Tag Archives: naturalist

Dandelion Time

Up until last week it was still quite cold, but finally the weather has improved and at last we are getting proper warm spring weather. It’s that special time of year, the height of the great spring dandelion blooming. Dandelions support the vast majority of pollen-feeding and pollinating insects to a degree impossible to any other spring flowers. It’s great to see these important plants are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve:

They are beautiful flowers too, and give us a bright yellow landscape. Other flowers are starting to reach their full bloom too – here, for example, are Bluebells, the true wild bluebell which is quite common in Wicklow and possesses a beautiful scent, unlike the similar-looking Spanish Bluebell:

That butterfly is a Peacock (Inachis io) and it soon gave up the bluebells to feed on dandelions again.

This is also the time when the cherry trees are candyfloss pink from blossom, and they really do brighten the place up a good bit:

However, as beautiful as it is, it’s also important to remember spring is a time of high drama. At the moment you have a good chance of seeing the rare Tawny Mining Bee, which I mentioned in the last post. The male bees have now passed on, and the females are pregnant and busily constructing their nests, which are burrows. The mouth of each burrow is surrounded by a mound of soil, sometimes quite a lot. Tawny Mining Bees are parasitised by Cuckoo Bees, such as Nomada panzeri. They lay their eggs in the nests of the Tawny Mining Bees, and their young feed on the larvae of the mining bees. Here is a Cuckoo Bee, in the foreground, watching for an opportunity to get into the nest of a Tawny Mining Bee, but the owner is watching from the entrance:

As I tried to get a closer photo I accidentally scared the Cuckoo Bee off, and the Tawny Mining Bee decided it was safe to emerge:

These bees are usually gone by May, so now is the time to look for them. Next year’s generation will soon be hidden underground awaiting their time to fly in the sunshine.

 

Super Moon and the First Moths of Spring

In the previous bulletin I mentioned that many flowers are now blooming and these will sustain insects, and now we have incontrovertible evidence, as the first true spring moths have appeared. Keep an eye out for this small medium moth, the Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) which comes to windows, which I saw two days ago:

This one was tucking its head under the net window curtain which keeps unwanted insects out of my house, by which I mean, mostly, mosquitoes.

Yesterday the same window was visited by the physically more impressive,  butterfly-like Early Thorn (Selena dentaria), which is almost a permanent spring fixture on this blog. It’s wings really resemble dry leaves:

This sudden abundance of insects seems to have occurred since the full moon early last week, which was also a super moon, being far closer to earth than usual, and exerting much greater influence on the waters of this world.

Anyhow, I have had a few adventures in this early part of the spring, and some of these can only be appreciated when seen in motion, so it’s a good thing I took video. Here is a celebration of spring, featuring scenes from both Wicklow and Dublin, with daffodils, crocuses, mallard ducks, tufted ducks, a black-headed gull just getting its black head (for mating season) and some spectacular lapwings, aka green plover or peewits, on the bog near the Kilcoole Breaches; and a big handsome Irish Hare galloping along by the railway tracks in the Kilcoole nature reserve. There are finches too: the goldfinch and siskin on a bird-feeder and a magnificent male bullfinch feeding on buds in a hedgerow. And let’s not forget two crows, rooks to be exact, for a final scene:

Daffodils and spiders

The daffodil bud from my last bulletin has only opened now, but crocuses have risen above ground, and I have also found the fleshy leaves of tulips! However, these flowers all appeared last year around this time, or even a little later,  and we still got some very heavy snow and cold conditions later in the year, in March.

Before things got too interesting this spring I wanted to do something about False Widow spiders. According to this January’s issue of the BBC Wildlife Magazine there is a wave of terror in England, particularly around London, caused by the presence of these venomous spiders. And, more worryingly, pesticides are being used in an ad hoc way to placate public fear, and pesticides are far more dangerous than any False Widows. Two species of False Widow spider are venomous and can bite people, but they are not aggressive, and to prove this I have made a video in which I handle a good size Noble False Widow spider, with no ill-effects. Here is that video: