November 29, 2006


The bane of illegal parking in Mayo continues. Gardai are investigating...Picture from a forthcoming gallery on the Westport Horse Festival in October.

Camera= Canon 5D, lens= Canon 24-105@32mm, ISO=400, aperture=f5, speed=1/800 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:37 PM | Comments (1)

November 27, 2006

Ladies Night

Somebody recently made an attempt to list all the Irish Wimmin of d'internet. It wasn't much of a list - only one photo site got a mention (Treasa , take a bow). It would hardly have taken too much research to discover that two of the short listed sites in the Photo category at the 2006 Photoblogs were women. Claire and Caitriona are both pretty busy people so there hasn't been too many photos of late, but check out their archives - lots of good stuff. Closer to home (i.e. Galway), Candid Soul has just launched her site. Actually, there's loads of Irish women take photos and posting them online, and Flickr is a good spot to start looking - Moya , Michelle , Lette , Red Mum and Julie .

The picture above is the view from the bird hide in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare - Gleninagh mountain and Black Head are to the left of the picture. Showers of hailstones and cold, cold rain ensured a morning of misery for me, and no snaps of wildlife. However, on the hill was a herd of wild goats, not visible in this wide-angle shot - they are a common enough site in the Burren but not easy to get close to. So congratulations to Joe Cashin - his Flickr photos of feral goats in Waterford were referenced in Michael Viney's Irish Times article on wild goats in Ireland.

Camera= Canon 350D, lens= Sigma 10-20@10mm, ISO=400, aperture=f16, speed=1/250 sec.

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Posted by Monasette at 10:43 PM | Comments (5)

November 26, 2006

Eyre Square

I'd like to think that the kicking that someone gave to the Santa ornament in Eyre Square, pictured on the front of the Galway Advertiser last week, was an impassioned protest against the overt commercialisation of the festival and a plea for a return to a more spiritual emphasis of its celebration. Except we all know that it was probably the work of the Buckfast-fuelled hoodies that haunt the Square like a bad smell.

Christmas decorations in the middle of November ? I give up. My pity goes out to the workers in Dunnes Stores who have had to listen to Christmas tunes piped through the store since the beginning of this month. I have a sneaking feeling that, when asked what they'd like as a Christmas present, the severed heads of Cliff Richard and Noddy Holder will feature prominently as an answer. A guy in a shop yesterday apologised to me when All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth came on, and blamed 'the other guy' for switching the CDs (nice try, buddy). If the author of that 'tune' walked into Dunnes anytime in the next month, I'd say he'd be lucky to come out with any teeth.

But enough of this Bah Humbug stuff. On a crisp Friday night, the lights did indeed look nice, and there were lots of people [including tourists over on a Thanksgiving break] admiring them and taking pictures. Click here for a small gallery of the Eyre Square Xmas lights. I'm using the build-in Flash gallery generator in Photoshop which is rubbish but the only one I've got - hence the dodgy format of the gallery pages.

Camera= Canon 5D, lens= Canon 75-300@170, ISO=200, aperture=f7.1, speed=1/15 sec, tripod.

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Posted by Monasette at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2006

Rusheen Bay

Moonrise over Rusheen Bay at the start of the month.

There's a bit of a kerfuffle over the wind-surfing centre at Rusheen Bay. The bay is the sheltered stretch of water behind the cliff at Silver Strand - it's ideal for windsurfing since the water is usually relatively calm, and it's impossible to be washed out to sea (always a useful quality for watersports). Anyway, the centre consists of a few metal cargo containers along the shoreline which act as the 'office'/storage sheds for the windsurfing gear. However, there was no planning permission for the containers, and the City Council has ordered their removal. According to the Galway Independent, an objection to the structures came from a bird-watcher, and one from outside the parish at that.

