Tag Archives: annual

Daffodils! Already?

Incredibly, yes. Yesterday (December 28) I found quite a few daffodil leaves had already burst through the soil, something which I’ve never seen before so early in Wicklow. These are not special early-flowering daffodils either, just regular ones that appear every year in the same place. Usually they would be very early if the appeared like this by the second week of January.

Daffodils are making a very early appearance this winter.
Daffodils are making a very early appearance this winter.

Last year was a much warmer December and they still didn’t put in an appearance so early. It’s fascinating to consider what the trigger mechanism for this growth is, but it’s definitely not temperature. Perhaps after millions of years of evolution these bulbs are hard-wired to recognise subtle changes in conditions that suit their growth, of which we are almost entirely ignorant. But they are not alone – I’ve heard reports of wild Primroses blooming in fields in Wexford since late November, and here are still more Buebells rising above the ground early –

Bluebells rising in another area. Do they know something we don't?
Bluebells rising in another area. Do they know something we don’t?

Probably most incredible of all are the wild Lords-and-Ladies arum lilies, the leaves of which can be seen well above ground in many places, still furled like fleshy green flags. However, I haven’t spotted my old reliables yet – Early Crocuses, which my own studies suggest are the most accurate indicators of the arrival of spring. There is still a lot we have to learn about the natural world, but one thing is for certain, the temperature outside tonight is – 1 degree Celsius and there’s a strong frost which has made lawns crunchy under foot.

If you find a baby deer… leave it!

I know a lot of people would like me to do more about footprints for the long weekend, especially so they can go out tracking, so I will do that in the next upload, but firstly something very important.

At this time of the year deer are birthing all around Ireland. It is very likely you might come across a newborn baby deer lying in long grass and not moving. DO NOT TOUCH IT! When deer are born they are not able to run for the first few hours, so they can’t keep up with their mothers. And, if a mother deer waits by her baby she is very likely to draw the attention of predators. So, instead the mother will leave the baby where it is and come back to suckle it at specific intervals when it is safe to do so.

This is a photo of a Fallow Deer fawn lying low. It's not abandoned, it's simply hiding. When it's muscles develop after a few days it will be well able to run. I took this photo a few years ago when I spent a June working with the Irish Mammal Study Group based in UCD.
This is a photo of a Fallow Deer fawn lying low. It’s not abandoned, it’s simply hiding. When its muscles develop after a few days it will be well able to run. I took this photo a few years ago when I spent a June working with the Irish Mammal Study Group based in UCD.

After only a day or so the baby has the strength to follow its mother, but until it is strong enough to run it will always drop down in the grass and wait quietly, relying on its camouflage to keep it safe. If you find a baby deer like this don’t touch it under and circumstances because your scent will rub off onto the baby and its mother won’t take it back. If you think the baby deer will make a good pet, then you are making a big mistake. Almost all youngsters under a week old will die if taken into captivity. They can only digest their mothers’ milk and the stress alone can take its toll. Even expert deer handlers cannot save their lives. Less is more in this case. If you back off away from the youngster, and pretend you haven’t seen it, the mother will soon return, and you will be able to watch her doing so.

If it’s too late, and you have handled it, leave it where you found it and there is still a chance the mother will take it back. Remember, you probably won’t know the outcome, because of the secrecy of these animals.