The Official Stamp of Spring

Despite freezing polar systems descending on Wicklow the Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) have finally burst into bloom. They like shady areas and absolutely glow against the dark green backgrounds.

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Snowdrops are widespread but not exactly common plants, not truly indigenous to Ireland but now naturalised. However, they are very much a part of our modern Wicklow, and have been for a long time. Ireland is still in a stage of post-glacial colonisation and its remote marine location in western Europe is why the island of Great Britain has proportionally far more species of animal and plant, yet still fewer than mainland Europe. Of course, this is not counting the marine creatures and Ireland possibly has more species in its marine environments than other areas of Europe due to relative warmth, position in the Atlantic and position in the Gulf Stream.

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Wicklow is a damp place, with impressive wetlands which thrive on the waters from the winter rain and snows. The heavy snow and sleet that have fallen on the mountains have brought much needed nutrients to the coastal wetlands, and they are spectacularly flooded at the moment, but in the process of returning to normal. However, when the chill winds abate they are well worth a photograph.

Irish Spring

Yes, it has finally arrived. Yesterday, was St. Brigid’s Day, which is traditionally the first day of the Irish spring. Ireland has a very strange climate due to the fact it is located far out in the Atlantic, and positioned directly in the tropical Gulf Stream current. So our winters are usually much milder than anywhere else in Europe (even southern Europe) but our summer temperatures never reach the lofty peaks of those of the continental summer.

And the vagaries of the weather can lead to winters like last year, which were actually warm, and summers like last year that are quite cold. This year has been much more traditional, although the snow was only on the hills and mountains. There were biting winds, but today is sunny and calm, with bumble bees feeding on the winter andearly spring blooms. Most interesting of all is that the flower of high spring, Lesser Celandine, has already begun blooming.

Lesser Celandine photographed today. It almost flowered three weeks ago, but the cold weather stultified the blooms.

There might still be snow or sleet falls, but the natural world of Wicklow, at any rate, is in broad agreement that spring has begun. And so we stand once more at the threshold of the most exciting time of year.

Éamonn De Buitléar (1930 – 2013)

Sadly, Ireland’s most famous naturalist, Éamonn De Buitléar, died last night at his home in the village of Delgany. He lived almost his entire life in Wicklow, his family having moved from Galway to Bray when he was a child. He is most famous internationally as a wildlife film-maker and much of the footage he recorded was taken in Wicklow. Some of the key scenes in David Attenborough’s The Trials of Life tv series of the 1980s were filmed by Éamonn De Buitléar, notably those of the young eels (elvers) making their way up an Irish stream. He also served as a senator, was an active promoter of the Irish language and a highly respected traditional musician.

Although I spoke with him all too little, I would frequently come across the great naturalist on my rambles in the Wicklow countryside and he was a well-known character in Wicklow and will certainly be missed.

My condolences to his family and friends.

May he rest in peace.

A portrait Éamonn De Buitléar allowed me to take of him in Newcastle Community Centre two years ago.

An Adventure in the Garden of Ireland