Tag Archives: crocuses

Flowers and the Dawn Chorus – Spring is Here!

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.

Early Crocuses open and declare the spring.
Early Crocuses open and declare the spring. As you can see the shadows are stil long under the winter sun.
Crocuses are robust little flowers until they open, at which time they become as delicate as tissue paper. They are surreal against what had been a winter landscape.
This one is a different crocus, a hortiucultural variety, but still beautiful. Crocuses are robust little flowers until they open, at which time they become as delicate as tissue paper. Their gaudy colours are surreal against what had been a winter landscape.

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.

This little beetle had evidently flown across the garden before crash-landing in a puddle of water - a lucky escape. They are stong fliers but clumsy too.
This little dung beetle had evidently flown across the garden before crash-landing in a puddle of water -from which it had a lucky escape with my help. They are stong fliers but clumsy too.

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.

This specimen of Lesser Celandine has nine petals, but they can have as few as six. The plant is a member of the buttercup family, and so many bloom they can turn whole areas yellow. Insects absolutely thrive on their flowers, particularly hoverflies.
This specimen of Lesser Celandine has nine petals, but they can have as few as six. The plant is a member of the buttercup family, and so many bloom they can turn whole areas yellow. Insects absolutely thrive on their flowers, particularly hoverflies. For now this one stands alone.

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.

Birthpangs of Spring

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.

Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.
Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.

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.

Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.
Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.

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.

A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings.
A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings. Not a great shot, but you can see what it is.

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.

 

Spring Blooms

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.

Crocuses blooming already. An exciting development this week.
Crocuses blooming already. An exciting development this week.

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.

 

Probably the most common species of hoverfly in Wicklow, Episyrphus balteatus is know to show up on sunny days at any time of year. It seems to be a hibernating species.
Probably the most common species of hoverfly in Wicklow, Episyrphus balteatus is know to show up on sunny days at any time of year. It seems to be a hibernating species.

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:

The Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, is a drab-coloured species which is distinctive because it comes to light in the very depths of winter. The female has no wings at all, and walks on longish legs.
The Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, is a drab-coloured species which is distinctive because it comes to light in the very depths of winter. The female has no wings at all, and walks on longish legs.

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 ).

The caterpillar of the Hebrew Character can be bright green to yellow, to cream and even a creamy-pink clour. It's a very beautiful caterpillar species and quite a distinctive moth too.
The caterpillar of the Angle Shades can be bright green to yellow, to cream and even a creamy-pink clour. It usually has a broken white or silvery line running down the centre of its back. It’s can be a very beautiful caterpillar species and quite a distinctive moth too.