After the Dogs have gone…

The three pillars

As predicted last week,this week turned into another shitshow with a project I had founded and worked on for three years imploding…sigh. So this week was a lot about handling stress levels again. Running, resting, eating, working out, driving like a maniac to Woodies to shop for random, unneeded, kitchen utensils.

On Wednesday I ran with a heart rate monitor for the first time. I was only out the gate when a bin lorry honked me and pulled over, the driver starting to try and talk to me. Jesus wept. I could be at the north bloody pole and someone would appear to wreck my head. It’s enraging how bad times seem to attact such negative energy as if to taunt you into full battle warp spasm. I had to postpone the run until the idiot in question had left the road. It was just a 20 minute run and not very hard, but when I checked my heart rate against a chart it was my maximum heart rate for my age which I think means my heart was on the brink of exploding. Looks like I am going to have to start running like a ‘pussy’. Later in the week I did a slow 20 minutes and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. After 15 years, I think I may have cracked running – I was making too much of an effort. Story of my life.

Puddly evening road

Later in the afternoon went for a walk with my binoculars to my ‘whalegate’. Finally I started to feel relaxed. Then the dogs came. Mr. Entitled-New-To-The-Area- Arse-Face had walked his dogs up the road from his house and let them out in the fields by the cliffs. Again. Can’t be having all that shit on his doorstep I suppose nor all that pesky wildlife, not in a Special Protected Area. Maximum heart rate. Again.

The farmer passing in his car, pulled over to chat. He had been down in the woods that morning and was delighted to see how many wee birds were down there. Bullfinch and goldfinch particularly. The chaffinches he noted were making a comeback after a sparse few years. We discussed the rabbits and he said there were one or two still about but the foxes are now scarce. The foxes here like seagulls – in a culinary way – but seabirds have been decimated by avian flu in the last year. The dogs running about the cliffs where their den was can’t be helping the fox population either. I asked if we had any badgers about. I have never heard of one here, but he surprised me when he said he thought one had passed through last summer. I like the way he is a sort of concierge for the feathered and furry of the area.

Red Shank

Further down the road I saw three rabbits feeding on some new green shoots and in another field three, no four, more rabbits taking flight. Unusually a Red Shank, usually seen on the shore, was wandering around alone in the mucky tractor ruts. I turned back into the purple dusk and felt better than I had for a while. Maybe it was walking in the near dark, in the in-between time and feeling that here no more catastrophes can reach me. Or knowing there were still some animals about after the dogs had gone.

I know the dog owners get upset about anyone saying anything bad about their darling Fidos – “OH MY GOD!! How could anyone not LOVE MY FIDO!” – so I will say I know cats are an issue for wildlife too and there are cats everywhere around here at the moment. I love cats in a way I can’t love the ever-needy dogs but I don’t want them eating my birdies so I chase them off and yell “HEY Catso!I see you!” out various windows at intervals. Most of the cats are black and white farm cats, all probably interrelated, however I saw an unusual lady in the ditch this week. Check out the photo gallery…

A day or so later I walked to a nearby beach. On the way I met and chatted to an old friend with whom I once campaigned against a massive and very stupid development in these parts. We won but as for so many, it took a lot out of him and he is not interested any more – though the windfarms do concern him. We both are feeling at this stage that (unintelligent) development, small and large, is inevitable and basically the next generation can suck it up. We won’t be here. I went onto the beach and trying my best to ignore all the bad dog owners – offleash, shitting everywhere (and the dogs too) – I stuck my legs in the water up to my knees. So cold, so good. I have been neglecting my sea swimming and I must get back into it. On the way home I ran into another old friend with whom I used to swim and who was involved in that same campaign I mentioned. I told her about all the whales and dolphins I had seen in recent months as we strolled for a bit together and she said,

“We are really lucky to live here aren’t we?”

And in the moment I had to agree.

*I was also called out to get tissue samples from a very long dead dolphin on Friday. Sadly (not really) I was working and had to decline.

Rural Dusk

The Cunnigar

I wrote this last Monday and hoped that the day out would reset things but I seem to be in an ongoing rough spot. Stress levels up to eleven and people triggering me left right and centre. They (all the people) seem to be acting the maggot. Or perhaps it’s me. I can’t be sure. And, unwisely checking my email last night (don’t do this thing!), I know I am looking down the barrel of another stupid week. Hope you enjoy the walk at least.

