Urban Flora and Fauna Hunt 23rd Oct 2014

Urban Flora and Fauna Hunt

Natural History Museum 2pm 23rd Oct 2014

The weather favoured us, a fine autumnal afternoon in Dublin. The point of departure was the affectionately know ‘Dead Zoo’ or Natural History Museum by Frederick Clarendon on Merrion St. The location, housing stuffed specimens ranging from beetles to badgers, was apt for our mission, to detect urban flora and fauna on route to the LAB in Foley St.

A crowd of about 20 gathered noting first the wealth of leaf motif detail on Frederick Clarendon’s building. Merrion St and Merrion Square host a good range of trees, ash and sycamore shedding their leaves as we leave the Museum grounds.

Of course the park is home to an expected selection of deciduous trees but we are on the hunt for the lesser spotted so we gave it a nod and moved on.

As we walk on north bound we spot a shamrock motif repeating itself on the wrought iron railings and lampposts, maybe something to do with our proximity to Leinster House.  Buddleia, fern and dandelion sprouting at the base of the occasional lamp post, railing or step act as a nice foil to the well groomed formality of Merrion Square.

Domestic railings  (as opposed to institutional railings) poised on lion’s claws form grand surrounds to the rows of townhouses. Rounding Clare St towards Kildare St we act on Rickie’s suggestion that we check out some feral stonework on the Alliance Francais building.  En route we note carved garlands of fictitious fruits adorning the façade of the Lincoln’s Inn on Lincoln place.  Twists of steel suggest a young leaf on a well-crafted wrought iron cellar grill to our left. People are starting to look up and down now.

We arrive at Alliance Francaise in all its Byzantine splendor (designed by Thomas Newemham Dean and Benjamin Woodward). We are not disappointed. The premises, the former Kildare Street Lords Club and one time bastion of the Ascendency, reposes on the corner of Nassau and Kikdare St. Pillars are topped with exquisitely carved acanthus leaves and tailed with a menagerie of mischievous animals encircling their bases. This is the work of stone mason brothers John and James O'Shea.

Highlights include musical shrews and billiard playing monkeys. It is rumored that the stonemasons’ services were dispensed with because irreverence and irony were not on the club’s menu. A crouching and now headless devil figure gives for a last ironic nod to the building’s past.

We proceed on down Nassau St as various people discussed the merits of cutting through Trinity to take in its grounds and landscaping but also in search of some more hidden gems. We clock another abundantly adorned stone doorway on the corner of Nassau St and

For starters Denise draws our attention to ‘Invasion’, a show by Lois Weinberge at the Douglas Hyde Gallery on Trinity’s grounds. 45 leathery bracket mushrooms cling tenaciously to the spartan walls of the smaller gallery. They will be there until 3rd December.

We cross Fellow’s Square on our way to another Newemham Dean and Woodward building. The Museum Building is laden with opulent stone carved decorative motifs by the masons John and James O'Shea who again surpass themselves. The carvings are in keeping with their interest in the activities of animals and depict scenes from Aesop’s Fables and imagery relating to Darwin's Theory of Evolution. This is also home to the skeleton of a Red Deer. Its towering form greets you as you enter the building. Other treats include a giant ammonite fossil casually leaning against the base of the sweeping stone stairway.

Time is pressing on, there is still a herb garden in the grounds of Trinity at the rear of the Science Gallery before we see what offerings the Liffey and its environs have for us. 

Despite this we take a minute out to savour a small quiet Rose Garden and are rewarded with a fungus, which we couldn’t identify, growing at the base of a cherry tree. There is also a type of wishing tree here votivelly strewn with reddish pink ribbons. People speculated that it was decked out for cancer awareness day.

Moving on we reach the herb garden where the herbs were identified with English and Latin markers. Some, perhaps overcautious, signage warned that the plants are poisonous, but there are plenty of kitchen garden staples there such as Rosemary and Thyme. A growing apothecary for both the scholarly and culinary minded.

