Extinct in Ireland, September 19th, Spotted crake

From Pádraic Fogarty’s Whittled Away:

Spotted crake
Probably common up to the mid-nineteenth century, there was a record of them breeding on the once extensive marshes around Dundalk, Co. Louth, in 1892.

I must confess I had not registered the spotted crake before reading this. Of course, I am very aware of the corncrake, which is fortunately not (quite) extinct in Ireland. From the RSPB fact sheet on the spotted crake:

The spotted crake is similar in size to a starling. Breeding adults have a brown back with dark streaks, a blue-grey face and an olive-brown breast – all covered with white flecks and spots. The under tail is a warm buff colour.

Spotted crakes tend to skulk in thick cover and walk with their body close to the ground and tail flicking. They swim with a jerky action like that of the moorhen. If surprised in the open, they run for cover or jump up and flutter away with legs dangling.

With a mere 28 British breeding pairs, the spotted crake is evidently under threat in Britain also. It is evident that it is a rather secretive bird, like the Water Rail, an inhabitant of my favourite habitat, reeds.

I also love the formal name – Porzana porzana. Wikipedia tells us that this is derived from Venetian terms for small rails.


Extinct in Ireland, September 18th – the Osprey

From Pádraic Fogarty’s Whittled Away:

Breeding in inland lakes including Lough Key in Roscommon in 1779 but no records thereafter, save for the odd vagrant. Given its relatively abundant status elsewhere it is somewhat of a mystery why ospreys have not bred in Ireland in recent times and many suitable nesting sites are keenly watched each summer for activity.

As this 2012 Irish Examiner piece points out, the Osprey is “the wildlife filmmakers favourite bird” and has come back from the brink of extinction in Britain:

With ospreys breeding again in Scotland, England and Wales, Ireland is the odd man out. Birds, from Scotland and Scandinavia, pass through on their journeys to and from Africa, but there’s no direct evidence of nesting here. It’s almost certain, however, that ospreys did so in the past. Gordon Darcy in Ireland’s Lost Birds notes that bones from two individuals were found during excavations at Fishamble Street in Dublin. They were dated to the 10th or 11th Centuries; were ospreys persecuted by Medieval game-keepers protecting fish stocks in the Liffey? Gerald of Wales, who visited Ireland twice in the 12th Century, describes the bird, but some of his other claims are so outlandish that nothing he says can be believed. A description in a manuscript attributed to the 17th Century naturalist William Molyneux is more reliable. Darcy claims that the illustration of an eagle, representing St. John in the Book of Armagh, looks suspiciously like an osprey. There is a reference in Irish to a bird of prey catching salmon in its talons and some Irish bird names seem to refer to ospreys. The Irish Rare Breeding Birds Panel lists the species as an ‘anticipated’ or ‘possible-probable’ nester. Their most recent report, which covers 2010, lists three sightings for ospreys between May and August.

Nineteen records, involving about 11 birds, appear on the Irish Birding website for the same year. So, will the bird return to Ireland of its own accord? Should we build platforms at suitable locations to encourage them? Would the Scots give us some of their chicks? Now that our introduced red kites are breeding well, golden eagles have nested and white-tailed ones are holding territory, ospreys re-colonising would be the icing on the cake. Come back, fish eating hawk, all is forgiven.

And let’s have some videos to show just why the Osprey is such a favourite of filmmakers:

Russian Modernism and Byzantine Iconography – another false dichotomy


A recurrent pattern in the history of ideas is a dominant narrative creating dichotomies that, at the time, did not exist. I have blogged about these before – false tension between the Christian and classical worlds in the time of Boethius Victor Watts debunked , or dichotomies between religion and science, much trumpeted by some commentators but which can often be contrasted with the beliefs of working scientists.

From the evergreen Eastern Christian Books blog of Adam deVille, news of a book which looks at another false dichotomy of a dominant historical narrative:

In The Icon and the Square, Maria Taroutina examines how the traditional interests of institutions such as the crown, the church, and the Imperial Academy of Arts temporarily aligned with the radical, leftist, and revolutionary avant-garde at the turn of the twentieth century through a shared interest in the Byzantine past, offering a counter-narrative to prevailing notions of Russian modernism.