On Monday I took a trip to the west of the county. I am very familiar with this road from the time of my MA five years ago – five years!I truly cannot believe it. The past accumulates faster and faster now, and the weight of it is the difference between feeling young and feeling old. Back then ( but it was only yesterday!) I split my year between Waterford and Cork to complete an intense MA in Art & Process. As I passed the petrol station where I used to stop for tea and donuts, I thought of my class mate, Breda, who would break her much longer journey to rural Wexford here. Breda, elegant, always soft spoken but precise and clear with it, was a warm and kind woman. An old school feminist with strong beliefs in women’s rights and solidarity, she could be quite fiery when it was demanded. She wanted to be a painter and she worked hard at it and I had no doubt she would follow it to the end. She was hugely supportive and with her help I was able to muddle my hard of hearing way through the discussions that year. It is to my shame I did not keep in contact. She had withdrawn, as had we all initially, shellshocked by the dismantling of our work over that year. Her husband had been ill too, and it had taken a toll on her. I left her in peace, thinking that one day again we would meet and laugh and talk as we had in the tiny, light-filled kitchen over looking the river in Cork. But Breda passed away a couple of months ago and as I drove the familiar route, I felt again the regret over neglecting her and how it was nothing to the hurt of knowing a light had gone out long before it should have.

I turned off outside Dungarvan onto the narrow rural road into An Rinn, a gaeltacht area. A ‘gaeltacht’ is where everyone speaks in gaelic, or Irish. Most of the other gaeltachts are in the west of Ireland. All the road signs are in gaelic too but thankfully here they have english translations. I was in a Donegal gaeltacht last year and trying to navigate to my B&B was a matter of chance as there were no english translations at all. Which is nuts, because if I, with 13 years of gaelic bet into me in school had trouble, how do the tourists manage? Down another even narrower road I eventually came to a car park at the start of The Cunnigar Spit, a spit of land sticking out into Dungarvan Bay.

The Cunnigar comes from the Irish word An Coinigéar, meaning rabbit warren. Rabbits must like the seaside. The dunes at Tramore beach – also a spit of land – are sometimes called The Burrows rabbits that once lived there and of course there is Coney Island in New York, said to be named after the Dutch word for rabbit – “konijn”.

I had never been there before and it has been on my to-do list for some time. Nearly twelve years ago an unfortunate sperm whale beached and died here. Euthanasia was impossible for something so large, as was refloating and it was likely very ill. People came from all over the country to get a look at the dying creature and the crowds became a problem. A man and his children nearly drowned trying to get to see it. Some of the people who did get near, carved their names in its flesh. It died after 24 hours, suffocated under its own weight. Its jawbone was stolen after its death. Incidentally, Moby Dick with Gregory Peck was filmed in Youghal, a mere 15 miles away from here.

The day was bright and cold, the kind of cold you feel in your own jawbones and knuckles but the beach was was empty and the air was calm. This is a great place for bird watching and as I walked and the tide receded I saw oystercatchers, plover, sandpipers, red shank, green shank, whimbrel and close to shore, turnstones, turning stones. There was a huddle of comorants at the head of the three mile spit, leaning together like old umbrellas. A little egret did a fly past. I saw a heron too. Apparently there are usually a lot more of them here.

The whole beach is covered in shells, cockles, some mussels and whelks, and those tiny pink ones like baby’s toenails, as well as bits of crushed crab. The most obvious shells are oyster shells which are strewn everywhere. They are harvested here. They are an odd mixture of pretty and ugly, the folds and frills striped purple remind me of the gypsy skirts that were in fashion when I was a teenager, but they are gnarled and twisted and chipped by circumstance – some even imprinted with the grid of the harvesting frames – those still with their bottom halves intact, gape and leer like toothless old crones, others protrude from the wet sand, like the ghostly, boney hands of shipwrecked sailors.

It was a gift of a day in the middle of a dark winter. A ‘pet day’ some call it here, but I can’t bring myself to use the phrase as I associate the word ‘pet’ with creepy, salacious old farmers trying it on with young girls. I sat for a while with a flask of tea and some lunch. From the beach you can see across to the edges of Dungavan town and beyond, the foothills of the Comeraghs where my granddad once served as a Garda Sergeant. My dad was born up in those mountains too. Funny how it’s taken so long for me to feel I belong here even a little. Further off I could see the snow dusted tops of the Knockmealdown Mountains on the border of Tipperary. We call them mountains but all our mountains are very small compared to mountains everywhere else. They are the best we have though so they’ll have to do.

Unfortunate Barrel Jelly, one of many.

