All posts by Samuel Connolly

The Spring/Summer Intermediate

We’ve had a cold spring this year, and now we have reached the intermediate time when spring turns into summer. The first thing you will notice about this time of year is that, despite long days and sunny spells, there are few butterflies about. You might see one or two Orange-tip butterflies still on the wing,  but their time is now pretty much over until next year. They are beautiful though:

There are, of course, other butterflies around, but they are small in number, and mostly more drab species, such as the Speckled Wood,  which is a species I’m very fond of because it makes up for its lack of colours with attitude, being a cheeky butterfly that will ‘buzz’ you. However, butterflies aside, there are lots of other interesting creatures, such as beetles. In woodland glades you might find long horn beetles, aka timberman beetles, feeding on pollen. Here’s a very handsome species, Rhagium bifasciatum, which I found on a buttercup flower:

On the bogs along the coast of Wicklow there are many interesting creatures and plants to be seen at this time of year. There are warbler species and Stonechats are very brazen and beautiful in their breeding plumage – such as this male which regarded me suspiciously as I walked along the railway fence:

At this moment the bogs are covered in the beautiful blooms of the Yellow Flag, an iris species which grows in waterlogged ground and even in ponds. Many insects depend on them:

Keep an eye out for a very large caterpillar, which you might see crossing your path on a bog walkway if you visit a nature reserve. This wonderful-looking creature is the caterpillar of the Drinker Moth (Euthrix potatoria). The caterpillar is actually the source of the name, as it is said to be seen to drink drops of dew at this time of year,  a story that could have some truth to it, as folklore often does.:

The moth is much smaller than the caterpillar, but technically a large moth, as all of its relatives are quite big. The Drinker Moth is very stout and robust in a chunky sort of way. While you are looking for these caterpillars you might have a largish dragonfly zoom noisily past your ear. This will probably be the Hairy Hawker (Brachytron pratense), which is one of our earliest large dragonfly species. It is colourful and definitely hairy. I was very lucky to get a close-up shot of one only recently, and the camera lens was literally only a few centimetres from the dragonfly, which remained calm as it perched on a nettle:

Finally, a number of people have asked me if I could tell them what the amazing-looking  small blue-green beetles are that can be found on almost every flower along the coastal dunes in the last few weeks, as it is not easily found in books or online. That is definitely true. This beetle is the Blue-Green Soft-winged Flower Beetle (Psilothrix viridicoeruleus), which is a remarkably hairy little creature and seems to spend its time eating pollen and mating. Living the dream, I guess:

   Lately we have been having a very wet and cold time of it, and this does sometimes happen, with the weather far below par up until the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year, but also the exact border between the seasons, ending the springtime and starting the true summer. The Summer Solstice this year will be this Friday at precisely six minutes before five o’clock in the afternoon in our local time, which is British Summertime (15.54 GMT). Many great summers started off as bad, if not worse than this one, so we can still hope for the best.

Little Tern Season

It’s that wonderful time of the year again, when the Little Terns have returned to the beaches of The Breaches along the coast between Kilcoole and Newcastle. The main nesting areas have been fenced off by Birdwatch Ireland to protect them from predators and human beings and their pet dogs, who would otherwise walk unwittingly all over the nest sites and do terrible destruction:

And with them are many other wonderful birds. Here is one of my favourites, the Ringed Plover, which will feign injury to lure a predator, or suspected predator away from its nest site:

White is a very popular colour with shorebirds, largely because it affords them a degree of camouflage while hunting and/or nesting. Here is another beautiful species, the Oystercatcher, which has arguably the nicest call of any shorebird or seabird:

Although this bird looks bright and bold against the sea, when it lies down on the pebbles of the beach it becomes almost invisible, especially at a distance.

The terns themselves are bold and beautiful birds, and will attack you if you get too close to any nests:

However, as they come in to land on the beach the terns seem to vanish, and even at close range are very difficult to see, which is why the Birdwatch Ireland wardens mark the nests by numbering large stones:

You have to look hard to see this tern, but you can do it.

If you really want to see this spectacular sight then now is the time: taking Kilcoole Station as your starting point walk along the sandy path towards the thickets of Sea Buckthorn which is located just to the north of the nest site, which is permanently guarded at this time of year.

Also keep an eye out for more common birds, which you can get very close to, especially along the railway fences. Here is a beautiful swallow which I saw, which most people outside of the British Isles will know as the Barn Swallow:

You Can’t Tax Your Way Out of Environmental Destruction

One month ago the United Nations published an official paper detailing the sheer level of destruction the natural world is suffering at human hands.

The same size as a honey bee, and very similar, but this is a Chocolate Mining Bee, which is probably the most common of all bees at this time of year. Instead of pollen sacs on its legs this female has special hairs which pollen sticks too, and which you can see here very clearly.

The U.N. divided the problem into three separate principal causes, starting with the direct destruction of nature, usually for financial gain. The second cause was indirect destruction by pollution, or other side effects of industry or human activity, which could be dumping of plastics in the sea or the clearing of land to build houses on, or any other number of side-effects. The third on the list was Climate Change.
However, by the end of the week most of the media had changed the story, suggesting that environmental destruction was a mere side-effect of Climate Change, and ‘pundits’ were clamouring for carbon taxes. This is very dangerous reasoning because carbon taxes are nothing much more than a licence to politicians to do absolutely NOTHING about environmental destruction, while making the lives of ordinary people more difficult.

Governments love taxes and will always be more than happy to impose them. The problem with carbon taxes is that they are supposed to be a deterrent, but big business and heavy industry, who should be taxed, will instead, with the complicity of politicians, externalise these taxes so that they are passed on to the public while they continue to pay as little tax as possible into economies of the countries hosting them. It doesn’t matter what the excuse, politicians will happily go along with any idea which allows them to tax the public – the public NOT Big Business.

It is very important to remember that most big newspapers and media corporations are owned by the same people who do most of the environmental destruction. They buy into media in order to push their own agendas. And state broadcasters are largely controlled by governments and therefore they too are controlled and must toe-the-line, and push the messages their political masters want pushed on the public.

A beautiful Gold Spot moth, which is on the wing right now. Keep an eye for them – they come to lights and night time windows.

The problem with carbon taxes is they amount to the turning of a practical problem into a mathematical equation, allowing governments to claim they are doing something, when they’re not, while allowing those who destroy the environment to continue to do so unopposed. Occasionally fines are imposed on the nation-states that pollute too much, or produce too much carbon, but they can then BUY carbon ‘credits’ from poorer nations which are not polluting. It’s all a completely ridiculous situation , and surely encourages environmental destruction?

A certain amount of pragmatism is always necessary – to live is to use resources. There’s no escaping that. But we should be aiming to stop destructive  practices, not creating carefully orchestrated systems which allow and encourage them to continue while forcing ordinary people to hand over their hard-earned money while giving them nothing in return. Because NOTHING is what carbon taxes amount to. Carbon taxes are the same as the selling of Indulgences, when the Church literally sold people places in heaven – they have no use here on earth. They are impractical and entirely corruptible.

If you really want to understand the problems the environment faces then the very best documentary on the subject is this 21 minute-long gem, the Story of Stuff, which is so good it will change your life: