It was in the last days of January the crocuses began to spring up. They didn’t open though, remaining spear-like flowerbuds. And then last Saturday some opened slightly and briefly, and then shut again due to the cold. There is one group of Early Crocuses which have always grown in my garden which I consider the markers of true spring, when snow simply will not sit on the ground anymore even if it does fall. These crocuses finally opened today after a night of rain.
Flowers begin the spring because they provide pollen and nectar for insects to feed on. The more flowers there are, the more insects there are, and the more larger animals have to feed on. Of course, the slightly warmer temperatures also cause grubs to transform into beetles, and here is one of the first I’ve seen this year, Aphodius prodromus, a type of tiny dung beetle which breeds in horse-manure. There just happens to be a field full of horses nearby.
Wicklow was very dry this winter, with little or no rainfall for almost a month up until two days ago. The result has been an almost magical opening of flowers, including one unexpected little beauty, and one of the most important wild flowers of the spring – Lesser Celandine.
At seven this morning, in the damp twilight, the dawn chorus began. Birds of many species began singing loudly and melodiously and were perfectly audible indoors. The chorus lasted about half-an-hour and it is the first time I’ve heard it this year. Dawn is still quite late, but gradually the mornings will lengthen and become earlier and the dawn choruses will grow longer and longer. However, the breeding season has begun and spring is most definitely here.
Although much of Ireland has been covered in snow, eastern Wicklow has largely escaped despite heavy frosts, but it seems spring has definitely decided to make its presence felt. A neighbour of mine told me he had not only got spring plants above ground, but they had already begun flowering, I took these photos yesterday, January 13, in daytime temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius (roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
This morning I got a huge surprise when I found a Crocus flower above ground and ready to flower this morning. I always judge the arrival of spring by crocuses, and this year, like last year, it’s incredibly early. Early February is much more typical. This is not a wild flower though.
Yesterday we had some very stormy weather, and trees were brought down all around Wicklow, and electricity supplies were cut off in some places, and there was some destruction to garden fences, sheds and in some cases even houses. The storm brought very warm weather, up to 16 degrees Celsius. However, today it was about 5 degrees Celsius in the day and it’s a chilly night. The birds are still very dependent on the food put out for them, and you could find some nice unusual species are attracted. Here, for example, is a male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), which is quite a large species of warbler.
These birds have traditionally been considered summer migrants, but I have seen them in the garden in winters since the 1980s, and they were probably doing so before that. Blackcaps are actually insectivores, but will gladly take peanuts from feeders in cold winter months.