The smallest bird in Wicklow, is also the smallest in Europe, and they are notoriously difficult to see, photograph or video. The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is actually an extremely common bird in Ireland and gets its name from the bright and striking gold crest which you will notice in this video. Adults of this little species are about the size of an adult human’s thumb, and far lighter in weight. They have a distinctive high-pitched ‘cheep, cheep’ call and are extremely well camouflaged. Watch carefully for these dainty little beauties in the hedgrerows on all types of trees. They forage under leaves for tiny insects. Males and females are almost identical in appearance.
In Ireland the Goldcrest might actually be the reality behind a myth about the wren being the “king of all birds”. The wren is commonly assumed to be the smallest of all birds, and many different myths account for how it came to be procliamed king of birds, despite being the smallest. However, the Goldcrest is not only the smallest, but it has a gold crown. And the family of birds it belongs to are called “Kinglets”. It seems the original wren was in fact the spectacular little Goldcrest, not the very common and cute, but rather drab little bird we today call by that name.
In some ways it is a great shame that November is the quietest month for tourists visiting Wicklow. November in particular gives us our most spectacular skies. Why they are so amazing in November is undoubtedly due to a combination of factors such as the angle of the autumn sun, atmospheric moisture and pressure, and the lie of the land, particularly the Wicklow Mountains and hill. Much more sholuld be made of this spectacle. There should be a cloud festival in November and buses bringing painters and photographers to the best vantage points. In this, the quietest month, we could truly celebrate nature in a way that no one does. Until that time the skies are left to the connoisseurs of light and cloud.
November is a great month for viewing the foraging behaviour of garden birds because so many leaves have gone from the trees and because the insect population begins to crash as foliage and flowers disappear due to the lower amounts of sunlight and increasing cold. In the video below you can see a Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) very carefully searching leaves for small insects and other goodies. The footage is very slightly out of focus, so apologies for that.