As many people are undoubtedly aware, today marks the end of Heritage Week. There were apparently far more heritage events nationwide than in previous years, but most importantly of all, a growing number of people are realising that heritage is not just cultural, but natural too. In fact, even more so, as landscape influences culture in ways not often appreciated. Anyhow, summer is still rolling along, although, as I’m sure many students returning to school this coming week are only too aware, we are in the later stages of it now. But there is plenty of wildlife to be found out there still.
The Large White butterfly is extremely common in Wicklow right now, and in some areas much more than in others. They are hatching out from chrysalises hidden under the eaves of roofs, under vehicles and outdoor furniture and, of course, tree trunks. Here’s one I found earlier, its wings still drying out:
So why are there so many Large Whites around right now? Well, as many people will know, especially gardeners, the alternative common name for this butterfly is Cabbage White, because its caterpillars are such pests of cabbages. However, cabbages have many relatives, and by far the most abundant at this time of the year is the Oilseed Rape. Amid all the deep green fields of grass and early corn are the stunning, glowing gold fields of OilseedRape, from which we get cooking oil. If you are seeing a lot of Large Whites around any particular area there will almost certainly be fields of this amazing plant, whose flowers fill the air with a terrific fragrance on sunny days.
It almost beggars belief that it is still only March, but it is sunny and warm and you couldn’t ask for a better summer than what we’re having now. Only a few days ago I was paying a visit to the East Coast Nature Reserve with my brother, Trevor, when he spotted a large male Viviparous Lizard (Lacerta vivipara). Officially there is only one indigenous species of reptile in Ireland, and this is it. They love sunny spaces, so the boardwalk in a nature reserve is perfect. Lizards can be approached with a camera, so long as you move slowly, and that’s what I did when taking this macro at 20cm distance. The usual length of a male is about 18-20cm from nose to tail-tip, but I have actually found one measuring 23cm long. Don’t move fast, because if you do you’ll scare them, and they are very, very fast when escaping.
Butterflies are now already in abundance, and a few times I’ve had to rescue them from the windows of sheds and especially from a polytunnel. Especially interesting was a newly hatched out Speckled Wood, whose wings were still drying after having emerged from a crysalis.
There are also dainty little Holly Blue butterflies to be seen. Sometimes they resemble petals from flowers, and appear to be falling on the wind, possibly a clever illusion to throw predators off the scent.
The clear nights are still relatively cold, but warming day-by-day, and more and more moths are being enticed to the lights of windows. You stand a very good chance of finding a lovely fawn-coloured moth called the Common Quaker during March, and I managed to photograph one earlier in the week.
If you are in Wicklow then now is the time to get out there into the countryside, and if you’re thinking of visiting Ireland, then this is almost certainly the year to do it. Because so much is happening I’m going to be increasing my blogging rate. The tree blossoms are just about to burst into bloom…