It’s that time of the year again, and to help you identify those arachnids which are showing up in your gardens and around your homes here is a little video I made to help with identification. Arachnophobes might find some of the images a little frightening, but they’re over and done with quite quickly, so don’t be too frightened. Remember, I’m on the other side of the camera, between you and the spiders. You’re completely safe. And they don’t want to hurt you anyway.
Unfortunately this year we had a somewhat cool and overcast July. This has been due to the peculiarities of the weather system which has seen weeks of rain clouds crossing the Atlantic to arrive on top of Ireland. However, there has still been some wildlife to see, and for this instalment I want to share some videos I made. Here is video of a Red Kite, which is a species which was deliberately reintroduced to Ireland, with Wicklow as the focus point:
Red Kites are mainly scavengers, and are huge birds, but will happily take prey too, especially small rabbits. They are the only large bird in Europe with a forked tail.
Now here’s something a little different from the micro jungle, a Zebra Jumping Spider with a woolly aphid as prey. It takes a moment to get the focus exactly right but it does make for an interesting scene:
Also from the microcosm, here’s a little moth you will commonly see feeding on flowers during daylight hours in summer, the Nettle-tap Moth. They are very curious little moths:
Now is the time to see spiderlings emerging, and the most spectacular are those of the orb-weaver spiders. There are several species and they can be hard to tell apart when they’re so young, but I think these in the video below belong to the Segmented Orb-weaver, but there is also a small chance they are Garden Spiders:
But just because you see web tents it doesn’t mean they were made by spiders. Many insects also spin webs, especially caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Check out the incredible web-tents of these beautiful and very numerous Peacock butterfly caterpillars. They feed on nettles exclusively, which is why they are popular with many people. Peacock butterflies also hibernate:
Finally, if you are in Wicklow at this time of year take a look into the shallow streams and you will almost certainly see Brown Trout. In summer they are very numerous in the streams but are not always a guaranteed sighting as they migrate around rivers from shallower to deeper waters and vice versa depending on the time of year.
Today the exact moment of the Summer Solstice occured at 5.38 pm Summertime (4.38 pm GMT), but in practical terms and astronomical ones, this is only the beginning of summer in Wicklow. We have had a dry but cold spring and only in the last two weeks has it become properly and consistently warm. There is still Cuckoo-spit on many of the hedgerow plants, the strange protective covering of bubbles worn by froghopper nymphs. And there in the flowers there are Flower Crab Spiders hiding in plain sight, and some of them will not be alone, as in the case of this photo below:
Also, keep an eye out for the remarkably bright green-coloured Cucumber Orb-weaver aka Green Orb-weaver (Araniella cucurbitina ) which makes a tiny web, usually in the middle of large leaves, curling their edges. It hangs upside down from this so its amazing colours are often not quite so obvious, but it has a red spot on the underside rear of its abdomen.
All you need to know about orb-weaver spiders is that they produce the classic spider webs, the really beautiful ones. The largest of the family you are likely to see will be the Garden Spider, which has been covered often on this blog. Anyhow, this time of year, which has always been associated with powerful magic, is indeed a magical time.