Once a northside Dub….
For anyone who has read my memoir, 'Don’t Die in Autumn', will know, I am a northside Dub to my core.
For those who are not from Dublin, let me explain. Like so many other cities around the world, there is often a friendly rivalry between certain sectors of counties and cities. Dublin is no different. In our beloved capital this is almost strictly on a ‘north side of the River Liffey’ or ‘south side of the River Liffey’ basis. The Liffey cuts the city and county in two. There are those who are northsiders and those who are southsiders…and for some, ‘never the twain shall meet’.
I was born and raised in Finglas in north Dublin. My parents are/were (my Dad has passed away) northsiders. My grandparents were northsiders. In fact it goes back many generations. So, I am not only a true Dub…I am a true northsider.
A Wicklow Man - sort of...
Having said all that, I am now very happily living within three minutes of the wonderful coastal wetlands of Newcastle in Wicklow. I have Red Kites flying over our home and Yellowhammers singing in our hedges. I am in a little piece of bird paradise and I love it.
I have spoken in other blogs this year about my twitching past and how I consider myself to be a recovering twitcher (who occasionally falls off the twitching wagon). I now love nothing more than birding in Wicklow and Wexford, enjoying the arrival of migrants, seeing woodpeckers and watching the feeders in the garden.
However, every now and then a bird turns up that stirs something in me…especially if that bird is in Dublin!
Time for a confession…I sort of keep a Dublin list – the birds I’ve seen in Dublin over the years. There are some good birds on that list…Radde’s and Pallas’s Warblers, Great White Egret, lots of shorebirds including Short-billed Dowitcher, gulls like Ross’s Gull…and lots more.
An Old Flame
A few weeks ago, news broke that a Firecrest was found at Swords in north Dublin. Firecrests are like exotic cousins to our smallest bird, the Goldcrest. They have a big supercilium (white stripe over the eye) and a gorgeously bright shoulder patch. The males show also a bright fire-red/orange crown crest (from where they get their name).
I have seen lots of Firecrests over the years. I saw my very first one on Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork in October 1979 (almost 37 years ago…now that is hard to believe!). They occur during migration seasons, most often in autumn but they sometimes even spend a winter.
I hadn’t seen a Firecrest in years…and I’ve never seen one in Dublin!
For several days, I was caught with work and found myself checking the news sites…the twitching fever building up as a day dawned when I was free to get northside. Driving up from Wicklow took only 45 minutes (by comparison to the five hours driving to get to Cork for the Glaucous-winged Gull).
I arrived to hear that the bird had not been seen for hours. That feeling of possibly missing out on a bird you really wanted to see hits hard. While others drifted off, showing me their wonderful images as they left, I remained behind. Birds came and went…every Goldcrest was checked.
Then, out of the depths of the trees and undergrowth emerged a beauty…showing off the flaming crown as it came out into the open. It flitted and danced around the trees, falling and rising with ease as it chased unseen insects. It was a thing of beauty.
I took a deep breath of north Dublin air and enjoyed this magical moment. Sometimes there’s nothing like coming back to your roots on every level.