Apparently, the birdwatcher claimed that windsurfing was endangering the bird population, and that some of the surfers were urinating into the water. Hmmm. The night I took the picture above, there was a heron standing about 20 yards away, and a couple of curlews feeding just out of sight - they weren't in the least bit worried about me, the dog splashing about and fetching sticks from the water nearby , or the cider-drinking youngsters in the field beside the shore. And the birds are just as unperturbed by the pony-trekkers who patrol the shoreline in the summer or, for that matter, any of the windsurfers I ever saw using the bay. anyway, the best time to watch the birds is early in the morning or sunset, and the surfers are such a bunch of stoners that they don't hit the water 'til after lunch at the earliest [just kidding, lads]. As for the , ahem, urine, the whole city was dumping into the water until the Mutton Island treatment plant opened , and the birds did just fine. And , while one doesn't want to dwell on such matters, waste pipes actually attract some birds.

There's surely some room for compromise. The windsurfing centre won't be the first amenity to set up first, and look for planning permission afterwards, and it won't be the last. The surfers tend to use the left side of the bay, and the birds naturally favour the right, where there are more mudflats [and where the bird observation point is located]. Failing that, the owner will just have get more windsurfers in bikinis out on the bay, and make it a tourist attraction. He might need to get some of the lads to wax first, mind.

Camera= 5D, lens=24-105@105, ISO=125, aperture=f11, speed=1/2 sec, filter = (0.3 + 0.6 + 0.9 Lee soft grad grey - yes, that's 6 stops), tripod.


Posted by Monasette at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)


Another sign of an oncoming winter - a goldfinch munching seeds from thistles.


Posted by Monasette at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2006

On the Waterfront

Seaweed and spray sent flying by the waves at the Blackrock diving board at the end of Salthill Promenade late this afternoon. A high tide and strong winds sent waves crashing onto the road all along the promenade . Ryan was here last week and took this photograph.

Evelyn Cusack of Met Eireann didn't mince her words on her 9am radio broadcast this morning. It's literally the calm before the storm, she warned, storms will sweep in from the south by midday. Actually, it was more like the eye of the storm - on Saturday evening, a huge hailstorm had dumped half an inch of ice on Galway within ten minutes, followed by icy showers throughout the night. I had been feeling a little guilty for not joining my fellow walkers on a stroll around Killary, but not any more. My plan had been to drive out to Coole Park, take some pictures of the Autumn colours, and be back in the city by lunchtime. Alas, the rains arrived by 10 am so that was that.

There was no problem getting a table in the rather nice café in the Galway City Museum in the afternoon - there was only a handful of souls that braved the gale-driven rain to pop into the museum and look at the photo exhibitions. I was a tad disappointed by the Omey Island exhibition by French photographer Nicholas Feve. The pictures, almost all of which are hand-printed limited edition black & white prints, very much portray a dead island. But people still tend their houses on Omey (even if they don't live there full time) and every summer, the island bursts into life and heartily embraces its past - the beach race at low tide. It's an event that very much symbolises the duality of that island's existence - at high tide, it is an island, cut off and enclosed. But at low tide, it is reclaimed by the mainland. The beach race is itself a race - a race against the tide. None of this is captured in the exhibition. [ Omey Island Race 2005 , Omey Races 2006 ]

I couldn't believe it when I saw a woman preparing to have a swim near the diving board at Blackrock in Salthill. I followed her, figuring I'd be giving the pictures to her next of kin. Thankfully, she didn't go too far - she took a few steps down the walkway visible in the picture, clinging onto the yellow handrail [just visible in the picture above, on the right], got tossed about a bit, and stumbled out again. The smell from the sea is not just salt and seaweed - it smells suspiciously of sewage as well. Not a good time for a swim, even if the sea was a lot calmer.

There is also an exhibition of pictures of Chicago on the top floor - well worth seeing. I was thinking, while sipping coffee in the café, it was a pity that the café wasn't on the top floor - there's a great view of the Claddagh from there. Another place with a view of the water is Padraigín's [or O'Conaire's] , down in the Docks. It has been transformed into a continental-style bar; a menu of nice wines by the glass, fine food and coffees available until almost closing time & and a very cosmopolitan crowd. Well, cosmopolitan compared to the previous crowd, who tended to totter in around 7am and roll home around lunchtime [not that I'd know anything about that myself, y'understand].

