The warm temperatures and drought (which have lasted two months in many parts of Wicklow and caused massive gorse fires) have also encouraged many species of butterflies, but even more species of moths, including some very big ones, such as the Northern Eggar (Lasiocampus quercus f. callunae ), a subspecies of the smaller Oak Eggar (L. quercus). This truly is a huge moth, and before now I last saw one all the way back in the early 1990s. This one is the female, which is the largest and more colourful of the sexes. Here is a video which shows the power and size of this moth, which is one of the largest in Europe:
Here is a still of the female, showing her details best:
The male of this species is smaller and darker than the female, but is otherwise almost identical. And here are other beautiful moths encountered in the last few days:
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.
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 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:
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.
My garden has had little or no rain for five weeks. It’s hard to believe it. And, on top of that, temperatures have been ranging from the mid to late twenties Celsius for the past two weeks. All across Wicklow the grass and low-growing plants are dessicated or in hibernation. I was a little worried about Hedgehogs because I haven’t seen any since spring, but now the dry heat seems to be pushing them into gardens looking for food as their ground-dwelling invertebrate prey has climbed to higher foliage. Badgers and foxes have also come looking for food. Fortunately most of the cats and dogs of Wicklow are happy enough to share their food. Well, the cats are anyway. However, the shrubs and tougher meadow wild flowers have exploded into bloom and this has brought out the moths. Here are a few I photographed outside a light by the back door just last night.
For those of you who don’t know, this is the very best time of the year to see moths. And many of them are absolutely spectacular.