In the last few days a small number of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) have been arriving in gardens to collect pollen from the early blooming flowers, of which there are quite a few these days. Getting a half-decent photo in the early light of spring is another story, but I think I just about managed one or two.
One of the first Honey Bees I’ve seen this year.
Two days ago I found my first frogspawn of the year, although there are reports of it from all over Ireland at this point. Frogspawn always puts the seal on spring. But spring is also a long and dramatic change in Wicklow, and my own favourite time of year. In Ireland we have only one species of gfrog (so far), the European Common Frog, Rana temporaria, but there is also one species of toad, the Natterjack or Running Toad, Epidalea calamita, which is so far only found in the southwest of Ireland, mostly in Kerry. But we also have one other amphibian species, which is found in Wicklow, the Smooth Newt, Triturus vulgaris, and I hope to get some decent photos of this species this year, although it is difficult to see in ponds, being quite small and shy.
Like a cluster of little jewels, frogspawn in a Wicklow pond, covered in duckweed.
Yesterday I was surprised to see a butterfly just out of hibernation, resting on the threshold of the Church of the Holy Redeemer on the Mainstreet in Bray.
The Small Tortoiseshell on the church stone.
It had clearly fallen out from under the arch, temperatures having risen above 10 degrees Celsius for most of the day, encouraging it to wake up. Small Tortoiseshells are excellent hibernators and are also usually the last butterflies in the Wicklow sky before winter sets in. They are also often the first to appear in spring, although Orange-tip butterflies are the kings of spring.
The winter of 2013/14 has certainly been the winter of storms, but the heavy bouts of rain (and those of sleet and snow too) have somehow kick-started spring growth. As the days grow longer there’s more and more to see. The snowdrops are now blooming absolutely everywhere.
Snowdrops in full bloom by a hedgerow. Beautiful.
The crocuses are already coming into a peak of blooming, although there are not quite so many pollinating insects about right now. Here are some very nice ones in my garden.
Crocuses in full bloom. Very distinctive.
At this time of year it’s a good idea to not only look at what’s going on at ground level, but also up into the air in the sky about. A few days ago we had a really sunny and cold day, and I had an opportunity to observe two Buzzards (Buteo buteo) circling overhead.
A Buzzard circling overhead, revealing quite striking patterns on the feathers covering the underside of the wings. Not a great shot, but you can see what it is.
The European Buzzard is technically a large hawk or small eagle and should not be confused with vultures, which are often referred to in America as ‘Buzzards’. Our Buzzard is actually a close relative of the American Red-shouldered Hawk. They are beautiful birds and at this time of the year will land in newly ploughed fields to eat earthworms and grubs exposed by the soil. Of course, they also eat rodents, other birds and can take young rabbits and hares.