Tag Archives: “early spring”

January, outgoing

So we’ve finally reached the end of a January which was slightly wetter than most Januarys, but much more typical than December was. However, all the heavy rain of December provoked a remarkable response from the plantlife of Wicklow. Here, for example, are two photos from the 4th January, and they are quite incredible because this one is a tuft of natural Bluebells:

Yes, genuine Bluebells in early January.
Yes, genuine Bluebells in early January.

And these are the leaves of the Arum Lily, also known as Lords-andLadies or Cuckoo Pint, Arum maculatum:

Borad fleshy leaves of the Arum Lily.
Borad fleshy leaves of the Arum Lily.

Both are spring plants, but usually they don’t begin to appear until much later in the year, in March or April. However, the weather became more cold towards mid-January, and their growth slowed. Birds began showing up in gardens looking for food, as usually happens in December, January and February. Here are a few which came to feeders in my garden:

A spectacular little Blue Tit, one of our more common species.
A spectacular little Blue Tit, one of our more common species.
A Blue Tit and a much larger Greenfinch at a peanut feeder.
A Blue Tit and a much larger Greenfinch at a peanut feeder.
Two male House Sparrows at a seed feeder. These birds have become very rare in some parts of Europe, but are an invasive species in North America. In Ireland they are perfectly at home and still doing well.
Two male House Sparrows at a seed feeder. These birds have become very rare in some parts of Europe, but are an invasive species in North America. In Ireland they are perfectly at home and still doing well.
A Robin. The European Robin is a species of Chat, whereas the American Robin is much larger and a species of Thrush. Our Robins are starting to make territorial calls and to fight - breeding season is coming.
A Robin. The European Robin is a species of Chat, whereas the American Robin is much larger and a species of Thrush. Our Robins are starting to make territorial calls and to fight – breeding season is coming.
A male Blackbird basking in the weak January sun. Blackbirds have begun to sing their territorial songs and squabbling over territories just like the Robins. This year breeding season will be early for them too.
A male Blackbird basking in the weak January sun. Blackbirds have begun to sing their territorial songs and squabbling over territories just like the Robins. This year breeding season will be early for them too.

It is definitely one of the best times of the year to birdwatch, because birds need the food we provide and the shelter or our gardens, but it is important to remember that when the weather improves that they will become lazier and more likely to be killed by both cats and Sparrowhawks if they keep attending the feeders, and they will lose some of their foraging skills. So it’s best to help them when they need help in winter, but don’t make them dependant on bird feeders.

This week spring has made a serious declaration of intent – here are three photographs I took in the last few days which prove spring has properly begun:

Proper, wild Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, blooming brightly right now.
Proper, wild Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, blooming brightly right now.
The first Crocus bloom I've spotted this year, but it was eaten by a slug yesterday, before it could open.
The first Crocus bloom I’ve spotted this year, but it was eaten by a slug yesterday, before it could open.

And finally, here is one of my favourite spring sights of all:

24584088241_3ff70c7479A female Early Thorn moth, usually appearing in mid-February, but this one seems happy enough to join the spring bandwagon. Keep an eye out for these moths when they come to windows at night. They are like a butterfly in size and pose. Absolutely beautiful. This Monday is 1 February, which means St. Brigid’s Day, the first day of the Celtic spring. This year spring wouldn’t even wait for the saint.

Spring! In the middle of Winter?

It seems this is going to be quite an unusual year in Ireland. In a December that has been colder than usual, and after a November which had some very severe frosts, it seems Spring has decided to arrive before the formal end of the year.

Today I found, to my amazement, daffodils which were already a number of inches above the ground, crocuses breaking through the soil forcefully and with serious intent, and wild Primroses (Primula vulgaris) which had already started flowering! Probably even more incredible is the fact that leaves of Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus vicaria), a wild flower of high spring, have broken through the soil en masse in the last few days, but there are reports of them doing this to the south, in Co. Wexford since November. I’m not sure what’s going on with this season, but it seems nature is trying to skip winter and go straight to spring, despite the low temperatures. It will be very interesting to see how these developments pan out.

An early spring for 2012?

Well, the winter of 2012 has so far been remarkably balmy in Wicklow, although the landscape has been battered by fierce storm winds for three days. However, it’s not frosty and the plants are all acting as though they think it’s spring already. According to Irish tradition, and the usual behaviour of the wildlife, spring begins on St. Brigid’s Day, which falls on February 1, which is not too long from now. However, as everyone knows, true spring (astronomical spring) begins with the Vernal Equinox in March. But Ireland is an island and weather does what it likes, especially when riding on the warm Gulf Stream which emanates from the Caribbean. Many summer flowers are still happily flowering in gardens, and since December the wild Primroses have been above ground, and they are now already flowering. Primroses can withstand being covered in a layer of snow, but they are very much a spring flower, and here is one I photographed this afternoon!

Blossoming wild Primrose - Primula vulgaris.