Tag Archives: October

Stags in Glendalough

If you want to see a really exciting wildlife spectacle then now is the time to visit Glendalough. Remember, even if you are in a wheelchair or on a mobolity scooter it is perfectly possible to witness this spectacular event. There is a charge of €4 to park a car in the security-protected car park, but there are toilets, etc. and it’s worth the peace of mind knowing your vehicle is safe.  Stags can be seen on the slopes towards the back of the valley, behind the Upper Lake, and they are fighting each other for the right to mate with the females. Bring binoculars, viewing scope or camera with a long zoom to get the best of it, but the naked eye can see a lot.  Check out this little video I made to give you a better understanding of what you will see:

Because the deer in Glendalough are hybrids some of the stags looks like Sika stags and some look like Red Deer stags and their sizes vary. For example, here is one that appears to be a classic Sika stag:

Sika stags have much shorter antlers than Red Deer, and are much smaller animals.
Sika stags have much shorter antlers than Red Deer, and are much smaller animals.

And here is much larger one that seems to be a classic example of a Red Deer stag:

To all intents and purposes a classic Red Deer stag, with huge antlers.
To all intents and purposes a classic Red Deer stag, with large antlers, although this one has certain Sika traits.

And here is the upper part of the valley behind the lake:

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The deer are mostly visible on that opposite wall of the valley, and they are often hiding in plain site, so make sure to look and listen. It’s a big valley.

 

 

October Twilight

October is a very strange time of year – September seems like an extension of summer, but colder, and then very suddenly October arrives and the flowers of summer begin to die off, the leaves yellow, or redden, or both, and fall off deciduous trees as the nights grow longer than the days. Everywhere gets gradually more muddy as leaves, flowers and berries decay on the ground.  But there is still a lot to see amid all the nostalgia of another year growing to an end.

There are still some Swallows flying about on their journey south back to Africa. It's a good time to see and photograph them as they perch on wires. The light might not be so good though.
There are still some Swallows flying about on their journey south back to Africa. It’s a good time to see and photograph them as they perch on wires. The light might not be so good though.

At this time of year our swallows, the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), tend to perch for long periods to rest their weary muscles before making their autumn migrations. There were definitely fewer of them around Wicklow this summer, which is slightly worrying as something must be preventing them arriving safely in Wicklow.

The Autumn Hawker dragonfly usually arrives in August to hunt butterflies and other insects. This year they didn't arrive until mid-September and you can still see them patrolling footpaths and garden driveways.
The Autumn Hawker dragonfly usually arrives in August to hunt butterflies and other insects. This year they didn’t arrive until mid-September and you can still see them patrolling footpaths and garden driveways.

Ironically our autumn was better than our summer this year, although not quite as warm, although certainly more stable. Eventually the annual arrival of big dragonflies occurred, the Migrant or Autumn Hawkers (Aesna mixta) and there are still a few around, although very difficult to photograph or video as they fly. I usually watch one land and slowly approach to get a good photo. If you move slow they will remain still.  But there are some other very interesting insects around, and some are both interesting and slightly creepy, such as this one:

A noctunal visito to a window, this large and handsome insect is a Burying Beetle.
A noctunal visito to a window, this large and handsome insect is a Burying Beetle.

Burying Beetles are quite closely related to chafer beetles (like the Cockchafer) and dung beetles, like the Common Dor Beetle. However, unlike these beetles, Burying Beetles lay their eggs in corpses which they find in the countryside, and they actually bury the animals they find underground. They are very intelligent creatures and very recently it was discovered (with the aid of special cameras) that they keep their larvae in nests and will feed them mouth-to-mouth, as birds do. Even more remarkable, the young ‘tweet’ when they’re hungry. This extremely handsome species is Necrophorus investigator (but there are many very similar ones and some even quite different. Watch out for them this autumn as they fly across the deep night skies.

 

Spider Season Draws To A Close

I know a great many people will be glad to know large spider numbers will be returning to normal at last this autumn season. The mating season for House Spiders, Garden (Cross) Spiders and Steatoda nobilis False Widows is almost up. What this means is that the females won’t be releasing pheremones into the air to attract mates, so long-legged males won’t be running about the place and entering houses looking for love. For anyone afraid of those big spiders, then maybe you need to make friends with the thin, daddy-long-legs like Rafter Spiders (Pholcus phalangioides), aka Long-bodied Cellar Spiders, which live in houses and specialise in eating spiders:

A Long-bodied Cellar Spider eating a much larger House Spider which it has caught in a web. They will also happily eat False Widows... and anything else.
A Rafter Spider eating a much larger House Spider which it has caught in a web. They will also happily eat False Widows… and anything else.

Rafter Spiders seem to be a relatively recent arrival in Europe. In the Middle East they live in caves and produce the curtain-like webs normally seen in adventure movies. They are harmless to humans but their haphazard barely noticeable webs are considered a nuisance by housekeepers as they collect dust and easily collapse.

The method used by the spider to kill bigger spiders is amazing to watch. The Rafter Spider spots its prey at the other end of a room and carefully stalks towards it, usually walking upside down along the ceiling. It then gets into a pouncing position, pulling its body back against the tension of its long legs and then suddenly shooting forward to strike at a leg. The victim is paralysed almost immediately and falls, but is snatched by the predator before it can strike the ground.

A Rafter Spider with a Tripwire Spider, Segestria senoculata it has killed.
A Rafter Spider with a Tripwire Spider, Segestria senoculata it has killed.