Tag Archives: beautiful

Full Moon and Summer Solstice

Anyone who uses Google will probably have seen the ‘First Day of Summer’ cartoon on the search engine today, but alas it is actually wrong. The Summer Solstice is actually happening at precisely 11.34 pm tonight (10.34 pm GMT/UT) so tomorrow will in fact be the first day of the astronomical summer, and to be honest, summer weather really does only reliably begin with the Summer Solstice. This year is coincides with a Full Moon, so expect high tides. Typically cloudy weather is accompanying the Solstice Full Moon. This can be due to tidal forces, but also pollen dust, which acts like regular dust and attracts moisture in the atmosphere.  And there are plenty of summer visitors arriving, such as the much watched for Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui), which I have seen occasionally in the last two weeks. Here’s one of the only good photos I got:

A very beautiful Painted Lsdy butterfly. They visit Wicklow every year, but will leave in the autumn, if they survive their stay.
A very beautiful Painted Lsdy butterfly. They visit Wicklow every year, but will leave in the autumn, if they survive their stay.

And there are many other exotic insects about, including one which I have only seen twice before, the stunning Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis), which is as large as a wasp, but completely harmless. You will see these beetles on hedgerows and along, verges, in fields and even gardens:

A very handsome Wasp Beetle. Dangeorus-looking, but harmless. They are usually walking about on tall plants, or sunbathing, like this one.
A very handsome Wasp Beetle. Dangeorus-looking, but harmless. They are usually walking about on tall plants, or sunbathing, like this one.

However, ironically some harmless-looking insects can be a little bit harmful – almost all children know the Hairy Molly, a large hairy caterpillar which is often seen walking along sunlit paths and roads without a care in the world at this time of the year. In England they are known as Woolly Bears. The reason they are so unafraid is that they are bristling with poisonous hairs, which irritate the skin and lungs of some people, fortunately not me, as you can tell from this photo:

A handsome fuly-grown Hairy Molly.
A handsome fuly-grown Hairy Molly.

As for the adult this caterpillar will turn into – it’s a moth, and one of the most beautiful moths you are ever likely to see, the Garden Tiger (Arctia caja). I’ve only seen the moth twice before, but since there are many, many Hairy Molly caterpillars around, there must be many moths too, in the depth of the summer nights.

A Very Wild June

So far we have had a very warm, sunny and mostly dry June here in Wicklow, with temperatures ranging from 20 degrees to 24 degrees Celsius in the shade. Last year was a very cold summer in contrast. And the lovely weather has brought the wildlife out. Here is a young Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) crossing the road right in front of me:

A lovely young red fox, returning from a foraging trip to a shop!
A lovely young red fox, returning from a foraging trip to a shop!

I was standing at a bus stop and happened to notice the electric green of a girl crossing out into the middle of the road, and the little fox was trotting in front of her, wary but not too scared. The girl and her sister went to the shop to get some food for it, as they were fairly certain hunger had brought it out. I suspect it was in the habit of foraging in the shop’s forecourt bin. It ented a field behind the bus stop and I got this lovely photo of it peering out from the corn:

Foxes have very beautiful eyes, as you can see here.
Foxes have very beautiful eyes, as you can see here.

Whereas livestock farmers often hate foxes, cereal farmers really appreciate their presence as they eat a lot of rodents and scare birds away from their fields. Birds are extremely wary of fields where they’ve previously seen foxes. At night you will often hear the piercing shriek of vixens across the hillsides. This usually happens in winter or early spring, but they also call in summer and autumn.

This year the Hawthorn blooms have lingered for a very long time, and they are absolutely beautiful:

A lovely white-blossomed hawthorn tree, one of the most beautiful sights in the late spring and early summer countryside.
A lovely white-blossomed hawthorn tree, one of the most beautiful sights in the late spring and early summer countryside.
Hawthorn blossom up close - the scent is amazing. The scent of spring.
Hawthorn blossom up close – the scent is amazing. The scent of spring.

I’ve been very slow with my posts in recent weeks but from now on I intend to keep them at a steady space, so watch out for them.

The Vernal Equinox

At 4.30 GMT (Ireland is in the same timezone as Greenwich) this morning we reached the exact halfway point between the Winter Solstice just past, and the approaching Summer Solstice. Today the night and day were of equal length, which is where the term ‘equinox” derives, night and day being equal in length. We are now in the Great Northern Summer, when each day is longer than each night. And it was a lovely sunny day here in Wicklow too, a change from the cloudy days of the last week. And it does look like proper spring. Here are some of the delights I’ve encountered:

25239549894_7ba8a50e3fAbove is the amazing broad green on the way into Greystones from the south (Charlesland) side. Every year it is gold from the flowers of thousands of cultivated daffodils. You still have time to see this, but soon the flowers will begin to wilt, so don’t wait too long.

Yesterday I found two different moth species under the light by the back door, firstly the beautiful little Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata):

25617928750_3057233c0cAnd secondly, the slightly larger and longer Diurnea fagella, which badly needs a common name:

25285794564_6741eee9beTwo heralds of warmer weather. And now, with midnight approaching, I must go.