Tag Archive: Glencairn Park


After releasing the Hebrew Character and spending the morning on some very worthwhile physics revision, and after soup, cheese, wheaten and a quarter of a mars bar…

… I went to Glencairn Park.

Those who’ve been following my gallavantings for a while will be somewhat familiar with Glencairn Park by name. I posted a few photos recently that hopefully gave a sense of the place. But I thought I’d do a bit of writing as well.

First, to break up the text, an artistically-messed-up photo of a lesser celandine flower, photographed there.

Bang!

Bang!

At the very western edge of Belfast where housing estates abruptly meet steep muddy fields, Glencairn Park is an area of mixed woodland, recreational grassland and grazing meadows which has provided me with some nice wildlife moments over the past few years (since I got the courage to go there alone. Muddy tracks leading to bottlecap-littered areas hint at the nighttime goings-on, and quash any desire I have to go dusking there!)

I squeezed through the overgrown galvanised access gate into the central grazing meadow. “Well, what have you got for me this time?” Last year, the meadow introduced me to such characters as Grapholita jungiella and Glyphipterix thrasonella. Today, nothing much seemed to be happening – just not enough sun yet. I picked out blackcaps and a chiffchaff from the auditory fauna for the first time this year as I descended down into Forth River’s valley, into an area pockmarked with deep hoof-sized holes from far muddier days.

I followed the cattle tracks into an area I hadn’t previously explored – an open bit of ground with swathes of bramble flattened from the winter’s heavy snows.

And there, powerfully fluttering through the air and alighting on a bare bine-stem, was my first butterfly of the year.

Surprise!!!

Well, there’s a first. And a very nice surprise indeed. For the past three years since I turned into a lepidopterist my first butterfly of the year has always been a Small Tortoiseshell. But a Peacock! Does this tell of a different type of year to come?

Patrick Barkham, in The Butterfly Isles, anticipating his first butterfly of the year in 2009, writes about the characters of the Moomin world of Tove Jansson, discussing the significance of the first butterfly of the year. A black or brown butterfly is sad. A yellow butterfly foretells a happy summer, while a white butterfly heralds a quiet summer. But a golden butterfly is the best of all!

The Small Tort probably goes under “golden”. And, not that I make it my business to read into signs, indeed I’ve had three great summers, even if they left me a bit burnt out.

But a crimson red butterfly? What can that mean? 🙂

It has probably something to do with the gigajassive adventure of going to uni. I just hope its black-brown underside isn’t significant…

The beautifully, cryptically patterned underside of the splendid Peacock.

Turning around and poising its wings, it settled to bask in the intermittent sun.

Peacock

Up close and beautiful

Then, as I was creeping up with the camera, it was up again – chasing off another Rhopaloceran, smaller and flashing orange as it retreated into the treetops, only to sneak in around the corner a few seconds later to take advantage of some lesser celandine nectar. Well Luke Hewitt Iz, a Small Tortoiseshell.

The smiling butterfly

As the sun went in for the last time, the butterflies disappeared and I explored for a while. The bumblebee population seems to be thriving, which is very encouraging. I spotted Bombus lucorum, terrestris, lapidarius, pratorum and pascuorum, all foraging on a pink-flowering shrub which looked a bit non-native but is certainly welcomed by these members of the ecological community.

Ah, spring.

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken by the winter's snows but still alive

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken down by the winter’s snows but still alive

Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell get the year list off the ground
2013 BUTTERFLIES: 2

And the bees get their list too!
2013 BEES: 5

Sunrise at Glencairn Park

The sun peeks through the yew trees

The sun peeks through the yew trees

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Wooden mitt

Wooden mitt

The snow gradually melts

The snow gradually melts

 

The darling buds of may

Hawthorn flowers, Glencairn Park, 19 Feb 2013

This kind of may! The hawthorn bushes begin to bud and bloom

A fresh, sunny, hazy afternoon walk in Glencairn Park yesterday left me feeling a bit more springish. A lot of trees and shrubs were putting out leaves, and some flowers, like this hawthorn. [Update: no, it’s blackthorn.] May [Update: not May], but no nuts to collect for quite a while. (Not that I generally go collecting nuts, but still…)

Daffodilism was well underway…

Woodland daffodils, Glencairn Park, 19 Feb 2013

Daffodils spring up in the woodland, catching the afternoon sun

…and moss was beginning its conquest of every nook and cranny…

Moss shoots on tree, Glencairn Park, 19 Feb 2013

Moss begins to spring from the nook of a tree

…purple, white and yellow crocuses were adding a splash of brillig…

Crocuses, Glencairn Park, 19 Feb 2013

The perfect waxy petals of crocuses start to colour Glencairn Park

…and I noticed some strange features on one of the more permanent woodland residents.