The cloud cover crept in from the west as I walked back to the car. Driving back out of An Rinn, I skirted Dungarvan by the Ring Road which passes over the bay where, visible from this busy road, a surf board is moored. I had heard that a seal would sometimes sit here and sun itself in view of the traffic but during that year of driving up and down (and up and down) to Cork, though I would try and catch a glimpse, I never once saw it. It was just a nice story. But this day, glancing over by pure force of habit, there it was, cool as you like, lounging on the board in the chill bright evening.

I automatically thought of Breda again and laughed. Being Irish means being lumbered with an almighty urge to look for signs everywhere. Would that she were sending me a sign that everything is OK, that she knows she was valued, but that is not how it is. The dead are dead and we are here and soon we won’t be. I drove on, turning onto the coast road, driving the curving narrow road over the bridges over the rivers that bisect the county, trickling and then flowing from the mountains down to the sea. I pulled up to my whale watch point just before sunset to have a look to see if there were any about. There were no whales, alive or dead, but everywhere I looked, there were dolphins. Little groups of them here and there, big ones and small ones, splashing as their dark fins broke the surface, fishing the scarf, that place where the outgoing tide meets the larger sea. Some of them, the young and the bold, could even be seen in the fading light leaping and bounding out of the water for the sheer joy of it all.

For Breda Stacey. Image Ciara Rodgers.

Major Rager: A week in the life of an artist.

I forgot my phone one day and was reduced to sketching this interesting paper bag over lunch. It was good to get back to sketching.

Last Sunday, out leaning on a gate and looking for whales I was interrupted by a neighbour new to the area, who, in climbing the gate told me in what direction to look. Sigh. There is a legendary figure in Irish mythology, Cú Chulainn, who is said to have tasted the forbidden Salmon of Knowledge which made him super-intelligent (or so he imagined I imagine). I think this myth is code for the sort of men who think that by possessing a willy they know everything – the salmon is quite phallic – and I refer to these men as being a Willy of Knowledge (WoK). This WoK was following his dogs who were running about the fields and cliffs – a Special Protected Area – as they always do which annoys me no end. I walked away raging at this attitude of entitlement but wondering why I was so angry – they aren’t my fields after all. I realised that entitled people like him enrage me because I have spent my whole life assuming I am not entitled to anything. When I realised the rage was all mine I calmed down. He’s still a Wok but I think I will be taking a few leaves from the book of the over-entitled from now on and asking for my share, so watch out.

Again, no camera when I saw this man in grey in Lidl cradling two yellow melons as his wife shopped.

This week also I installed an experimental ‘idea’ into the gallery space I work in. It is an ambiguous installation in that you are not sure if it’s an artwork or an accident…or that was the plan until a social media person decided to post about it in a way that declared it an artwork, creating a label with my name – MY name!My f**king name! – slapped on it in block capitals without consulting me. This person, a female, is another of life’s annoying types, one so dim and yet defensive that they run rings around the rest of us. Less the Willy of Knowledge and more The Fanny of Unknowing (FoU).

Minor stuff in the scheme of things, but having, worked on it for nearly two years and seeing this post stuck on Instagram for 24 hours being viewed by my peers, there I was raging yet again. I even woke up in the middle of the night I was so annoyed. One of the only benefits of being an artist is that your work is entirely your own to do with as you like. How I haven’t had a heart attack this week I don’t know – agewise I am edging into that territory. But… the wonderful thing about the installation is that two of the Box Office Staff have come up with a story inspired by it which I hope they will illustrate and we will make into a small POD book. I’ll post photos of the installation another day.

I also had a two day install in another gallery with an artist friend. The show is a collaboration between herself and a woman with such crippling ME she is in a nursing home, so quite an emotional exhibition and as with all installs there was some stress as artists get very close to the work (see above!). The inevitable cock ups with framing/tools/labels/AV equipment etc can cause huge distress. As an artist, installing for another artist is a tricky line to walk too, as I have to make sure to have my ‘installer head’ on while using my artistic experience without giving away or imposing too much of myself. So a lot of boundary setting which I am getting better at. There was an additional challenge too – another installer from an affilated group arrived unexpectedly – a man!Would he be a Willie of Knowledge come to show me how to do it? However I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was one of the lovely ones and we all worked very well together. And because of my tiredness I was being very clear in making decisions. Bossy even. Like I said, watch out, I am starting to stake my territory. Here is the link to the show

The day I forgot my phone was the day of the install so I had to make drawing notes instead of photpgraphic notes. Here’s an attempt at mapping a pile of boxes we used as ‘plinths’.

