Tag Archives: Starling

Spring in Early Winter!

This year we had very mild conditions up until early November, when it turned colder than usual and pretty much stayed that way until the Winter Solstice, which is the beginning of the astronomical winter. We then had a week of unseasonably warm weather which came to a sudden end with a cold front arriving after dark on Christmas Day. But that one warm week has had an amazing effect, as it has caused the sudden, and unexpectedly early growth of daffodils in many places –

And it’s worth remembering these are not ‘early daffodils’ but a variety which appears at regular, normal times of year. In the photo you can clearly see a flowerbud. However, since the warm week we have had some very cold weather, with sunny days of only 1 degree Celsius, and plenty of snow on the hills and mountains. These cold conditions have caused lots of lovely bird species to enter gardens, desperate for food, such as this beautifully coloured Blue Tit  –

There are also plenty of Starlings –

   However, the most numerous ones are House Sparrows, and they are roosting in low bushes and in the mornings you can see them bathing in puddles, regardless of the temperatures. It’s a great time of year to see birds –

Celtic Winter – Deep Autumn

As many people undoubtedly know, Ireland has very strange weather even at the best of times. Winter snows rarely last more than a week or two if they come at all, and summers can be incredibly variable. The Irish climate can best be described as mercurial, but for the most part it is consistently mild. Last week and the week before it we had some bouts of very warm weather with temperatures reaching 17 degrees Celsius on Halloween itself, largely due to a warm tropical wind from the south.

A Swallow flying in Wicklow in late October, one of many.
A Swallow flying in Wicklow in late October, one of many.

This wind had control of the temperatures earlier in the week too, and prevented many migrants from flying south. Most notably Scandinavian Swallows and House Martins were forced east to forage in our warmer climes and I was amazed to be photoographing them in large numbers swooping overhead, although my shots were not great in the autumn light, nevertheless you can see them here.

A House Martin in October... an even bigger surprise than Swallows.
A House Martin in October… an even bigger surprise than Swallows.

And equally astounding have been the sightings of Red Admiral butterflies feeding on late-flowering buddleia bushes. But I have seen these butterflies in November in other years, prior to cold snaps.

I wasn't expecting to see such a fresh-looking specimen of Red Admiral, whic suggests this one actually spent its caterpillar stage here and emerged in the last few weeks.
I wasn’t expecting to see such a fresh-looking specimen of Red Admiral, whic suggests this one actually spent its caterpillar stage here and emerged in the last few weeks.

They are now known to hibernate in Europe if the occasion demands it. There is even some evidence these migrants have successfully bred here in milder winters. However, temperatures have already dropped within the last few days and the skies already belong to the talkative Starlings who are amassing in huge numbers and flying in great ‘murmurations’ in a display of incredible aerial agility. They are lovely birds, and they enjoy the sun when they can get it in Wicklow winters.

Starlings on an aerial - aerials are being removed now due to digital boxes such as Saorview, so sights like this could become very rare indeed. This might already be an image of a bygone era.
Starlings on an aerial – aerials are being removed now due to digital boxes such as Saorview, so sights like this could become very rare indeed. This might already be an image of a bygone era.

Traditionally yesterday, November 1st – All Saints Day, marked the beginning of the Celtic Winter, which ends on St. Brigid’s Day – February 1st. However, from a practical point of view this time of year is deep Autumn.