October 31, 2005


If you're ever going to see a ghost, the night of Halloween is probably your best chance. The giant sprite dancing on the edge of Glencar mountain north of Sligo town on Saturday has a more earthly explanation. The wind whips in from the sea at Rosses Point, casts a cold eye over the graves at Drumcliff and scours the ridge all the way from Ben Bulben, past Kings Mountain and all the way along the Glencar ridge. Its power easily overwhelms the natural urge of water to flow downhill, instead driving it skyward from whence it came.

The stream, called sruthan in aghaidh an ard, flows into the Swiss valley, a small hidden valley running along side Glencar mountain.

The waterfall can be seen to the right of the picture (looking a bit like a trail of smoke). The peak in the distance is Kings Mountain (Ben Bulben is hidden behind it) and the coastline in the distance is Rosses Point (the belltower at Drumcliff church, final resting place of W. B. Yeats, was visible from the waterfall)

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October 28, 2005


Autumn leaves in the stream under Glencar waterfall, Co. Leitrim

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October 27, 2005

Croagh Patrick

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October 25, 2005

Tree at Glencar

You'll be hard pushed to find a more beautiful drive at this time of year than the one from Ben Bulben in Sligo to Glencar waterfall, just over the border in Leitrim.

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October 24, 2005


UPDATE 27/10/2005. Ok, the original crop is beginning to bug me too.

Maybe I'm giving away my hillbilly roots by greeting each new road with open-mouthed wonder. A trip up to the north-west over the weekend was a journey alternating between the more familiar twisting, unmarked boreens of my youth linked together by stretches of shiny autobahn any Teuton would envy (and helped pay for).

No country town is complete without a bypass (this picture of footballers warming up for a Sunday morning game on a foggy autumn morning yesterday was taken when I stopped briefly on the Boyle bypass). Thanks to the Sligo bypass, one can literally cross the city in five minutes - and a journey over the Curlew mountains is no longer the gear-juddering haul in third gear behind a line of trucks and tractors.

The explosion of car ownership means that even towns not on a main commuter orartial route need the relief of the bypass just to keep functioning (and no local politician ever lost votes by promising to build one). In east Galway, the Loughrea bypass will be open soon - ahead of schedule. The first sod was turned a year ago by the then-Transport Minister, Seamus Brennan - they'll get a much bigger sod to open it, no doubt. In west Galway, the debate rages over whether the next big road west should be an upgrade of the N59 to Clifden or a new road out to Rossaveel. Whichever gets built, it will only help create faster traffic jams in the city. No-one seems to know quite how to solve Galway's logjams, even if the solution doesn't need to amount to much more than a few cans of paint for bus lanes.

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PS: The photographers among you are probably thinking that a tighter crop would be a much more effective photograph, and you'd be right [I've since changed the photo to show a more tightly edited picture]. A picture of just the kicker and the two cows near him, or a picture that was cropped on the right just to the right of the cow looking to camera would probably be the shot I'd use if I ever got round to entering competitions. But I kinda like this one best, even if it does blow the formatting on the page - it's probably a cow thing.

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October 21, 2005

Hard Won

Need turf? No problem.

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October 20, 2005

Rosaveel Saviour

Snap taken on the site of the massive redevelopment taking place in Rosaveel harbour at present. Evidence of the government's commitment to the western seabord, or maybe there is a higher power at work ?

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October 18, 2005

The Western Ways

Heading for home after a walk last Sunday along the Western Way, that trails between the Maumturks and the Twelve Bens.

The Galway Walking Club has its AGM in the Clybaun hotel this Thursday, and they'll be looking for new (and old) members (the year runs from November to November). If you don't like rain, or are averse to sinking to your arse in a boghole, you probably need not apply.

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October 17, 2005

Derrybrien Revisited

Now and then...

Two years ago, the people of an east Galway village woke up to find that they didn't need to come to the hill, because the hill had come to them. Rather, it had come surging down the path of a stream; a huge wall of black sludge flowing relentlessy downhill towards the valley whose streams fill Lough Cutra.

It was a couple of days before I managed to visit the place, and it was a fairly sorry sight. The local rivers suffered fish kills, and there was a danger that the sludge would reach Lough Cutra, spoiling the water supply for Gort. As it was, the smaller streams were unusable for animals. Worst of all, there was the danger that more, and bigger, landslides could yet occur.

There was a smaller slide a couple of weeks later, but, despite heavy rain, there was no further major slides. The construction of the massive windfarm on the hill, widely thought to be connected to the landslide, was halted and the clean-up operation began. Two years on, the giant turbines of the windfarm peer down from the top of the hill and the effects of the landslide are, by and large, wiped away. The pictures of the original damage can be seen here and pictures from an visit three months after the slide can be seen here.

More before and after shots here...

The stream on the upper road today...and what it looked like 2 years ago

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The original landslide nearly buried this old farmhouse. Two years later, the mud and peat is gone, and the turbines stare down from behind the trees.

Posted by Monasette at 08:59 PM | Comments (2)

October 16, 2005

Asgard 2

The best thing about living down in the Docks area of Galway is that there are always unexpected, though welcome, visitors dropping by. This weekend, Ireland's only rigged sailing training ship called in for a visit. Another couple of Asgard II pics. here and here.

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October 15, 2005


A beautiful, balmy day (almost 20 degrees) with lots of sunshine. If it wasn't for the leaves blowing along the street, it might still be summer. The same is promised for tomorrow, except with more rain (what's new).

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October 13, 2005

Look out below

Butterfly sunning itself on a leaf (Purple Hairstreak, I think) unaware of the 8-legged companion hanging on below.

