It’s the last full week of August now and many people would think summer was drawing to an end, but there are still plenty of wonderful wild things to see in Wicklow. If you look in the streams right now you have a very good chance of seeing Brown (Sea) Trout parr (sub-adults) (Salmo trutta) in the crystal clear waters. In fact, there are loads of them and they are very handsomely marked and coloured:
Also, due to the very balmy winter, subsequent early spring, and the fairly consistent summer we’ve had this year, many birds have had more than one brood of youngters. It would seem some have had as many as three broods. Here is a Goldfinch (Cardueliscarduelis) I saw feeding one of three fledglings which were moving through willow tree canopies with it.
Finally, keep an eye out for a lovely little bright red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis). This tiny flower opens and closes depending on the weather, and is famously used to predict coming weather as it will often open or close in advance of sun or rain, respectively. Most people will know the Scarlet Pimpernel as a swashbuckling hero of novels and films, but almost as many people are left wondering what a ‘pimpernel’ is exactly. Believe it or not it’s a very old Latin word for pepper – piperinella, which got modified over the centuries by the addition of an m. There is also a Bog Pimpernel and a Yellow Pimpernel, and, ridiculously, Scarlet Pimpernel can itself also be pink or royal blue in colour. However, it is mostly red in colour, as the name suggests. Anyhow, I personally feel a swashbucking hero going by the name ‘The Scarlet Pepper’ doesn’t really have the same ring to it, so long live Pimpernel!
It was a tough spring for the birds because temperatures were almost relentlessly below normal, causing plants to bloom, blossom and leaf late, and insects to be in short supply. I was surprised to see the Blackbird above with such a large fledgling chick. I had put some cream out for them, cream which had just gone off, but they loved it.
Last Thursday was our first really warm sunny summer-like day and later that night I found Maybugs, better known as Cockchafer Beetles, coming to the lights of the house in huge numbers. In fact, I’ve never seen so many at one time. They will be flying around Wicklow skies until late in June, and possibly even into July. They are heavy beetles and when one very big one accidentally blundered into the web of a female Giant House Spider the poor spider was quite at a loss what to do, as the beetle was a bit bigger than its usuall prey. The Cockchafer fell out of the web soon after, ably assisted by gravity:
Right now, all over Wicklow, fledgling birds are learning the art of survival from their parents. It’s a tricky time for them, with dangers everywhere, not least from people driving too fast on very narrow roads where nobody in their right mind should dare drive fast. How does this world of ours appear to a bird? We always look at things from a human-centred viewpoint, but how do they see it, and how do they see us?
Most of these little birds have no fear of us. They have not learned to fear us. And there’s something sad about the fact that they will learn to fear, because we human beings are a threat to them, even when we don’t mean to be.
I was fascinated by a Robin I saw perched on a rock in my garden. It was hoping I had some food for it, watching patiently, when suddenly an airplane flew low overhead, causing the Robin to cock its head up to watch the big strange ‘bird’. I wonder what the Robin thought of this plane. It certainly didn’t seem afraid, so maybe it knows it’s another of the many human vehicles. I got a quick but bad shot, leaving the Robin out of focus, but think the behaviour is interesting enough to include it here.