This year there is a superabundance of migratory Hummingbird Hawkmoths (Macroglossum stellatarum) in Wicklow. Usually they migrate from southern Europe, but some come all the way from Africa. These beautiful moths seem to fill an identical niche in the European ecosystem to that occupied by hummingbirds in the Americas, although related species of moths that behave similarly are also found over there. Instead of a beak the moth has a macroglossum, or “giant tongue”, which looks and works just like a hummingbird’s beak. And, amazingly, the moth also has tufts that act like, and very closely resemble tail feathers! Look for them on buddleia bushes, honeysuckle, red valerian and along coasts on trefoils. An exotic and magnificent little creature not to be missed.
In Wicklow Town, that is. And this show might not last all summer long, so get down to the Murrough in Wicklow as fast as you can on a sunny day. A beauiful little accident has occurred. An area by the coast that was off-limits due to some public works taking place was supposed to be ploughed and then rolled so that the area would return to grassland. Instead it was ploughed, but due to an oversight it was not rolled. Instead of grass growing “weeds” began to appear, and many local people were very angry about it. But now the weeds have blossomed and this small area of Wicklow has turned into a little piece of heaven on earth.
It is brimful of fantastic meadow flowers as only newly ploughed ground can be. This is their rare window of opportunity and so they don’t hesitate to take advantage of it, with seeds that have lain dormant for years bursting into life, and plants bursting into blossom. Sun yellow flowers of Corn Marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum) and bright white Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) dominate, but their colours are speckled by the bold red of the Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), stunning blue of the Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and the purple and pink flowers of Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).
One of the most beautiful creatures in the Wicklow countryside is the male Ring-necked Pheasant. It is as beautiful as the most exotic birds of the most far-distant jungles, and more gaudy than even the Resplendent Quetzel. The territorial call of the male pheasant is now a fundamental part of the background noise of Ireland, but it wasn’t always the case. These birds genuinely are exotic, having been introduced into Europe from southern Asia in the 18th century by hunters. And those poor creatures certainly were hunted, to the point where it’s hard to understand how it could be considered a “sport”. For example, most hunters kept copious notebooks recording the amount of pheasants they shot during their careers. Lord Carnarvon, who famously financed Howard Carter’s archaeological excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, is said to have personally killed almost 23 million (23,000,000) pheasants! It boggles the mind. Clearly a man with too much time on his hands.
Anyhow, at this time of year the pheasants comprising the wild (naturalised) populations in Ireland can be found hiding in the long grasses of meadows, woodland and roadside verges and in the rushes around lakes and rivers in Ireland. The magnificent males are now usually accompanied by small hareems of superbly-camouflaged females. They are so well camouflaged that they can simply stand still in a field and disappear.