Rain arrived yesterday, and we’re due to have a lot more over the next few days, but the moths love it. There have been very few moths around this year due to the protracted winter, and then the very dry sunny days of the last few weeks. Moths generally like it quite humid, which is why quite a few appeared at my window last night.
The Brimstone Moth can usually be seen flying along hedgerows on the darker side of twilight, which is around 10pm at night at the moment, on a cloudy evening. They frequently come to light. There is also a Brimstone butterfly, but we don’t have that in Wicklow, as it preferes limestone land, and Wicklow is almost entirely acidic.
The Garden Carpet is one of the commonest species in Wicklow, and can often be found flying by day for short distances, before hiding under leaves. Both of the moths above are about the same size, roughly covering the area of a two-Euro coin being typical medium-sized moth species.
The beautiful weather not only brings out the wildlife but it brings out the people who have a passion for it too. And I find these people almost as interesting as the wildlife. Today I met naturalist John Fields out on the East Coast Nature Reserve, armed with a big DSLR camera and a very big lens, all the better to get shots of the out of reach wildlife.
John told me about some of the wildlife he had seen in that very area, including otters. Like me he wasn’t just there for the birds, but for all of the nature on offer. A few moments after I was speaking to John I got a fleeting glimpse of a day-flying moth I have never previously managed to photograph, the Mother Shipton (Callistege mi). It’s not a great shot, but it is the first I’ve managed to get of this extremely nervous and wary creature, which looks like a small butterfly.
But it has to be said the most impressive species on the bogs at the moment is the Yellow Flag, a spectacularly beautiful iris.
There is so much going on out there at the moment it’s almost impossible to keep indoors for any length of time. Not willingly anyhow.
This year our spring is really dragging its heels, but that’s what makes it so special. Beautiful flowers, such as the Bluebells, which normally flower for a brief and spectacular few days in late April and early May, are still blooming away right now. And there seems to be more of them than usual. You can tell them apart from the interloping garden escapee, the Spanish Bluebell, by their subtle and pleasant fragrance, which the Spanish Bluebell lacks.
This year everything is slow to come, and slow to go, so maybe it gives us more time to enjoy it all. There is certainly a dearth of moths and butterflies, but still some significant ones are around. Of the moths, keep your eyes open for the Angles Shades, which resembles dry leaves, but has a tendency to perch on walls and fences, where it does stick out, once you realise it is a moth, not leaves.
Also look out for the Shoulder-stripe, a moth which is camouflaged to look like Turkey-tail fungus and which tends to come to the lights in windows, where it can be found at rest during the day.
The Shoulder-stripe looks very like bark fungus. This one is just one of two variations of this moth.
During the spring there are, of course, many bird species to see. Many of these birds are insect hunters and it is mostly to fool these creatures that moths need their terrific camouflage.