August 9, 2013

Watch out for the Silver-Y

Right now Wicklow is swarming with Silver-Ys, muscular moths which migrate from North Africa and southern Europe every summer. Some years they are in small numbers, and some years in large ones, and this year they are in the latter. You will see them flying by night mostly, but individuals are very noticeable by day too, moving from place to place or perching on walls and windows. They come to garden plants by night in hovering swarms which are very impressive.

A Silver-Y feeding on garden pinks in my garden.

A Silver-Y feeding on garden pinks in my garden.

The moth’s scientific name, Autographa gamma, literally means ‘self-written y’. Both the common and scientific name are due to a silver-coloured ‘y’ marking on each forewing, as you can see clearly in the photo below.

A Silver-Y feeding on Bouncing Bet, a wild flower which is also cultivated.

A Silver-Y feeding on Bouncing Bet, a wild flower which is also cultivated.

Silver-Y moths are believed to attempt to migrate home in autumn, but some will instead opt to hibernate, and with some success as I have discovered them springing to life in sheds in springtime. It’s difficult to know how long they can live but we do know Painted Lady butterflies not only migrate from North Africa to Ireland, but also can successfully make the return journey in autumn, so the robust Silver-Y should be equally capable of this feat. As with so much in nature, however, it remains to be conclusively proven.

June 18, 2013

Welcome to Wicklow, Michelle Obama!

A nice surprise for us this week was the sudden announcement of the visit of the vivacious US First Lady, Michelle Obama. Today she’s getting a tour of Glendalough, a very ancient site which should have been included on the World Heritage List decades ago, but has been ignored continually by successive Irish governments, despite the importance of tourism to Ireland. Anyhow, I leave you with some photos of Glendalough I took last week, featuring my brother Owen, an archaeologist by training, and his wife, Alla.

The monastic city of Glendalough, which might actually be pre-Christian in origin despite its association with Christianity.

The monastic city of Glendalough, which might actually be pre-Christian in origin despite its association with Christianity.

Ruined church dating to 11th century.

Ruined cathedral dating from the 11th century.

The famous round tower of Glendalough. Even when you are standing near one it is extremely difficult to judge the scale of what you are looking at, but there are some people standing at the base of it, and they look absolutely tiny.

The famous round tower of Glendalough. Even when you are standing near one it is extremely difficult to judge the scale of what you are looking at, but there are some people standing at the base of it, and they look absolutely tiny. These were among the tallest structures in Europe for almost a thousand years. This one is dated to the 9th or 10th century AD, but the Glendalough complex is far older.

 

 

June 14, 2013

More Moths

Yes, it’s pretty grotty wet weather in Wicklow at the moment, but it’s really brought the moths out. And one of the great things about studying nature is that all you need is a wall with a bright light over it, or a bright but sheltered window, to get them to land. So here are a few I’ve found:

The Streamer is one of the carpet moths, as you can tell from its shape.

The Streamer – Anticlea derivata, is one of the carpet moths, as you can tell from its shape. It seems to be camouflaged to resemble Turkey-tail fungus. It gets its name from the streamer-like black marks which you can see on its wingtips.

Common Marbled Carpet, another carpet moth.

The Common Marbled Carpet – Chloroclysta truncata, is another carpet moth.

 

White Ermine -

White Ermine – Spilosoma lubricipeda. You can tell this one is a male, as it has feathered antennae. Females have soft straight wispy ones.

One of the Pug moths

One of the Pug moths, which I have yet to identify. It might be something rare.

 

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