Tag Archives: feeding

November Settling In

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:

It's not easy to tell here but these are Brent Geese flying inland in formation towards the mountains of Wicklow, possibly making their way to the Blessington Lakes in west Wicklow.
It’s not easy to tell here but these are Brent Geese flying inland in formation towards the mountains of Wicklow, possibly making their way to the Blessington Lakes in west Wicklow.

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.

A handsome male Blackbird feeding on the few remaining berries in the topmost canopy of a rowan tree, which is also known as the mountian ash.
A handsome male Blackbird which has come to feed on the few remaining berries in the topmost canopy of a rowan tree, which is also known as the mountian ash.

However, wherever there are still flowers blooming there will be a few bees around to collect their nectar on the few sunny afternoon hours.

A Honey Bee collecting nectar from a saucer-sized cosmos, a popular garden flower which is found in meadows in Europe but not in Ireland... yet.
A Honey Bee collecting nectar from a saucer-sized cosmos, a popular garden flower which is found in meadows in Europe but not in Ireland… yet. The pollen sacs on her legs are swollen with pollen, probably because the hover flies have largely disappeared¬† with the onset of cold weather and aren’t around to compete with the bees. There are also, of course, fewer bees, so more work and pollen for those remaining.

 

Longhorn Moths and Silver-Ys

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:

Longhorn Moths, just like Longhorn Beetles, get their name from their extremely long antennae, which in this species are truly immense.
Longhorn Moths, just like Longhorn Beetles, get their name from their extremely long antennae, which in this species are truly immense, being almost twice the length of the moth’s body.

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.

A Silver-Y moth, named after the beautiful 'y' shaped mark on its wings, which is upside down when the wings are folded, as in this photo.
A Silver-Y moth, named after the beautiful ‘y’ shaped mark on its wings, which is upside down when the wings are folded, as in this photo.

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:

Just another petal on one of many flowers unless you look more closesly.
Just another petal on one of many flowers unless you look more closesly.

Goodbye Summer: Hello Autumn

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.

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A male House Sparrow feeding on blackerries on Sunday afternoon.

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.

A Small Tortoiseshell enjoying one of the many still blooming flowers.
A Small Tortoiseshell enjoying one of the many still blooming flowers.

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?

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…