Archive for June, 2015

As the first part of a longer trip, I recently spent a few days in Dublin, Ireland. My wife, daughter, brother, sister-in-law, and I rented a nice little apartment in the Portobello neighborhood. Portobello is a small, cute, and up-and-coming section of the city south the River Liffey. It is bounded by South Circular Rd. to the north and the Grand Canal to the south. The spot we were staying in was right along the Grand Canal near the Camden St. bridge. As soon as we unloaded our luggage from the cab, I spotted a Pied Wagtail foraging on the other side of the street. It then turned and flew right past my head, so I figured we were in for some fun birding!

The small square just outside our apartment. The Grand Canal is just in front of the buildings in the background.

The small square just outside our apartment. The Grand Canal is just in front of the buildings in the background.

It was a lovely neighborhood to get to explore, and explore we did! Jetlag took its toll as did the loud revelers that spilled from the pubs each morning at between 2 and 4. This meant that some of the exploring we did was much earlier than we might have otherwise planned. Dublin is much farther north than central California, and so I was very impressed to find dawn brightening the sky at 4am on these excursions! These early morning walks were not in vain in terms of wildlife. My wife and daughter and I watched a Grey Heron hunting in the canal and catching some surprisingly large fish for how urban the area is. We also were surprised to see a Red Fox walking along the edge of a nearby house. It was no less surprised to see us and dashed around a corner and into a garden. We saw Jackdaws every day, and these attractively proportioned birds with there subtle dove grey napes quickly became my favorite life-bird of Ireland. Something about having a crow the size of a pigeon also made them especially endearing to me.

The corvids in general were pretty amazing along the Grand Canal. In addition to the Jackdaws, we saw Rooks with their dramatically long thin bills along with European Magpies and Hooded Crows. They all tended to hang around the groups of Rock Pigeons (cool to see them as native species), European Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls waiting from someone to come along and drop bread crumbs for them.

When we got away from the canal and into the neighborhoods, there were many beautiful gardens which produced a delightful array of new bird species. Grey Wagtails, Blue Tits, a whole family of Great Tits, Dunnock, a family of European Wrens, European Blackbird, Woodpigeon, European Swifts cutting the air to pieces over our heads, and a family of Coal Tits foraging in a bush at eye level and not ten feet away!

A view up Harcourt St. looking north.

A view up Harcourt St. looking north.

We also got away from the Portobello area to explore more of central Dublin, St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street and Harcourt Street, and the very birdy Merrion Square. If you spend some time in central Dublin, definitely plan on spending some time birding Merrion Square. It has more dense  and varied vegetation than the larger St. Stephen’s Green and had much denser and more varied birdlife. And then go and have a wonderful Irish breakfast at the Grove Road which is a terrific café just across the Grand Canal.

One thing that really surprised me about birding in Dublin was the complete lack of raptors. In most cities in California, I am used to seeing the occasional bird of prey go zooming by. Granted, there may not be a lot of raptors in many cities, but I am pretty sure that after spending three days in San Francisco or Sacramento, I would be just about guaranteed to see at least one individual. But in Dublin, I saw not a one. It was a little weird. Even after we got out of the city, there were surprisingly few raptors on this trip.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with my first trip to Ireland and the time spent in it’s capitol city. I only wish we had had more time there.

Read Full Post »