Tag Archives: Red Kite

Goodbye July!

Unfortunately this year we had a somewhat cool and overcast July. This has been due to the peculiarities of the weather system which has seen weeks of rain clouds crossing the Atlantic to arrive on top of Ireland. However, there has still been some wildlife to see, and for this instalment I want to share some videos I made. Here is video of a Red Kite, which is a species which was deliberately reintroduced to Ireland, with Wicklow as the focus point:

Red Kites are mainly scavengers, and are huge birds, but will happily take prey too, especially small rabbits. They are the only large bird in Europe with a forked tail.

Now here’s something a little different from the micro jungle, a Zebra Jumping Spider with a woolly aphid as prey. It takes a moment to get the focus exactly right but it does make for an interesting scene:

Also from the microcosm, here’s a little moth you will commonly see feeding on flowers during daylight hours in summer, the Nettle-tap Moth. They are very curious little moths:

Now is the time to see spiderlings emerging, and the most spectacular are those of the orb-weaver spiders. There are several species and they can be hard to tell apart when they’re so young, but I think these in the video below belong to the Segmented Orb-weaver, but there is also a small chance they are Garden Spiders:

But just because you see web tents it doesn’t mean they were made by spiders. Many insects also spin webs, especially caterpillars of butterflies and moths. Check out the incredible web-tents of these beautiful and very numerous Peacock butterfly caterpillars. They feed on nettles exclusively, which is why they are popular with many people. Peacock butterflies also hibernate:

Finally, if you are in Wicklow at this time of year take a look into the shallow streams and you will almost certainly see Brown Trout. In summer they are very numerous in the streams but are not always a guaranteed sighting as they migrate around rivers from shallower to deeper waters and vice versa depending on the time of year.

The Summer Solstice

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:

Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.
Ancistrocerus, but not necessarily the same species as previously seen.

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:

The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!
The rear-end of a Digger Wasp as it burrows through a window frame, in only minutes!

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:

A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.
A very beautiful wasp with jaws as powerful as a Black-and-Decker buzz-saw.

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.

The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It's nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.
The beautiful Cinnabar Moth revealing its scarlet hind wings. I actually know a Brazilian naturalist who was so impressed by this European moth that she got a tattoo of it on her arm. It’s nice to think we have a species in Wicklow which Brazilians consider exotic.

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:

Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas.
Red Kites have much longer and proportionally narrower wings than Buzzards, but the real giveaway is the longer tail which is forked. Both species like to circle around areas slowly.