Saturday, 30 April 2011


A Blackbird Singing - Ronald Stuart Thomas

 It seems wrong that out of this bird,
Black, bold, a suggestion of dark
Places about it, there yet should come
Such rich music, as though the notes'
Ore were changed to a rare metal
At one touch of that bright bill.

You have heard it often, alone at your desk
In a green April, your mind drawn
Away from its work by sweet disturbance
Of the mild evening outside your room.

A slow singer, but loading each phrase
With history's overtones, love, joy
And grief learned by his dark tribe
In other orchards and passed on
Instinctively as they are now,
But fresh always with new tears.

Green April - check.
Mild evening - check.
Blackbird singing - check. C thought it was a starling when he saw it perched on the chimney, but there ain't no starling ever sung like that.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Where the water meets the sky

We visited a new-to-us park today; a neighbour across the road had mentioned it to us a couple of times, and with today being another lovely sunny day we decided it was time to investigate. St. Catherine's is certainly somewhere to add to our list of nearby walks. We followed the signs for the woodland path, and before we'd gone too far we could see a shimmer below. Looking more closely we realised it had to be the Liffey.
Further along the path descended to run closer to the river, and there was a small un-gravelled trail which brought us right along the banks.

We saw plenty of birds - the chaffinch here, but also a heron, a tree-creeper, some jays, a wren and the first swifts or martens of the season. I don't think I've ever seen a tree-creeper before - it was fascinating watching it climb up and round the trees. If I hadn't seen him landing in the first place I'd almost have thought it was a mouse spiralling round the trunk.

We hear the birds singing all the time in the garden here, but with all the trees growing along the railway line it's rare to see which one is actually singing to identify it. No questions about this chaffinch, he was singing his heart out.

This ruin had a sign on the wall saying Lower Yard. But all my searching hasn't been able to come up with much information about what the various ruins in the park are.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Stairway to Heaven

is the SCS photo challenge this week.
I pulled a couple of photos from the archives, took some in work on a rainy day when I could stand in the shelter and then added a couple more taken in our current sunny weather.

Two from Crete -  one is a little folk museum in a small town on the west coast, so worn with age and use; the spiral stairs were viewed from the harbour in Corfu town.

More spiral stairs...

And yet more work stairs...

And one from Phoenix Park to finish off with. In the winter these were so wet and muddy, we had to take care not to slip and fall. It's lovely to see them like this.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Big birds

Another lovely sunny summery day. We'll be getting too used to them if this keeps up . I went to Farmleigh to look for my little Easter chickie, but there was no sign of him. First time I've seen the heron for a while, though. In the first picture he seems to have bushy grey eyebrows like an old man! I'd never noticed that before...

Some coots and moorhens, and as always plenty of mallards - this one stretching her wings and enjoying the sun.

This pair keeping a watchful eye out...

                                                                      ... clucking gently away all the while.

I think today I saw more robins than anything else. You can certainly never count on seeing some things twice - I hope I get to see the jays again some time, though. C would love to see them too, but he walks too quickly and sings all the time, so I don't rate his chances very highly.

I wonder if Farmleigh is on the Queen's itinerary when she visits next month. There seems to be an unusual amount of cleaning and tidying going on. Last time we went the sunken garden was closed off because two gardeners were straightening the edges of the paths, although one of them told me that it was worth going in to see all the bulbs in bloom, and told me just to slip under the tape.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Lunch - no diving required

The current photo challenge on SCS is Then and Now. This series of photos doesn't exactly qualify because I took them all this morning rather than pulling one from the archives, but they cover the idea of lapsed time. I wasn't sure what sort of bread would be available in the local shops this morning, so I dragged myself (reluctantly) out of bed in time to make fresh bread for lunch. Even getting up at ten, and using fresh yeast and therefore two risings, we had lovely fresh bread and butter for lunch - and afternoon tea too. I just made a very basic bread dough with one egg added for extra richness. Still working on using up that unbleached flour that I don't think I'll be buying again; I ran out of strong flour this morning and added some of the unbleached in to make the balance. It certainly made the bread a lovely golden colour.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Diving for Lunch

I was trying to share this clip with spring birdsong last night, but it just wouldn't upload. Not quite sure why - I'd managed to restore my dire broadband speeds to their normal yesterday, after two weeks of being about half what they should be.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Easter

Three or four years ago I only remember one or two of these hybrid mallards. This year we seem to be falling over them in the park!