Waves crashing against the embankment in Salthill (near the diving board) late this afternoon.

P.S.You can see folks diving at Blackrock in this YouTube video clip (be sure to mute your PC first).

All pictures - Camera = Canon 350D , lens = Canon 24-105mm, ISO=400, aperture=f4, speed=1/200 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 09:37 PM | Comments (3)

November 16, 2006

Flower Power

A Small White butterfly sways in the breeze as it feeds on the ubiquitous Herb Robert flower, a member of the geranium family.

There's been a bit of a change at the top in the Galway Camera Club, so congratulations to Trevor and Sean as the new chairman and vice chairman respectively [and congrats to Sean on his Ryan Adams photoshoot for the NME]. The session tonight was to allow newish photographers to show their stuff, and there was a cracking exhibition from Mark and Enda , amongst others.

One of the highlights of this year in the club was Mike Brown's presentation. He has a new book - Images of Irish Nature - out, and would make a great present for Xmas (and it is already 'booked' as one of my Xmas pressies). If you're interested in the same stuff as myself [and why would you come here otherwise?] you could do worse than get some off my reference list - Cary Meehan's "Sacred Ireland", Mary Mulvihill's "Ingenious Ireland" and Michael Viney's "Ireland - A Smithsonian History". Go on, get them all.

P.S.There's a photo exhibition of Omey Island down in the new Galway City Museum at the Spanish Arch - the photographer will be speaking about his work between 2pm and 5pm tomorrow.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@105mm, ISO=250, aperture=f8, speed=1/200 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 11:45 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2006

Slippery customer

A frog in the hand is worth ...? Little'un found on the Sheefry Hills in Mayo on the day that Kerry put paid to their dreams of an All-Ireland Football win this year.

Camera = Canon 350D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@24mm, ISO=400, aperture=f6.3, speed=1/400 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2006

The Road Never Sleeps

One of the many - a tanker of bitumen is guided against the dock in Galway Harbour late on Saturday night. It's contents will be pumped into the Cold Chon tanks in the harbour - then repumped into trucks for distribution to make tarmac for roadbuilding and other construction projects around the country.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@67mm, ISO=800, aperture=f5.6, speed=1/3 sec, tripod.


Posted by Monasette at 11:47 PM | Comments (2)

A Sting in the Tail

I was in a graveyard last week, and noticed a struggle on one of the gravestones. A wasp had attacked a fly - the wasp was attempting to grab the fly by the head to sting it. The fly's only defence was to attempt to dislodge the wasp by flying/buzzing about in a spin. Just as it looked like the wasp was about administer the fatal blow, the fly broke free and hid in a crevice in a gravestone.

In the second photo, you can see the wasp hovering over the crevice - in fact, you can also see one of the fly's wings - the fly remained perfectly still until the wasp went in after it. The fly, emerged out with a bent wing, flew off while the wasp nosed about in the crevice. When it too emerged, it hovered about the gravestone for a few minutes before giving up.

Wasps are particularly bad-tempered at the moment - impending death will do that to an insect.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@105mm, ISO=640, aperture=f4, speed=1/500 sec (both pics).


Posted by Monasette at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

Enemies of the state

It's all gone a bit Starsky and Hutch recently in the West. Last month, a man in Gort barricaded himself into his house with a gun. After taking potshots at Gardaí outside from the house, he emerged to be shot and wounded by a police marksman. Ironically, this incident was a virtual repeat of the Abbeylara incident in Longford, where John Carty was shot and killed by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) when he emerged from his house with a shotgun after a seige. The subsequent judicial inquiry into the killing found many flaws in Garda procedures and recommended that the ERU use non-lethal weapons to incapacitate suspects. In the Gort case, a so-called bean bag round was fired at the suspect but didn't stop him. Hence the use of the live round - it is not known if the bean bag round missed the target or just was ineffectual [another recommendation of the Abbelylara enquiry was better markmanship training for the ERU. Explanation of beanbag rounds here ].

