Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kilkenny & Waterford, IE - 24 Aug 2011

We boarded the bus at 8:45 am and headed south toward the city of Kilkenny, one of the oldest in Ireland.  Along the way I scanned the countryside for recognizable birds: Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix), Rook, Swallows, Woodpigeon, Eurasian Collared Doves, Magpies and Jackdaws.  Birds of prey seemed to be largely absent, but I did manage to see a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) alongside the road.  While passing near County Wicklow I spotted a large harrier/kite w/ white wrist bands and am presuming it was a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - a reintroduced species in this region.

We entered Kilkenny and parked near the Kilkenny Castle (ca. 1195).  Robin and I walked into town and had lunch at the Marble City Tearoom on High Street.  We then walked around town before heading back to the castle.

Since we had a couple of hours, and weren't particulary interested in going inside the castle, we walked the grounds.  I took a few minutes, however, to get some pics of the historic structure, including this panorama from inside the courtyard.

Walking the grounds together, we scared up a single Robin from below one of the hedges, otherwise birds were scarce.  My Robin didn't want to go for a long hike, so we split up, and she stayed near the castle.  I took off along one of the paths toward the rear of the property where I finally had the chance to get some relatively decent images of the local Rooks (left) and Jackdaws (below).

Small flocks of each co-mingled on the lawn, and I was able to get fairly close before they flew off. 

I then headed to the wooded portion of the property, where I picked up the thin calls of a Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) and a couple of Blue Tits.  The small pond nearby proved quite productive, yielding a Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coots and Moorhens, and a pair of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea).  As I hiked around the pond I was able to spot a pair of Hooded Crows in the treetops, and a closer Magpie.  A single Coal Tit (Periparus ater) made a brief appearance but would not allow any pics.

Returning to the bus I walked into a nearby neighborhood and got quick pics of the ubiquitous Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and even saw some House Sparrows (Passer domesticus)!

We then boarded the bus and continued on to the town of Waterford.  We were here to tour the world famous Waterford Crystal Gallery and begin a two-night stay at the Granville Hotel.  The gallery was stunning, and watching the master craftsmen mould, blow, cut, polish, and engrave the signature glass was truly amazing.  I've generated a slide showing our tour through the facility - click on the image below to start the slide show!

click on image to start slideshow

After the tour, we then arrived at the historic Granville Hotel, situated along the River Suir.  Our room looked out over the river and the famous Clock Tower.  Here I was able to scan the river for Black-headed Gulls and the occasional Lesser Black-backed Gull.  We didn't dally long, though, since we had a walking tour of the city hosted by Jack. 

We first gathered in one of the large ballrooms, where Jack introduced himself and gave a brief history of the island.  Calling for volunteers, he recruited Robin and one of the other guests to portray Richard Fitzgilbert de Clare, aka "Strongbow" and his wife.

We then walked the town and got a brief history of some of the local historical buildings: The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, The Dominican Friary, Christ Church Cathedral, French Church of the Franciscans, and the famous Tower Hotel, or "Reginald's Tower".  Built in 1003 AD it is the oldest in-use building in the country!

With the tour over, I took the opportunity to walk along the river and look for birds.  I managed a few pics of one of the local Black-headed Gulls, but was hoping to get some images of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

I spotted a Herring Gull along the shoreline, and took a few images of it in the late afternoon sunlight.  This bird had 'blue' eyes, which is quite unusual (?).  Normally Herring Gulls have bright yellow eyes, while similar-looking Thayer's Gulls have dark brown eyes.  I've sent an image off to Ireland's bird-experts for comment...

Returning to the hotel we had a wonderful dinner with our guests.  It was then time to get some rest before another big day of touring.

More photos from today can be seen here.

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