A bird watcher in Ireland.

Some thoughts on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, after a Jameson and Guinness…

Due to an improbable toss of the ancestral dice, my paternal bloodline runs through Dublin.

"...James Joyce's old neighborhood."

Not long ago, we went there to see where our dad grew up.

Visited the James Joyce neighborhood of his childhood, then headed to open lands.

All travel, when done right, is also about bird watching. I intended to do some.

In a green meadow, there was a bird we don’t have back home.

But wait. Something happened the night before.

We were in a rural hotel’s sitting room with drinks, a fire and piano player. One of the men in the room began to sing. The piano player stopped. Listened. Then accompanied him.

The guy was no entertainer, just another patron. In a strong Irish tenor voice, he gave the spellbound room “Rose of Tralee” in its entirety.

Afterward, he gestured to a pretty dark-haired woman next to him, and told us all, “That was for my wife, Rose, on our anniversary. And we live up the road…in Tralee.

"...Irish fiddle."

True. That town, made famous by this song, was in the vicinity. We raised glasses and the room glowed.

But back to the bird…

Was it a Green Woodpecker? Shoulda been. They’re all over Europe. Ironically, none are found on that green island. The bird I saw wasn’t green.

Next night, we’re having Guinness in a crowded pub when a ragtag combo starts. Piper, banjo, old piano, a girl with wild blonde hair playing a fiddle.

They’re doing something Gaelic and quick.

Men and women around us quietly tap with their heels. Just heels. No other body movement. Then, the heels get louder. Suddenly, everyone, as if on cue, stands and starts that Irish foot-clopping dance. The room vibrates.

"...Kelly green."

But the bird, the bird…

Every day I wandered a bit in meadows and forests. The forests had some trees with Kelly green moss. I looked for birds. Didn’t see many.

I saw Magpies, but they’re in America, too. I saw English Sparrows, nothing unique in them. Okay, here’s my report. The only bird we couldn’t see back home: Hooded Crow.

These gray and black guys are pretty common in Europe. I wasn’t real impressed. I glared at him. He glared back. He wasn’t impressed with me, either.

They say there are no snakes in Ireland. St. Patrick drove them out. Could be folklore, but it’s true about there being no snakes.

Maybe birds left, too. Sure, there are some. But avian diversity is wanting.

Look at any field guide to Europe and you’ll see bird-range maps that leave the little oval island west of Britain empty of color.

Well, it may be empty of birds, but it ain’t empty of color.

5 Responses to “A bird watcher in Ireland.”

  1. jed says:

    That last photo is of a jackdaw, not the hooded crow mentioned in the piece. Just sayin’

    (Reply from TFBW:
    Jed, you’re right. Sure it’s a Jackdaw, not a Hooded Crow. Thanks for pointing this out. We made that incorrect ID, as we recall, after some refreshment in a nearby pub. And thanks for reading our ramblings, man. Top o’ the morning!)

  2. norm schaefer says:

    A great little piece…….

  3. patrickquillin says:

    I too was in Ireland, just last October. No sparrows in Dublin. I was astonished. My native friend tells me that the crows have only urbanized in the last ten to twenty years. Yes, magpies and crows, oh, and the rock doves. I did see some pretty little things in Dingle, but much too quick on the wing for much of a look. I hear the Wicklow Mountains of the southeast is best for birding. Such a beautiful land to be so barren of birds.

  4. Marc D. says:

    Erin go bragh…Erin go bird watchin’.

  5. Ron Heard says:

    Incredible word pictures, and, … by the way, keep the blonde pix coming. Some things you just can’t put into words!