Tag Archives: Milvus milvus

The Summer Solstice

Because our calendars don’t exactly match up with the reality that the earth takes 365.24 days to orbit the sun, the exact point of the Summer Solstice varies in date. Most people assume June 21 is the Solstice, but in reality it can even fall on June 23. This year it fell on the 21, the exact moment being 10.51 am. But don’t confuse the Solstice with Midsummer’s Day – that arrives with nightfall on June 23 and continues until nightfall on June 24. That’s another day’s explanation. Today was a magnificent Summer Solstice in Wicklow. It was warm and sunny, and a Saturday too. Perfect. And I found so much wildlife today I could barely keep up. In fact, most of it found me. Just to start the ball rolling, here’s a Potter Wasp at work on a mud-gallery. If this pot was for sale I don’t think I’d buy it:

Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.
Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.

This time a different type of wasp decided it was going to pay me a visit. I heard what I thought was water falling and found a wasp chewing through a solid pine window frame like an electric drill. Look at the saw-dust:

The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!
The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!

There were two of them, and this other one seems to be the male. Based on the largish size and pattern of markings I’m pretty sure this species is Ectemnius clavifrons, which has not been recorded in Ireland since before the turn of the century:

A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.
A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.

After removing the wasps, and shutting the window, and plugging the hole in the window frame, it was time for a stroll, and a big red-and-black butterfly flew past my face almost as soon as I started walking. It landed right in front of me – not a butterfly at all, but a highly toxic Cinnabar Moth – Tyria jacobaea. I got my best ever shot of this remarkable day-flying species.

The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It's nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.
The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It’s nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.

And if all that wasn’t enough, my brother spotted what he thought was a Buzzard circling over the garden, but it was something much bigger and less common around these lowlands – a Red Kite. Always glad of a good photo, I grabbed my camera and ran like hell to got there before it flew off:

Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas.
Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas slowly.