Science & Nature

Oak Glen, Co Wicklow

My arms are around you, and I lean
Against you, while the lark
Sings over us, and golden lights, and green
Shadows are on your bark.

J M Synge, 1871-1909

Starling (Druid)

Common and widespread throughout Ireland, the opportunistic and adaptable Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is as much at home in town centres and suburban gardens as it is in parks and farmland.  Present year-round, our breeding population is supplemented in the winter by migrants from northern and central Europe.

Crab apple - Crann fia-úll

The crab apple (Malus sylvestris) is native here and in most of Europe. It can be seen mostly in hedgerows and around old farmsteads; the tree was an integral part of the oakwoods of old. Under the Brehon Laws it was designated a ‘Noble of the Wood' because of the importance of its fruits. Today, the fruits are used for making jelly, wine, cider and vinegar.  Care should be taken to study the crab apple as many of the trees regarded as crabs are garden escapees.

Ad Astra

Like the bow of a medieval ship, Blackrock Castle breasts the headwaters of the River Lee just five kilometres from the centre of Cork City. It was built in the 16th Century to defend the city from Barbary pirates, but the castle has found a new purpose for the 21st Century as a leading centre of astronomy and public outreach.

Ireland's unlikely mammal

Ireland has few land mammals, and it was believed that no voles existed here until their discovery in Kerry in 1964. The discovery was a mysterious one because bank voles like dense cover and are an unlikely candidate to steal away a ship bound for Ireland's west coast. Their arrival is most likely explained by the Shannon Scheme of the 1920s which involved mass transport of machinery, including whole railways, from Germany by sea.

The M3 heritage trail

The M3 motorway continues to reveal new archaeological wonders as its broad corridor progresses relentlessly through Tara's Gabhra Valley. In the townland of Lismullin alone, in an attempt to steer a course to avoid a known barrow, souterrain, monastic site and the strategically-placed fortification of Rathlugh (recently subject to a preservation order), the motorway route has inadvertently impacted on several other previously unrecorded and equally significant archaeological remains. These include a ring-barrow, a complex of souterrains and, of course, an Iron Age temple.

Art O'Neill Walk, Co Wicklow

In early January, robust hikers trek for over 50 km through the Wicklow mountains. The long walk starts at midnight on a weekend around 6 January from Dublin Castle to recall the escape from there of Red Hugh O'Donnell and Art O'Neill in the severe winter of 1592.

Nintendo Madness

The queues of stressed parents hoping to get the latest Christmas toy is a sight many associate with the crass commercialisation of the holiday. This year parents have opted out, leaving their children to scurry from shop to shop, searching for that gift that Mammy and Daddy cannot do without. Things have not changed too much, as this year's gift is again a computer console, but now these machines are being aimed at the older generation, who are eager to join the computer generation, but dislike fighting, shooting or pretending to be a monster.