It was a tough spring for the birds because temperatures were almost relentlessly below normal, causing plants to bloom, blossom and leaf late, and insects to be in short supply. I was surprised to see the Blackbird above with such a large fledgling chick. I had put some cream out for them, cream which had just gone off, but they loved it.
Last Thursday was our first really warm sunny summer-like day and later that night I found Maybugs, better known as Cockchafer Beetles, coming to the lights of the house in huge numbers. In fact, I’ve never seen so many at one time. They will be flying around Wicklow skies until late in June, and possibly even into July. They are heavy beetles and when one very big one accidentally blundered into the web of a female Giant House Spider the poor spider was quite at a loss what to do, as the beetle was a bit bigger than its usuall prey. The Cockchafer fell out of the web soon after, ably assisted by gravity:
National Biodiversity Week ended on bank holiday Monday, but it really only heralds the start of summer. We have had a very mixed spring, with a colder May than anyone would have expected, but the wildlife is certainly out there. During Biodiversity Week the National Biodiversity Data Centre held its field meeting for volunteer recorders of butterflies and bees here in Wicklow, starting in Glendalough.
Most of the wildlife seen was actually at Buckroney Nature Reserve on the second day of the meeting, and not in the very crowded valley of Glendalough. However, there were lots of these insects which you will see around over the summer, Common Dor Beetles (Geotrupes stercorarius) one of the most common species of dung beetles. They are related to the famous Egyptian scarab beetles and have massive digging claws as they do.
Down at Buckroney Nature Reserve we had more luck. This area is part of the Brittas Bay dune system and very hot in bright sunlight due to all the sand. And it’s packed with wildlife. Such as…
And here are what naturalists look like in the field when they’ve caught something interesting…
There were quite a few interesting creatures at Buckroney, so I’ll post some photos of them in the next instalment.
Before proceeding with this instalment I have to first congratulate Bray boxer, Katie Taylor on winning her 5th World Championship gold medal. Her contribution to the sports heritage of Wicklow is unprecedented and without equal. Katie is now the most successful Irish boxer in the history of the sport. Magnificent work, Katie!
The days are galloping past now and we’re very much in the depths of autumn and hurtling towards the Winter Solstice, which lies exactly halfway between the two Equinoxes, the gateways between greater winter and greater summer. But even now, at the end of November, there are lots of things happening in the natural world, although they’re not so easily noticed. Keep an eye out for these wonderful and beautiful moths –
The Beautiful Plume – Amblyptilia acanthadactyla – is a small and beautiful moth that is also unusual, because it overwinters as an adult, finding somewhere nice and warm to hibernate until the weather becomes more favourable in spring, at which point this species decides to have its caterpillars, which graze throughout the spring and summer months on a wide variety of plants. You will often find these moths indoors, resting quietly on walls and ceilings.
If you live anywhere near horses you have a great chance of seeing one of these creatures –
This is a small species of Dung Beetle, Aphodius prodromus, which is extremely fond of horse manure but will also try other varieties. I found this one marching through bird dung on a fence post. But do you notice anything strange about it? On the left front foot, above its head, there is a bug attached to it. The bug is attached by its head. This smaller insect may be drinking the beetle’s blood but could be caught up in the comb-like claws which the beetle uses for digging.
And besides these smaller insects, there are still big bees to be seen about the landscape –
So long as there are flowers blooming there will be bees to feed on them, but the Honey Bees and other species have now mostly given way to these big Buff-tailed Bumblebees, which don’t seem to mind the cold quite so much as their pollen-collecting rivals. At this time of year lower temperatures make them a little bit slower and easier to photograph. But not much easier.