Tag Archives: frogspawn

At the End of February

Today is the last day of February and the weather is a bit stormy right now, but considerably milder than it has been. However, we had daytime temperatures briefly climb up to 16 degrees Celsius two days ago, and stay at 12 degrees Celsius through the following night, which led to a wonderful surprise the following morning – frogspawn.

A beautiful blob of crystal jelly frogspawn. A good sign of an established spring, but we can't rule out heavy frosts just yet.
A beautiful blob of crystal jelly frogspawn. A good sign of an established spring, but we can’t rule out heavy frosts just yet.

There have been some other signs of warmer sunnier weather, although much less spectacular than frogspawn. Namely, 7-spot Ladybirds and Green Shieldbugs sunbathing on plants on warmer afternoons.

The 7-spot is the most common and recognisable of our ladybird species. In early spring these predatory beetles sunbathe and feed on the pollen of early flowers. Later it will be insects.
The 7-spot is the most common and recognisable of our ladybird species. In early spring these predatory beetles sunbathe and feed on the pollen of early flowers. Later it will be eating small insects.
Green Shieldbugs are probably the most common species in Wicklow, and they can be found all year. In winter they often turn brown to blend in with brown leaves. However, in gardens they often can remain green due to evergreen bushes and trees of many varieties. They are very sociable insects and feed on plant sap.
Green Shieldbugs are probably the most common species in Wicklow, and they can be found all year. In winter they often turn brown to blend in with brown leaves. However, in gardens they often can remain green due to evergreen bushes and trees of many varieties. They are very sociable insects and feed on plant sap.

Wild primroses (Primula vulgaris) have also begun to bloom all over Wicklow. You can see them along hedgerows, usually on exposed banks at the bottom of trees. They really stand out at this time of year.

Primroses won't usually open fully until they are satisfied with the weather. This one is in a somewhat shady area and unwilling to completely unfurl.
Primroses won’t usually open fully until they are satisfied with the weather. This one is in a somewhat shady area and unwilling to completely unfurl.

But probably the most important flower of all to bloom in spring is also the most overlooked and least appreciated – the dandelion. Dandelions produce a massive amount of pollen and are very important to insects. They are especially popular with Honey Bees. Here is one of the first I’ve seen this year.

One of our most important wild flowers, the dandelion. They seem almost as bright as the sun.
One of our most important wild flowers, the dandelion. They seem almost as bright as the sun.

Finally, here’s something much less obvious to look for. The drab little bird below is a Chaffinch, and you might think it’s a female, but if you look closely you will see it is tinged at the edges with the the bright colours of an adult male. This little bird is a young male and in the next few months will wear the sky blue and salmon pink of an adult. He might even breed this year. It’s highly likely. He has a lot of living ahead of him.

A young male chaffinch currently living the solitary existence of a bachelor, but soon he will have bredding colours and a chance of finding a mate.
A young male chaffinch currently living the solitary existence of a bachelor, but soon he will have breeding colours and a chance of finding a mate.

 

Bees and Frogs

In the last few days a small number of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) have been arriving in gardens to collect pollen from the early blooming flowers, of which there are quite a few these days. Getting a half-decent photo in the early light of spring is another story, but I think I just about managed one or two.

One of the first Honey Bees I've seen this year.
One of the first Honey Bees I’ve seen this year.

Two days ago I found my first frogspawn of the year, although there are reports of it from all over Ireland at this point. Frogspawn always puts the seal on spring. But spring is also a long and dramatic change in Wicklow, and my own favourite time of year. In Ireland we have only one species of gfrog (so far), the European Common Frog, Rana temporaria, but there is also one species of toad, the Natterjack or Running Toad, Epidalea calamita, which is so far only found in the southwest of Ireland, mostly in Kerry. But we also have one other amphibian species, which is found in Wicklow, the Smooth Newt, Triturus vulgaris, and I hope to get some decent photos of this species this year, although it is difficult to see in ponds, being quite small and shy.

Like a cluster of little jewels, frogspawn in a Wicklow pond, covered in duckweed.
Like a cluster of little jewels, frogspawn in a Wicklow pond, covered in duckweed.