It was in the last days of January the crocuses began to spring up. They didn’t open though, remaining spear-like flowerbuds. And then last Saturday some opened slightly and briefly, and then shut again due to the cold. There is one group of Early Crocuses which have always grown in my garden which I consider the markers of true spring, when snow simply will not sit on the ground anymore even if it does fall. These crocuses finally opened today after a night of rain.
Flowers begin the spring because they provide pollen and nectar for insects to feed on. The more flowers there are, the more insects there are, and the more larger animals have to feed on. Of course, the slightly warmer temperatures also cause grubs to transform into beetles, and here is one of the first I’ve seen this year, Aphodius prodromus, a type of tiny dung beetle which breeds in horse-manure. There just happens to be a field full of horses nearby.
Wicklow was very dry this winter, with little or no rainfall for almost a month up until two days ago. The result has been an almost magical opening of flowers, including one unexpected little beauty, and one of the most important wild flowers of the spring – Lesser Celandine.
At seven this morning, in the damp twilight, the dawn chorus began. Birds of many species began singing loudly and melodiously and were perfectly audible indoors. The chorus lasted about half-an-hour and it is the first time I’ve heard it this year. Dawn is still quite late, but gradually the mornings will lengthen and become earlier and the dawn choruses will grow longer and longer. However, the breeding season has begun and spring is most definitely here.
The winter of 2013/14 has certainly been the winter of storms, but the heavy bouts of rain (and those of sleet and snow too) have somehow kick-started spring growth. As the days grow longer there’s more and more to see. The snowdrops are now blooming absolutely everywhere.
The crocuses are already coming into a peak of blooming, although there are not quite so many pollinating insects about right now. Here are some very nice ones in my garden.
At this time of year it’s a good idea to not only look at what’s going on at ground level, but also up into the air in the sky about. A few days ago we had a really sunny and cold day, and I had an opportunity to observe two Buzzards (Buteo buteo) circling overhead.
The European Buzzard is technically a large hawk or small eagle and should not be confused with vultures, which are often referred to in America as ‘Buzzards’. Our Buzzard is actually a close relative of the American Red-shouldered Hawk. They are beautiful birds and at this time of the year will land in newly ploughed fields to eat earthworms and grubs exposed by the soil. Of course, they also eat rodents, other birds and can take young rabbits and hares.
Two days ago the first crocuses were discovered blooming in my garden. There are leaves out on shrubs too, and the daffodils now have flowerbuds. It is a rare early spring, overlapping with the winter.
Last year we had similar temperatures but the spring flowers were extremely slow to bloom, and it did turn very cold and snow on many occasions throughout February and March, and even early April. However, in the lowlands the snow didn’t stick because ground temperatures were far too warm, and it seems likely that even if the weather ss to turn cold in the next few weeks, that snow will not stick.
But there have been some other surprises too, despite the fact we’ve had plenty of frost this week. For example, last weekend I discovered a hoverfly flying about in the sunbeams.
There have also been some classic winter species. Here is a photo from three weeks ago, in the early New Year, when a male Winter Moth came to the light emanating from a rear window:
There have also been some bright green caterpillars around, and many people are windering what species they belong to, and why they are around in winter. Some caterpillars actually spend the winter between napping and eating, and begin to appear now in late winter/early spring when they will find good places to pupate, emerging as moths in late spring and early summer. There are a number of species which do this, but the most commonly seen are usually the caterpillars of the Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa ).