Tag Archives: swallows

Gently Fading Summer

This year we had an extraordinary summer. Until August we had little or no rain, and some very consistently warm temperatures. August brought some badly-needed rain and this gradually put an end to a dangerous situation, gorse fires having become a serious threat to the landscape. It was a great year for butterflies, and here are some examples:

Peacock (Inachis io)

Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) gathered on a Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Meadow Brown captured by Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)

But butterflies were not the only brightly-coloured winged insects flying about in the day. Here is a beautiful Six-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae), a species which has toxins in its body which birds find distasteful.

Six-spot Burnet moth feeding on Ragwort.

Of course, most moths are nocturnal, such as these beauties which were attracted to the light of a window:

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing moth (Noctua janthe)

Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)

Moths, in particular depend on wildflowers, and in August, and even now in September some wildflowers are blooming brightly, such as the hedge-climbing Honeysuckle (

Honeysuckle or Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum)

On 7th August I saw my last Swift. Swifts arrive in May, usually about a month after the Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. Last in and first out, they seem to follow their migration patterns almost like clockwork, and leave very early in August. Most are recorded as leaving the British Isles (a geographical term which includes Ireland, as the second-largest island in the archipelago). Now, however, the Swallows are preparing to leave, and the young are perching on wires, resting, before migrating to southern Africa.

Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) gathering on wires before migration. The adults are cajoling the youngsters into taking flight. 

The Malta Bird-hunting Problem – Final Instalments

Anybody listening to the news last night might have heard that the British naturalist Chris Packham was detained by Maltese police, on charges brought against him by the Maltese hunting lobby. Here are the two final instalments – numbers 5 and 7, number 6 being a mere statement to say that he had been detained by Maltese police and therefore there is no need to see it.

Instalment five shows a very theatening and sinister confrontation with Maltese hunters who actually prevent him entering an area of public land. It’s extremely disturbing to think that the hunting fraternity on Malta, comprising less than 1% of the Maltese population, can be having such a detrimental effect on the lives of the other 99% of the population that they cannot even enter their own national lands without fear of intimidation, especially considering that Malta is a very recent member of the European Union and the Eurozone and therefore should have been properly vetted before being allowed membership. Clearly this does not seem to have happened. It’s a shame too.

But many Maltese people are genuine heroes and Packham takes the trouble to make this point and show you who these people are. Ironically, Malta is actually a place I liked so much I visited it twice in two years because of the remarkable landscape, history, archaeology and romance. Had I know our migratory wildlife was been massacred there to such an extent I might never have gone there even once, although I am glad I did. However, listen to what the Pacman has to say and make up your own minds, and if you are Irish, then ask the canvassers on your doorstep about this issue. The EU HQ should be more than a well-paid job for Irish politicians.

An Autumn Anachronism

Autumn is at its peak at the moment, but amazingly, after three freezing nights and with temperatures of -1 C predicted for tonight, there are still Swallows to be seen in the sky. The photo below is not particularly good, but I took it shortly before sunset this afternoon when a flock of about seven swallows flew overhead and made their way south. I’m fairly certain this is the latest I have ever seen these summer migrants in Irish skies. Keep your eyes on the skies – you never know what you might see.

A poor photo, but a Swallow in a November sky nonetheless.