Tag Archives: fields

August Colour and a Little Rain

There were times in July when there was some worry we could have a drought, but after several bouts of rain over the last couple of weeks those fears have been allayed and the sunburnt lawns have recovered. However, one of these rainy periods is coinciding with the August Bank Holiday, which is usually the high point of the Irish summer. Thanks to all of the good weather, and some helpful rain, we are having a great summer and a colourful one. There are many interesting creatures about. You might find circles cut from rose leaves, both wild and cultivated forms, and you might also see a leaf flying through the air, carried by the Leaf-Cutter Bee, a beautiful solitary species.

The species in the photo, which is the most likely one you will see, is the Patchwork Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis) which likes to make nests in nail-holes in fence-posts which it stocks with leaves for its larvae.

There are also lots of dragonflies and damselflies around, and many will fly along hedgerows, green areas and even gardens with or without ponds, although they all need ponds or slow moving rivers in order to breed. Some damselflies are very dainty, and they can be difficult to tell apart from one another. This one was in a meadow garden, and it is almost certainly an Azure Bluet (Coenagrion puella), and is a very handsome species which can easily go unnoticed despite being as long as an adult’s little finger:

   There are some very interesting little creatures which you can find absolutely everywhere right now, in meadows, gardens, hedgerows and pretty much wherever there are flowers. These are Pollen Beetles (Meligethes aeneus), tiny beetles which can be seen in almost every flower everywhere across Wicklow right now. They are important but barely-noticed pollinators of many species of plant and they often appear in huge numbers. Here are quite a few of them in a poppy:

Large White Season

The Large White butterfly is extremely common in Wicklow right now, and in some areas much more than in others. They are hatching out from chrysalises hidden under the eaves of roofs, under vehicles and outdoor furniture and, of course, tree trunks. Here’s one I found earlier, its wings still drying out:

A Large White resting on my hand after it fell out from underneath a car where it had just hatched out. It's wings were still a little floppy.
A Large White resting on my hand after it fell out from underneath a car where it had just hatched out. Its wings were still a little floppy.

So why are there so many Large Whites around right now? Well, as many people will know, especially gardeners, the alternative common name for this butterfly is Cabbage White, because its caterpillars are such pests of cabbages. However, cabbages have many relatives, and by far the most abundant at this time of the year is the Oilseed Rape. Amid all the deep green fields of grass and early corn are the stunning, glowing gold fields of OilseedRape, from which we get cooking oil. If you are seeing a lot of Large Whites around any particular area there will almost certainly be fields of this amazing plant, whose flowers fill the air with a terrific fragrance on sunny days.

A fragrant field of Oilseed Rape, a crop beloved of Large White butterflies.
A fragrant field of Oilseed Rape, a crop beloved of Large White butterflies.

Burst of Colour

Spring is in full swing in Wicklow, although we’ve had some dodgy and disappointing weather, but April showers have brought May flowers in abundance. The landscape is lush and beautiful from the mountains down to the sea.

The landscape of the foothills and coastal plain of Wicklow as seen from Kilmurray, above the town of Newtown Mount Kennedy this weekend.

Wicklow has a huge amount of trees, as you’ll notice from the photo, and the hedgerows combined with the hills and myriad valleys combine to create a jungle-like atmosphere as you drive on some of the narrower roads. The road pictured is not one of these roads, being about twice as wide as some of them.

The rain and sun of late April and early May have fed the blooms which in turn have brought out the spring butterflies. For the duration of May you will spot the beautiful little Orange-Tip butterfly on the roads and lanes all around Wicklow. The female looks like a smallish white butterfly, and easily confused with a number of species, but the male is unmistakeable due to the orange wing-tips that give this butterfly its name.

A male Orange-tip can't be mistaken for anything else.

However, although it’s extremely easy to spot Orange-tips in flight, it’s very difficult to spot them when they’re perched, as the undersides of their wings are brilliantly camouflaged.

This male hides carefully in plain sight - but the female looks identical when her wings are folded.