Tag Archives: Dublin

Butterflies, Moths and Moorhens

We are now in deep Autumn and, although the Met service will declare the first day of December the start of Winter, usually winter does not take effect until after the Winter Solstice. For the first time in many weeks I spotted a butterfly basking in the sun, albeit on an unseasonably warm day. It was a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), a species which hibernates:

With any luck this one will also be basking in the sunlight of next spring. I observed it for quite a while and watched as it finally entered an old wooden nest box. Hopefully it will vacate the premises before any spring breeding birds move in and eat it.

While butterflies more properly belong to the warmer months there are moth species which only appear in autumn. One very handsome species which you might see, and which will soon be finished for the year is the Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria)  – the male has antennae that resemble feathers:

   In August I was in the Herbert Park in Dublin when I spotted a family of birds which are common in Wicklow, but almost impossible to see here because they are so shy and the ponds and lakes they inhabit are often on private land. These birds are Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and, incredibly I saw young chicks and was able to record them over a period of months as they grew to full size – here is the video I made about them and I hope you enjoy it:

Summer in September

Last week I finally met a naturalist who has become unwittingly famous, and he even let me take his photo.

Wildlife photographer Shay Connolly - no relation (as far as I know) exhibiting a seriously big lens. We do have similar taste in vests and hats, but that's probably not a genetic predisposition... probably. But I could be wrong.
Wildlife photographer Shay Connolly – no relation (as far as I know) exhibiting a seriously big lens. We do have similar taste in vests and hats, but that’s probably not a genetic predisposition… probably. But I could be wrong.

Every time I come across a likely naturalist (any person with binoculars and/or a big camera) and introduce myself they ask me, if they don’t immediately assume it, if I am related to Shay Connolly. This has been going on for years, yet I had never come across the enigmatic wildlife photographer, until last week when I came across him after he had spent a morning photographing beautiful little migratory birds called Wheatears. He kindly agreed to let me take a photo of him for the blog and reveal to the world, finally, what the legend looks like. I’m seriously considering writing A Field Guide to the Naturalists of Ireland. The birds would think it a fair revenge, no doubt.

A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly basking in the sun. This species is still on the wing, but as autumn draws in they will begin entering buildings, caves and even hollowed tree trunks to hibernate.
A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly basking in the sun. This species is still on the wing, but as autumn draws in they will begin entering buildings, caves and even hollowed tree trunks to hibernate.

Anyhow, back to our story – a lot of people tend to assume that September is Autumn, but in all truth it is often as much if not more of an extension of summer than it is the first month of autumn, and this year is a perfect example. After a very cool August we have had a perfect ‘Indian Summer’ September. The weather has been absolutely fantastic and reliably so too.

The Speckled Wood is the most common butterfly species in Wicklow and Ireland as a whole. It is one of the hardiest too, often being the earliest seen in spring, and often the latest in autumn, sometimes seen as late as December in warm years. At the moment they are the most common along the hedgerows and possibly the only butterflies many people are seeing as we approach the Equinox marking the beginning of true autumn.
The Speckled Wood is the most common butterfly species in Wicklow and Ireland as a whole. It is one of the hardiest too, often being the earliest seen in spring, and often the latest in autumn, sometimes seen as late as December in warm years. At the moment they are the most common along the hedgerows and possibly the only butterflies many people are seeing as we approach the Equinox marking the beginning of true autumn.

In fact, it’s a little too dry for Wicklow’s ecosystem, but that will almost certainly change very soon, when true Autumn arrives early next week and the nights grow steadily longer than the days. But the landscape is still full of butterflies, caterpillars, moths and all sorts of insects and their dependants – bats, shrews, hedgehogs and many, many bird species. The swallows are still very much with us although some will have begun departing for Africa, and I saw my last swift two weeks ago, which is late in the summer for those birds.

To shake things up a little I plan to link some videos to my next instalments, which will hopefully be helpful to people although they are by no means perfect. But if videos aren’t your thing, please continue to enjoy the text and photos, which will be accompanying the videos.