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.
Incredibly, yes. Yesterday (December 28) I found quite a few daffodil leaves had already burst through the soil, something which I’ve never seen before so early in Wicklow. These are not special early-flowering daffodils either, just regular ones that appear every year in the same place. Usually they would be very early if the appeared like this by the second week of January.
Last year was a much warmer December and they still didn’t put in an appearance so early. It’s fascinating to consider what the trigger mechanism for this growth is, but it’s definitely not temperature. Perhaps after millions of years of evolution these bulbs are hard-wired to recognise subtle changes in conditions that suit their growth, of which we are almost entirely ignorant. But they are not alone – I’ve heard reports of wild Primroses blooming in fields in Wexford since late November, and here are still more Buebells rising above the ground early -
Probably most incredible of all are the wild Lords-and-Ladies arum lilies, the leaves of which can be seen well above ground in many places, still furled like fleshy green flags. However, I haven’t spotted my old reliables yet – Early Crocuses, which my own studies suggest are the most accurate indicators of the arrival of spring. There is still a lot we have to learn about the natural world, but one thing is for certain, the temperature outside tonight is – 1 degree Celsius and there’s a strong frost which has made lawns crunchy under foot.