Tag Archives: light

True Spring – Equinoctial Full Moon

Although many spring flowers bloomed since St. Brigid’s Day today was the first day that actually felt like spring in every sense, and it coincided with the Equinoctial Full Moon, the Full Moon closest to the Equinox, which is one week from Wednesday, in case you didn’t know. And this morning I saw my first butterfly of the year basking in the bright sunlight:

A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly newly-emerged from hibernation. Those whoich hatch from chrysalises look far brighter, but this one has survived the winter in pretty good condition.

If the weather continues as good as this there will undoubtedly be more Small Tortoiseshells around soon. However, during the warmer nights more and more moth species are on the wing, including this handsome butterfly-sized Shoulder Stripe (Anticlea badiata) which is attracted to lights, which is why it has perched beneath a light.

A Shoulder Stripe perched beneath a porch light.

And here is a close-up of the same Shoulder Stripe showing the camouflage which matches the very common Turkeytail fungus which grows on rotting wood:

   The blooming flowers which grow more numerous as the days grow longer and warm the countryside are what sustain the butterflies, moths, bees and, of course, hoverflies. Now the daffodils are growing numerous there are more and more insects:

And here is one of the earliest appearing hoverfly species, Melanostoma scalare:

And now that there are so many insects about the birds are spending a lot of time hunting and preparing to breed, like this handsome male Blackbird searching for caterpillars, grubs and earthworms on a grassy verge:

   And despite the many frosts this winter, the bright conditions have meant that many wild flowers which would normally flower later in the year are already blooming, such as these two species of handsome Dead-nettles, which are not related to nettles but look almost identical, but lack a sting, first the White Dead-nettle (Lamium album):

and secondly the Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum):

Super Full Moon Eclipse

In the early hours of this morning we had a super full moon, which is when the moon is much closer to earth than usual, making it appear bigger. And, as most readers will know, we also had a full eclipse of the moon, the first of a super full moon since 1982 apparently. This is how it looked from Wicklow, in a series of photos I took over the few hours of the eclipse:

The super full moon before the eclipse.
The super full moon before the eclipse.

A shadow then began to cross the moon diagonally from upper left to lower right.

The moon slowly begins to dim as the Earth crosses between it and the sun, blocking out the light.
The moon slowly begins to dim as the Earth crosses between it and the sun, blocking out the light.

Soon the shadow almost crossed the entire moon surface.

Only a tiny sliver of the moon's face remains in the light.
Only a tiny sliver of the moon’s face remains in the light.
The Moon is entirely eclipsed and what little of it can be seen is tinged rusty red in colour.
The Moon is entirely eclipsed and what little of it can be seen is tinged rusty red in colour.

 

Now the top left corner slowly begins to brighten as the shadow of the Earth continues to move.
Now the top left corner slowly begins to brighten as the shadow of the Earth continues to move.
The bright white light bends across the moon's surface and appears to glow, as the red light of the shadowed moon begins to fade.
The bright white light bends across the moon’s surface and appears to glow, as the red light of the shadowed moon begins to fade.

Gradually the re-emerging of the moon  becomes more spectacular, but the eclipse is drawing quickly to and end and soon the moon will be as it was before the eclipse.

The white light made for a very bright contrast with the red of the 'blood moon'.
The white light made for a very bright contrast with the red of the ‘blood moon’.

In the summer of 2018 we are to have another lunar eclipse, but apparently it will be very early in the evening on one of our long July days so it might be some time before the right conditions occur again. Last night was a cool (3.5 degrees Celsius) and clear cloudless night so I was a very lucky eclipse photographer indeed.

The Little Things Of Life

Spring is now gathering pace, and the days have grown to be almost as long as the nights. This week the Azores High has arrived over Ireland, bringing us clear skies – gorgeous warmish sunny days and frosty nights. But the warm days have caused insects to appear and there is a population explosion of Seven-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata). They can be seen basking on trees, shrubs and walls all across Wicklow right now.

A Seven-spot Ladybird basking on Vinca. These predatory beetles also like to gorge on pollen when it's available. They are larger than most other Irish ladybird species.
A Seven-spot Ladybird basking on Vinca. These predatory beetles also like to gorge on pollen when it’s available. They are larger than most other Irish ladybird species.

ANot quite so noticeable as these bright red ladybirds, but almost as numerous, are Green Shieldbugs (Palomena pristina) which have truly awesome camouflage. In summer they are bright green, but in winter become dead-leaf brown. Most are still that colour right now, but will soon become brighter.

A not so green Green Shieldbug sunbathing on the edge of a plant container. In another few weeks this one will be bright leaf green, provided it lives that long. These insects have excellent defences so there's a good chance it will live for a good long time.
A not so green Green Shieldbug sunbathing on the edge of a plant container. In another few weeks this one will be bright leaf green, provided it lives that long. These insects have excellent defences so there’s a good chance it will live for a good long time.

One especially interesting insect I’ve seen this week is a type of moth, the Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) is a little bit smaller than a butterfly, and very similar in appearance. It is a late-winter/early-spring species and so you have only a few more weeks to see them this year, if even that much. They readily come to light. The one I photographed is a male, and this is easy to tell because of the typical feathered antennae, but also because the female of the species has only stubs for wings, and must walk about on foliage wafting pheremones on the air so that she can be found by the male. Keep an eye around window frames for these guys.

Dotted Borders are quite drab-looking but have a distinctive row of dots along the edges of their wings. Males come to windows by night, attracted to the light, apparently due to a chemical emitted by lightbulbs which is very similar to the pheremone emitted by the female as an attractant.
Dotted Borders are quite drab-looking but have a distinctive row of dots along the edges of their wings. Males come to windows by night, attracted to the light, apparently due to a chemical emitted by lightbulbs which is very similar to the pheremone emitted by the female as an attractant.