Ireland: The Wild Side
“I know all the birds of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are Mine.” Psalms 50:11
My primary photographic passion is capturing wildlife images. Throughout my week in Ireland I took over 1000 shots, but most of them were landscapes, ancient ruins, foliage and general cultural interest scenes. If I suffered any disappointment in my trip, it would be the lack of wildlife photographs taken. But then, that’s just one more reason to return another time! I spent a considerable amount of time in The Burren, along the fringe of the Connemara and in Killarney National Park, but can’t say that I saw a tremendous wildlife population. However, I was generally moving along at a pretty good pace, so I didn’t give them a lot of time to show themselves! The highlight was seeing Red Deer in Killarney National Park, just across from the entrance to the Muckross House. It seems that the deer herd was subject to some management by the park, as some of the bucks were ear tagged and a group of bucks, does and fawns appeared to be accustomed to human presence. The size, build and antlers of these deer looked like something in between the deer and elk we have here in the Rocky Mountains.
Everywhere I traveled in Ireland seemed to have a fair number of what I originally thought were crows, but near the end of my trip I noticed some distinct differences between these birds and the crows back home. After looking them up in an online reference, I came to know these ever-present birds as Rooks. Their face is bald and their feathers have a blueish hue, but they are still as noisy and competitive as crows. After leaving Bunratty Castle on my last day in the country, I walked by what I figured to be a Rook on the wall beside me. As I was focusing the camera on him, I noticed he lacked the bald face and his eyes were a pale blue. I snapped a few shots of this smaller black bird, and later identified him as a Jackdaw.
At a small park on the edge of Lough Rae, I was able to get some images of birds scavenging the shallows near the shore. Several pairs of Mute Swans were trolling along with their adolescent brood. While not necessarily ugly, these youngsters still had a ways to go before they possessed the elegance and beauty of their parents. Black-headed Gulls were out in force along the shore, and were quick to join any other bird that found prey or morsels thrown from the children in the park. I saw a lot of these small gulls, but have to admit that I never saw one that actually had a black head! Some birds seem to be everywhere, and European Starlings were a pretty common sight in the country. The male starling was standing watch from a rock protruding through the surface of the water. He would often darts over to the gulls when they were eating, in hopes of picking up a few crumbs, and then return to his guardpost on the water.
Around Moll’s Gap, on the Ring of Kerry, we stopped to take in the surrounding landscape. While Leah and I were surveying the country, a Pied Wagtail entertained us with some amazing acrobatics while hunting for flying insects. Initially Leah thought this little bird was going crazy with his odd in-flight antics. It wasn’t until I showed her the image on the LCD of my camera, that we both realized that there was method to his apparent madness – he caught himself a good sized bug, that we hadn’t noticed. The wagtails were fairly common in many of the places we toured.
On my solo trek down to the Atlantic coast at Cobh Harbour, I wandered along the waters edge and came upon a Little Egret patiently working the muddy bottoms for a meal. The water was too murky for him to hunt by sight, so he would use one foot to tap the mud until he felt movement, then, in an instant, he would secure the prey with his bill. I am not sure what he was eating, but in the accompanying image you can see it is stuck in his throat! He had to cough it up several times before it finally went down. Near my vantage point on the shore, another Pied Wagtail and a juvenile European Starling provided me additional targets to shoot.
(You can click on any of the pictures in this post to view them in a larger format.)