Regular hen mallard enjoying the sun

I walked down along the canal yesterday and back up via the butcher. My aim was to take a photo of the houseboats at the marina for a Then & Now photo challenge on SCS - but it started raining just as I got to the marina. I could smell barbecue smoke coming from so many houses - I'm sure people must have disappointed that the really fine weather had broken. As I walked back up home I saw this thrush being stalked by a magpie. At this stage it had flown over the railway station wall and landed on the green, but it was still keeping a wary eye out.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Birdie Day

It was a birdie day all round today. I had some wonderful bird themed birthday gifts, and then we went to the park so I could try out my new point-and-shoot. C upgraded my old one - it was cheaper than buying a tele-converter for my DSLR. OK, so it's a point-and-shoot and that's not going to be the same quality, but it gives me a bit more zoom without losing two stops and needing a tripod - and when I become a bit more proficient, it takes AMAZING videos.
We've been lamenting the fact that this year's robins aren't as tame as last year's, but at least we still have them and they're still relatively fearless compared to the other birds. I even caught a fleeting glimpse of one feeding another yesterday - I heard a familiar insistent chirping and rushed to look.
This was today's robin visit.

After watching the coal tit today, C thinks he was maligning the sparrows in saying they are eating us out of house and home. The little coal tit paid a lot of visits. He picks the sunflower seed from the feeder, and then flies off to somewhere less exposed to open it - sometimes he just flies back to the nest.

Hopefully a very brief video clip of the little coalie. A whole new set of software to learn - luckily I know my sister is great on video editing and I can ask her for help and advice.

We got to see some tufted ducks today - here's a hen and a male.

We didn't see one single deer - just  a couple of squirrels and  rabbits.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Magnolias - again!

I don't think I can ever have too many magnolia photos. They're so early this year, though - already they're almost over, and only a few trees were left at the start of their flowering. I think of them as more a May flower, normally.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Just in time for Easter...

...the first chick of the year. There was only one that we could see in the whole pond, I don't think I've ever seen just one solitary chick before. Usually there's a whole little flotilla paddling along behind Mama Mallard. And this one was tiny, too - C didn't even see it till I pointed it out. He kept calling it a micro-chicken.

I've no idea what came from this egg - it was quite a way from the pond banks, so I doubt if it was the little mallard. But there were no nests that I could see overhead, either.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Feed the Birds

I was meeting my sister in town on Friday afternoon, and it wasn't really worth coming home first. As we finished work exceptionally early maybe it would have been worth it after all, but I had a few things to get - coffee beans, hulled pistachios and so on, and I filled in some of the time in Stephen's Green.

It's been quite a while since I made this. I remember making it once when I was catering for an outdoor activity weekend. There were several vegetarians that particular weekend, and some people who would eat fish but no meat, or chicken and beef but not pork, so the organiser suggested it would be easiest just to go vegetarian. I did offer a fry at breakfast, and I think I may have done a meat option for Sunday dinner, but I made this for the night we arrived, as I had the filling already made. It was very popular.
C had suggested an omelet, but there were tomatoes that needed using up, so I made this instead. For the two of us I halved the filling, but didn't want to go to the bother of halving a beaten egg; we managed to eat almost the entire topping between us.

Mexican Chilli Corn Pie
1 tblsp oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 each green and red (bell) peppers, seeded and diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 tsp hot chilli powder
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
11 oz can (approx) sweetcorn, drained
7 1/2 oz canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
salt, pepper, t tblsp chopped coriander (cilantro)
4 1/2 oz cornmeal
1 tblsp plain flour
1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
6 tblsp milk
1 tblsp corn oil
4 oz grated mature Cheddar or similar cheese.

Heat oil, fry garlic, peppers and celery for about 5 minutes till they start to soften. Stir in the chilli powder, tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and cook for about ten minutes. Add the fresh coriander and spoon into an ovenproof dish.
For the topping, sift all the dry ingredients together into a bowl. Make a hole in the centre, and add in all the wet ingredients (whisk them together first), whisking till just mixed. Spoon over the filling and sprinkle with the cheese. Cook in a preheated hot oven (220C, 425F, Gas 7) for 25-30 minutes, till golden and firm. I think it's better to add the cheese halfway through. Also I use a mix of fine and coarse cornmeal.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A Mixed Bag

I found a couple of flags - one outside the National Museum (Collins Barracks) and one on a hotel further upriver - the Aisling, maybe...

Little and large gulls with the usual junk in the foreground

I only noticed this recently, and yet I must have walked up towards it at least a dozen times this year, even though it's not on my normal route. I think it's the Law Society... it's the piebald effect on the dome that really caught my eye. I must walk a bit further than my regular bus stop and check that out for sure, but I can't think what else would be in that line of view.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Botanic Gardens - Form

This was in the Palm House - it was starting to feel too much like rain in there to take time to look for a plant label, but it reminded me a bit of maranta.

Detail of the Crown Imperial

I could take hundreds of photos of magnolias!!