As the days now get very short it is becoming chilly and frosty in Wicklow, especially on higher ground. But as often happens at this time of year there are spectacular sunsets in the evenings, weather permitting, such as this one a few days ago.
A sure sign of the colder weather is the behaviour of birds. Blackbirds and Robins in particular become much less shy and will allow you get closer to them with a camera, possibly as part of a policy of using as little energy as is necessary in order to stay warm.
A male Blackbird allows me to come within arm’s reach of him, which makes for a great photo opportunity.
Now that the berries on the trees have all been eaten by the birds they have to try and get food from wherever they can. I usually leave some apples out for them, as even insectivorous birds like the Blackbird above will gladly partake of free fruit.
This year Wicklow is enjoying an incredible spring, and this Easter is one of the best we’ve ever had. The butterflies have arrived in great numbers and among them spectacular beauties like the Peacock.
And this truly is the ‘Spring of the Ladybirds’ as they are absolutely everywhere. The Seven-spot Ladybirds are the most numerous but also look for the tiny orangish-coloured 14-spot Ladybirds.
Slightly less commonly noticed, but probably just as widespread are the Tawny Mining Bees. These lovely bees make volcano-like mounds at the tops of burrows in which they lay their eggs. They are solitary bees, not living in large nests, although it is possible to see numbers of them sharing areas of the garden.These bees only show up for a few weeks in spring, usually in April, and they then fill in their burrows and the adults die while the young spend almost a year of their lives underground in the tunnels. The mounds disappear too, as the bees use the soil to seal the nests shut. When the grubs reach adulthood they will dig themselves free next spring and build their own nests.
November has drawn to a close and taken with it an extraordinary weather pattern that has allowed summer flowers to continue blloming, and inspired many trees and shrubs to begin producing big leaf buds and some to even begin producing early flowerbuds. But there were two sights that I have been more astonished at then all others:
Firstly, a field with red meadow poppies still blooming in it, and not just any field, but one on a quite windswept hill overlooking the village of Newcastle, just a mile from the Wicklow coastline.
But even more amazing than this have been sightings of butterflies throughout Wicklow. Just last week I came across a Red Admiral perched on a sunny tree trunk down on the East Coast Nature Reserve, and moments later a Small Tortoiseshell flew down a path and over my head. Last year we had heavy snow and freezing temperatures everyday from the 25 November and well into December. This is clearly a very different kind of year, and many plants are behaving in a strange manner that could point to a very mild winter and no snow.
However, personally I don’t want to make any predictions at this point, as anything can happen in January.