Tag Archives: weird

Spring – the perfect gift for Christmas

Last weekend one of my neighbours told me daffodils were coming up all over his garden and he showed be a photo of one actually blooming and asked me if I would like to see for myself and get some photos. Unfortunately, due to a whole week of rain it took me until this weekend to get around to it, but first I decided to check my own garden, where daffodils are usually much slower to rise – and here’s what I found:

Daffodil leaves rising from the ground in my garden earlier this week.
Daffodil leaves rising from the ground in my garden earlier this week.

I was amazed, and am more amazed because much more advanced ones are now visible all around my garden. However, my neighbour reliably informs me his daffodils rose three weeks ago. And yesterday he had one going out of bloom and one in full bloom.

My neighbour's fully blooming daffodil as seen yesterday afternoon.
My neighbour’s fully blooming daffodil as seen yesterday afternoon.

And here’s the same one from another angle…

23829419606_f9026c0144(1)In fact, daffodils are being reported from all across the island of Ireland, already in bloom. And there are not only daffodils, but snowdrops are also starting to bloom, although the ones my neighbour has in his garden are admittedly of a cultivated variety, and possibly tend to be earlier:

A beautiful very early flowering snowdrop, and almost beyond belief.
A beautiful very early flowering snowdrop, and almost beyond belief.

But there is a bigger mystery to this than there seems to be. For the past two weeks we have had extremely mild temperatures for December, and warm wind systems have been rising over Ireland from the Caribbean due to the Jet Stream being far to the north of the island, which is unusual. An extreme El Nino effect has occurred and is believed to be largely responsible for having affecting the weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly those emanating from the Caribbean. However, my neighbour tells me his daffodils rose while we we experiencing typically cold weather at the end of November. So what interests me is this – can the plants be somehow anticipating warm weather?

A Hebe (Veronica species) blooming right now. This plant normally only blooms in summer months.
A Hebe (Veronica species) blooming right now. This plant normally only blooms in summer months.

Last year we had early snowdrops and daffodils too, but not this early, and meteorologists concluded it was due to the extremely warm summer of 2014. However, we had a cold and mostly wet summer for 2015, so that cannot be the solution to this mystery. However, we have had an exceptionally wet November and December, so that could be a factor. In 2013 I recorded temperatures as high as 16 degrees Celsius (about 61 degrees Fahrenheit) in the December, but the snowdrops and daffodils didn’t show up until late January, and gradually through February. So it seems temperature and sunlight are not triggering this phenomenon, but rain-levels stil possibly are doing so. But will it mean a mild winter and mild spring? We’ll find out soon enough.

A cistus blooming earlier in the week.
A cistus blooming earlier in the week.

And since temperatures are mild, and flowers are producing food in the form of pollen and nectar, then you would expect to see insects – and you do. This week I found a hoverfly feeding on a cistus flower, something I have never seen before in December:

A hoverfly in December - all it needs is something to eat.
A hoverfly in December – all it needs is something to eat. This species seems to be Meliscaeva auricollis, which is a very early species, but not usually this early. However, it also seems to be a hibernating species, so may have simply been takiing advantage of a mid-winter snack.

And some creatures which are normally lying low and hiding in leaf litter, or beneath the soil feeding on roots of plants, can actually be seen walking about in broad daylight, such as this caterpillar, of the Large Yellow Underwing moth (Noctua pronuba):

 

I found this caterpillar walking along a footpath after a shower of light rain.
I found this caterpillar walking along a footpath after a shower of light rain.

And finally, here’s a sight I look out for every year, and don’t usually see until the end of February or early March – a cultivated pulmonaria in the garden here. Something is unusual is certainly happening:

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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.

The Damp Birch Woods in Autumn

If you visit the dampl lowland birch woods at this time of year you can see lots of very interesting invertebrates. Here are two worth noting that I recently came across: the first is a caterpillar that stands on its tail-end to imitate a twig. There are many species, and they can be very similar, making identification difficult, but I think this one is the Birch Mocha – Cyclophora albipunctata, which is quite common in Wicklow and sometimes the moth itself comes to window light.

A twig-mimic caterpillar, probably of the Birch Mocha moth, which can be seen in birch woods at this time of year.

If you look under fallen logs or large rocks in the dampness of the forests (which are usually located on fens) you stand a good chance of seeing large predatory leeches. Known as Horse Leeches – Haemopsis sanguisuga. They are extremely common in Wicklow, and don’t suck human blood, being in fact active predators of small slugs and snails and many other creatures. They do have that typically creepy quality though, shared by all leeches.

A large (finger-length) Horse Leech decides to flee the light of day after being found under a stone. Note the hind “anchor” by which it is attached to the leaf.