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October 12, 2005

Barking Mad

The Leaving Cert results came out today and coupled with the Ireland versus Switzerland soccer match tonight, there'll be plenty of youngsters howling at the moon (or each other) by the witching hour. To the five students (out of thousands who had their marks rechecked) and who were marked down, have a drink - you deserve it.

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Posted by Monasette at 07:42 PM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2005

Nine lives are not enough

My parents put up both a bird feeder and a nesting box this year. A pair of blue tits ignored the box, but built a nest directly above it in a crack in the wall. As for the bird feeder, it also doubled as a cat feeder.

The first cat next door was a playful little character, but maybe just a little too adventurous. On one trip to the local lake, he hopped out from under the bonnet - he had hitched a ride in the engine compartment. He strolled out of the yard one night to meet his destiny as road kill, never to return. I doubt if the flock of sparrows that braved his attention to eat at the bird feeder shed too many tears - one less murderous furball to worry about.

His replacement and doppelganger shared his taste in small birds and jaywalking. He too met his destiny with a car tyre. But this guys was a little tougher. After three days, he dragged himself back home on three paws - one of his hind legs shattered. The vet put him back together, and now his brush with death seems to have increased his appetite for sparrows.

On a wet Sunday, on the last day of this July, he dumped a small bunch of brown feathers onto the lawn. He played around with it for a while, and then left it, bored. I was about to go out to dump it when I saw it move. And again, one of the wings flickered. Luckily for the sparrow, the moggy was too busy preening to realize that he hadn't finished the job. The first task was to get rid of the cat - it literally spent the rest of the day in the doghouse, since the kennel was the only place it couldn't escape from.

Almost as soon as I picked up the sparrow, it began to recover. It was still stunned, but it didn't seem to have any wounds. Soon, it began to struggle, so I left it under a hazel tree in the hedge where the rest of the flock congregated in the hope that it might regain the strength to fly again, before the cat came snooping around again (I wore gloves to minimize the scent - probably in vain).

On the face of it, there seems to be no shortage of sparrows. But their numbers have dropped dramatically since the Seventies, following on from a more gradual decline in the last fifty years.. (You can read a full report here from the BTO or read a summary from the BBC here. The BTO (British trust for Ornithology) report doesn't point to any one particular reason for the decline (cats don't figure prominently as a potential cause) - possible causes range from the fact that streets are cleaner (no horse poo - I wonder if Killarney has an abundance of sparrows) to the use of unleaded petrol (there's speculation that the chemicals used to replace lead have affected the insects on which the sparrows feed (so much for eco-friendly,eh?). The BBC link gives a number of steps that people can take to help boost the sparrow population, such as building a next box, and leaving out food in winter. It doesn't mention anything about driving over the cat.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:36 PM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2005

Kylemore Jesus

Talk to the hand...the statue of Jesus that overlooks Kylemore Abbey.

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October 06, 2005

Skin Trade

On Annagh Head on the Mullet peninsula, I got chatting to an affable Yorkshireman who was peering into the back of his transit van. He lives in Stranraer, and he and his wife come over to Ireland as often as they can. His van was a camper of sorts; kitted out not to accomodate humans but their even larger family of Newfoundland dogs. An unholy racket greeted me when I looked into the van - five furry monsters anxious to head for water, and none too impressed with the camera-wielding interloper blocking their view of the Atlantic.

Newfoundlands' have webbed feet, thick coats and an incurable love of swimming, and were used as rescue dogs during shipwrecks, by simply rowing out near the stricken sailors and throwing the dogs overboard. A dog would grab a sailor by the scruff of the neck (or something more painful if a scruff was not forthcoming) and not let go until it had got back to shore. Because of their size, they were also used as pack animals to haul small carts of fishes around ports.

So, I asked, you're going to let them out for a swim?. The man from Yorkshire was not so sure. The thing is, a Newfoundland will instinctively dash into the water and rescue whatever it can find. Including swimmers that mightn't need rescuing. Ah... So if you see a big shaggy wet dog trotting proudly along a beach with swimming togs in its mouth, you might want to keep a look out for a surprised swimmer hiding in the dunes attempting to hide his modesty. However, if you see a Garda less than fully attired, it might be for a different reason entirely.

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October 05, 2005

The Portable Virgin

Grave ornament, Kilconnell friary, Co. Galway.

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October 04, 2005

Born again

Walk towards the light...taking the 9.35 train on Saturday from Ceannt Station, Galway.

Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail) are proposing a 750 million retail redevelopment and rejuvenation of Ceannt Station just behind Eyre Square. Hmmm... should be interesting since there isn't a single car parking space in the place at the moment. Apparently, they are looking for architects to design a 'world class' development - I seem to remember the very same phrase used about the Eyre Square redevelopment (RIP). Actually, the new developers have moved into the Square to finish it off - it'll all be over by Christmas...

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Posted by Monasette at 09:21 PM | Comments (2)

October 03, 2005

Something to chew on

It's always important to have the right straw to chew on when doing a bit of thinking. Unless you're a bullock, in which case, the chewing is stimulation enough. A tasty strand of Lesser Cat's Tail (Phleum bertelonii), bent from the rain.

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October 02, 2005

Rossport Five

Grafitti on wall of Shell depot in Galway.

After ninety four days in jail, the Rossport Five were finally released from prison during the week. The final outcome of their protest against the Shell pipeline remains unresolved. As for the much anticipated debate on why new exploration licences are being offered with the same giveaway conditions as the Shell one, the silence has been deafening.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:21 PM | Comments (4)