I also managed to get an application off for an artist’s residency. I had started it before Christmas and worked on it on and off but completing it took me until 2am one morning. I was pleased to get that done. I probably won’t get it but as applications are such a massive part of the artist’s life, I see them more as ways to review my work and it’s direction. If you get awarded anything its a bonus. Refusals still sting though. I got a refusal for an online gallery last week – ouch – and am waiting on hearing about two more applications that between them must’ve taken a week at least.

As part of the residency application I managed to get a very small photobook published on Amazon. Well sort of. The paperback keeps being sent back with notes to ‘make the document larger’ – Amazon is a pain in the poopy like that, but heres the EBook. I think it may be free on Kindle. You may be very unimpressed. I am also working on a big painting of our theatre’s defunct but funky old projector. It’s such a cool machine I had to. I’ll post more on that another time.

Another setback: During the week I also received a laptop I invested in with the aid of a grant. It took me week’s to pick it out so I was happy to have it finally sorted but when I opened the suspiciously light box it (received by my neighbour) it was empty except for the charger. Sick to the stomach I spent an hour so at the end of a long day on chat to to someone in India who assured me I would get a refund when I returned the ‘laptop’ that I did not have. That’s all still ongoing. I can’t even rage about that right now because …I just can’t.

And this also from memory – this wee boy dressed in navys and greys, sitting out in the cold, on his phone, despite his soft young face he looked like a miserable little old man.

There was, unbelievably now I think of it, another couple of things going on this week that were taking up time and headspace but I won’t go there now. Today, a day off and finally a chance to Sunday stuff – after I cast some more concrete pieces for my installation – including cleaning out my car and replacing the headlight bulb. It took a good half hour to take out the headlight and when I had it all dismantled I found the bulb I had been sold (by a Wok) was the wrong one. After the week I’ve had, I didn’t even flinch, and put it all back together and went and had my dinner. I normally not this busy so lets hope next week is calmer….

Of Rants & Photos & Bunny Explosions…

After last week’s post and the great responses from you lot, I felt a renewed enthusiasm for this blog, something I haven’t felt in a while. Thank you, I should’ve asked ages ago. I went to the beach for a run the day after. I assumed everything was back to normal. It was more jammed with people than I have ever seen with a tailback into the mile long car park. As I jogged towards the less populated dunes, thinking warmly of you rant-lovers out there, I considered categorizing my rants.

Minor Rants (Inspired by one off actions that cause an explosion of disbelief in my own self): The person swerving onto a car parking space just as I am running by it…

Major Useless Rants (Ruminating strongly on things that will never change): Crowds of people crowding and seeming to find it enjoyable.

Major Useful Rants (Things that might change if we shout loudly enough): Dog owners allowing dogs off the leash to chase birds in the Special Protected Area by the dunes…arrrgggghhh!

Anyway…with the blog in mind, I have started making thumbnail sketches and taking photos. Photos. I take photos for all sort of reasons. Some are just snaps of something for itself – a stonechat, sun on the landscape – others are visual jokes like a piratey- looking bin – while others are notes or references for ideas or paintings. Heaps are a current favourite, heaps of anything, along with traffic cones, sandbags and road markings. If I die and people go through my phone they will assume I was mental.

But I miss my notebooks of old where I scrawled ideas, did quick sketches with colour notes so I am using that too.

Wednesday’s totter around about the cliffs was a “One Kestrel, One Bunny, Two Container Ship” walk. The kestrel was on a mudheap looking ruffled. Further on down the road, in a field, the bunny. On bunnies, they were never seen much around here until the great bunny explosion of 2022, probably caused by new housing pushing them out this way, but recently they have dwindled sharply once again. The local farmer told me it was because a ‘certain type of people’ (not the phrase used) have been shooting them. He is fond of the bunnies – and the birds (except the buzzard which eats baby bunnies) – so he has put up Lands Preserved and Keep Off signs all over the place. Probably too late. Hence, this was a one bunny walk.

Down towards the sea I spotted two container ships, one behind the other seemingly heading west. But checking their past tracks on the AIS Marine Traffic site, it seems they were travelling to Waterford port but being held off, probably by bad weather.

The rest of the week I was busy – painting, making an installation in gallery, purely for my own amusement (hard work though, and involves traffic cones and concrete. Maybe more on that elsewhere) and doing my proper job. It’s ony January 8th and I’m burned out already…see you next Sunday.

Saving the world, one post at a time…

Hello to you all and a very happy 2023.

This is my 11th year on The Mermaids Purse and the blog has taken a lot of twists and turns, died and been born again. Most recently, this time last year, I began a series of posts called Coast Diary. The intention was to post short observations, with sketches, to preserve a small record before creeping developments change the coast here in Waterford forever. I thought it would be cute and lovely and quirky. So much for that. A proposed road upgrade for a small woodland near the sea here got me hot under the collar (again) and posts got longer and longer. I don’t think I do cute and lovely so well. The same thing happened previously when I posted on proposed windfarms.

I realised that both efforts – and any previous efforts to change the world here on the blog – had fallen far short when, in October 2022, a local journalist published map of the proposed windfarms with the caption (in CAPS mind you) FIRST TIME SUCH A MAP HAS BEEN PUBLISHED on his Instagram account. Of course the bloody map had been published before and not just repeatedly here on this blog but on social media as well as being available on the source website of a protest group down the coast for at least two years. Journalist my bottom. But it makes a point: why waste time focussing the blog on the outside world when to that world you are invisible?

Sigh. It’s one thing to be fighting a losing battle – and fighting it badly – another to realise how its disproportionally impacting your quality of life. And for what? For the children and grandchildren of those newly rural SUV drivers who, when they aren’t trying to drive you into a ditch, are driving you out of the local property market.  So, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not my job to save the planet, even a little bit. I have a decade or two left at most and after that I won’t care. I don’t think I care now.

This is actually a relief (to me and you both probably) but it begs the question – why should I keep this blog going? I do like to read about and hear from my blogging pals here and in the UK, and NZ (CJ, TT, April) even if I have been erratic about contact over the last while. I also think blogging is a good way to periodically review my week, my life. It’s good for writing too, if not honing it, seeing where you are going wrong.

So I am thinking of trying again to fill the (proposed) vacuum. But I am not sure how. Any ideas? A Coast Diary reboot? Something else? What do you want to see, if anything. Let me know, if you can be arsed, in the comments below.

Coast Diary – March 5th

Very little coasting this week and lots of computery stuff and deadlines. I went for a walk on the main beach earlier in the week. I was hoping to be inspired for this week’s post but all I got was my ear infection rebooted. Well not entirely true. I also saw a dead, thick-lipped grey mullet being pecked at by seagulls, a part of a sea potato and some crushed crabs. The insides of their shells are always such pretty colours. Hardly a consolation to them I suppose. What good is a pretty house when you’re dead?

I had been expecting some dolphins or porpoises to wash up up after all the storms we’ve had but happily I hadn’t heard of any, or not in these parts at least. A young fin whale washed up in east Cork in an emaciated condition. Perhaps, after possibly being seperated from its mother? I heard of it first through an organisation who have recently started competing with the IWDG (Irish Whale & Dolphin Group) for the public’s ceteacean reports. It emerged a few years back that the IWDG’s research, which they were sharing online for free, was being sold on – I suppose to companies who do surveys for developers. The IWDG do consultation work themselves, it is part of how they fund themselves in their mission to campaign to make Irish territorial waters a whale and dolphin sanctuary.

The IWDG’s more detailed information is now, as far as I can see, harder to access. Perhaps others still want in on the consultation business though because I can see no other reason for setting up companies to collect information on our wildlife. It makes me wonder if we will end up with developments getting green lit on the basis of incomplete environmental information? These are entirely my own thoughts but I, for one, will continue making my reports through the IWDG alone.

Typically enough a report of a dead dolphin came in the day after my walk, on exactly the part of the beach I had been poking at dead crabs on, but by then I was too busy to go back and take tissue samples. My new colleague, an old friend who has just volunteered to help with strandings, will hopefully get to it.

The rest of the week was writing and working in the city. I finally got the best of my biggest deadline yesterday. When I arrived back on the coast after what looked to have been a beautiful day by the sea, I sat and watched the pink clouds shading to purple then grey in the robin’s egg blue sky over an impossibly blue sea, its intensity deepening before brightening and fading into dusk. I thought then I would write about how the telegraph wires and poles – which I once appreciated for their sketchy, swooping lines – now, in their continuing profusion, are dissecting my sea and sky into ever smaller slivers. But I didn’t. Not really.

Coast Diary – February 19th

In the woods

It was a stormy week this week, though earlier on we had some blue skies. Out strolling I met a neighbour who always stops to chat. Recently we have both been bemoaning the increase in traffic – both on foot and in cars – due to lockdown and a temporary one way system that saw cars barrelling along the narrow road. All in a mad hurry to get from their swims down in the nearby cove back to civilisation I suppose. This time he told me ‘they’ will be tearing down an old wall that runs alongside the small woods before the road turns down to cove, in order to put in a footpath. However when I checked online I didn’t see any such plans so hopefully it’s just a rumour. Its a nice old wall and I know a footpath will depress me. Next it will be street lighting. And disco bars…the car park down at the cove is now like one on a saturday anyway.

