Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blarney & Killarney, IE - 25 Aug 2011

Heavy rains greeted us this morning as we left Waterford and began a 2 hr drive to Blarney and its famed castle.  The rains didn't last long, but heavy clouds remained and limited the ability to photograph through the bus windows.  Still, not even the weather could dampen the beauty of the Irish countryside.  I decided to apply a watercolor filter to the images taken at 100kph to improve recovery rates.  Click on the image below to view a slideshow:

click on image to view slideshow
Highlights of the drive included passing through towns like Dungarvan and Youghal, coastal towns with large expanses of mudflats (low tide) that attracted birds like Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Common Gulls, Herring Gulls, Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus), Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Curlews (Numenius arquata), and Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo).  I managed a drive-by photo of a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) that was foraging close by as we passed over a bridge (see left).  I was disappointed at not being able to get close enough to ID the numerous 'peeps' that were also foraging, but Rebecca was tired of hearing me yell "Stop the Bus!".  My highlight bird, however, had to be a pair of Quail (Coturnix coturnix) that were crouched along a hedgerow among a flock of Rooks/Jackdaws. Of course, everyone enjoyed views of the numerous cows and sheep found along the way.

As we neared Blarney we passed through Cork, Ireland's 3rd largest city.  Robin got a kick out of hearing the story of Henry Ford's visit to Cork back in the early 1900's.  Having been met by dignitaries, Henry wrote a check for 5000 pounds toward a new hospital.  However, the next morning's paper wrote that Ford donated 50,000 pounds.  The paper offered to print a retraction, but Ford declined, offering to tear up the earlier check and write a new one for 50,000 pounds if he be allowed to place a quote over the entrance to the hospital, which then cost 50,000 to build.  They agreed, and to this day, when you enter the hospital in Cork you'll see a sign that reads: "I came unto you as a stranger and you took me in."

We arrived in Blarney shortly after 10 am and took a tour of the famous Blarney Castle.  Robin and I declined the climb to the citadel to kiss the famed "Blarney Stone", opting instead to walk the grounds and get some pics. The skies were dark, and it again began to rain, which added some additional mystique to the already, neat-looking structure.  Click on the image below for a short slide show of additional images:

click on image for slideshow
 We managed to duck into the gift shop just before the skies opened and produced an impressive hail storm. We made a run for the Lemon Tree Restaurant and had a late brunch before spending the next 1/2 hour or so walking around.  I managed to find a pair of Coal Tits foraging in a tree above, which look very similar to our Black-capped Chickadees here in the US.

From Blarney we rode another hour and a half to the city of Killarney and our next destinations: The Killarney Avenue Hotel and a tour of the Muckross House in Killarney National Park.  Once in Killarney, we left the bus and quickly jumped in horse-drawn carriages for a 'jaunt' downtown to the National Park and a tour of the Muckross House. 

 Along the way we passed some of Ireland's oldest breed of cows: Kerry Cows, the historic abby ruins, and some of the largest trees in the country.  The house itself was magnificent, and grounds were manicured to the nines.  We weren't allowed to photograph inside the house, but I managed to get quite a few images of the grounds:  Click on the image below for a short slideshow.

click on image for slideshow

I managed to see my first Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) of the trip.  The male is distinctive, but the female is very plain with just a greenish rump. I was lucky the two were together, or I'd never ID the latter.  Also seen were a pair of Pied Wagtails (Motacilla alba yarrelli) hopping around on the fron lawn.  The male was almost all black w/ its white head and bobbing tail. 

As we left the house and headed back to the bus, Robin spotted this cute little mouse nibbling on a gum wrapper.  It made no attempt to run as several of us hunched down to take its photo.

We returned to the hotel and prepared for wonderful dinner w/ the rest of our travel group.


Jeremy Medina said...

Wow, cool looking place!

Cathy Carroll said...

I'm Irish and have never been to Ireland. Until now, that is! I'm really enjoying your trip write-up and photos. I love the slide shows and the wide-angle landscapes. The way the clouds show up in your photos is beautiful.

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