Winter has been very long and drawn out, but at last the weather seems to be improving and very gradually warming up. Late last night I was delighted to find two spring moths on a wall by a window. The first is the old reliable still lacking a common name, Diurnea fagella:
Slightly more impressive than this drab but variable moth was the stockier, and more handsomely marked Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi):
This medium-sized (small medium) moth had a small chunk taken out of its left forewing, which was very possibly due to a nip from a bird’s beak. The recent more consistent temperatures have caused spring flowers to bloom in a big way, and the annual mass flowering of dandelions is now beginning. Dandelions are extremely important for pollinators, and many other insects, as are the Lesser Celandine flowers. You can see one here being attended to by a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera).
However, today I saw something which really lifted my spirits, my first butterfly of the year, a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae):
And I even made a video about it, and it’s not as bad as it first seems:
It’s after midnight now, but here are the photos I promised in the last instalment. Firstly, I saw my first hover fly of the year and it was one of our most common and recognisable species, Syrphus ribesii.
Feeding on the flowers of the same shrub (a Viburnum) was a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), the first I’ve seen this spring. Clearly the rise in temperatures matters to bees as much as hover flies.
A short time later I spotted my second hover fly, a Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax). Drone Flies are large, harmless flies that mimic Honey Bees, which have stings. In spring people often think they are looking at thousands of Honey Bees on the flowers but there are in fact very few bees and a huge number of loud, boisterous Drone Flies. Like all hover flies, and bees, they are important pollinators of plants.
Finally, although it’s not an insect and I saw it the previous day, here is another creature exhibiting spring behaviour – a female Blackbird collecting dried grass to line her nest.
Every November is different. Some are unseasonably warm and dry. But this year we have a classic example. On Halloween night the temperature was 17 degrees Celsius but it suddenly dropped on November 1 and has been good and cold ever since, with some heavy rain thrown in for good measure. In short, it feels like a real autumn. And now the wildlife is getting in on the act. Three days ago I saw this beautiful sight:
Geese are, of course, the definitive proof that we are in the darker half of the year as Ireland serves as a wintering-ground for a number of species. One or two geese will stay in parks or on lakes all year, but these are very few in number as Ireland becomes too hot for them in spring and summer. But there are smaller migrations too – in September and October Blackbirds and Robins (and many other birds) seem to disappear from gardens but this is largely because they are migrating. Then new ones appear. Right now birds are arriving in gardens to feed on berries on the shrubs and trees.
However, wherever there are still flowers blooming there will be a few bees around to collect their nectar on the few sunny afternoon hours.