The Grey Herons of Dublin

These guys are surprisingly super common in Dublin, especially along the river Dodder…but I’ve even seen them poking around the dirty Liffey and Grand Canal! No matter how common, I’ve always felt it is a great gift to see a heron, and the grey herons are very similar to the North American Great Blue Heron (also super common).
grey heron

Just recently, I was at one of my field sites and I watched a grey heron catch and rather clumsily eat a frog, which was equal parts horrifying (from the frog’s perspective) and amazing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a heron eat a frog before). I didn’t have my camera at the time, so you’ll just have to use your imagination to visualize the heron dangling a poor frog by one foot then the other.
grey heron

Nature, red in bill and talon.
grey heron

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Goldcrest

I adore goldcrests…at 9 cm they are Ireland’s smallest breeding bird species. This is a bird so small that I have mistaken it for an insect when spotting it out of the corner of my eye. Yesterday I thought, is that a moth? It’s a bit cold for a moth. Oh wait, it’s a goldcrest! And I spent the next 20 minutes photographing someone’s thorny front hedge. I’m sure people thought I was strange, but not as strange as that time I was army crawling around in front of a bus stop photographing bees as they emerged from their ground nests.

Anyway! So cute!
Goldcrest
Goldcrest
Goldcrest
They are hard to photograph because they are always hiding in the thorns
Goldcrest
Goldcrest
This pic makes me laugh so hard, it looks like the goldcrest is emerging from another dimension
Goldcrest
Hiding
Goldcrest
The flame of his crest
Goldcrest
The best photo I’ve gotten of a goldcrest
Goldcrest
Cute
Goldcrest

Some “winter” birds of Tymon Park

Tymon is a nice little park in south Dublin with several ponds where waterbirds like to aggregate. Since Ireland has a lot of interesting winter visitors bird-wise, I’ve been visiting periodically to see if anything exciting shows up. But the real question is would I even know? Someone help me with my water birds; I’m terrible.

Tymon Park
Okay, I know this one is a coot
Tymon Park
Mute swan
Tymon Park
Juvenile mute swan (maybe one of those cygnets I photographed last year)
Tymon Park
I think this is a black headed gull in winter plumage
Tymon Park
Okay WHO are these guys? I’m calling them brown headed ducks until someone tells me otherwise, I’ve been through the Irish birdlife duck list three times
Tymon Park
Tymon Park
Magpies are surprisingly difficult to photograph, given that there are three on every roof
Tymon Park
Oh man I was so excited by this coot, I thought the reflection was so perfect! I still like the photo
Tymon Park
Okay another brown duck I can’t identify (I know there’s a moorhen in the background, but who’s the brown job??)
Tymon Park
Another juvenile mute swan
Tymon Park
Tymon Park
Black headed gull in flight (surprisingly difficult to capture)
Tymon Park
Comin at ya
Tymon Park
Tymon Park
I was trying to get a very particular shot with this guy but he would not cooperate
Tymon Park
Another blue tit, I never get sick of these guys
Tymon Park
Fluffy blue heads and yellow bellies, what’s not to like??
Tymon Park

Snowboarder story

Watching the crazy antics of the snowboarders at the winter Olympics reminded me of a story about a crazy snowboarder, so…story time!

One time I was skiing with an uncle in Pennsylvania (we used to ski in Colorado together, but as we were living on the east coast at this time, we met up to ski in Pennsylvania). No offense to Pennsylvania, but the ski slopes are a little less exciting there. By the end of the day, I had skied every black diamond slope, whereas in Colorado, I would never dare to get above blue square.

Anyway, I reached the bottom of a black diamond slope first and waited for my uncle to catch up. I waited…and waited…and waited. I started to get worried that something had gone wrong, but before I had time to ask the lift operator about it, my uncle finally arrived. He looked totally baffled, but unharmed.

The way he related the story, a snowboarder above him on the slope had lost control and slammed into him from behind, but rather than fall together, the snowboarder picked my uncle up in a great big bear hug (no small feat as my uncle is no small man), and fell to his knees, skidding a great distance further down the slope with my uncle safely in his arms.

No sooner had he finished telling this story than the snowboarder came gliding past. What my uncle had failed to mention was that the man was wearing shorts the whole time…and his legs were bloody from the knees down from skidding on the icy slope while holding onto my uncle.

I was impressed by this for several reasons: 1) the man had the presence of mind in the moment (and the strength) to pick up my uncle to ensure that he was not harmed 2) he had the dexterity to maintain this position while skidding down the slope on his knees and 3) he tolerated the pain of the ice tearing up his legs rather than injure someone else. Pretty amazing! Go snowboarders!

Links to share

This is a really interesting article, but I resent the implication that ecologists don’t pay any attention to evolution. Of course we do! Like what is this crap in a Nature article: “Ecologists have generally ignored evolution when studying their systems; they thought it was impossible to test whether such a slow process could change ecosystems on observable timescales.” Patently false. Well, the rest of the article is readable. How warp-speed evolution is transforming ecology

Neato! Mars Rover Curiosity’s Panoramic Photo Depicts Its Epic Journey

I know the author to this NatGeo article! I feel famous by connection! How engaging local communities helps a wildlife veterinarian save elephants

This is really amazing infrared photography of Chernobyl: Photographer Visits Chernobyl With His Infrared Camera, Captures Stunning Images

Amazing early female scientist and artist Maria Merian: A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years

Some amazing caterpillars photographed by Igor Siwanowicz…pretty cool stuff! Radically Unusual Caterpillars Captured by Photographer Igor Siwanowicz

Hmmm, this article is a little disappointing. Well, it seems like maybe woodpeckers do or do not have brain damage and this may or may not be good and may or may not relate to human brain damage haha! Still sharing, because hey the question is interesting: Woodpeckers show signs of possible brain damage, but that might not be a bad thing

I LOVED this absolutely fantastic article on traditional Irish names for Irish animals by Fionn Ó Marcaigh, PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. So much to enjoy about the cheeky* way some of the birds were named, and a lovely bit of natural history. Highly recommend: What’s in a name?

