This is an excellent time of year to spot Treecreepers. The Treecreeper is a bird about the size of a sparrow, with excellently camouflaged brown feathers with a bright white belly, that makes it look like a broken piece of timber. This is a good look to have, as the Treecreeper, like its name suggests, lands on the bottom trunks of trees and crawls slowly up the bark looking for tiny insects hiding in little gaps and recesses in the bark. In order to get these little creatures it has an incredible beak, which is shaped like a curved tweezers, or needle-nose pliers. This is a common and widespread bird in Wicklow, but one of the least seen, and probably the least photographed because it moves unnoticed in the shade of trees. The photo below was taken by me two days ago, but it’s not great due to the low light. But you can perfectly see the strange beak of this remarkable, little known bird.
November has drawn to a close and taken with it an extraordinary weather pattern that has allowed summer flowers to continue blloming, and inspired many trees and shrubs to begin producing big leaf buds and some to even begin producing early flowerbuds. But there were two sights that I have been more astonished at then all others:
Firstly, a field with red meadow poppies still blooming in it, and not just any field, but one on a quite windswept hill overlooking the village of Newcastle, just a mile from the Wicklow coastline.
But even more amazing than this have been sightings of butterflies throughout Wicklow. Just last week I came across a Red Admiral perched on a sunny tree trunk down on the East Coast Nature Reserve, and moments later a Small Tortoiseshell flew down a path and over my head. Last year we had heavy snow and freezing temperatures everyday from the 25 November and well into December. This is clearly a very different kind of year, and many plants are behaving in a strange manner that could point to a very mild winter and no snow.
However, personally I don’t want to make any predictions at this point, as anything can happen in January.
In the early hours of this morning a large cargo ship carrying hundreds of tonnes of limestone sank after breaking in half between the Wicklow and Welsh coasts of the Irish Sea. Unfortunately many of the crew are still missing, although some were successfully rescued (and rumours are circulating that William, Duke of Cambridge, son of the Prince of Wales, was actually flying the Welsh-based helicopter that successfully recovered some survivors).
What makes this sinking so unusual is that the peculiar weather conditions overnight seem to have conspired to produce a gigantic freak wave that struck the vessel, causing it to break in half. Up until very recently these gigantic waves were considered myths or merely fantastic tales. However, a few years ago they were positively proven to exist and one was scientifically recorded. They can reach 30 metres (97 ft 6 inches) in height and this one must have been as large to have sunk such a large vessel. These waves can break long ships due to their peculiar shape: the part of the wave that crashes against the ship at velocity is not the most problematic, but instead it is the huge trough behind the wave producing a see-saw effect as the wave strikes and passes the ship.
Such weather conditions are extremely rare in the comparatively safe waters off the Wicklow coast, but as in all cases it is not a good idea to put to sea in a storm, although most large vessels can handle even the roughest conditions, which is why tragedies of this nature are extremely rare off the Irish coast in modern times.