Every November is different. Some are unseasonably warm and dry. But this year we have a classic example. On Halloween night the temperature was 17 degrees Celsius but it suddenly dropped on November 1 and has been good and cold ever since, with some heavy rain thrown in for good measure. In short, it feels like a real autumn. And now the wildlife is getting in on the act. Three days ago I saw this beautiful sight:
Geese are, of course, the definitive proof that we are in the darker half of the year as Ireland serves as a wintering-ground for a number of species. One or two geese will stay in parks or on lakes all year, but these are very few in number as Ireland becomes too hot for them in spring and summer. But there are smaller migrations too – in September and October Blackbirds and Robins (and many other birds) seem to disappear from gardens but this is largely because they are migrating. Then new ones appear. Right now birds are arriving in gardens to feed on berries on the shrubs and trees.
However, wherever there are still flowers blooming there will be a few bees around to collect their nectar on the few sunny afternoon hours.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again, you really do not know what you’re going to find round the next bend in the road in Wicklow. Here’s something really remarkable I found feeding on the Cow Parsley – a Longhorn Moth:
And the excitement didn’t end there – this particular species is one of the two most colourful species found in Ireland, known only by its scientific name of Adela croesella. It is (as far as I know) only found in the Burren, on the west coast of Ireland. So to find it in Wicklow is very exciting. Only the males have such long antennae, apparently to impress the females with, as is often the case with extremely exaggerated bodily appendages.
Today I was very glad to find my first Silver-Y of the year, which had to be rescued from a polytunnel. Silver-Ys migrate to Ireland from southern Europe and North Africa, and it seems they also attempt the return journey, although some will attempt to survive the winter in greenhouses. This one might actually be a larva which hatched out in the polytunnel itself.
Finally, a word about camouflage – for anyone who doubt species of white butterfly have adequate camouflage, just look at this female Green-veined White feeding on a cystus flower – truly impressive camouflage as it feeds:
Well, we’ve reached that juncture again. The Autumn Equinox fell on Sunday (22 September) at precisely 8:44 pm GMT, which was 9:44 by our clocks which are still set to summertime. And it was a fantastic end to a fantastic summer. Now, sadly, the nights are once again longer than the days and things are going to get a lot cooler than we’ve been used to. But there’s still lots to see. Birds and insects are feasting on the blackberries and elderberries which are in abundance this year.
There are still butterflies about, although the vast majority of them are Small Tortoiseshells and Speckled Woods. In fact, I haven’t seen any other species in the last week.
Small Tortoiseshells hibernate for the winter, and on rare occasions will fly on sunny and unseasonably warm winter days. I do emphasise ‘rare occasions’ though.
It’s extremely interesting to find ant colonies still reproducing. Only yesterday I witnessed the extraordinary sight of worker Black Garden Ants swarming over a spider’s web to rescue a newly emerged winged queen ant, which had been nabbed by a House Spider. They harrassed the spider until it released her, and then ran over the web with very little difficulty and began cutting the queen ant free. The spider could only stand to the side and watch helplessly.
Black Garden Ants rescuing a winged queen from a spider’s web. This begs the question, can an ant recover from a spider bite?
And that’s only some of the amazing things I’ve seen lately. More to come shortly…