Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mostly Kerry

Well, that was a busy weekend and then some. We went to Killarney for a funeral on Saturday. Somebody got the time wrong and we could have got up and left at 7.30 instead of 6.30, but at least it was a reasonably fine, dry day and the church was right beside Killarney National Park so we were able to enjoy a walk and stretch our legs.

In the town:

In the park - it was wonderful watching the swallows swooping and diving over the long meadow grass.

We stayed the night in Tralee, with the bonus of rabbit-watching. As long as I can remember there have been rabbits along the driveway of the house behind where we stay.

On to Kenmare on Sunday to visit my dad and cook dinner.  When we left I managed to leave behind not only my good loaf tin which had had a fruit-cake I had baked for him, but also a spare punnet of strawberries which was not intended for him, as I'd already left some mixed strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Oh well...

Bridge at Kenmare

Dewy spider's web

Back home, and then up to the North on Monday, for a total of over 700 miles. This was a rainbow I photographed through the car window on our way back home last night.

These days I try to cook in advance when we visit my dad, and bring stuff that really just needs heating and a carbohydrate and vegetables to go with it. But since we were leaving home early on Saturday, with no idea when I'd have access to a fridge, that wasn't practical this time. I thought if I did a stir-fry I could have the vegetables with me, and the sauce ingredients mixed, and we could just buy some chicken down there.
This is what I cooked:
Chicken and Cashew Nuts (serves 4)

12 oz chicken breast, sliced into 1" pieces and tossed in 1 tblsp cornflour (cornstarch )

Seasoning: 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 tblsp light soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar.

1 cup cashew nuts
2 green onions / spring onions, chopped
1 small onion peeled and cut into chunks
1" fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
3 oz snow peas, sugar snaps or mangetout
2 oz bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
Oil for frying.
Sauce: 2 tsp cornflour, 1 tblsp Hoisin sauce, 3/4 cup chicken stock.

Mix the seasoning ingredients together, pour over the chicken and leave for ten minutes.
Fry the cashew nuts till golden brown, and drain on paper towel.
Heat 2 tbslp of oil and fry the onions, ginger and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add the peas and bamboo shoots and fry for another 3 minutes.  
Remove from pan, clean the pan and heat another tablespoon of oil. Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes, till cooked. Add the vegetables back into the pan, along with the spring onions. Mix together the sauce ingredients, add to the pan and cook till heated and thick.
C being fussy about whole garlic I used crushed garlic rather than slices.
Although the recipe called for bamboo shoots, the photograph in the book showed beansprouts, and since I was able to get them in Tralee that is, in fact, what I used. I also added some pineapple chunks.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Windows on the World

The current photo challenge on SCS is windows. These are some of the shots I took....

The Law Society

Boston College, Stephen's Green

Steven's Hospital

Corner of Dame Street and Trinity Street

Queen Street (I think!)

Plenty of potential for lots more photos for this subject. I always like to look up above ground level and see what's on view along the streets.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Baby, Maybe Baby

I went out to bring the sheets in from the line before it started to rain, and was rewarded with one of the more daring baby robins. When I consider all the different places I hear their insistent "Feed me" cheeping from, and see all the directions the parents fly off in, it must be quite a stressful time for the parents. Especially with those magpies around!

Feed Me

Feeding looks to be a bit of a hit and miss affair still!!

Definitely a baby sparrow

This little coalie is so scruffy that I wonder is it a juvenile. Either that or moulting, because this was not any time after a rain shower.

Likewise this little blue with his Gary Rhodes spiky hairdo...

...or maybe in his case it was just the wind!!

Raiders of the back porch. Not a great shot, but in their endeavour to keep those little beaks fed, the robins aren't afraid to come into the back porch. They obviously sussed out where the worms come from.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


 in the garden this morning...
I had to shoot through the back window because I didn't want to scare them off (and you can see them take flight when a leaf lands on the feeder, although a pigeon passing overhead didn't seem to bother them). And of course it had to be the long side panel beside the door; I cleaned the door itself just last week. So the colour and the sounds are just slightly muted.
I was really watching out because I'd caught a fleeting glimpse of a baby robin, but I wasn't lucky enough to see it again today. Just the parents at their endless task of feeding themselves and their brood.

I'm trying to find a way to link to YouTube that doesn't offer a choice of videos at the end. What that does is seem to make the embedded video bigger so in the preview mode it looks as if you only see one half of it. Bear with me while I work this out! In any case, clicking on it will bring up the full view - which is worth it because there was a pair of birds. And I do think they're a pair - apparently the red patch protrudes just slightly more over the eye in the male, and there's a definite difference between these two.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Park Walk

Now that all our high-profile guests have been and gone, the park is open again and we can park in our normal spot. Since yesterday was a lovely bright sunny evening, though still a little windy, we went for a walk after dinner.

Jackdaw in the woods

Deer in the parkland

Look carefully - you can just see the little coot chicks climbing out of the nest.

A coot chick. I always want to call them moorhens because of the red beaks, but they must change colour as they get older. For sure it's adult coots feeding them, as per the very short video. I need to find a way of cutting the sound out when it's not suitable for use - C was singing over most of this. I think I'll have to use some birthday money and invest...

Well - everything uploaded today with no problems. I don't know where my two birds in a bush photos ended up last night because they're not showing in my album. The mysteries of cyber-space!!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Two Birds in the Bush

A bird in the hand last year was certainly a magical and memorable experience. Failing that, two in the bush is better than nothing. And in fact, I saw a lot more than two today.
It was a delight to see a goldfinch again today (a pair, in fact) and I also saw a greenfinch, which I hadn't seen for a while. I am wondering if the little robins have fledged, because while the adults are still foraging away busily and industriously, instead of flying off in the same direction all the time they seemed to head into the trees in several different directions - and there was a massive amount of cheeping as opposed to birdsong going on.

We still have quite a bit of wind, but no rain today. Bet the birds are glad - I was too when I got two lots of wash dry after work.

I was trying to upload photos and a short video from our walk in the park this evening, but it's all failed, so sorting it out is tomorrow's task.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Poor Robin

If he was a wet robin the other day, he was an even wetter robin today. When he first flew in I thought it was a fledgling, but they don't have any orange, that only develops after a few months. The other bird in the pair managed to stay bone dry. He rather reminds me of a Penny Black stamp that has an owl which always makes me think of a pine-cone that has been warmed up and started to expand. I used to love burning pine-cones from the garden when I had a fire in my bedroom  - first the smell as the resin started heating, then watching them open up and start to glow as they burnt, and the tinkling sound they'd make if you hit them with a poker after they'd burnt and were just charred black.

I was happy to get such good photos, as the camera was set with manual exposure optimised for the tip of a branch in the mahonia, where I'd noticed the bluetit was regularly alighting.

It was that sort of weather today - gale force winds with mostly blue skies but occasional bursts of rain. It was also bin-collection day for the green bins, but since I'd already had to pick two of the neighbours' bins up and gather all the paper and packaging that had spilled out and started to blow down the road,  I decided that  as ours wasn't even half full it could wait for the next collection.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


Yesterday was a day with a LOT of rain interspersed with occasional sunshine. As it was quite dull and I was trying to catch some action pictures of the birds my ISO was high and some of these are a bit grainy. but I enjoyed watching the chaffinch. He's not an everyday visitor like the robins, sparrows and coal tits.
I was watching some web-cam footage of some baby great tits, and my goodness, the clamour seven tiny little beaks and birds came make. If our robins are experiencing anything at all like that, no wonder they are both out foraging almost non-stop, even if they get wet in the process. CiarĂ¡n said he saw one right in the back room of the house this afternoon, perched on the lunchbag on his desk. No food there for robins!

Doing the stomp dance

In the naughty corner

Shake those tail feathers

A briar rose flowering at the end of the garden. Most of what grows between us and the railway line is brambles, but there are also a couple of wild roses which I love for the flowers now and the bright red hips later on.

