Tag Archives: flower

Autumn Surprises

At the end of every summer I usually have a few regrets, mostly places I didn’t go, creatures I didn’t see, and photos I just missed. One of my regrets this year was I didn’t see so much as a single Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) all spring and summer. And then it happened – the Autumn Equinox was gone and it was getting cooler, and one bright sunny morning (late morning) a Hummingbird Hawkmoth flew past me and landed on a Butterfly Bush to bask in the weakening sunlight, allowing me to sneak up and get a macro of what looks, to the casual observer, like a large and very unspectacular moth. Of course, we all know differently:

   But that wasn’t all – this spring and summer, for reasons which never revealed themselves, I didn’t see one Beaked Hoverfly (Rhyngia species). And then one appeared as if by magic only moments after the Hummingbird Hawkmoth had flown away, feeding on a cultivated convolvulus flower:

This year there are plenty of hoverflies to be seen, even now. There has been a mass blooming of dandelions this autumn, currently underway, and many handsome species can be seen feeding on them. And their favourites, the convolvulus flowers, are still blooming in many places. Here is the very common hoverfly species Syrphus ribesi feeding on Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium). However, it seems some of the predators which stalk these flowers are still about – I didn’t notice it when I took this photo, but look at the white object beneath the flower. Do you know what that is?

This bright white beast, which looks like a fallen petal, is a female Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) and the hoverfly is very lucky it had left the flower as it almost certainly would not have seen the spider until after it had been caught by it. Autumn, more than any other time of year, is dominated by spiders. Flies beware!

St. Brigid’s Day

Today is St. Brigid’s Day, the traditional start of the Celtic Spring, and it is very springlike by any standards. In the last few days I found Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) blooming:

32595658126_55678fc77d_zOnly three days ago I found my first Crocus blooming, although I hasten to add that this is not one of the crocuses which I normally consider as the true sign spring has begun, this one being a more recent addition to the garden, but beautiful nonetheless:

32595657066_79388c7eee_zAnd today the first Daffodil in my garden began to bloom, undoubtedly due to the long-awaited arrival of spring rain:

31842590133_32dd5c06cd_z   This winter has been as dry as last winter was wet. In fact, it has been so dry that reservoirs across Ireland have been at levels normally associated with hot summers, as so little rain has fallen. But this week, fortunately, the rain has arrived and the plants and animals have been awakened by it. The night before last I spotted a big handsome Common Frog (Rana temporaria) hopping along the path in the dead of night, under a deluge of rain. It can’t be long before they start to spawn. and many probably already have:

32595656566_172dbf7a26_zAnd early in the evening, as though to mark the occasion, we had the rare sight of the Moon and the brightly-burning planet Venus promenading across the sky with the planet Mars, a small reddish dot, almost halfway between them, which is apparently quite a rare event:

From left to right: the Moon, Mars and Venus straining to shine tonight through a murky evening sky.
From left to right: the Moon, Mars and Venus straining to shine tonight through a murky evening sky.

Finally, and most exciting of all for me, I had the good luck to spot a moth resting on a wall yesterday, and it was a species I haven’t seen before, the Mottled Grey (Colostygia multistrigaria):

32595656306_d78d226308_zThis moth normally flies in February and March, mostly in March, but the good conditions seem to have brought this one out earlier than usual. However, the moth that really is the harbinger of spring, the Early Thorn, hasn’t appeared yet. I suspect I’ll find one sooner rather than later this year.

Heavy humid July

Although we don’t have the hottest of summers we do have very humid ones, and this week even more so due to a stream of clouds coming upon us with the Jet Stream, riding over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, bringing us cloud from the Sargasso Sea. We had a very dry spring and summer in Wicklow up until a few days ago, and the change in weather is very welcome to the plants and the insect world. It is a great time to see insects. They like it a little damp.

Sweet Pea blloming in a hedgerow. Garden flowers like these do very well when there's rain, and in turn attract insects.
Sweet Pea blloming in a hedgerow. Garden flowers like these do very well when there’s rain, and in turn attract insects.

Wicklow, like many other places around the world is going through a cycle of change due to human activity. The natural world is always in a state of flux,and always has been, but what we human beings do makes things more complicated. For example, here is one of the most common moths found in gardens throughout Wicklow:

The male Light Brown Apple Moth is the most common garden moth in Wicklow throughout June and July, and is easily disturbed in daylight.
The male Light Brown Apple Moth is the most common garden moth in Wicklow throughout June and July, and is easily disturbed in daylight.

The Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) above, is a very handsome small moth. However, it is not quite what it seems – this species only a very recent arrival in Ireland. This moth actually originates from Australia. It was first recorded in the British Isles on the island of Great Britain in 1936, and is now found pretty much everywhere on Great Britian and in eastern and southern Ireland. This just goes to show how things can change within an ecosystem very fast. And, while new species are arriving, some resident species are becoming rarer:

A Eurasian Curlew flying over, calling loudly. A sight and sound that is becoming rarer in Ireland and Europe.
A Eurasian Curlew flying over, calling loudly. A sight and sound that is becoming rarer in Ireland and Europe.

I heard this Curlew before I saw it, as it was calling loudly, piping across the sky as it flew. They are large birds and have an incredibly curved bill, as you can just make-out in the photo above. The numbers of curlew staying in Ireland to breed in summer are getting fewer and fewer due to overhunting. However, they can still be heard regularly in Wicklow, but for how long is anybody’s guess. Many come from other parts of Europe to overwinter here, creating the illusion of high numbers on the island of Ireland. They are a very rare sight in spring.