Friday, 12 November 2010

Eric Dempsey and Michael O'Clery's book launch

Eric and Michael's new book, 'The Complete Fieldguide to Ireland's Birds' (2010), has been on the shelves for a couple of months now, but last night was the 'official launch' in the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (which is also home to Tolka Branch talks).
Only right that the launch should be held on Eric's home turf of northside Glasnevin. Not so great for southsiders though as a 'severe weather warning' issued in the afternoon spooked apparently a billion commuters to get into their cars, head into Dublin city centre and sit there for hours and hours. It took me a frustrating 1 hour 20 mins to get across the city to Glasnevin so I arrived late. 'Haha shouldn't live on the southside then should you' said Eric afterwards. I stayed quiet, it was his book launch, and you've got to give the northsiders their little moments when they can get them. Nice northside luas line by the way.

The auditorium in the Bots has a capacity of 150 and with every seat full, the overflow of latecomers had to sit on the stairs. Thankfully Sarah and Anna (who had driven all the way from Wicklow in less than an hour!) had kindly saved me a seat. It was great to see such a crowd turn up for the book launch (from my big, plush, spacious, comfortable seat) on a night when most people with sense would have stayed indoors. (When I got home, which incidentally took me 17 minutes, 3 Rowan trees had been blown over in Drimnagh by the force of the wind).

Eric Dempsey at the official launch of 'The Complete Field Guide to Ireland's Birds'. Nov 2010, Botanic Gardens, Dublin.
For the next hour, Eric gave a talk on 'A Year of Birds', describing which birds we're likely to see around Ireland in each season.
As someone who enjoys bird photography I was really taken aback by some of his images, they were completely amazing, phenomenal, out of this world, unique. I've seen his photos before but some of the ones I hadn't seen, left me in awe. It's no suprise that Eric has just been commissioned to make a coffee table book of bird photography, already, I can't wait.

His photos and knowledge is an an obvious result of years and years out in the field, a massive talent for identifying birds and, most importantly, a huge love of birds. And this is something obvious and endearing about Eric, he really does love his birds. He has a personal story for every single bird in Ireland and when he's telling his stories you can tell he could write a full character reference for every single one of them, from the common Robin to the rarer Buff Bellied Pipit he spotted a few weeks ago.
It's encouraging to know that someone in the public eye genuinely cares for all birds, whether they're common garden birds, seabirds, or raptors, he doesn't put them in any hierarchy of importance, he cares about what happens to all of them and cares for all their welfare's. No better person to have teaching birding classes, giving talks, presenting programmes on tv and radio and being a professional guide and bird photographer. Now, if he could lose the female, dull, brown and boring line ...... still, no one's perfect I guess ;o)

Eric finished his talk with his favourite bird, the Swallow. He described the mammoth 10,000 km journey the little 17g Swallow makes every year from it's winter grounds in South Africa to it's summer breeding sites around Ireland.

There was a huge round of applause for Eric and Michael at the end of the talk, a long queue formed to buy the book and then everyone went upstairs for a wine reception and the opening of Michael O'Clery's exhibition of paintings, most of which also appear in the book.

The paintings were brilliant, such attention to detail must mean Michael can spot a Buff Bellied pipit as quick as Eric and that's obviously why the two of them have worked together for many years. My favourite painting was one of Barn Owls in Kerry, unfortunately it was also the most expensive painting in the exhibition, so it wasn't me who bought it.

So, the book is out there, and I'm sure all Irish Birders (and those visiting Ireland) welcome the existence of a new field guide specifically for Ireland, which gives details on whether it's common (or rare) to see certain birds in Ireland, when and where it's common and where and when it's not. I hope the book does well, I'm sure it will. So congratulations to Eric and Michael for a book that's going to be a vital reference point for my birding and I'm sure thousands and thousands of others.

Eric being congratulated and thanked by the new Director of the Botanic Gardes, Matthew Jebb

End of the talk and everyone heads up to wine reception and Michael's exhibition.
Michael O'Clery's exhibition of paintings, Botanic Gardens, Dublin.

Points if you can spot a Dermot, Philip, Sean and Anna.

looked at by those with years of birding done

and those with years of birding ahead of them.
Michael O'Clery signing Vincent's book as Vincent's telling him a story.
Vincent telling Philip a story
The Rabble, bonus points if you spot Rhona, Brendan, Sean, Emer, Rosemary and Anne. I'm sure Vincent will be in there, probably telling a story.
John Fox, scheming world domination and enjoying the thought.
Vincent, telling a story, to Anna and Sarah
Me'sen and Eric (thanks John for taking photo)

'So, you're going to lose the line, female birds are dull, brown and boring right? ', 'Never, haha'.

'The Complete Guide to Ireland's Birds' by Eric Dempsey and Michael O'Clery, only €20 and it's yours.