The woods, which line the small glen that cuts down to the cove, are lovely, if a bit ragged now in early spring. Despite it only covering few of acres, there are beech trees, oak and poplar trees and I think horse chestnut too. In May the ground is carpeted with bluebells, in autumn the yellow and russet leaves spiral down to trim the path. There are the usual blue tits and robins, rooks and pigeons all about. There are wee goldcrest in there as well as coal tits too, if you stop and look for long enough. I once heard long-eared owls there, late in summer, the creaky call of their young sounding like an unoiled gate – but have never seen them. My neighbour told me that they are there still and I might see them as dusk comes on. I’d better get looking before the streetlights appear.

There’s an emergency access for the cove where a wide footpath splits off from the road and runs down through the woods. Beside the path, a river rushes over a series of tiny falls down to the stony cove at the sea’s edge. Until recently there were two wooden bridges spanning the stream, but they have now been replaced by one metal one. Locally the new bridge was seen as an ‘eyesore’ but I think its OK, probably safer too. And it’s been painted green, which helps. But I worry about the woods. The trees are tall and spindly, and, beset by ivy, they sway dangerously in the wind. Year on year I imagine they are thinning, that there are less and less of these rag-bag survivors from another era, hiding from the encroaching red roofs that can now be seen through the thin trunks up the side of the tiny glen. Maybe it’s my imagination.

Walking carefully back home – (I’ve been dizzy all week with an ear infection, which is why I have only taken you as far as the woods) – I saw the ‘Local Buzzard’ (Buzz) on a tree by the cliffs, his white breast shining in the sun. It wasn’t his usual hawthorn but as I watched he took off and flew low across the field towards me and swooped up to land in his thorny throne. Within seconds he was dive-bombed by a pair of hooded crows. You will often see buzzards picked on by crows. Their response is usually to move on, wings flapping heavily, like the large, plain child in the schoolyard, stumbling and bemused by the taunts of the more socially agile. Buzz took off, but for once he hesitated long enough to make a lunge at one of the crows before continuing on. It was gratifying to see. You’ve got to fight back.

Old wall and Homer Simpson Tree

Coast Diary – January 1st

Passage East, Waterford.

This is a start of a year-long, weekly series of picture posts from the Irish coast. Our coast has begun to change rapidly over the last 18 months or so. The area I live in, once rural, is daily becoming more unrecognisable. Development is inevitable but it makes me sad – why does it always have to be big, ugly, boastful houses lit like airports and surrounded by breeze blocks clad in fakery? Suburbia has crept up on us. On a wider scale, numerous windfarm developments look set to transform our coast onshore and offshore forever. But Coast Diary is not about those developments. It is meant as a record of the things that I cherish here – the birds and animals, the sea, the good neighbours – before it disappears. Every Saturday I will post a quick, A6 sketch with a few words. For those interested in more in depth information on the windfarms – particularly their impacts on nature – when I have something to share, I will post on wednesdays.

***

The last day of the old year, 2021, found me in Passage East on the Suir estuary checking out the report of a dead dolphin for the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG). I forget how nice the little beach at Passage is, perhaps because it is unfamiliar as I am not often there. The last time I was there, was to check out a dolphin that had stranded in the harbour last March. It was stuck in the mud and could not be reached. The current carcass – which is very old – could even be its remains. I was in Woodstown last week – also on the estuary – recording a dolphin carcass there. Reports of sightings and strandings have increased over the lockdowns, in part because people are outdoors more and becoming more interested in the environment. Other animals are washed up too. A rare leatherback carcass washed up in the autumn and seals occasionally are found. As a volunteer for the IWDG, normally I don’t ‘do’ seals but I will pass on reports to Seal Rescue Ireland so when a friend asked me to check on a seal at Newtown Cove on the Saturday before Christmas I readily agreed.

I was taken aback to find the overcast car park and cove packed with people and swimmers accompanied by a coffee van and a fellow on a guitar … at 9:15am! This mass flocking to the coast is another change the lockdown has brought that I find hard to get used to. I suppose some like the socialisation but while I do have a need for occasional rowdiness, I tend to go urban for it.

When I masked up and fought my way down onto the little beach, I was a bit bewildered to see people swimming with the now dead seal. The seal had been barely alive the previous evening and, as it was washing about in the waves, it was hard to tell what it died of. Perhaps illness or exhaustion. Winter seas can be tough on them. Some months ago a young seal trying to rest on Tramore’s main beach died after being repeatedly chased back into the sea by curious walkers and their dogs.

Well that was cheery. Let’s see if I come up with something happier next week. Happy New Year to all my lovely readers, old and new. Here’s to more connection in 2022.

Winds of Change – An incomplete list of Irish Marine Life

In planning a post of our marine biodiversity, I had been envisioning a grid-like image representing all of our marine life so I was delighted to come across something called the The Sheldon Spectrum which suggests that the total mass of a marine population stays the same even as the individual size changes. So, even though a whale is trillions of trillions of times larger than a bacterium, its population size is smaller by the same order of magnitude, so the numbers even out. A grid image is the perfect way to represent this. To get more philosophical, one could wonder if the ordering of the squirmy, floating swimming, multicoloured, multilegged, finned, tentacly mass of sea life means there is some sort of intelligence at work…

With Ireland’s marine territory ten times the size of its land area, the waters surrounding Ireland are highly productive and provide a habitat for hundreds of species of invertebrates and fish including 35 species of sharks, 24 species of whales and dolphins, 192 species of echinodermata (starfish and sea urchins), 625 types of seaweed, 78 species of sea squirts, nearly 400 of ray-finned bony fish, 1,700 species of crustacean as well as hundred’s of species of sponges, anenomes and jellies. Oddly we only have 24 species of seabird but I suspect one of those species covers about a million different types of gulls.

The small amount of reading of environmental surveys for windfarm developments I have done so far seems to suggest they focus on only a few species – one survey seemed to only account for two – the harbour porpoise and the grey seal – with most other species, larger ones anyway, disregarded because they are ‘migrants’. This would see the imposition of another sort of system, one that excludes rather than includes, that reduces sea life affected by ignoring the organic interconnectedness suggested by our picture grid and favouring an artificial seperation of species from their environment. However I may be unfair in this early judgement and need to read on. I will report in the new year. In the mean time, I have listed the names of some of the creatures who are part of the vast biodiversity of our shore below in no particular order. Most have been chosen for their descriptive or entertaining names..

…bell-shaped medusae, sprat, mackerel, cod, corkwing wrasse, blue shark, grey seal, common seal, fin whale, humpback whale, harbour porpoise, blue ray limpet, cuttlefish, brown crab, bottle nose dolphin, starfish, sea urchin, jewel anemone, ragworm, strawberry anemone, barnacle, kelp, bladderwrack, limpet, whelk, cockle, leafscale gulper shark, mussel, periwinkle, dilisk, herring gull, shag, cormorant, black backed gull, jackdaw, chough, kestrel, peregrine falcon, clun tunicate, stonechat, gannet, common gull, common stingray, undulate ray, common skate, heron, oystercatcher, noctiluca scintillans, daisy anemone, deadman’s fingers, spurdog, basking shark, sea lettuce, seven armed seastar, conger eel, sunfish, red boring sponge, yellow tit sponge, crumb-of-bread sponge, feather star, sea cucumber, Emiliania huxleyi, serpent’s table brittle star, oyster, scallop, left-handed hermit crab, puffin, broken-backed shrimp, Chinese mitten crab, spider crab, green sea turtle, sand hopper, lesser cylinder anemone, sand flea, pistol shrimp, bamboo worm, common lobster, soldier crab, gutweed, European green crab, one-spotted water louse, blood red mysid, goose neck barnacle, light-bulb sea squirt, kittiwake, smooth sunstar, sea potato, barrel jelly fish, Portuguese man of war, by-the-wind sailor, zig zag coral, sea grape, moon jelly, compass jellyfish, montagu’s stellate barnacle, pea urchin, Atlantic hagfish, European river lamprey, otter, spiny dogfish, ghost catshark, thresher shark, porbeagle,  thorny skate, small-eyed ray, common dolphin, striped dolphin, large eyed rabbit fish, guillemot, great northern diver, stormy petrel, narrow nose chimaera, firework anemone, European sea sturgeon, ailis shad, pilchard, European anchovy, muddy arrow tooth eel, small mouth spiny eel,  tench, gudgeon, stone loach, Murray’s smooth-head, hawksbill sea turtle, barrel-eye, sea trout, arctic char, Irish pollan, sparkle anglemouth, constellationfish, Irish moss, threelight dragonfish, blackfin waryfish, sharpchin barracudina, john dory, Norway pout, poor cod, blue ling, hollow snout grenadier, Bean’s bigscale, orange roughy, pudgy cusk eel, Spanish shawl, Jeffrey’s goby, worm pipefish, bullet tuna, bluefin tuna, largehead hairtail, silver scabbardfish, plaice, sole, flounder, turbot, brill, Norwegian topknot, thicklip grey mullet, thin-lipped grey mullet, montagus’s blenny, wreckfish, blackbelly rosefish, tub gunard, white eelpout, black seasnail, monkfish, boarfish, risso’s dolphin, minke whale, sei whale, leathery sea squirt, tigger pod…I could go on…

