Tag Archive: Nature

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


How to Catch a Grayling

Frollicking with one of Northern Ireland’s most entertaining butterflies, in good old Murlough NNR! Do turn the quality up (gear symbol on toolbar).

This is what happened when I decided to stand for two minutes on a Grayling butterfly’s territory. We had fun.


A sunny afternoon brought the bees to my garden in hordes today. They LOVE our cotoneaster. (Incidentally, moths do too, and if it stays calm I might chance my sanity at some moth-hunting tonight.)

A bee that was present today in good numbers, and which I noticed for the first time on Sunday, was the Early Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum.

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) queen, 15 May 2012

The Early Bumblebee catches the nectar-filled cotoneaser flower

The above photo is a queen bee; the next one (which I took on Sunday) is the worker. All workers are female and those of this species, as you can see, often lack the yellow band on the abdomen that is present in queens.

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) worker, 13 May 2012

Note the big cream-coloured pollen baskets on her hind tibiae

A pleasant surprise came in the form of three Honey Bees, Apis mellifera – up to now all I’ve had are hoverflies impersonating honeybees.

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), 15 May 2012

The honey bees finally arrive

I think my favourite bees have to be the most yellow ones: the Garden (B. hortorum) and Heath (B. jonellus) Bumblebees. I thought I had Garden in the garden today but on closer inspection it had a yellow face and short head, which means Heath – the first I’ve noticed this year. Not only that, but it was a male bee, the first of any species for the year (no female bumblebee in Ireland has a yellow face, wich is how I knew it was a male).

This meant that it had no sting and so I was able to handle it (in order to see its face properly) without fear. I’m afraid I not only annoyed but exhausted it – when I released it it had to sit and drink nectar for a while to get its energy up before it could fly off. Thus immobilised, I was able to get a decent photo of it.

Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) male, 15 May 2012

This one was so nice I’ve uploaded a high-res photo. Click and behold.

Early Bumblebee, Honey Bee and Heath Bumblebee take my 2012 year list to 8

This is just a selection…

1. Discoveries

(Specifically, discoveries of the Moth Kind.)

Especially this teeny-tiny moth called Elachista rufocinerea which, my sources tell me, has never been recorded in Murlough before. You see, it’s worth bringing a camera and a magnifying glass on a walk. You never know what new things you might discover.

Elachista rufocinerea, Murlough, 6 May 2012

Proof that even micro-moths can be beautiful.
Oh wait, I still have to convince my friends that INSECTS IN GENERAL can be beautiful… 🙂

This from my Sunday morning walk in Murlough National Nature Reserve, County Down.

Elachista rufocinerea (Red-brindled Dwarf) brings my moth lists to
2012 MOTHS: 10

UPDATE 22 May: Turns out our regional Micro-moth Recorder John beat me to it by a week – he added this along with 3 others to the Murlough List on the night of 29 Apr, bringing the List to 460 species! Well done John! 

Posted on NIBirding.

Happy Mothing Sunday!

Oops, I misspelt the title. Or maybe I didn’t.

My DIY Moth Trap

My DIY Moth Trap

I was working on my DIY moth trap ’til the early hours last night, and I’ve nearly got it finished. Just some sealing and screwing to do, plus the installation of a drainage hole.

Last Sunday was more of a Mothing Sunday for me – after our family gathering at the caravan I went into Murlough for half an hour’s moth hunting. I wasn’t expecting to see anything so I hadn’t brought my net. All I had was a plastic ziplock bag, which was absolutely useless for capturing the respectably-sized Geometrid that was fluttering over the grass. WRAAAAAGH! I’ll never know what it was.

Then a plume moth showed up. My only available tactic was to bat the insect gently from above until it went to ground. It worked – and there was my first Emmelina monodactyla (Common Plume) of the year, climbing up the grass stems and zipping off.

Some little papillons de nuit further on received similar treatment, and this time one stayed still on grounding. Say hi to the Double-striped Pug!

Double-striped Pug, 11 March 2012

Double-striped Pug

2012 MOTHS: 3

The next best thing to a Long-tailed Duck

07Dec11 Diamagnetism DemoOn Wednesday, some of our physics class went to a lecture about superconductivity, where I accidentally put my finger in liquid nitrogen. The demonstration was a magnet levitating above a dish of yttrium barium copper oxide superconductors (which required cooling to -150C in order to actually work, hence the need for liquid nitrogen). Superconductors are materials with zero electrical resistance, so once a current is flowing in one, it can keep going for billions of years. A magnet placed near a superconductor will induce a current in the superconductor with an associated magnetic field that directly opposes it, and hence the magnet levitates. But as the superconductor had warmed up, the magnet fell down and became attached to it. So when I tried to lift the magnet, the superconductors and dish of liquid nitrogen came with it, and the rest is history.

But putting my finger in liquid nitrogen was actually not as bad as standing beside the Abercorn Basin later that day in a December gale, looking for a female Long-tailed Duck!

07Dec11 Lagan Ferry Docks

When I arrived at the Lagan, walking under the M3, I though I’d found it – a black-and-white bird swimming and diving in the river beside the Odyssey Arena. On closer inspection it was actually a kind of auk which I’d never seen before.

07Dec11 Guillemot

There were two of them, both with a distinctive black eye line through their white faces. I headed on round the path, past a young cormorant fishing in the Abercorn Basin, past the Titanic Museum, down the road to the Titanic dock before I realised I had overestimated the amount of time I had, and had to turn back.

07Dec11 Titanic Museum Belfast

Returning to the Odyssey, I found three of the auks now present – plus a mottled-white Tystie… and then I had my doubts. Were the unidentified auks simply Tysties in winter plumage?

Looking at my RSPB Birds of Britain and Europe, it turns out all Tysties / Black Guillemots have mottled-white plumage in winter, and the black-and-white auk I saw was actually a Guillemot – my 110th British bird!

But wait! That’s not all I saw at the Lagan…

07Dec11 Starling Murmuration

To be continued…