Monday, September 5, 2011

Dublin, Day 1 - 22 Aug 2011

Between 21-30 Aug 2011 Robin and I vacationed on the Emerald Island of Ireland.  We had booked a tour through Collette Vacations' Shades of Ireland Tour, flying Aer Lingus Airlines, and making stops in Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Blarney, Killarney, The Ring of Kerry, Limerick, Adare, Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Tullamore, and Kingscourt.  We traveled with 43 other visitors, and were led by the phenomenal Rebecca Ann Bell, our tour manager.  Accommodations and meals were outstanding, weather couldn't have been better, and the beauty and peoples of Ireland did not disappoint.  Birding was strictly opportunistic (and successful!), yet I still managed to take almost 3000 photos during our 10-day sightseeing trip.  The following are highlights of each day's travel, with emphasis on birds when possible... Enjoy!

Day 1 - Chicago to Dublin - 21-22 Aug 2011

We flew from Detroit Metro Airport to Chicago's O'Hara International Airport via Spirit Airlines, arriving at 8 am.  Since our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin would not depart until 7 pm this evening, we spent the day in a room at the Chicago Hilton, immediately outside the airport.  The 8-hour flight, and 5-hour time difference between Chicago and Dublin brought us into Dublin Monday morning (22 Aug) right around 8 am.  Judy and Ken Ogier (Colorado Springs, Co) were also on the flight, and together the four of us collected our luggage and went to look for Rebecca, our tour manager.

Rebecca was waiting for us just outside the terminal, and directed us to the parking lot where we had a short wait for our bus.  Apparently flight delays would not be bringing the rest of our tour group into Dublin until well after noon, so it was just us, for now.  As we waited for the bus, I took the opportunity to scan the airport property for birds, finding a large flock of House Martins (Delichon urbicom) roosting on the control tower. I would also see the first of many Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus), Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) and Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) of the trip.

The bus arrived, and took us to the Trinity Capital Hotel in downtown Dublin.  The hotel was situated just across the street from Trinity College (est. 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I), and within walking distance of shops, museums and parks.  I was hoping to get a copy of Collins' Birds of Europe and Ireland, so Rebecca directed Robin and me to a couple of book stores just around the corner from the hotel.

Upon arrival to the hotel we immediately realized that we had the wrong converters for our electronics.  Ireland uses a 3-prong outlet, and we had brought the standard European 2-prong converters.  No problem, though, we were able to buy a couple of them from a vending machine in the hotel lobby.  In order to use electricity in the rooms our hotel keycards had to inserted into a special card slot, a good example of Ireland's committment to Green Energy.

With free time 'till 6pm, Robin and I headed out for bookstores and a bit of sightseeing.  We headed along Pearse, and College Streets that border Trinity College until we found a bookstore called Hodges Figgis.  They didn't have the Collins' guide, but I was able to pick up Dempsey  and O'Clery's "The Complete Field Guide to Ireland's Birds".  While there, Robin asked for a recommendation for a place to eat.

We then headed to Bewley's Cafe just up the street, where we split a an Irish breakfast of eggs, pudding, irish ham and bacon.  The interior was lovely, with stained glass windows and a very European atmosphere.

We then took a short walk down Grafton Street: a pedestrian-only market center of shops, restaurants, and boutiques that draws thousands daily.  These two of many street performers blended in well w/ the crowds!

Backtracking, we made our way toward Trinity College, where the Book of Kells were on display.  This early 9th Century book contains the oldest known copy of the 4 Gospels, and is lavishly illustrated using ancient colored pigments.  Some images of the book can be seen here.

We were then treated to a walk through the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library at Trinity College.  Photography was not permitted, but image walking through the great hall at Hogwarts, with thousands of ancient books and manuscripts lining gallery bookcases and barrel-vaulted ceilings.  14 marble busts guard the collection on either side of the hall. Click on the link above for a 360º panorama of the place (its worth the download wait).

Once the tour was finished, we split up - Robin heading back to the hotel, and me heading off toward the park to look for birds.  I made my way back down Grafton St., stopping along the way to get some photos of the crowds and atmosphere.

Kittycorner to the Stephen's Green Shopping Center lay the entrance to St Stephen's Green (est. 1663), a 22-acre park situated in the city-center.  Manicured lawns and a large canal brought large crowds of people from all directions.  I walked around, looking for birds. 

Carrying the D300 w/ the old Sigma 400/5.6 I finally got close enough to one of many local Magpies (Pica pica) foraging in the park. Rock Pigeons were also abundant and flocked to locals throwing away their scraps. The canal was productive, yielding a nice drake Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata), followed by Eurasian Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus).

Farther out, a male and female pair of (presumed) Tufted Ducks (Aythia fuligula) were courting. Dark backs and evidence of a tuft on the head differentiate these birds from similar-looking Greater Scaup, but a hybrid is possible.

Gulls were also present. I managed some nice closeups of the Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), which in their basic (winter) plumage look similar to our smaller Bonaparte's Gulls.  Note the bright red bills and feet.

European Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) were also present.  I photographed this adult bird and a 1st-winter juvenile bird near shore.

A single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) was also far out in the canal, and this was the closest I could get to it.  As I was walking out of the park I spotted a Robin (Erithacus rubicula) and a pair of Blue Tits (Cyanistes caerulens), but these birds were too high up in the canopy to get clear shots.

Leaving the park, I headed back toward Grafton St. and the hotel. 

Making use of slightly-better lighting, I cut through the courtyard of Trinity College with the hopes of getting some shots of the large bell-tower and architecture.

With the arrival of the rest of the guests, we loaded a bus at 6pm and headed off to the Manor House for dinner and old-fashion irish entertainment that included folk-singing and dancing.  The show was great, but looking around the room I could tell that everyone was suffering from almost 24-hrs of travelling.  Still, we had a great evening, and even got share stories w/ another tour group that had come from London and were essentially experiencing our itinerary backwards.

Tomorrow's itininerary includes a city tour of Dublin, followed by a tour of the Guinness factory!


Doriswampler0429 said...

Great photos as usual. Looks like a great place to be. So glad you and Robin could go.

Cathy Carroll said...

Jerry, our hotel in Sofia, Bulgaria also had that key card mechanism for triggering the room lights - an excellent reassurance that the lights are not on when on one is in the room. Once I learned how to turn on the lights, I thought it was great.

Jodi S. Greiner said...

Thanks for sharing Jerry! You were able to get alot better photos than I ever did. Hmmm, maybe it's time for a new camera.

Jodi S. Greiner said...

Thank you for sharing Jerry!
You were able to get a lot better photos that I did.Hmmm, maybe it's time for a new camera for me!

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