Interesting tree, Glencairn Park

A warty, weird bit of woodland woodwork

The chaffinches were singing, greenfinches were once again garnishing the auditory experience with their reassuring zhewwwwwwwwwww, their numbers evidently recovering from the “tricks” epidemic. Even a treecreeper, which doesn’t usually draw attention to itself, was singing a high-pitched, wavering trill from a yew tree while blue tits pipped and chuckled and a dog walker explained to his friend that he didn’t [expletive] owe John ten quid.

And a song thrush sung its pick-and-mix, completely unpredictable, mockingbird warble.

That, folks, is the dawning of spring in Belfast. 🙂

Treecreeper and song thrush make the year list…
2013 BIRDS: 48

Glencairn Road, 20 Jan 2013

The snowy Glencairn Road

This year’s snowfall was nay too bad up our way – last weekend a few inches fell and mostly thawed overnight, followed by a few fresh flurries, ice on pavements and a final thaw yesterday as a warm front pushed in.

Up in Glencairn Park (above) last Sunday, the snow crunched deeper underfoot as I gained altitude, listening out for birdsong as I went. At the bottom of the park the piping calls of blue tits and coal tits, and the more strident vocalisations of great tits, filled the trees. A herring gull flew solemnly over while black-headed gulls gallavanted by the housing estate.

On the first hill hooded crows picked through the grass and argued loudly with magpies in their skyscraping conifers. A jackdaw also put in an appearance.

As I climbed the hill, listening out for new finds, the round-winged, long-tailed silhouette of a sparrowhawk swooped across the sky. (I probably could have just watched it rather than trying to focus through a hopeless pair of pocket binoculars!)

Soon enough I heard the robin… and perhaps a goldfinch, but I wasn’t sure and didn’t hear it again. Likewise a rattle from the trees could have been a mistle thrush… but probably just a magpie.

I’d been keeping a beady eye out on the bramble bushes. If you remember, last year I really got into leafmining micro-moths, and one of the most common of those is Stigmella aurella. Its tiny orange caterpillar mines bramble leaves, making brown-white squiggles on them. So far on my walk I’d seen plenty of old vacated leafmines that the caterpillars had already left long ago. But what I was really hoping to see was a tenanted mine – one with a caterpillar in it.

And after a while, I had success!

Stigmella aurella larva in mine, 20 Jan 2013

Literate larva!

Not one, but two little caterpillars huddled in their mines, in the freezing cold.

After a few minutes’ worth of fiddling with my camera and hand lens, my hands were going cryogenic so I put my gloves back on and left the caterpillars to their sleep.

As I was rebooting my hands, a bird started calling very loudly from the tree above me.

“Chick…      chick…      chick…”

I peered up to see what it could be, but before I could get my eye in it was off. I chased the sound down the road a bit… it was father away and still calling. Then it flew back the way it had come, revealing itself to be a thrush of some kind.

Didn’t sound like a blackbird,
or a song thrush,
or a mistle thrush…
fieldfare maybe? That would be quite a find.

But as I later found out on the RSPB’s newly-revamped website, fieldfares chuckle not chick, and the only thrush that it really could have been was a redwing. Quite pleased to find this winter visitor.

Before I headed back down to the urban jungle, I had a close encounter with a friendly robin which perched no more than a metre or two away from me, then flew right past me to the other side of the road and back.

It appeared so interested in me that I raised my arm, thinking there might be a possibility it might even come and perch on me, but as it turned out, he wasn’t quite as tame as that common darter dragonfly!

Descending through the woods, I was arrested by a flash of white, black and pink. It couldn’t be… it was! A jay! It flew silently away from me, from tree to tree.

A clan of bullfinches escorted me down the hill.

***

Yesterday, while I was at school and the rain was clearing the last of the snow, my parents got quite a treat. Just look who showed up in our garden!