Meanwhile, up the road in Loughrea, a Garda sergeant was waiting in the queue in his local bank when two armed raiders burst in. He tackled them, arresting one while the other one legged it.

But the main action is up in north Mayo, where a huge force of Gardaí are engaged in a daily confrontation with protestors against the Shell pipeline and pumping station under construction at Bellanaboy. It's getting progressively more nasty, with Gardaí wielding batons at locals blocking the entrance of the construction site, and several of the protestors have ended up in hospital already.

Predictably , the involvement of Sinn Fein has enabled the government to dismiss the protestors - Michael McDowell condemned the protests with "Provo tactics won't work ". Funnily enough, no-one much cared when protestors of another controversial construction - the Greenstar landfill site in east Galway - were at the receiving end of "Provo tactics". One of the objectors to the dump had a dummy bomb placed outside his front door, but unsurprisingly, government ministers, or indeed the Sunday Independent couldn't quite work themselves in to the same lather of indignation as they have for the shenanigans in north Mayo.

The danger is that the protest will escalate to the point where someone is badly injured or killed. Alas, it looks like the Mayo protest is futile - Shell would have built the pumping station offshore if the Government had insisted upon it, but that would have required a Minister that possessed something resembling a spine. Ultimately, it would have been all the same to Shell - every single penny in construction cost is tax-deductible, so they could have coated it in gold leaf and still made money. That can also sell every kilo of gas that they take from the Corrib Field to continental Europe if the price is right. Even now, with fossil fuels at record price levels, the Government is still auctioning off exploration rights with no royalty payments and a 100% tax write off of construction costs.

Sign on house in Killala, north Mayo.

You'd think that the opposition would have a field day, but that would assume that there are vertebrates there too. North Mayo is in the constituency of the leader of the Opposition, Enda Kenny, but he's been remarkably quiet on the issue on his doorstep. The Fine Gael Energy Plan doesn't deal with the issue of the resources we actually have - just lots of aspirational stuff about resources we should have - in other words, there's a big focus on hot air, ahem, wind power.

As usual, not a single lesson learned from a bad situation. Welcome to Ireland.


Posted by Monasette at 09:57 PM | Comments (1)

November 08, 2006

Playboy of the Western World

Exactly as I found it, this glove on a fence post in Kerry is either intended to be a victory sign (and why not, after the hammering they gave Mayo in September) or a local tribute to Hugh Hefner.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@380mm, ISO=400, aperture=f9, speed=1/500 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 07:38 PM | Comments (2)

November 06, 2006


Blue tit (parus caeruleus/Meantán Gorm) just outside Ballinasloe, Co. Galway last weekend.

We've had the first real bout of frost in the west last week, and along with the clocks going back an hour, it finally feels like Winter is arriving. I was watching whooper swans foraging on a turlough over the weekend - they've just arrived from northern, colder climes.

Blue Tits doesn't migrate anywhere over the winter - they are frequent and acrobatic visitors to bird feeders in many a back garden (you can hear their birdsong here). Their colourful plumage will brighten up many a dull winter morning, and not just for us humans. Studies show that male Blue Tit plumage is similarly attractive (to female Blue tits anway) in the ultra-violet part of the light spectrum too (birds can see in UV light), and their UV plumage signature changes dramatically during the winter months. As usual, the females like the shiny bright ones better than the dull ones...isn't that always the way...

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=400, aperture=f6.3, speed=1/400 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 10:34 PM | Comments (2)

November 05, 2006

Mea Culpa

There has been plenty of activity in Fort Hill cemetery this week. There was a funeral there on Tuesday, and today was cemetery Sunday. It has a long history - Spaniards 'rescued' from the Armada are buried there (once they were executed first, of course). The week of Halloween and All Souls seems an appropriate time to honour and remember the dead. And better still, just by turning up, you earn a Plenary Indulgence.

