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’. 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.
Visiting 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.
However 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.
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.
The Geese are finally gone and Swallows and House Martins are alreadywheeling through the skies, shrieking and endlessly seeking flies. Temperatures are up and there is great activity amongst the birds.
I think that is why a silent spell in the garden made me look out the window. A quick shift in direction of grey wing in the bushes looked different, unusual. Looking closer I was surprised to see a male Sparrowhawk that seemed to have come to feed on the nut-feeding small birds.
Having the camera close as I was about to head down to the lake, I got a few pics through the window, trying not to scare him.
The small birds seemed to have taken refuge in a woody bush and were now giving the vocals the full treatment, while himself, perched on top of the bush, seemed to be wondering how to get in or perhaps just hoping that one of the little ‘uns would make a break for it.
He seemed to be very keen on a meal so I had a go at opening the creaky back door a little and was lucky enough to be tolerated while I got some better shots. Such a magnificent creature, albeit built to kill. Eyes, beak clews, wings – all intended to allow sharp movement and precise, lethal hunting.
Its interesting to note the differences between the sexes – the female (see https://cliffsview.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/sparrowhawk-f-with-twig-st-annes-dublin-1732xl.jpg) is larger but duller.
Eventually he got fed up – not literally, unfortunately for him – and flew off low along the old hedge.
Fantastic encounter with a stunning creature.