Waxwings in the garden! 25 Jan 2013

WAXWINGS!!! IN OUR GARDEN!!!!

The Internet is always awash with waxwing photos at this time of year. They come over to the British Isles from Scandinavia during winter, to feast on berries. And I can tell you they did a pretty good job clearing out our cotoneaster!

Apparently the collective term for waxwings is “a grosbeaks of waxwings”. Some people, like me, prefer “an earful of waxwings”. 🙂

If you haven’t yet seen these fantastic fellows, it’s well worth checking online to see if any have been spotted near you. They are fabulous!

And don’t forget the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend!

Home Garden, 26 Jan 2013

What’s-a-in your garden today?

2013 MOTHS: 1L
2013 BIRDS: 33

Warmf!

Micropterix aruncella, Glencairn Park, 21 May 2012

Micropterix aruncella, Glencairn Park, 21 May

This week has been blessed with heavenly weather across the UK. To wind down after my AS Chemistry practical exam on Monday, I took to Glencairn Park where warm and mostly cloudy conditions made ideal dayflying-micro-spotting conditions. I bagged no less than four new species for my list [NFM]: Micropterix calthella, Micropterix aruncella, Psychoides filicivora and the Nettle-tap Anthophila fabriciana.

Cryptic Wood White, Cinnabar and Ancylis badiana showed up too, all [NFY]! (“New For my Year list” for anyone unfamiliar with mothing terminology.)

Psychoides filicivora [NFG] (New For Garden) showed up again as I was putting the 25W Blacklight trap out in the garden last night. It sat on a rosemary plant for a photo shoot but didn’t come to the trap when it went on. Probably for the best – the dew on the trap is pretty dangerous for micros and flies, they tend to get stuck to the lid and perish!

25W BLACKLIGHT | 22-23 MAY 2012 | @ GARDEN, SPRINGMARTIN, BELFAST | 13-11°C, CALM, MOONLESS, CLEAR TO FOGGY

Some light fog rolled in overnight but the morning revealed:

ON/NEAR TRAP:
Ancylis badiana : 1
Silver-ground Carpet : 1

and a couple of unidentifiable micros (one too fast, the other too bedraggled)

CATCH:
Common Pug : 1 [NFY]
Spectacle : 1 [NFY] Not a Dark Spec! What????
Silver-ground Carpet : 2
Mompha subbistrigella : 1 [NFY]
Grey Pine Carpet : 1 [NFY][NFG][NFM] 
Common Marbled Carpet : 1

All in all my best catch so far this year!

Grey Pine Carpet, trapped in garden 22-23 May 2012

Grey Pine Carpet, with a sticky-up bottom

Grey Pine Carpet  and too many micro-moths to list again make it:
2012 MOTHS: 24
LIFE LIST: 145 

Cryptic Wood White boosts the butterfly total to:
2012 BUTTERFLIES: 9 

April goes out with a bang

While England are suffering torrential downpours and floods (sadly claiming the life of a driver today – my heartfelt sympathies), Northern Ireland had a scorcher today and I had a walk in the park. A dander up the road to my old primary school, Forth River, produced a Holly Blue – very nice indeed – along with the usual Orange-tips and Varicose Veins (!) patrolling the verge.

With no camera I had to make field sketches of some tiny moths, only 5mm long, that I found in Glencairn Park a while later. Happy to say my Art GCSE served me well – the drawings were good enough for me to be able to identify them as three Grapholita jungiella (Vetch Piercer). A very pretty moth (as well as a new tick) that I will be keeping an eye out for next time I’m there with a camera!

MOTHS
Grapholita jungiella brings my 2012 list to 9
and my British life list to 139

Peekaboo!

Orange-tip male, Glencairn Park, 10 Apr 2012

Peekaboo!

As I walked up the road through Glencairn Park this morning, I agonised about the cool breeze; braced myself for disappointment; tried to convince myself that I could still have a nice walk without butterflies…

No need to worry. The Orange-tip was braver than I was. It fluttered down the lane towards me, felt the wind then settled on a nettle. Kneeling down, ignoring the stings of the nettles, I said hello.

Orange-tip male, Glencairn Park, 10 Apr 2012

Bracing himself against the wind...

Orange-tip male, Glencairn Park, 10 Apr 2012

Beautiful.

Orange-tip brings my year list to…
2012 BUTTERFLIES: 5