Hot, Dry June

Brown Trout
Brown Trout
Hairy Hawkers
Hairy Hawkers In A Mating-wheel

This year Wicklow experienced a terrifically hot and dry June. It was perfect, and the best in Ireland fo 40 years, according to Met Éireann, the Irish meteorological service. There was some rain, but just enough to keep the stream levels high enough to support the fast growing Brown Trout, which are in great abundance.

Meta segmentata spiderlings
Meta segmentata spiderlings

They occasionally lunge above the water to snatch at flying insects, but many of the most appetizing, such as the robust Four-spotted Chaser, prefer to stake their territories over dark, still bog pools. These pools, usually located in bogs, are where dragonflies like to breed, and can be seen forming their acrobatic "mating-wheels".

These are not the only predators reproducing: with the abundance of nectar-feeding insects, spiders start to reproduce and tiny yellow clusters of orb-weaver spiders can be seen on the hedges and across dense undergrowth before breaking up and going their seperate ways.

Ambush
Ambush

Not all spiders are at reproducing age yet: many of the crab spiders are still growing and fattening up. The Flower Crab spiders wait patiently to ambush insects on brightly-coloured flowers, and are granted a continual supply of food as a result of this patience.

Sweet Briar
Sweet Briar
Fuchsia
Fuchsia
Buttercup Meadow
Buttercup Meadow

The flowers and plants that make all this possible are now in abundance: stunning flowers of the wild rose, Sweetbriar, line the roadside hedges. The heavy, gorgeous blossoms of the naturalised fuchsias reach out from their thickets on long, thin leafy branches. All across the damp meadows near the bogs and rivers there is a sea of yellow meadow buttercup flowers.

Butterflies occasionally become prey to these spiders, too, as do bumblebees of even the very largest size. But many species seek out flowers normally ignored by crab spiders. The lovely Small Heath butterfly, for example, prefers grasses, but will also visit bramble blossoms. It inhabits coastal cliffs and dunes and is often an extremely difficult butterfly to spot, as it's very well camouflaged, fast-moving, and will run through the undergrowth along the ground for convenience when potential predators threaten.

Small Heath
Small Heath
Dark strawberry Tortrix
Dark strawberry Tortrix

This behaviour is, in many ways, more like that of moths. The micromoths in particular will run or fly depending on the situation, and many have elaborate colour patterns, such as the Dark Strawberry Tortrix moth. Moths and butterflies seem to decline briefly at this time of the year in Wicklow, possibly due to their being an abundant and easy to capture prey.

Everywhere in Wicklow there are little birds fledging in June, and usually being shepherded by adults who pass on their hunting and foraging skills, while still providing food for their young.

Swallow Feeding Young
Swallow Feeding Young
Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawk

Red Kite

Red Kite

But fledglings will also provide an easily obtained food-supply for Wicklow's most common bird-of-prey, the Sparrowhawk. Young hawks hover openly above gardens looking for the inept and naive youngsters.

But there are much larger bird-of-prey on the lookout for easy pickings, such as the Red Kite, whose rabbit and rodent prey are at highest population levels in June. Red Kites will take carrion where it is available, and in June there is much due to still births, accidental deaths, exposure to the elements and the killing of young rabbits by territorial males. Nothing ever goes to waste in this natural landscape.