Tag Archives: Ireland

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.

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:


Dandelion Time

Up until last week it was still quite cold, but finally the weather has improved and at last we are getting proper warm spring weather. It’s that special time of year, the height of the great spring dandelion blooming. Dandelions support the vast majority of pollen-feeding and pollinating insects to a degree impossible to any other spring flowers. It’s great to see these important plants are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve:

They are beautiful flowers too, and give us a bright yellow landscape. Other flowers are starting to reach their full bloom too – here, for example, are Bluebells, the true wild bluebell which is quite common in Wicklow and possesses a beautiful scent, unlike the similar-looking Spanish Bluebell:

That butterfly is a Peacock (Inachis io) and it soon gave up the bluebells to feed on dandelions again.

This is also the time when the cherry trees are candyfloss pink from blossom, and they really do brighten the place up a good bit:

However, as beautiful as it is, it’s also important to remember spring is a time of high drama. At the moment you have a good chance of seeing the rare Tawny Mining Bee, which I mentioned in the last post. The male bees have now passed on, and the females are pregnant and busily constructing their nests, which are burrows. The mouth of each burrow is surrounded by a mound of soil, sometimes quite a lot. Tawny Mining Bees are parasitised by Cuckoo Bees, such as Nomada panzeri. They lay their eggs in the nests of the Tawny Mining Bees, and their young feed on the larvae of the mining bees. Here is a Cuckoo Bee, in the foreground, watching for an opportunity to get into the nest of a Tawny Mining Bee, but the owner is watching from the entrance:

As I tried to get a closer photo I accidentally scared the Cuckoo Bee off, and the Tawny Mining Bee decided it was safe to emerge:

These bees are usually gone by May, so now is the time to look for them. Next year’s generation will soon be hidden underground awaiting their time to fly in the sunshine.