Scenes from the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry is just a loop road that goes around the Kerry peninsula in the southwestern corner of Ireland. My aunt and uncle and little cousin River were visiting Ireland, so I tagged along for their tour of this peninsula. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and it makes me want to go back to explore Kilarney National Park, not in a tour bus! But of course, part of the challenge of living in Ireland without a car is that you have little access to these sites unless you’re on a tour.

I was absolutely in awe of the number of invasive plant species*. This shouldn’t surprise me anymore, but somehow it still does. They seem to vastly outnumber native species sometimes, or at least that’s the impression you get when you’re an ecologist. Rhododendron ponticum, Gunnera, Fuschia, and Monbretia were among the most common plants we saw along the Ring of Kerry.

Ring of Kerry
Lady’s View, Kilarney National Park
Ring of Kerry
I really love the Rowan (might be Mountain Ash to you Americans, Sorbus)
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Much more treed than Wicklow NP
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Tour guide explaining that you can lick lichens to River
Ring of Kerry
Gorgeous oak
Ring of Kerry
My patented** SOIMF*** tree shot showing much ivy
Ring of Kerry
The River Sneem, in Sneem
Ring of Kerry
Some very pretty lighting
Ring of Kerry
Non-native torch lilies, which the honeybees adore
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Halfway through the day, I started realising I don’t know the difference between Hydrangea and Viburnums…turns out they’re not even in the same order and I should be ashamed of myself haha
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
An alleged 9th century fort under some powerlines
Ring of Kerry
West coast best coast****
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
Ring of Kerry
The Skellig Islands where Star Wars was filmed…very difficult to get to these islands as the weather is usually prohibitive, but I think it is the one on the right where the story was filmed
Ring of Kerry

Thanks for reading!

*Aldo Leopold once famously said “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” Only, I don’t really find invasive species to be that horrifying anymore. Obviously, they can have negative impacts, but I think we’re coming around to a more nuanced view of non-native species.
**I wish
****Don’t hate


The Clouded Morning, by Jones Very

It feels like this was a poem written about Dublin, but I don’t know if that is true, haha.

The Clouded Morning

The morning comes, and thickening clouds prevail,

Hanging like curtains all the horizon round,

Or overhead in heavy stillness sail;

So still is day, it seems like night profound;

Scarce by the city’s din the air is stirred,

And dull and deadened comes its every sound;

The cock’s shrill, piercing voice subdued is heard,

By the thick folds of muffling vapors drowned.

Dissolved in mists the hills and trees appear,

Their outlines lost and blended with the sky;

And well-known objects, that to all are near,

No longer seem familiar to the eye,

But with fantastic forms they mock the sight,

As when we grope amid the gloom of night.

– Jones Very

Rook photos and “Black Rook in Rainy Weather”, by Sylvia Plath

This rook was totally hamming it up for me when I was in Dingle a few weeks ago. What a cutie!

I feel like most people don’t like rooks but I think they are beautiful
This guy was loving the camera
Still, that’s a wicked looking beak…

I asked my friend (who is excellent at puns) to come up with a rook pun and I told him they are a bird similar to ravens, so he said, “What time are they araven?” There you go.

Also, here’s a poem by Sylvia Plath about how cool rooks are:

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

On the stiff twig up there

Hunches a wet black rook

Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.

I do not expect a miracle

Or an accident

To set the sight on fire

In my eye, not seek

Any more in the desultory weather some design,

But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,

Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,

Occasionally, some backtalk

From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:

A certain minor light may still

Leap incandescent

Out of the kitchen table or chair

As if a celestial burning took

Possession of the most obtuse objects now and then —

Thus hallowing an interval

Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largesse, honor,

One might say love. At any rate, I now walk

Wary (for it could happen

Even in this dull, ruinous landscape); sceptical,

Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare

Suddenly at my elbow. I only know that a rook

Ordering its black feathers can so shine

As to seize my senses, haul

My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear

Of total neutrality. With luck,

Trekking stubborn through this season

Of fatigue, I shall

Patch together a content

Of sorts. Miracles occur,

If you care to call those spasmodic

Tricks of radiance miracles. The wait’s begun again,

The long wait for the angel.

For that rare, random descent.

