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Twitchers’ delight after rare bird hits Inishbofin



Date Published: 21-Oct-2009

Hundreds of bird lovers flocked to Inishbofin Island last week after the first ever sighting in Ireland of a cedar waxwing. The bird, which is native to North America was spotted on the island on Wednesday last by Northern Irish birdwatchers Anthony McGeehan and Craig Nash.
“It’s a fairly distinct species which is found primarily in Canada but shifts to the US in the autumn migration,” explains Mr McGeehan.
The cedar waxwing migrate along the east coast of North America. However, a fast moving weather system which occurred in that area early last week blew this bird off course, he says.
“Birds have to go with the winds when that happens. Two or three unusual species were found from Iceland to the Azores at the same time, so the cedar waxwing could have been part of that,” says Mr McGeehan, adding that Inishbofin offers rich pickings for birdwatchers.
“I’ve been coming here for three years now and have always been lucky,” says the birdwatcher who first struck gold on Inishbofin two years ago when he spotted Ireland’s first mourning dove there.
One reason why Inishbofin attracts rare species is because it’s the first point of land for birds coming from the US. Also, European birds can fly off course and end up there before realising their mistake and turning back, he adds. So sometimes, it hosts species from different parts of the world, which shouldn’t be found sharing the same habitat. Last year, he spotted a thrush from Siberia on the island. Mr McGeehan was familiar with the cedar waxwing from sightings he had made of the bird in North America.
The tips of the wings and tail of this bird look as if they’ve been dipped in red and yellow wax, hence the name. Their courtship is distinctive as the the male and female will sit together and pass small objects back and forth, such as flower petals or an insect.
“The cedar waxwing primarily lives on insects during summer but by autumn in North America insects have died, so they look for berries,” says Mr McGeehan, who was birdwatching with Mr Nash when they saw the visitor in a wet corner of a field behind the beach at the east end of Inishbofin.
“It took a while to be sure of what it was, because we couldn’t see him properly. Then he came into full view and started to pick blackberries from the hedge.
“He’s the first to be spotted in Ireland and the first found on this side of the Atlantic since 1996. Unfortunately he didn’t have the good grace to hang around,” he jokes.
The cedar waxwing spent about six hours on the island on Wednesday but then, it seems, he flew away, leaving large crowds of disappointed birdwatchers – who had travelled to Bofin just to glimpse him – in his wake.
“He had probably been planning to spend his migration period in Carolina, now he’ll probably end up in Tenerife,” says Mr McGeehan.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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