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:
This year we have had a very cold April. In the last few days, including today, there have been bright sunny periods marred by a cold wind from the north bringing hailstones, and even some goose-feather snow briefly. However, the trees have still managed to blossom albeit many are later than usual. Pear trees are especially handsome this year:
Bees have been the first beneficiaries of this bounty of pollen, but ladybirds also depend on it.
The beautiful Tawny Mining Bees are already disappearing, their time is up for the year and we will have to wait until next spring to see them again, such is life in the natural world. However, there are many, many species of bee, and some have yet to appear. For anyone with an interest in bees I have to bring to your attention a completely fantastic and ground-breaking book published shortly before last Christmas:
The author, Steven Falk, is the ‘go-to-guy’ when it comes to the identification of many insect species in Europe, and in the past he has painstakingly illustrated his own books, but in this case has collaborated with the distinguised artist Richard Lewington and many photographers to produce a massive tome about every known bee species in the British Isles (the British Isles is the geographical term for the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man, and the tens of thousands of smaller islands found in their archipelago and should not be confused with the political term United Kingdom, which refers to the lands of England, Wales and Scotland on the island of Great Britain, and six north-eastern counties of the 32 counties found on the island of Ireland which comprise Northern Ireland).
Steven Falk is a very nice guy and he has worked for years on his studies, producing this fantastic book. The illustration by Richard Lewington are incredibly detailed, and whether you are a novice or expert you will want to own this book. I have only had it a short time and have already expanded my knowledge to a huge degree.
Anyhow, butterflies have now also begun to appear and here is one of my favourites looking its best, the Peacock, Nymphalis io, which is the butterfly species Americans want to see when they visit Europe, and who could blame them:
And I am glad to say the lovely Green-veined White butterflies are also flying about the Wicklow countryside in the last few weeks. The ‘green veins’ in the undersides of their wings are perfect camouflage when they are at rest. If you don’t believe me then tell me if you can see the Green-veined White in this photo:
And here is another photo, just to make it easier to spot:
And finally a nice surprise for me, a remarkable rare species of bug spotted by my brother. This one has no common name, as yet, and is known by its scientific name of Corizus hyoscyami:
Finally, and perhaps unusually, I would like to dedicate this post to my uncle, Larry Lynch, who passed away unexpectedly after a short illness on Thursday afternoon. He knew how to live well and how to take each day as he found it, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
In May in Wicklow there is an explosion of life, largely thanks to the increased sunlight, blooming and blossoming of trees and smaller plants, and the arrival of leaves on trees flowers and shrubs which slow the movement of air and create sheltered spots that become heat traps. But a lot of the most spectacular creatures that depend on these blooms, blossoms and leaves are very small and can easily be overlooked. For example, here is a creature I have seen only once or twice before, and only just managed to photograph this month. This beautiful and tiny insect is a Lacehopper:
Lacehoppers get their name from the appearance of their wings, which resemble lace fabric. There are many species and this one is Tachycixius pilosus. The beautiful lace-like pattern can best be seen from above.
This particular insect is only about 5 mm long, an absolutely tiny insect. If it wasn’t for the white background it would have been very difficult to see, let along photograph. Lacehoppers drink sap from plants, using needle-like jaws to stab into the stems or veins in leaves. But they seem to be few in number compared with other insects so I doubt they are plant ‘pests’ as such.
Other tiny insects to look out for are micromoths. Despite their name some micromoth species can be bigger than the so-called macro-moths. The species below is a beautifully-patterned and coloured insect known only by the scientific name of Incurvaria masculella: