

There were also Gulls and small birds including quite a few Wheatears like this male that frustratingly had a very strict idea of how close he wanted to be to a human.Male Wheatear on post Galway Coast

Willow Warbler on bush Blessington

Back home in Blessington, a Willow Warbler was visiting.   At least I think its a WW and not a Chiff Chaff. I checked a few photos and looked up many guides and after changing my mind a few times, decided on the WW.

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Didn’t catch the song which is supposed to be a give-away.

Whatever, he or she looked cute.

Wren on bush Blessington

Wrens have to be amongst our favourite birds. They are tiny, sing their little hearts out and are hard to see for any length of time up close.

This one was slightly more obliging than most but was still gone in a flash.

July is also a time of strong insect activity.  Much of it causes a lot of annoyance – Midges in particular.

One of the nastier bites comes from the Cleg Fly.  The one below looks innocent but alien on the car dashboard!  I love the sunglasses!  Wonder do they come from Cleggan?

Cleg fly in car, Wicklow

There are a crazy number and variety of insects and they come in all colours, even orange like this Soldier Beetle reaching the very tip of a blade of grass.

All the insects look at least interesting, up close and personal and the world doesn’t work without them.

Surely reason enough to provide habitats for them or at least, leave them alone.

Soldier Beetle, Rhagonycha fulva, on grass Ballydonnell Brook E of Sorrell Hill


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 magnificient Oregan

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


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 …