Images are a mix of my own photos and drawings along with images downloaded from the internet, mostly Wikipedia, but some from Birdwatch Ireland, National Geographic, and others. For attribution, please use the contact form on this blog. I will be back next year with a post on how the impact on marine life is surveyed. Have a good December all.

Winds of Change: The Enemy Within

Crabs in a bucket…

Its been a hard week globally, nationally and (most importantly!) personally and, against the backdrop of my increasing understanding of the impact of wind power, I have reassessed my plan of posting my research journey. While a few people have found my posts useful and shared them (thank you!) and some more have been indifferent, or silent anyway, the most vigorous commenters – not many to be fair – are if not negative then pointlessly argumentative. The hard bit is that it has not come from those who hate (are frightened by) wild spaces or wildlife but from the conservation or environmental side.

The most disturbing was an Irish conservation group on Twitter, a group I had admired in one of my previous digital incarnations. In the only comment I got on any of my posts there, and quite out of the blue, they lectured me for the term ‘floating windfarm’* on a post’s featured image. When I engaged with them they accused me of spreading lies, refused to provide alternative terminology, would not tell me where their writing on wind energy is (if there is any) and implied I was at fault because I was researching windfarms long after they had. And this was only after they had looked at a picture on the blog from a post that had nothing to do with floating turbines. Jesus wept.

Then they read the post. Their response was…

Yeh, we read your “blog” 🙄’.

Including the quotes and the eye roll. Then they blocked me. No one’s getting conservation confused with conversation in that group then…

*They don’t like the term floating because its ‘lies!’ and all turbines are bad and we are not allowed talk or learn about them. Or something.

Even mild rebukes from “environmentally-friendly” (goddamn now I’m using “quotes” )people are not informative but vague and general “you will hardly see the turbines, the sea life will be fine, we have no choice” or – as with the Twitter Twats – nit-picking. Those arseholes are just the more shouty edge of a large wedge – most people just don’t want to know. While I am starting to appreciate the enormity of the changes about to be wrought and the desire to look away from it all, I find this drive to shut down conversation unsettling.

Am I giving up? No, but I don’t believe any more posts right now will do anything except disturb the comfortable and I just don’t have the time to deal with other people’s crap. Considering my deeply embedded misanthropy, I have done well to get this far. Time for a regroup. There’s enough information in the previous posts for the interested to think about so after next Saturday’s post – a list of our marine life – I will take a break to do some reading about environmental impacts and how they are measured and, in the new year, if I think a post on that will be useful, I’ll do one then.


For the last thoughts on what wind farms consist of, below is some information about onshore substations which connect wind farms to the national grid. Some questions might be – How many will there be in Waterford and Cork? Will one service all proposed wind farms? How big an area will a substation take up? Do we get a say in where they are built? Who builds them?

No don’t tell me. Go and ask someone involved in such a project if you’re interested.

The wind farms proposed for Waterford currently make up 5.6 GW The diagrams below show how things are connected up.

Figure 4. Diagram showing the transmission system from wind farms to landfall point via various cables, substations and converter stations. (Source: ABB)
https://dublinarray.com/project-information/how-it-works/

Below is an example of a substation.

Moray East

…is a 950MW wind farm 22km off the Scottish Coast. The substation, around 25km inland in farmland is an 85,000sq ft new build and includes road improvement works. The developers introduced elements to help in blend into the Aberdeenshre countryside including painting buildings green and planting trees.

Moray East substation at Deer. March 2019.
Moray East substation at Deer. February 2020

Links

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/aberdeen-aberdeenshire/1449306/camouflaged-substation-planned-for-offshore-windfarm/
https://www.morayeast.com/current-works/onshore-works
https://northsearegion.eu/northsee/e-energy/existing-offshore-linear-energy-infrastructure-and-grid-connections/
https://dublinarray.com/project-information/how-it-works/
https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-25731521
https://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/news/16976887.offshore-power-still-cross-farmland/