Tag Archives: apple

Biodiversity Week!

You probably don’t realise it with all of the big news stories, referendum issues, etc. but this is Ireland’s National Biodiversity Week, and here is a little celebration of the biodiversity you will see in Wicklow right now, in no particular order:

   This is my first proper photo of a Red Kite (Milvus milvus), a large and very beautiful bird-of-prey which mostly feeds on carrion, and can often be seen soaring above the roads of Wicklow on the watch out for roadkill. It is a huge bird, and has only been back in Ireland for about a decade having been reintroduced, with the first released in Wicklow. They have since thrived.

Wicklow loves its cherry trees, and in spring they are everywhere blooming. Here’s a handsome double-flower cherry. Most are now gone out of bloom but you might still find some stragglers.

After the mass blooming of dandelion flowers seed-eating birds come into their element, with beauties such as the Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) coming into gardens to feed on them. The bird in the photo is a male Bullfinch.

Butterfly numbers have been steadily climbing in May, and these dainty creatures can be found almost everywhere. The one in the photo is easily identified as it is the only Irish species with eye-spots, the Peacock butterfly (Inachis io).

Apple trees doe very well in Ireland, and Wicklow has no shortage of them. Here is one with immense blooms. Once fertilised by a pollen-covered bee or hover fly, each flower will gradually develop into an apple, but it will take a few months. And here’s a close-up of the beautiful blossoms.

Here (below) is one of the best of all the pollinators and in 2018 it seems to be enjoying a population explosion in Wicklow – the Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica), which doesn’t mine chocolate, but is chocolate-coloured. It is often confused with the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) but has no pollen sacs on its hind legs, and no sting. The one in the photo is collecting pollen from a potentilla flower.

May is the time of the Maybugs – large, clumsy beetles best known as Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), which emerge from pupa having spent a year or two under ground as large white grubs feeling on the roots of dandelions. They appear in May and June and fly about at night, and are attracted to lights. You will see them now almost every night until the end of June.

And, of course, there are also moths to be seen:

   Many moths, like the one above, are attracted to window lights at night. This handsome species is the Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata), which is quite common in Wicklow, and which appears as two different generation of moths. This one belongs to the first, and in late summer a second generation of moths will appear.

On leaves all around gardens in Wicklow little green eggs appear. Some belong to moths, some to butterflies, some to true bugs and some to beetles. These eggs (above) belong to the Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina).

Finally, to end my little showcase, here is a very beautiful game bird, the Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). These birds used to very much belong to the countryside, but in recent years they have begun coming to live in gardens, and can even be found in the centre of Dublin city, especially in universities with trees and green areas, such as Trinity College. However, in Wicklow they are in much larger numbers.

 

 

December Chill

As the days now get very short it is becoming chilly and frosty in Wicklow, especially on higher ground. But as often happens at this time of year there are spectacular sunsets in the evenings, weather permitting, such as this one a few days ago.

The palm-like tree visible to the left is a cordyline, known as Cornish Palm, although not actually a palm tree at all. These hardy trees originate from New Zealand where they are known as Cabbage Trees due to the resemblance of their trunks to the stems of cabbage plants.
The palm-like tree visible to the left is a cordyline, known as Cornish Palm, although not actually a palm tree at all. These hardy trees originate from New Zealand where they are known as Cabbage Trees due to the resemblance of their trunks to the stems of cabbage plants.

A sure sign of the colder weather is the behaviour of birds. Blackbirds and Robins in particular become much less shy and will allow you get closer to them with a camera, possibly as part of a policy of using as little energy as is necessary in order to stay warm.

A male Blackbird allows me to come within arm's reach of him, which makes for a great photo opportunity.

A male Blackbird allows me to come within arm’s reach of him, which makes for a great photo opportunity.

Now that the berries on the trees have all been eaten by the birds they have to try and get food from wherever they can. I usually leave some apples out for them, as even insectivorous birds like the Blackbird above will gladly partake of free fruit.

When birds eat apples they usually leave the skin and core intact, as in the case of this one.Mammals usually eat the skin too, as they have teeth to tear it more easily than birds' beaks.
When birds eat apples they usually leave the skin and core intact, as in the case of this one.Mammals usually eat the skin too, as they have teeth to tear it more easily than birds’ beaks.

 

The Big Bloom

Now it’s high spring, so the countryside is a blaze of colour. There’s something a little sad about it too, because the blossoms on the trees last only a few days. But the flowers on the ground will continue to bloom for most of the summer, whith few exceptions. Anyhow, here are some of the beauties:

Apple blossom, which I photographed in a little orchard in my garden. The scent of these flowers could almost define spring. Sadly, after only a few days, they are soon to fall from the trees. Live for the moment!
Apple blossom, which I photographed in a little orchard in my garden. The scent of these flowers could almost define spring. Sadly, after only a few days, they are soon to fall from the trees. Live for the moment!

Although I found a few cherries blooming in January (big mistake!) most are only blooming now, or coming out of bloom, and the occasional breezes of May have carpeted footpaths and lawns in the pink of their blossoms. Cherries are fantastic trees, and they can be found throughout Wicklow. Most are cultivated but there are wild ones too.

Heavy cherry blossoms on a thin tree. Beautiful, especially against a blue sky.
Heavy cherry blossoms on a thin tree. Beautiful, especially against a blue sky.

Closer to ground level the combination of sun and rain has caused an explosion of wildflower blooms. The hyper-sanitised gardening which developed in the 1950s and has continued more or less unchanged until modern times treats Dandelions and Daisies as enemies to be destroyed, yet these beautiful little flowers are the very bedrock of the Wicklow ecosystem, as they once were in most of Europe. They support millions of pollinating insects on which the human race depends for its very survival. Ironically, Dandelions are not only edible, but in many countries, such as France, they are served in the best restaurants as food.

A lawn of daisies and a complimentary dandelion.
A lawn of daisies and a complimentary dandelion.

Some flowers which can be found thriving in Wicklow are currently considered endangered species in many other parts of Europe. While not exactly a common sight, a sharp pair of eyes will find Cowslips along the hedgerows and borders of damp meadows. Bees love them.

The gentle but strong yellow of a Cowslip, a plant which has become very precious as it is in decline in many parts of Ireland.
The gentle but strong yellow of a Cowslip, a plant which has become very precious as it is in decline in many parts of Europe.