It's quite a rainy forecast for this week too, with the possibility of thunder late in the week. At least it's good for the garden,  but I feel I can almost see the grass growing.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Birds of a feather - and not. feathered

I love the way photography captures things that happen too fast for the eye to perceive, like birds' wings outstretched in flight, and here  the robin's tongue. He'd been standing there on the patio looking very fat and puffed up, and all of a sudden he regurgitated some sort of pellet, and then happily went back to picking up worms.

And an older robin picture...

I mentioned that the collared dove was so hard to capture a good photo of. I thought I had a fairly good one last week, but managed to get a better one today, even though it was through the window.

At some stage in the afternoon I thought I heard C coming home on his motorbike, so I went down to open the back gate - no bike. It was the first distant noises of some helicopters on an advance flight before Obama's visit. I can't add a Black Hawk to my bird collection - I only caught a glimpse of that and a very poor photo, but I did manage a couple of  OK shots of the Chinooks. So different to the usual traffic helicopter and occasional search-and-rescue ones we see. Now that I know what to expect I'll be prepared if I hear them again on Monday, and will try to get a shot that's not taken into the sun.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Moorhen / experiment

I was walking over from work to C's office yesterday, and took a half hour for lunch in Stephen's Green. (I had the baby shawl ready to post, but the Post Office on the quays said that they couldn't take any parcels till after Obama's visit was over, and she didn't think that the GPO would take it either. I'm glad it was light, since I had to carry it round all day). Afterwards I was thinking I should have gone to the canal to see if there were any chicks, but as it was I enjoyed watching this moorhen on its nest. When I first spotted the movement out of the corner of my eye it was because one bird was passing another leaf to the bird in the nest. The first bird then went off foraging in the undergrowth and I didn't see it again, but the one on the nest spent a lot of time moving leaves and bits of grass around to get it just right. It's not clear to see from the photos, but the nest wasn't quite on the bank, it was maybe  eighteen inches - two feet out into the water. And if I hadn't seen the movement I'd never have looked twice at it.

 The experimental part of this post is that I've tried uploading the video to YouTube first to see how that goes. I'd suggest turning the volume down - it's mostly background traffic noise!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Coal tits

I think I need to look into uploading videos to YouTube and embedding them - I had nothing but trouble last night, and had to break this down into two to get it to upload at all - and the quality seems to go down a lot too. Oh well - video is still a learning curve for me.

Here are my scruffy little coal tits - I think you might see the rain in the first clip.

I know different birds have different characteristics and the robin has always been known for being unafraid, but I remember three years ago the little coal tits used to just dive in and fly out and we'd barely see them, whereas now they're happy on the feeders even if C is working on his bike nearby. The big birds, on the other hand, like the pigeons and collared doves fly off at the slightest movement. I've finally managed a couple of photos of the collared doves (for another day), but it's not easy.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Hot off the needles

Latest knitting project; I had been hoping to make it in either yellow or green, but after trying several shops it seems that 3-ply only comes in white. Apparently there's not much demand for it at all, let alone in colours. I know I made one in yellow some years back, but that wool was mail order from the Shetlands, and I didn't think I'd have time for that this time round. And indeed, I finished the shawl on Monday and the baby arrived on Monday also, just a couple of days early. The centre of the shawl is easy, just time-consuming. The lace border requires more focussed attention. I got a lot done in the car on two trips up to the North with C, who was attending music rehearsals. I'll admit that trying to knit while listening to the music was less successful, and did call for a bit of ripping, but as the pattern becomes easy to remember after the first twenty repeats or so, that was not too big an issue.

Looking at the card now I should have switched the tree and the sun around, to have the sun in the opposite corner to the little chick, but it's too late now. Thanks for the inspiration to use this stamp after seeing your little duck, Lorraine.

I hope to go into town after work on Thursday and get some more wool for another baby project. It's hard to know when and where all the diversions are with the Queen's visit, but since I normally walk into town I don't think it will be a problem. C had no trouble at all this morning, but said he had to take a long detour on the way home.

These barriers were waiting to be set up on one of the Liffey bridges, along with a notice saying that any bicycles would be removed. They're making it very hard to cross the road anywhere other than at traffic lights! I'm pretty good about only crossing at lights anyway, but the one exception is this stretch of the quays where it's normally easy to cross, and much nicer to walk along the river side.