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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
For a few years I have seen some lovely small wasps daubing mud on the walls around my garden and house, and even sticking a concrete-like substance to the panes of glass on a glasshouse. However, getting near enough to the wasps to even get a good idea of their appearance has been next to impossible. Finally I have managed to get a good shot of what appears to be the same wasp. Voila!
Thanks to British entomologist Nigel Jones I can say with certainty that this is one of the Potter Wasps, which get their name because some of them make tiny clay pots in which they lay their eggs. The really exciting thing is that according to the records of the National Biodiversity Database, this is only the second recorded Ancistrocerus in Ireland. Rhinoceros and Ancistrocerus are actually very closely related names – rhinoceros means ‘nose-horn’ (rhino = nose, ceros = horn) whereas ancistrocerus means ‘hooked horn’ (ancistro = hooked, cerus = horn) and refers to the antennae of the wasp, which you can clearly see in the photo. Another beautiful creature in the Garden of Ireland, and probably a lot more common than the records suggest.