This year Wicklow is enjoying an incredible spring, and this Easter is one of the best we’ve ever had. The butterflies have arrived in great numbers and among them spectacular beauties like the Peacock.
The first Peacock of the year, sunning itself on some boards.
And this truly is the ‘Spring of the Ladybirds’ as they are absolutely everywhere. The Seven-spot Ladybirds are the most numerous but also look for the tiny orangish-coloured 14-spot Ladybirds.
A load of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves on a box tree. Two of them are having a bit more fun than the rest, and a small wolf spider is sharing the basking spot.
Slightly less commonly noticed, but probably just as widespread are the Tawny Mining Bees. These lovely bees make volcano-like mounds at the tops of burrows in which they lay their eggs. They are solitary bees, not living in large nests, although it is possible to see numbers of them sharing areas of the garden.These bees only show up for a few weeks in spring, usually in April, and they then fill in their burrows and the adults die while the young spend almost a year of their lives underground in the tunnels. The mounds disappear too, as the bees use the soil to seal the nests shut. When the grubs reach adulthood they will dig themselves free next spring and build their own nests.
A female Tawny Mining Bee on the mound at the mouth of her mine.
Yesterday I was surprised to see a butterfly just out of hibernation, resting on the threshold of the Church of the Holy Redeemer on the Mainstreet in Bray.
The Small Tortoiseshell on the church stone.
It had clearly fallen out from under the arch, temperatures having risen above 10 degrees Celsius for most of the day, encouraging it to wake up. Small Tortoiseshells are excellent hibernators and are also usually the last butterflies in the Wicklow sky before winter sets in. They are also often the first to appear in spring, although Orange-tip butterflies are the kings of spring.
As many people are undoubtedly aware, today marks the end of Heritage Week. There were apparently far more heritage events nationwide than in previous years, but most importantly of all, a growing number of people are realising that heritage is not just cultural, but natural too. In fact, even more so, as landscape influences culture in ways not often appreciated. Anyhow, summer is still rolling along, although, as I’m sure many students returning to school this coming week are only too aware, we are in the later stages of it now. But there is plenty of wildlife to be found out there still.
Not a great photo, but the first wild Comma butterfly (Nymphalis c-album) I have encountered in many years. This one got trapped indoors. In case you are wondering, those wings are not damaged. All Commas have jagged-looking wings like this, although why they do is a mystery. When I netted this butterfly I assumed it was a Small Tortoiseshell with damaged wings, which do occur. However, as soon as I got it into a big sweet jar (through which I took this photo) I realised it was, in fact, a Comma. These butterflies get their name from a white comma-like mark on the underside of each hind wing. The Comma appears to be a damaged Small Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis urticae), but you can see from this photo of a Small Tortoiseshell that the wing patterns are quite different. This photo was taken in my little purposely-planted meadow.
I had searched vegetation high and low this summer and completely failed to find any crickets, only to accidentally carry this one into the house on my jacket. This is a male Speckled Bush Cricked (Leptophyes punctatissima) and he is doing the insect equivalent of biting his toenails.