One of our company finds a small, recently nibbled crab apple, squirrels perhaps? We pour out onto Pearse St and head down Lombard St. We pass a dog walker and her small dog clad in pink gingham. A coincidental but battered sign reminds us of the consequences of not cleaning up dog poo.

A pair of clay pigeons are perched symmetrically on 2 window ledges and then we hit the City Quay. Sean O’ Casey Bridge is undergoing renovation so we follow the keys down towards Talbot Memorial Bridge taking in the seaweed clad tidal zone of the Liffey and some surprisingly lichen clad trees.

Moss grows between the landscaped cobbles near the junction of moss St. A cordyline in a front garden is flanked by buddleia overhanging a neighbouring wall. Time to head over the bridge, taking in the lion and unicorn heraldry on the Custom House as we go.

North Side, nearly back now. Weeds are beating laurels in a growth battle outside the AIB International Centre. I had never quiet taken in the colourful, styalised leaf motifs across the road on Michael Scott’s Busarus roof top overhangs. 

Amiens St brings us to Talbot St. where a new second hand shop stocks a menagerie of brass. A camel catches our eye.  We cant leave the urban setting without siting and recording at least one pigeon. Its getting bracing now we welcome our warm return to the LAB on Foley St.

Marker Map, 18th June 2014, Ulster Museum 11.00 am -12.30 pm (a Mapping Alternative Ulster event with Garrett Carr)

This was a walk to produce a live map on a 1:1 scale, of the walk, on the walk by all the participants! We negotiated a route together then left small visual markers at intervals, like a trail, which an be followed by others. These mapped out a route as we went 

The route take the form of a geometric abstract cross shape agreed by all participants in advance of the walk. We set ourselves a near impossible mission and tried to draw this shape through walking, talking and tagging but were diverted down alleys and through service yards in our attempt to stick to straight lines. Our walk was so convoluted in our attempt to stick to a geometric route that it transpired to be actually unmappable!

This walk was an event as part of the exhibition Mapping Alternative Ulster curated by Garrett Carr http://www.mappingalternativeulster.net 

Vernacularisms 2 with Jason O' Rourke 11 am outside Crown Bar 23rd Nov 2013

Vernacularisms 2 with live readings by Jason O Rourke took in a few city centre jems. You can read them all here

Great Victoria St., assemble outside Crown Bar

'Happy Birthday'

Royal Avenue

'Consuming Passions'
Bank Square
'Those were the days'
'The Cat's Whiskas'

Rosemary St

'Sweet Rosemary' http://vernacularisms.com/2012/11/13/sweet-rosemary/

Lombard St

'Dirty Bomb' http://vernacularisms.com/2013/04/24/dirty-bomb/

finishing in Arthur Square

'Choir of Angels

CROW Goes A Gathering Nuts in October

View CROW Goes a Gathering Nuts in October in a larger map
A late start, the motorway is closed so some of our possy are stuck en route to our starting point at Cutter’s Warf car park. Kevin, the forester with his knowledge of trees and stash of threaded conkers, is in that car, so we wait for a while but than start slowly walking so that they can catch up, they are on their way.

The kids are excited and scan the ground, their first haul is some fallen crab apples, they collect plenty but the apples are probably past their best and unsalvageable for anything edible, we bag them non the less.

What looks like hawthorn is spotted, but it could be blackthorn, we will consult Kevin for clarification later and walk on seeing what else we can identity in our enthusiasm.

The eagle-eyed kids are first to spot the next seedy thing, ‘helicopters’ from sycamores, they hold them high and watch them propel downward before putting them our bag of seedy treasure.

We find willow in fruit with jewel like ruby red egg shaped berries, tempting looking, but thankfully even the young children know better than to risk eating them. Into the bag they go!  Ivy in flower entangles the base of a snowberry bush. I recall being 6 when a kid shoved one of its snow whit berries in my ear, still a vivid memory, I can still hear it pop. Simon recalls kids doing this and the peculiar pop the berries make. We find another little dried up trench lined with fallen and pitted crab apples, the kids scramble to gather them up.  Simon spots some rose hips near the crab apple tree and jumps the ditch to get some. Our bag is filling up with autumn’s fallen bounty.

