The Winter Solstice occurred at 10.44 am GMT this morning, which is our local time in Ireland, but there probably won’t be a noticeable lengthening of the day until 25 December, Christmas Day. This is the deepest point of the greater winter, the time exactly halfway between the Autumn Equinox and the Spring (Vernal) Equinox. According to the ancient Celtic calendar this was also the centre of true winter, halfway between Martinmas and St. Brigid’s Day. But in the modern world it is only the start of Astronomical Winter, which ends on the Vernal Equinox in late March. And the weather generally matches the astronomical seasons, with proper winter cold not getting going until now although the days are growing longer.
At this time of year some wildlife is hard to see, some is completely hidden, some not so obvious. But some wildlife is easier to see, especially birdlife as many birds come into gardens looking for food. Some insects species only appear at this time of year, such as the moths in the previous post, and here’s yet another handsome one, the Scarce Umber – Agriopis aurantiaria.
This might be the last Scarce Umber to be seen this year, as they only fly from October to December, and are therefore a true autumn moth. And, as is the case with many moths in autumn and winter, only the male has wings. The female is a strange-looking wingless insect.
Also keep an eye out for late autumn fungi. There are some spectacular Common Inkcap – Coprinopsis atrametaria – about, usually along roadsides in small groups at the bottom of earthen banks or ditches, as was the case with these ones:
Considering we are at the transition between summer and autumn, and it’s still astronomically summer (the Equinox is on this coming Wednesday morning, 23 September, at just after 8.40 am) it’s amazing what creatures are still running round although the temperatures are starting to fall. Here’s a little video I made about one of them, and beneath the video window a detailed close-up taken by my brother Gavin.
Sadly our summer was not up to much this year, with only a couple of warm weeks in early August. However, I did find one beautiful creature which I have never seen before, or since – a tiny species of Soldier Beetle, Malthinus flaveolus.
We have now entered the time of year when wasp numbers are at their highest and spiders are on the move, alarming many people. Bee populations seem to have crashed in the last few weeks, with the temperatures struggling against a chilly north wind, but there have been wasp stings and some spider encounters, including one bite received from a False Widow which was reported to me yesterday, so I made a little video describing how best to treat stings and bites, and I hope it will be found useful:
I’m working on a little video about spiders which I hope will be also useful and am going to have that up on the blog as soon as possible. Please feel free to comment as feedback and ideas are always welcome. If you feel there are shortcomings in what I deal with don’t be afraid to point them out and I’ll try and deal with them or cover them at a later time.