Today is the last day of February and the weather is a bit stormy right now, but considerably milder than it has been. However, we had daytime temperatures briefly climb up to 16 degrees Celsius two days ago, and stay at 12 degrees Celsius through the following night, which led to a wonderful surprise the following morning – frogspawn.
There have been some other signs of warmer sunnier weather, although much less spectacular than frogspawn. Namely, 7-spot Ladybirds and Green Shieldbugs sunbathing on plants on warmer afternoons.
Wild primroses (Primula vulgaris) have also begun to bloom all over Wicklow. You can see them along hedgerows, usually on exposed banks at the bottom of trees. They really stand out at this time of year.
But probably the most important flower of all to bloom in spring is also the most overlooked and least appreciated – the dandelion. Dandelions produce a massive amount of pollen and are very important to insects. They are especially popular with Honey Bees. Here is one of the first I’ve seen this year.
Finally, here’s something much less obvious to look for. The drab little bird below is a Chaffinch, and you might think it’s a female, but if you look closely you will see it is tinged at the edges with the the bright colours of an adult male. This little bird is a young male and in the next few months will wear the sky blue and salmon pink of an adult. He might even breed this year. It’s highly likely. He has a lot of living ahead of him.
Spring is now gathering pace, and the days have grown to be almost as long as the nights. This week the Azores High has arrived over Ireland, bringing us clear skies – gorgeous warmish sunny days and frosty nights. But the warm days have caused insects to appear and there is a population explosion of Seven-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata). They can be seen basking on trees, shrubs and walls all across Wicklow right now.
ANot quite so noticeable as these bright red ladybirds, but almost as numerous, are Green Shieldbugs (Palomena pristina) which have truly awesome camouflage. In summer they are bright green, but in winter become dead-leaf brown. Most are still that colour right now, but will soon become brighter.
One especially interesting insect I’ve seen this week is a type of moth, the Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) is a little bit smaller than a butterfly, and very similar in appearance. It is a late-winter/early-spring species and so you have only a few more weeks to see them this year, if even that much. They readily come to light. The one I photographed is a male, and this is easy to tell because of the typical feathered antennae, but also because the female of the species has only stubs for wings, and must walk about on foliage wafting pheremones on the air so that she can be found by the male. Keep an eye around window frames for these guys.