Tag Archives: plants

Biodiversity Week!

You probably don’t realise it with all of the big news stories, referendum issues, etc. but this is Ireland’s National Biodiversity Week, and here is a little celebration of the biodiversity you will see in Wicklow right now, in no particular order:

   This is my first proper photo of a Red Kite (Milvus milvus), a large and very beautiful bird-of-prey which mostly feeds on carrion, and can often be seen soaring above the roads of Wicklow on the watch out for roadkill. It is a huge bird, and has only been back in Ireland for about a decade having been reintroduced, with the first released in Wicklow. They have since thrived.

Wicklow loves its cherry trees, and in spring they are everywhere blooming. Here’s a handsome double-flower cherry. Most are now gone out of bloom but you might still find some stragglers.

After the mass blooming of dandelion flowers seed-eating birds come into their element, with beauties such as the Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) coming into gardens to feed on them. The bird in the photo is a male Bullfinch.

Butterfly numbers have been steadily climbing in May, and these dainty creatures can be found almost everywhere. The one in the photo is easily identified as it is the only Irish species with eye-spots, the Peacock butterfly (Inachis io).

Apple trees doe very well in Ireland, and Wicklow has no shortage of them. Here is one with immense blooms. Once fertilised by a pollen-covered bee or hover fly, each flower will gradually develop into an apple, but it will take a few months. And here’s a close-up of the beautiful blossoms.

Here (below) is one of the best of all the pollinators and in 2018 it seems to be enjoying a population explosion in Wicklow – the Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica), which doesn’t mine chocolate, but is chocolate-coloured. It is often confused with the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) but has no pollen sacs on its hind legs, and no sting. The one in the photo is collecting pollen from a potentilla flower.

May is the time of the Maybugs – large, clumsy beetles best known as Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), which emerge from pupa having spent a year or two under ground as large white grubs feeling on the roots of dandelions. They appear in May and June and fly about at night, and are attracted to lights. You will see them now almost every night until the end of June.

And, of course, there are also moths to be seen:

   Many moths, like the one above, are attracted to window lights at night. This handsome species is the Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata), which is quite common in Wicklow, and which appears as two different generation of moths. This one belongs to the first, and in late summer a second generation of moths will appear.

On leaves all around gardens in Wicklow little green eggs appear. Some belong to moths, some to butterflies, some to true bugs and some to beetles. These eggs (above) belong to the Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina).

Finally, to end my little showcase, here is a very beautiful game bird, the Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). These birds used to very much belong to the countryside, but in recent years they have begun coming to live in gardens, and can even be found in the centre of Dublin city, especially in universities with trees and green areas, such as Trinity College. However, in Wicklow they are in much larger numbers.

 

 

Winter…turning into Spring!

It’s January and the beautiful-looking and beautifully-scented Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) is in full bloom, with soft feather duster-like flowers pouring aniseed-scented perfume into the warmer than average air.

Winter Heliotrope at sunset today, a January afternoon.

Not only this, but there are insects to be found everywhere, as there is little or no frost. Even now the Green Shieldbugs are changing from their brown winter colours to the green that gives them their name.

Brown form of Green Shieldbug already changing to green.

However, unusually for so early in January, the leafy spikes of daffodils have already broken through the surface of the clay, and are far in advance of last winter. The warm soil-temperatures and general lack of cold, and particularly frost, have led to this unusual situation. But there is one plant that puts the rubber stamp to an Irish spring, and that’s the crocus. So far I haven’t found any above ground or flowering, but they are not easy to find until their bright flowers burst open, which will very likely be very soon.

 

Daffodils photographed today, about two or three weeks earlier than last year, due to our unusually balmy January conditions, not to mention those preceding warm spells in November and December.

So, if you’re tired of snow and frost and ice, hop on a plane or ferry and come to Wicklow to see a wonderful early spring where temperatures are well above freezing and there are even summer garden plants still blossoming…with daffodil flowers coming shortly.