Spring Flowers in Winter Weather

We’ve been having some decent cold nights and frosty mornings in Wicklow, which is usually a good sign for a stable springtime. We are in the middle of another cold spell as I write this. Here is what some properly frosty grass looks like:

The frosts have meant clear skies and sunny but chilly mornings, but the newly blooming Snowdrops look great in the sunlight:

For me the flowers that are usually the most reliable indicators of the arrival of spring are Crocuses, and I’m glad to say I’ve found one with flowers on the verge of a full bloom:

They look bigger in the photo than they actually are in real life. On the other hand, the Daffodils are every bit as large as you expect. And in the last two days I’ve found some with their flowers opened and ready for business. If there are any early hoverflies about, they now have good amounts of pollen to feed on:

However, despite the cold conditions there are still berries to be seen on some trees. I found these impressive ones on a Hawthorn tree. Why are the birds not eating them?

However, probably the best indicators of warming temperatures are the Lords-and-Ladies, also known as Cuckoo-Pint or Arum, which have fleshy leaves and are slightly less hardy than other spring wildflowers. Their leaves rise from the ground and unfurl usually only when spring is well in place. Admittedly these ones which I photographed were in a sheltered area with a sunny aspect:

Winter Beasts

Although it’s cold and dark and not particularly pleasant, there are some advantages to Winter. For one thing the cold and general shortage of food supplies often brings larger animals closer to human proximity, and you can see creatures which normally don’t like to get too close. My dog recently had her ham bone stolen by a fox which came to visit my garden. I put a camera down in a good position and managed to get a nice shot of the fox paying a very early morning visit to the dog’s bowl, and glimpsing a person through the back window it hastily made its escape. Here is a photo of the fox looking up through the window, shortly after 5 a.m.:


The fox never seemed to notice the camera. This is the Red Fox – Vulpes vulpes, which can be found pretty much worldwide these days. Foxes are particularly beneficial for one reason – they eat more rats, and are far better at catching them than cats are.

Anyhow, although we are in the coldest part of the winter, there are already some definite signs spring is not far away. Here is a video I made this weekend which shows some of these signs:

David Bellamy

Sadly a few weeks ago, shortly before Christmas, Professor David Bellamy died. Although few people born after 1990 can have much (if any) idea who he was, in the 1980s he was probably more famous than David Attenborough, and even Gerald Durrell, as a naturalist,  scientist and conservationist. He was an important botanist and a major conservationist in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Ireland, and probably the very first to highlight the importance of, and danger to, Irish bogs. He even boasted of having spent his honeymoon on an Irish bog! He had a considerable output in terms of his writing and TV presenting. Here is the cover of one of this excellent books in my own collection, dating from 1986:

    David Bellamy was always passionate and extremely eloquent and he was also very easily lampooned and became a favourite of impressionists, especially because he had a slight lisp and an almost operatic method of presentation, with lots of Italian style gesturing. Fortunately he was possessed of a great sense of humour and wit. He was a joy to watch, and never boring.

However, despite all of these qualities he fell into disfavour with the greater environmental movement as it became more and more homogenised, and eventually, as it is today, dominated less by scientists and more by those involved in politics and social movements – and even by many who deliberately give the appearance of being environmentalists but are actually doing so as an attempt to control and divert public opinion.

Bellamy’s cardinal sin was that he disagreed that carbon emissions could be causing global warming to the degree of severity we seem to be experiencing, as the production of carbon dioxide (which plants feed on) should technically lead to an even greater production of oxygen, as carbon dioxide leads to greater plant growth. For every part carbon dioxide a plant takes in, it produces even more oxygen.

Whether you agree with this opinion or not (he goes to great lengths to explain it in his autobiography – A Natural Life (Arrow Books, 2002) it was a carefully considered opinion.  He felt global warming as we are currently seeing it was due to solar cycles, and we are currently in one of great solar activity. Bellamy felt the greatest threat to the environment was the incredible rate of human population growth which has accelerated decade by decade. This causes direct destruction to the environment. The more people there are the more people will suffer at the mercy of weather and environment, especially with fewer resources.

Whatever the truth is, there is no doubt he suffered a degree of character assassination and his ability to communicate his ideas and opinions was severely curtailed for his viewpoint. It could be said he was practically silenced because of this dissenting opinion, which does not reflect well on the greater environmental movement as it exists today, which has become less like science and more like a dogmatic religion often driven by so-called ‘political activists’, some of whom are highly suspicious characters with equally suspicious motivations.

It is well worth reading what Prof. David Bellamy wrote, even if you don’t agree with his opinions. It is a shame his death, and more importantly, his life, has lately been so ignored when he had once been a deserving superstar of both academia and nature documentaries.

An Adventure in the Garden of Ireland