Dalkey Tidy
Brent GoosePainted Lady
Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
November 2009 - Michael Ryan

The theatrical profession is famously superstitious and one of the best known traditions is the reluctance to mention the name of Macbeth when the play is being performed. It’s title and central character is traditionally referred to as ‘Harry Lauder’. Harry Lauder was a famous Scottish entertainer, a singer and comedian who appeared on stage in a kilt, but he was also a very talented composer who wrote many of the songs he performed including Roamin’ in the Gloamin and I Love a Lassie. He composed Keep Right on to the End of the Road in memory of his son who was killed in action in France during the first World War. He was, at one time, the highest-paid performer in the world, making the equivalent of £12,700 a night and was the first British performer to sell more than a million records. Apart from his kilt he played up his Scottish origins by wearing a Sporran and Tam-OShanter and carrying a twisted walking stick on stage. Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick was also once the common name of a tree, the Corkscrew Hazel. The Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta) with its twisted spiralling branches originated from a single tree found in a hedge in 1800 and nearly all the trees now grown are cultivated by grafting branches on to ordinary Hazel tree stock. They often produce shoots, or suckers, of ordinary straight hazel stems from the base of the tree and these have to be cut out to retain its bizarre shape. The tree looks much better in the winter when the leaves have fallen and the twirling branches are exposed. The branches are often used as a very attractive frame for flower arrangements.
The leaves themselves are
contorted as well but aren’t very attractive and the tree looks its best when its branches are bare in winter and when it gets lovely yellow catkins and tiny reddish purple flowers in early spring.

Wasp's  Nest
Apparently the ‘twisting’ shape is caused by ‘a naturally occurring virus that does no harm to the tree other than to create accelerations in growth unevenly across the width of a shoot. This results in new shoots that cannot grow straight and true.’ Anyhow, we planted one in our garden many years ago and it provided much comment over the years. Last year I found a hazel nut on the cement path and wondered where it came from, presuming the hybrid hazel wasn’t capable of producing nuts. You can test if a hazel nut is fertile by putting it in a container of water, if it floats it’s infertile and if it sinks you can plant it. I didn’t know that at the time, took the nut, stuck it in a pot with some compost and was happy to see it shoot and begin to grow. It’s now a small but perfect , normal, unconvoluted hazel tree. Hazels trees grow as a native tree in Ireland and apart from the nuts providing a food source for many birds and animals, a particular favourite of squirrels, the tree itself supports up to 73 different species of insects. I hope to plant it sometime but as long as it gets watered regularly it should be ok in the pot. But where did the nut originate? In mid October this year I found more hazel nuts lying on the path. I thought maybe some of the suckers which hadn’t been cut back might have produced them but in fact when I looked it was amongst the twisted leaves of the Corkscrew Hazel that I saw little clusters of ripening nuts which was a nice surprise. The only dilemma now is whether to plant them or eat them.

A pigeon in South Africa recently proved that the animal kingdom is more technically advanced than the world wide web. Winston, an 11-month-old bird was equipped with a 4GB memory stick and pitted against the largest web firm in South Africa, Telkom. The pigeon transported the data in just two hours. In the same time, the “high-speed” internet service ADSL managed to send a tiny 4% of the data.
The innovative idea for the race emerged after a member of staff criticised the speed of data transmission on ADSL and commented that information would be transported quicker by a carrier pigeon. Winston set off from an office in Howick and managed to deliver the memory stick to an office in Durham in just one hour, eight minutes. The data took a further hour to load onto the companies system. To ensure that the pigeon had no unfair advantages, strict rules were set in place, for example ‘birdseed must not have any performance-enhancing seeds within’. Thousands of people followed the race on Facebook and Twitter. South Africa has notoriously slow broadband and is awaiting confirmation that it will be
eligible to benefit from three fibre optic cables, which are being set around the continent of Africa in a bid to speed up internet connections.