Tag Archives: cute

A Very Crazy Spring – Winter Returns with a Vengeance

Only last week the weather was improving so much, and the spring flowers all blooming so brilliantly, that it seemed spring was truly here and here to stay. I even saw my first hoverfly, which was, unusually for our spring, a Drone Fly (Eristalis species):

But this week everything went crazy, with the arrival of the so-called “Beast from the East”, a fierce cold weather system bringing snow and freezing temperatures to all of Europe from Siberia. Just as I was winding down using the bird-feeders in my garden they suddenly became vitally important to birds in the cold weather, and were also getting the attention of many rodents, including one particularly handsome and determined Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).  Here it is climbing out of the leaf litter next to the tree holding the feeders, just at sunset:

One night I even managed to get a video of the mouse climbing on a peanut-feeder, a tiny creature with huge eyes and ears, and a long tail:

However, there were also some less welcome visitors, such as two young Brown Rats (Rattus norvegicus), which were not quite so cute, and a lot bigger than the mouse, but equally interesting in their cheekiness:

   The cold weather inspired some incredible behaviour in some of the wildlife. Probably the most amazing thing I have seen in some years was a flock of desperate crows, Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) to be exact, who were managing to take food off the carefully-designed “crow proof” small bird feeders. One of them was even hovering like a hummingbird! Watch and be amazed:

The bad weather doesn’t end there though – tonight a huge rain storm from the Bay of Biscay, Storm Emma, collides with the Beast from the East and we have a Red Weather Warning, the highest level, only used once before and, ironically, only a few months ago when Hurricane Ophelia made for the island of Ireland. This time, it’s for snow drifts. Hopefully the wildlife will not suffer too much.

If Spiders were Teddy-bears

I know this blog is slightly in danger of becoming overrun by False Widows and other spiders, but there is one interesting species I haven’t mentioned enough, which you can see walking about on your house in broad daylight – the Zebra Spider, the most common species of jumping spider in Ireland. And it does look like a cuddly little teddy-bear.

A female Zebra Spider. She's tiny, and no matter where you live in Ireland there is almost certainly one walking about on the outer wall of your house hunting for tiny insect prey. They look nothing like other spiders, and don't make webs, hunting on foot on sunny walls.
A female Zebra Spider. She’s tiny, and no matter where you live in Ireland there is almost certainly one walking about on the outer wall of your house hunting for tiny insect prey. They look nothing like other spiders, and don’t make webs, hunting on foot on sunny walls.

The Zebra Spider gets its name because many of them have black stripes on their white firry backs, particularly the males. However, the males also have massive black fangs which they use in the same way that stags use their antlers – to fight for females. Zebra Spiders are usually around 5 or 6mm long, rarely reaching 8, and they have very short legs. They leap on their prey and if you approach one it will lift its head and look you straight in the face with those huge binocular-like eyes mounted at the front of the head. They also possess a bizarre ability to leap across the faces of walls, and they can walk across glass windows with ease. Stare at any sunny wall on any building for a few minutes and you will spot one.

Birth of a baby shark

Today I witnessed one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. I was walking along the beach after an extremely high tide (in fact, it was only just ebbing away) when I spotted an extremely fresh-looking mermaid’s purse. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s the name given to the egg-case of sharks, rays and skates. It does look like a little purse. But this one was different – a baby shark’s head was sticking out of it. It might have hatched too soon, prior to term, but I’m not sure as there are several factors and it depends on the species.

The little dogfish (aka catshark) sliding out of the egg-case in my hand
The little dogfish (aka catshark) sliding out of the egg-case in my hand.

It was like a large pink tadpole, but with blue around its eyes. I thought it was dead, but suddenly it began sliding out of the egg-case even further, and then its little pectoral fins (the main fins at the sides of a fish’s body) began moving. I had already started taking my photo, and finished doing this, running down to the sea to get some badly need water over the dogfish’s gills.

Here you can see the mermai'ds purse more clearly, and the little shark's head sticking out of it.
Here you can see the mermai’ds purse more clearly, and the little shark’s head sticking out of it.

 

You can see the little shark's gills at the sides immediately behind its head. When I realised it was still alive it was a race to get it back in the water. I hope it lived and is out there swimming around right now.
You can see the little shark’s gills at the sides immediately behind its head. When I realised it was still alive it was a race to get it back in the water. I hope it lived and is out there swimming around right now.

These egg-cases tend to belong to smaller shark species. The smallest sharks are the so-called dogfish, now usually referred to (ironically) as cat sharks due to the fact that their eyes have elliptical pupils like the eyes of cats. In older times all sharks were known as dogfish on account of their carnivorous nature.