Focusing on the works of four different artists—Mikhail Vrubel, Vasily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Vladimir Tatlin — Taroutina shows how engagement with medieval pictorial traditions drove each artist to transform his own practice, pushing beyond the established boundaries of his respective artistic and intellectual milieu. She also contextualizes and complements her study of the work of these artists with an examination of the activities of a number of important cultural associations and institutions over the course of several decades. As a result, The Icon and the Square gives a more complete picture of Russian modernism: one that attends to the dialogue between generations of artists, curators, collectors, critics, and theorists.

The Icon and the Square retrieves a neglected but vital history that was deliberately suppressed by the atheist Soviet regime and subsequently ignored in favor of the secular formalism of mainstream modernist criticism. Taroutina’s timely study, which coincides with the centennial reassessments of Russian and Soviet modernism, is sure to invigorate conversation among scholars of art history, modernism, and Russian culture.

Adam deVille is good at pointing out the falseness of many oppositions conjured up by ignorance of history. He is especially strong on the pernicious influence of Christians failing to understand, or even try to understand, Marx and Freud.

Hesychia – “the rest which flows from unceasing prayer”

I previously posted an extract from Alasdair McIntyre’s After Virtue on “hesuchia” – the rest that follows striving. I came across this from Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart

The literal translation of the words “pray always” is “come to rest.” The Greek word for rest is hesychia, and hesychasm is the term which refers to the spirituality of the desert. A hesychast is a man or a woman who seeks solitude and silence as the ways to unceasing prayer. The prayer of the hesychasts is a prayer of rest. This rest, however, has little to do with the absence of conflict or pain. It is a rest in God in the midst of a very intense daily struggle. Abba Anthony even says to a fellow monk that it belongs “to the great work of a man . . . to expect temptations to his last breath.” Hesychia, the rest which flows from unceasing prayer, needs to be sought at all costs, even when the flesh is itchy, the world alluring, and the demons noisy. Mother Theodora, one of the Desert Mothers, makes this very clear: “. . . you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie [sense of boredom], faintheartedness, and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees, and all the members. It dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away

A Holy Well in Kilcash Wood?

Kilcash Wood is a Coillte site in the village on the lower slopes of Slievenamon. I guess climbing Slievenamon takes the focus away from here as a walking destination. It is a fairly typical Coillte forest, evidently focused on commercial forestry.

However just inside the entrance I spotted a well, with an enclosure similar to a typical holy well, but nothing I could find in terms of inscriptions or the like around to indicate any specific practice here.

The well water was pretty muddy with a lot of plant material inside:

Oisin Kelly frieze and Stained Glass from Church of St Theresa, Sion Mills, Tyrone

Oisin Kelly frieze and Stained Glass from Church of St Theresa, Sion Mills, Tyrone

The  exterior of the Church of St Theresa in Sion Mills is most notable for a frieze of the Last Supper by Oisin Kelly:


20180708_145505.jpgInside there are some interesting stained glass windows of Mary and St Joseph working. There is interesting detail of their specific tasks:


Coloured panels in geometric formations decorate the church, creating some interesting effects on the sunny day I visited:

20180708_145341.jpg20180708_145339.jpgThese panels are not dissimilar to those I saw in St Mary’s Oratory, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone not far away.

A prayer of gratitude for creation – Fiona Murdoch, Eco-Congregation Ireland

A prayer of gratitude for creation – Fiona Murdoch, Eco-Congregation Ireland

On the Irish Franciscan’s Praying Nature page,  there is a section of “eco prayers”:

A Franciscan presence and spirit requires living a way of life that cherishes Gospel values as St. Francis understood them. Francis tried to live as Christ lived, especially as peacemaker, as one in solidarity with the poor, as living lightly on the earth and as a brother to all creatures. Franciscan presence and spirit is also about prayer especially prayers of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His love, for the gift of life and for the world we inhabit. The word ‘eco’ derives from the Greek word oikos meaning ‘house’, and so eco-prayers could mean house prayers or prayers for the world, our house in this life.

Here is a prayer of gratitude for creation by Fiona Murdoch of Eco-Congregation Ireland:

God of the universe,

We thank You for Your many good gifts –

For the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits,

For clean water and fresh air, for food and shelter, animals and plants.
Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth’s resources

for granted

And wasted what You have given us.

Transform our hearts and minds

So that we would learn to care and share,

To touch the earth with gentleness and with love,

Respecting all living things.
We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste,

greed and indifference,

And we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough

food and clean water.

Help us to respect the rights of all people and all species

And help us to willingly share your gifts

Today and always. Amen.