American bittern in Ireland


This video from Washington state in the USA says about itself:

American Bittern Mating Call

Here’s an American Bittern performing his mating call. I really need to pick up a decent microphone to deal with the wind. Taken at Ridgefield NWR on Apr. 23, 2012 with my Canon 7D.

From Cork bird news in Ireland, on Twitter:

7/12, 16.10: American Bittern still present Castlefreke Lake this pm.

Unusual lumpsucker behaviour


This video from Ireland says about itself:

Galway Bay Lumpsucker – Cyclopterus lumpus na Gaillimhe

12 February 2012

A short film showing a male Lumpsucker in Galway Bay over a 7 day period. Breeding time for Lumpsuckers is from February to May where they lay their eggs in coastal waters and males take care of them during a 6 to 7 week period until they hatch.

The Dutch marine biologists of Stichting ANEMOON report today about groups of young lumpsuckers, seen by divers in the Oosterschelde estuary in Zeeland province this November.

That is unusual. Usually, these young fish, hatched in the Oosterschelde in spring, should have migrated to the North Sea earlier in the year.

Maybe the cause is a recent invasive species: the warty comb jelly. Recently, this originally American species reached the Oosterschelde. Young lumpsuckers feed on it; maybe making it less necessary to go to the North Sea.

Women’s rights violated in northern and southern Ireland


This video from the USA says about itself:

30 November 2015

There has been a historic ruling in Northern Ireland regarding the country’s ban on abortion. A judge decided that denying women access to abortion is a violation of their human rights. Ana Kasparian (The Point) and John Iadarola (Think Tank) hosts of The Young Turks discuss.

Read more here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Dublin ‘must act’ on Northern Ireland abortion ruling

Tuesday 1st December 2015

Belfast High Court says ban violates human rights convention

by Our Foreign Desk

THE Dublin government was put on notice yesterday after a Belfast High Court ruled that the almost outright ban on abortion in Northern Ireland violates human rights.

Mr Justice Mark Horne’s landmark judgement could lead to a relaxation of the strict laws prohibiting women accessing terminations in cases of rape, incest or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality, and will have major implications for the 26 counties.

Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman said the Belfast High Court ruling was not something solely for the Stormont executive to act on.

“The Irish government is now on notice that it too is violating the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said.

Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, so terminating a pregnancy remains illegal there except in very limited circumstances where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Anyone who performs an illegal abortion could be jailed for life.

Judge Horner said that the failure to provide exceptions to the law in certain limited circumstances breached a woman’s right to privacy.

In cases of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA), he concluded that the mother’s inability to access an abortion was a “gross interference with her personal autonomy.”

He said: “In the case of an FFA there is no life to protect. When the foetus leaves the womb, it cannot survive independently. It is doomed. There is no life to protect.

“Therefore, even on a light-touch review, it can be said to a considerable degree of confidence that it is not proportionate to refuse to provide an exception to the criminal sanctions imposed on the impugned provisions.”

The court also heard that the near-blanket ban, reinforced with criminal sanctions, placed a disproportionate burden on victims of sexual crime.

“She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a foetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both,” the judge declared.

This video from the USA says about itself:

14 November 2012

“The debate over legalizing abortion in Ireland flared Wednesday after the government confirmed a miscarrying woman suffering from blood poisoning was refused a quick termination of her pregnancy and died in an Irish hospital.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian living in Galway since 2008 who was 17 weeks along in her pregnancy. The 31-year-old’s case highlights the bizarre legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems in predominantly Catholic Ireland can find themselves.

Ireland’s constitution officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found it should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy. Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the story of Savita Halappanavar, who died after the Catholic hospital refused her repeated requests for an abortion. Are the strict abortion rules and imposed religious morality upheld by the hospital really viable in today’s age? Where did the idea of this form of “morality” and religion over human life and suffering even originate, and why do people follow it? Cenk Uygur has an answer.

British automobile journalist Clarkson sued for anti-Irish racism


Anti-Irish discrimination sign

From Sundayworld.com in Ireland:

Jeremy Clarkson sued by Irish Top Gear producer for ‘racial discrimination

Friday 13th November 2015

Top Gear’s former host Jeremy Clarkson is being sued by producer Oisin Tymon for racial discrimination.

Lawyers for the 55-year-old presenter and the BBC had a closed-door hearing with Tymon’s representatives at a London employment tribunal today, according to sources.

Clarkson, who was later fired by the BBC, reportedly called Tymon a “lazy, Irish c***” during a confrontation at a hotel in north Yorkshire. …

Clarkson was suspended after the “fracas” over catering on March 10, and was sacked by the BBC on March 25, following an internal inquiry.

The inquiry, led by the director of BBC Scotland Ken MacQuarrie, said Tymon “was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip” during the “unprovoked physical and verbal attack”.

MacQuarrie added: “The verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period, both at the time of the physical attack and subsequently.”

See also here.

New Shelley poem, against persecution of Irishman, discovered


This video from England says about itself:

Poetical Essay: a Shelley pamphlet through expert eyes

10 November 2015

In November 2015 the Bodleian Libraries acquired its 12 millionth printed book: a unique copy of a pamphlet entitled Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, written by ‘a Gentleman of the University of Oxford’ and printed in 1811. The pamphlet was the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), then a student at Oxford University, and now recognised as one of the great English poets of the 19th century. The acquisition is a momentous event for the public, for scholars, the University and the Bodleian Libraries. Known to have been published by Shelley in 1811 but lost until recently, Shelley’s Poetical Essay is, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, now freely available to all in digitized form at http://poeticalessay.bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

From the Irish Times:

Lost Shelley poem defending jailed Irish journalist unveiled

Vanessa Redgrave reads pamphlet defending former United Irishman Peter Finnerty

Fintan O’Toole

Tue, Nov 10, 2015, 18:15

A long-lost verse pamphlet by the great Romantic poet Percy Shelley, written in defence of an imprisoned Irish journalist, was unveiled on Tuesday at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Shelley, one of the greatest English poets of the 19th century, wrote Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things in autumn and winter 1810-11 during his first year as a student at Oxford.

It protests against Britain’s involvement in the Napoleonic war and in particular supports the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty, who was accused of libel by the government and imprisoned after criticising disastrous British military operations in Denmark.

Shelley’s 10-page poem was considered lost until 2006, when a single copy was discovered in a private collection. Only now, with the acquisition of this unique copy by the library, has the text been made public. The actress Vanessa Redgrave read it aloud at an event in Oxford on Tuesday evening.

Finnerty, whose name appears prominently on the title page, is thought to have been born in Loughrea, Co Galway, and was associated with the revolutionaries of the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned in Dublin in 1798 for seditious libel after he attacked judges who sentenced other members of the society to death. He emigrated to London, where he worked as a parliamentary reporter and was a member of the circle around the Irish playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

In 1809, he went to Denmark to report on British military operations. His critical reporting led to him being deported back to London. Finnerty accused the powerful secretary of state for war, Lord Castleragh, of seeking to silence him, and also of having been responsible for the torture of United Irishmen prisoners in 1798. Castlereagh sued him and Finnerty was again imprisoned.

In the newly revealed Poetical Essay, Shelley attacks Castlereagh and denounces war as a time “When legal murders swell the lists of pride;/ When glory’s views the titled idiot guide”. He praises Finnerty’s supporters and asks rhetorically: “Shall rank corruption pass unheeded by,/Shall flattery’s voice ascend the wearied sky;/And shall no patriot tear the veil away/ Which hides these vices from the face of day?”

Shelley imagines Finnerty and his supports as “a powerful hand” stripping away “the guilt-stain’d veil” of corruption.

Shelley clearly intended his poem to be part of the wider campaign to raise funds for Finnerty, which also staged large public meetings in Dublin and Belfast. Finnerty was released in 1813 and returned to work as a journalist until his death in 1822. His friend William Hazlitt wrote of him that he “loved Ireland to the last, and would overwhelm any man with a torrent of [curses] who would speak disrespectfully of the sod.”

See also here.

Walt Disney corporation Star Wars damage to Irish storm petrels


This video from Ireland is called Birds of Skellig Michael.

I myself was privileged to land on Skellig Michael island. I fondly remember its puffins, razorbills and gannets.

From BirdLife:

The dark side of ‘Star Wars’

By Niall Hatch, Mon, 12/10/2015 – 06:00

Picture a nearly-uninhabited rocky island. Greenery grows where the uneven ground flattens out. The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks is punctuated only by the bird calls of thousands of European Storm-petrel, Atlantic Puffin, Black-legged Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater… and the “zzznnn” of lightsabers.

The place in question is Skellig Michael, an island that lies 13km off the coast of southwest Ireland that is owned by the State. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once home to a 6th century Christian monastery made up of stone “beehive huts” for hermit monks, and now houses breeding colonies of some of Europe’s most iconic seabirds.

The most recent seabird population figures available for Skellig Michael, taken from the Seabird 2000 survey conducted more than 15 years ago, estimated the presence then of 9,994 breeding pairs of European Storm-petrel (10% of the national population) and 738 breeding pairs of Manx Shearwater.

It’s understandable why a lonely island is an attractive habitat for seabirds: For centuries, European Storm-petrel have been nesting in gaps between the huts’ stones and in adjacent stone walls, and the Manx Shearwater and European Storm-petrel colonies on the island are amongst the largest in the world.

They probably were not counting on the monastery’s ruins catching the eye of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm, who saw them as an ideal retreat for Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the Star Wars films.

On 8 September, Irish heritage minister Heather Humphreys (responsible for the Irish Film Board and Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service) granted permission for up to 180 Star Wars cast and crew members to travel to the island to shoot the new film: Episode VIII. Within hours of the announcement, they arrived on the island with masses of filming equipment, and production there lasted almost two weeks.

The mid-September filming date meant that many seabirds, including Skellig Michael’s famous breeding Puffins, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills had already finished nesting and had departed the island with their chicks.

However, thousands of storm-petrel and shearwater chicks would still have been in their nesting burrows at the time of the shoot (they don’t fledge until late September or October). Their parents spend the daylight hours out at sea, only returning to feed the chicks once darkness has fallen, thus going unnoticed by visitors.

Despite the Irish government’s conciliatory measure of appointing an ecologist to monitor the shoot, BirdWatch Ireland (BirdLife in Ireland) and other Irish NGOs contest that the approval to film was given without proper public and expert consultation and without valid scientific evidence as to the potential effects on nesting seabirds. Permission was even granted for night-time helicopter filming on and around the island, at times when parent birds would have been returning from sea to feed their waiting chicks.

“The lack of transparency in this case is particularly galling,” said Dr Stephen Newton, senior seabird conservation officer with BirdWatch Ireland. “It simply isn’t acceptable that decisions that may adversely affect one of Europe’s most important seabird colonies have been made in such a secretive way, without consultation or discussion… especially given the fact that the other island in the group, Little Skellig, is a BirdWatch Ireland reserve and that both islands are jointly designated as an IBA for breeding seabirds.”

Even if we assume the best – that no chicks or birds were affected – the risk of the accidental introduction of invasive alien predators such as the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the American Mink (Neovison vison) during the transportation of filming equipment does not seem to have been factored in.

This was not the first visit to the island by the Star Wars crew. Despite fierce objections from BirdWatch Ireland and other Irish NGOs, and concerns from UNESCO, filming took place there in July 2014 (for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) for two weeks during the seabird breeding season. Long-term effects on the island’s breeding bird populations remain unknown, but there are disturbing reports that during filming, several hundred Black-legged Kittiwake chicks were blown by a helicopter from their cliff-ledge nests into the sea, where they drowned.

The State’s failure to carry out comprehensive surveys at this and other seabird nesting sites since 2000, despite being obliged to do so by law, severely hampers any assessment of the true impact of the Star Wars filming activity. It may now never be possible to judge the long-term effects on the island’s vulnerable seabird populations.