August is actually the best time to see most butterflies in Wicklow. They are quite tolerant of rain so long as they get as much sun, and flowering plants to feed on. The Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is the most favoured plant due to its masses of blooms in the form of flower-spikes. And here is a handsome Peacock butterfly feeding on Buddleia:
Sometimes it can be a little difficult to see how truly beautlful a butterfly is, until you see its colours contrasted against a more solid background, as in the case of this Peacock basking on a plank:
The other big butterfly that is easy to find on buddleia bushes in August is the Red Admiral. Worldwide it is also very common, being found all across Europe and Asia and North America:
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…
We are now at the height of the summer flowering, and wild flowers are now at their most abundant, as are cultivated flowers in gardens. The flowering should continue through to the end of August and into September without a problem, so long as the weather stays reasonably good. The rains of the last few days have really helped the soil and enhanced the blooming. And, as a direct result, there has been an explosion in the insect population, particularly butterflies, moths, bees and hoverflies.
The meadow in the photo above was planted by me. It was an experiment, and has been so successful I’m going to be doing it again next year on a grander scale. This little meadow is the equivalent of a coral reef on dry land and has attracted some less common garden visitors, such as the Small Copper butterfly, which you can see below.
As beautiful as the butterflies are, they have some serious competition from the moths. A very interesting medium-sized moth coming to house lights at the moment is the Burnished Brass. It gets its name because its wings look like they are literally made of brass. But illustrations in books and photographs often fail to do them justice. However, by sheer force of luck, I think I might have managed it with the photo below.
But the big moths are not the only interesting or pretty ones. It’s easy to overlook the very small ones, but a closer inspection can reveal incredible patterns and colours. The tiny moth in the photo below is a combination of caricature and beauty, one of many small species that live in the meadows and come to light at night time. As yet it has no common name, so any wit out there can try his or her hand at coming up with an appropriate one, and seeing if it sticks. Only time will tell.
Some of the best meadowland in Wicklow actually lies along the seashore. This week I spotted my first Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year feeding on the small dense yellow cloud-like flower-clusters of Ladies’ Bedstraw in one of these beach meadows. While you are down there you still have time to see how the Horned Poppy gets its name, as they have their long seedpods which look like horns. The one in the photo below is a classic example.