Anyway, the first thing I'll say is that flash photography is not allowed and I hadn't even got a compact camera with me so all the pics I took were with my Blackberry so please forgive the graininess and reflections from the glass. They're there to illustrate a point only.
And while there are plenty of very nice displays and mounts of our common breeding birds, it was the rare stuff that I was really interested in. And there's some absolute gems in there!
Back in day before DSLRs, powerful optics and advanced field guides, if you wanted to identify the bird you had to blow its brains out first. Sad really, but at least the skins and stuffed birds offered a permanent record and enabled early ornithologists to study their subjects in more detail. It was after all how John James Audubon drew birds for his life's work 'The Birds of America'.
In the first display case my attention was drawn to a Pallas's Sandgrouse. Shot in Drumbeg, Co. Donegal in 1888. Presumably part of the large irruption that year caused possibly by heavy snowfalls and hard snow crust in its central Asian breeding area which led to problems with drinking water and feeding.
|Pallas's Sandgrouse - shot Drumbeg, Co. Donegal 1888|
|Western Black-eared Wheatear - |Tuskar Rock, Wexford, 1918|
In the same case was a fine American Robin found / shot in Shankill, Co. Dublin (oh if only!!) and a stunning (even though it was stuffed) White's Thrush. Shot in January 1885 in Westport, Co. Mayo.
With only a little bit of time available to me I had to skip quickly past the many cases of moths and butterflies, I'll come back to those next time. But the next exhibit I stopped at was of Ireland's first ever Firecrest, my own personnal favourite bird. Given that these are now just scarce autumn vagrants its hard to believe the 1st Irish record was as recent as 1943. Shot (of course) in Glengariff, Co. Cork. The record is attributed to J.E. Flynn and G.F. Mitchell.
|A first for Ireland (in 1943) - Firecrest|
Moving on around the ground floor, there was plenty more to see. Perhaps most interesting of all was this exhibit of an Eskimo Curlew. It didn't say the year or the specific location, just Sligo. But I presume this is the one and only Irish record, apparently shot in Co. Sligo but only properly noticed for what it was when it was seen hanging in a butcher's shop in Dublin.