Although much of Ireland has been covered in snow, eastern Wicklow has largely escaped despite heavy frosts, but it seems spring has definitely decided to make its presence felt. A neighbour of mine told me he had not only got spring plants above ground, but they had already begun flowering, I took these photos yesterday, January 13, in daytime temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius (roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
This morning I got a huge surprise when I found a Crocus flower above ground and ready to flower this morning. I always judge the arrival of spring by crocuses, and this year, like last year, it’s incredibly early. Early February is much more typical. This is not a wild flower though.
Yesterday we had some very stormy weather, and trees were brought down all around Wicklow, and electricity supplies were cut off in some places, and there was some destruction to garden fences, sheds and in some cases even houses. The storm brought very warm weather, up to 16 degrees Celsius. However, today it was about 5 degrees Celsius in the day and it’s a chilly night. The birds are still very dependent on the food put out for them, and you could find some nice unusual species are attracted. Here, for example, is a male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), which is quite a large species of warbler.
These birds have traditionally been considered summer migrants, but I have seen them in the garden in winters since the 1980s, and they were probably doing so before that. Blackcaps are actually insectivores, but will gladly take peanuts from feeders in cold winter months.
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.
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.
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.