Spirits are high and a child throws the frisbee triumphantly, it lands in a water filled ditch, Simon comes the rescue leaning in to get it held from falling in by Helen.

The kids have already moved on having spotted banks of Himalayan Balsam. They can’t resist testing its springy seed scattering mechanism. They hold the pods in their hands which instantly pop, unfurl and scatter their pay load, stimulated by a small amount of body heat.

‘Old Mans Beard’ clads tree trunks along the riverbank, the air is clean here.  We spot some vetch, a type of wild pea, in the hedgerow amongst nettles. It’s a bit shriveled, had to spot and beyond good eating now. Other edibles include some late blackberries not yet ripened. They’ll hardly ripen now the fruit on the branch next to them is already shriveled.

There is gorse too but before we get to far into a discussion of where the northern name whin and the western name gorse come from the second half of our posy arrive with forester Kevin bearing pre threaded conkers  (from the batch donated by Alastair) as there are no horse chestnuts here.  A game of conkers ensues with Simon and Helen giving the younger kids tips on good conker technique.

Heading on Kevin helps us identify a range of species, Beach & Silver Birch behind a bank of Poplars’, tall majestic but in all probability no more than 30 yrs old.  We find a hazel nut tree and search for hazel nuts but the squirrels beat us to it, this is squirrel heaven. There is a puffball mushroom here too, we surmise how good it would be to be able to confidently identify and gather mushrooms for the pan but no point taking stupid risks.

There are Oaks here too; acorns from Sessile or Irish oaks were one of the key objectives of the walk. Kevin points out there is nothing particularly ‘Irish’ about these oaks as they are a native species right across Europe but speculates that they became associated with the Irish at the time of the Plantation an planters saw the ‘native’ Irish move onto more boggy land where these trees commonly grew. We bag a few acorns whilst Kevin further explains how Sessile (meaning without stem from the Greek) refers not to the stem of the leaf but rather the lack of stem leading to the Sessile Oak’s acorn, in contrast to the Pedunculate Oak, which has a stem at the base of its acorns. We find samples of both here.

Further up the path we veer off to where we know that there is some very old oak. Simon scans for and finds an oak apple on one tree. The children crowd around in wonder as he splits it open to reveal the parasitic grub within. This one is rotten but we soon find another in good condition, which does not disappoint as they see the tiny grub cocooned within.

Kevin spots the largest of the oaks and measures its girth with a steel take measure which has a horseshoe nail at its end to anchor it to the tree as he passes its impressive circumference. It exceeds 4 meters.

Some more clambering exploring and chat and its time to head home. The temperature is dropping, the kids are tiring and even the dog is flagging. We head back having had a bountiful autumn day before the evening starts to really draw in.

Stranmillas Embankment car park Satruday 12th October 2.00pm


Teann CROW A Bailleadh Cnoanna í Mí Deireadh Fomhair

Aibí - Ripe
Aibigh  - Ripen
Beith Gheal - Birch
Bláth – Flowe
Caorthann – Rowan / Mountain Ash
Caonach / Carraigín  - Moss
Ceap - Trunk
Cliabh - Hurdle
Coll – Hazel
Coill – Wood
Coilte – Woods
Coilteoir – Forester
Craobh – Branch
Craobhóga - Twigs
Crann – Tree
Crann Creathach – Aspen
Crann Sleamhain Hornbeam
Crann Cnó Capall  - Horse Chestnut
Cnó Coill – Hazelnut
Cuillean - Holly
Dara – Oak
Dair Ghaelach – Seissle Oak
Dearcán   - Acorn
Duille - Leaf
Duilleach - Leafy
Deilig – Thorn
Deilgneach - Thorny
Fearnóg - Alder
Féith - Vein
Fómhar  - Harvest
Fuinseog – Ash
Gas - Stem
Garrán – Grove
Geag - Branch
Iúr –Yew
Planda – Plant
Ros Choill - Copse
Saileach - Sally / Willow
Síol - Seed
Tor – Bush
Toradh – Fruit