This is a beautifully written essay, which I fundamentally disagree with. It argues that beetles are “without any doubt, the most important organisms on the planet” and that everything else is “sampling error”. This reminds me of a long-lasting argument between myself and another entomologist friend. He claims that, by and large, Coleoptera is the most beautiful order, while I maintain that Hymenoptera is the most beautiful order. We never could agree. And EXCUSE ME, but a beetle is not the smallest free-living insect, the smallest free living insect is a Hymenopteran fairy fly (wasp) Dicopomorpha echmepterygi, which is only 186 μm. Un-believable. Clearly, coleopterists cannot be reasoned with (still worth reading): Why beetles are the most important organisms on the planet

I’m just going to leave a link to this gif, since wordpress won’t let me post gifs anymore (most people are probably pretty happy about that haha), but I think this is pretty amazing (ED: IT IS IMPORTANT TO WATCH THE WHOLE THING): https://i.imgur.com/iNLz9A7.gifv

*Pun intended for the Pochard: “duck with large buttocks”

East Coast Nature Reserve, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow

East Coast Nature Reserve
Moody robin
East Coast Nature Reserve
Lookin for adventure/food?

A little birdwatching site in Wicklow county (which I have to specify because there are at least three Newcastles right around Dublin alone). As in the name, it is on the east coast. I cycled down from Dublin a couple of weeks ago with the plan to take the train back up to Dublin from Wicklow (city) after spending some time wandering around the reserve. I was in search of some glossy ibises that were accidental migrants and have been regularly spotted at the reserve for the past couple of months, but on the day I cycled down, the wind was so powerful that very few birds dared to be out and about and I did not see the ibises (sigh). However, I don’t think I’ve ever cycled 70 km in January before, so I’m not complaining about the weather! Irish winters are fierce mild…

East Coast Nature Reserve
Greenfinch
East Coast Nature Reserve
Anyone know what this tree is? I spotted a few of them and they all look like they’re on fire.
East Coast Nature Reserve
East Coast Nature Reserve
So cute, blue tit
East Coast Nature Reserve
Grumpy looking dunnock
East Coast Nature Reserve
Coal tit? Great tit? I think it’s a great tit…
East Coast Nature Reserve
These guys are beautiful
East Coast Nature Reserve
Happy for the boardwalk…it’s been so wet that I was sinking up to my ankles in places in the mud (and my cycling shoes do not approve!)
East Coast Nature Reserve
I like the juxtaposition of these ducks with the ruins of buildings behind…who knows how old those are. Knowing Ireland, probably older than the US
East Coast Nature Reserve
Gotta love the flag grass
East Coast Nature Reserve
I love these little grebes. Grebe are widely recognized as the cutest ducks. Fact.
East Coast Nature Reserve
She was the only bird out on the pond so I took a lot of photos of her. Can anyone tell what she’s eating?
East Coast Nature Reserve
East Coast Nature Reserve
SPLASH
East Coast Nature Reserve
Nom nom nom
East Coast Nature Reserve
The light conditions made for difficult photography, fast moving clouds and very changeable light!
East Coast Nature Reserve
East Coast Nature Reserve
So Ireland
East Coast Nature Reserve
Mmmmm…mud
East Coast Nature Reserve
Hello, Mr. Robin

Taking the train back was meant to be an experiment because, if I can put my bike on a train, I can cycle farther from Dublin and see more of the country, which is my goal. However, this did not go as smoothly as planned. By the time I got to the train station, the sun was already getting low in the sky, and I really did not want to ride 70 km back to Dublin on back roads in the dark, so I was a little desperate to make it work. I thought the DART (commuter train) ran from Wicklow to Dublin, for which you do not need a reservation, but, as I learned, the train from Wicklow to Dublin is actually the inter-city train, for which you DO need a reservation: three days in advance! Plus, there are only two spots for bikes on the train.

Wicklow train station
Wicklow train station with fading light
Wicklow train station
Yay, Wicklow!

I didn’t realize all this, so I bought my ticket, and hopped on the train with my bike, only to realize it wouldn’t fit down the aisle. So I stood in the doorway between train cars, holding my bicycle vertically, terrified that the conductor would come and kick me off. Eventually the conductor did walk by, but when he did, he just rolled his eyes and said, “I’ll pretend not to see you there.”

“I’m sorry,” I explained, through the spokes of my tire, “I couldn’t figure out exactly where I was meant to be.”

“There are already two more bikes than there are supposed to be on this train, so if you don’t mind staying in that doorway, you can just stay there,” he said, thankfully, and walked on.

I still don’t know where bikes are supposed to go on the train though*, so in terms of experimental outcomes, I’ll call this a lukewarm success, or simply “not a failure, anyway.”

*When I tried looking this up online, it simply said the bikes are supposed to go in a special car either in the front of the train OR the back of the train, which is not super helpful if you choose the wrong end and can’t move through the train with the bike. The train only stays at the station for a New York minute, so it’s not as if there’s time to wander and wonder before it takes off.