– Sylvia Plath

Links to share

Amazing space photos, courtesy of NASA:

More interesting plant pollinator interactions: Flower Mimics The Smell of Dying Honey Bees to Attract Pollinators

I visited Kilarney last weekend, I wanted to see a puffin and I did not. Alas! Cream puffins: CREAM PUFFIN SWEETIE PIES

On a more serious note, I mentioned to the bus driver, “Puffins are globally vulnerable, right?” and he said, “Yeah, but they’re fine.” Try to figure out the logic there, if you can: Why Are Puffins Vanishing? The Hunt for Clues Goes Deep (Into Their Burrows)

We should all be aware of the sunk cost fallacy. Just because you’ve already invested time/money/energy into something does not mean you should keep investing: Sunk cost fallacy: Throwing good money after bad

Bees develop an unhealthy addiction to neonicotinoid pesticides…workers can detect thiamethoxam and increase the proportion of their visits to thiamethoxam laced food over time, increasing the exposure risk of the colony. Note that the increase in visits was largely to the intermediate concentration of the pesticide, which is an interesting detail: Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid-treated food with prolonged exposure

These amazing vintage photos of arthropods. Why are these better than my arthropod photos!? Vintage Photos of Insects and Spiders in Vivid Detail

Jupiter has a weird magnetic field…I’ve always been interested in magnetic fields and recently had a discussion with my father (who works for NASA) about the threats of debris and radiation for any long-term space program to astronauts. Physical shielding is heavy and difficult to transport, so I keep thinking we need a way to develop a transportable magnetic field to protect the astronauts. Obviously, there are all sorts of issues with developing that, and this is a tangent, but anyway, I thought we might be able to learn something from Jupiter: Jupiter’s magnetic field is surprisingly weird

Of course I have to share Brazil’s devastating National Museum fire…I can’t emphasize enough how important museum collections are to research on natural history and human impacts. This is a tragedy partly caused by the fact that the government did not invest in this museum. Reading Ed Yong’s article gave me a good sense of the scale of the impact: What Was Lost in Brazil’s Devastating Museum Fire

Lacewing larva with a backpack

Lacewing larvae are predatory, and they are bug bros because they eat pest insects like aphids. They can bite, though, so be wary!

Lacewing larva
Look at those big jaws!

This group of lacewing larvae carry detritus on their backs, which has been suggested to camouflage them among their prey, like a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Cool dude!

Lacewing larva

NB: I fortunately have a backlog of bug photos taken before my macro lens died, so you won’t have to miss out!

Links to share

I’m loving Sinead Burke right now…I heard her do a Moth story (you know I love The Moth), and this article is awesome: Sinead Burke: Why I Chose To Embrace My Differences

More beautiful Irish language for the landscape, arguing that part of the loss of Irish as a language is a loss of our connection with nature. There was a psychologist, Benjamin Whorf, who said that the language we speak shapes the way we perceive reality: Collops and fíbíns: The lost language of Ireland’s landscape

Welp. Report: Japanese Medical School Deducted Points From Exam Scores Of Female Applicants (Why even pretend to have entrance scores?)

Dog photography competition! The Dog Photographer Of The Year Award Winners Are In, And They’re Fantastic

I love this story…scientists were carefully testing this biocontrol wasp for stink bugs for years to make sure it wouldn’t have any knock-on effects, and then it simply showed up to control stink bugs naturally on its own: Scientists spent years on a plan to import this wasp to kill stinkbugs. Then it showed up on its own

You know how I feel about Fibonacci spirals…here’s some Fibonacci inspired music! Let This Percussionist Blow Your Mind With The Fibonacci Sequence

All things are possible in botany! Here’s a plant that parasitises an insect…whaaaaaaaat. The insect forms a gall in a host plant and the parasitic vine attacks the gall, and this may ultimately kill the insect: Botanical parasitism of an insect by a parasitic plant

Really nice article from NC State on the top ten crop pests: 10 of the Most Diabolical Crop Pests in North Carolina

Significantly greater local extinctions in late-summer bee species in the UK, probably because of habitat loss (ie loss of late-flowering plant species): British phenological records indicate high diversity and extinction rates among late-summer-flying pollinators

Australian social stingless bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) fitter (in this case colony size) where the plants are more diverse. Again much harder to track in solitary bees, but there is a grad student at Cornell working on one example (stay tuned as I am likely to post her research when it is published!): Social bees are fitter in more biodiverse environments