What's a Plenary Indulgence, exactly ? Well, if you are a Roman Catholic, you pay for sins in two ways - once you die, you end up either in Hell (very bad) or in Purgatory (not great but at least there's some hope of escape). Before you die, you might also pay for your sins through having something bad happen to you (though if the various well-fed individuals emerging from the various corruption Tribunals in Ireland are anything to judge, God really hasn't been following up on this too closely). A Plenary Indulgence allows one to perform a good deed, as specified by the Church, and "earn some time off for good behaviour" from your stint in Purgatory, or from suffering in this life.

Now, it's not like Jesus spelled all of this out in a sermon - the administration of Indulgences was, ahem, derived by the Church over centuries. Crusaders were able to earn Plenary Indulgences by slaughtering their way to Jerusalem and back. And bishops found the granting of indulgences particularly lucrative - as an example, the Abbey in Clontuskert, in east Galway, was rebuilt after the local bishop announced 10-year indulgences to anyone who contributed to the rebuilding fund. It was this sort of activity that drove Martin Luther to kick-start the Reformation.

Today, the list of activities that can earn you an indulgence are a bit more spiritual - declaring jihad or swinging dodgy planning permission decisions don't feature prominently. Instead, the focus is on wholesome activities, like praying for the dead at cemeteries, going to Mass or praying for the Pope (which, given that the Pope grants the indulgence, seems like a conflict of interest). I can see I've missed a golden opportunity here - I've visited loads of cemeteries in the last year or two (and I've got photographic evidence to prove it!). If only I'd prayed more when I was there… I could have amassed enough bonus points to absolve me of a killing spree or… well, attending a few Fianna Fáil Ardfheiseanna anyway.

Even though my wanderings bring me to many an old cemetery, it's been a while since I visited the one near my homeplace, which I did recently. I mentioned to my Dad at dinner that night how unsettling it is to walk through a graveyard when one recognizes some of the names on the headstones.

He was not terribly sympathetic to my plight. "How do you think I feel?", came the reply, "I know all of them".

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 24-105mm@93mm, ISO=160, aperture=f8, speed=1/8 sec, tripod.


Posted by Monasette at 05:49 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2006

The Nutcracker

Has anyone else noticed how many berries are still on the trees ? Holly trees are still dripping with berries - that's either a sign on a hard winter or a mild autumn, or something in between. I suspect that it's a sign that there is so much food about for birds that they haven't got around to stripping the trees of fruit yet.

There's plenty of other food about, too. This Great Tit spent a profitable afternoon munching on Beech kernels last week. These birds increase their body weight until mid-winter - it begins to decrease as the food sources disappear. Even on a good day, this little ball of fluff has it's work cut out to ensure that it builds up enough reserves to make it through the night. Already, this bird has beaten the odds - it was probably part of a brood that numbered 8 to 10 eggs. At this stage, it probably has maybe two or three siblings still alive. The winter looms - it will take its toll.

Camera = Canon 5D , lens = Canon 100-400mm@400mm, ISO=320, aperture=f5.6, speed=1/320 sec.


Posted by Monasette at 11:52 PM | Comments (5)

Take the money and run

The citizens of An Daingean voted to restore the town's English name of Dingle last week. Well, they changed it to Dingle Daingean Ui Chuis which should confuse everyone. One of the reasons for the change was that tourists would be confused by the newly-changed road signs. Having just driven around the area last weekend, they need not have worried. There's no bloody signs in any language!

It won't matter - roadsigns will still use the Irish name only. Why can't they use the name Dingle if they want ? Because the Minister for the Gaeltacht (Eamonn O Cuiv) has spent a great deal of time and effort persuading his government colleagues that the Gaeltacht areas of the country deserve the level of funding and support that they receive. In turn, the Government has spent a similar amount of effort persuading their European colleagues that the Gaeltacht areas are also deserving of European Union largesse.

And the price to be paid in return ? Well, it would help if the good folk of Gaeltacht areas gave the impression that they actually used Irish as a language. And part of that is to use Irish place names, and not rely on the English ones. For the vast majority of An Gaeltacht areas, that's not a problem. It was in Dingle. Maybe they'll give their Gaeltacht cash to some of their neighbours who can still find their way home using an Irish signpost ? What do you think ?

Posted by Monasette at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)