October in Wicklow is a strange month. The light begins to change in subtle ways. The skies of Wicklow become especially spectacular, and the sunsets can be fantastic.
It is unmistakably autumn, but many flowers are still blooming. Scarlet Pimpernel, Fumitory and Sun Spurge can all be found, just as in the summer. Along the coastline beautiful white flowers of the Sea Campion, a close relative of the carnations, can be found. And nearby, growing from the shingle or sand, the lovely painfully prickly Sea Holly has small bright blue flowerheads.
This is a time of high tides and storms too. Beachcombers will discover many beautiful things washed ashore, such as these Common Mussels that came ashore on seaweed during a storm.
The last of Carder Bumblebees - Bombus pascuorum - continue to feed from the clovers in the meadows, gardens and along the roadside verges. Clovers continue growing vigorously in October. But soon these bees disappear: workers dying, young queens hibernating. In spring they will awaken and begin laying eggs, the first workers of their new colonies.
However, it is a boom time for many other creatures. The big webs of the orb-weaver spiders appear, and they start to focus their attention on mating. Meta segmentata is the most common species in the lowland areas. The medium-sized spiders sit in the centre of their huge webs. Males often join the females in their webs. It is a wonderful time to watch their mating habits, when the males catch insects and gift-wrap them in silk before presenting them to the females. This is, of course, in order to get to mate with the females. Some scientists think that the female is merely kept busy by the meal while the male mates with her, but most of the time the female takes the gift and retreats with it, and mating takes place later, often with no food present.
The spider boom is due to the general boom in the insect population at this time of the year. Young pheasants start to make their own way in the world at this time, feeding on insects, spiders and seeds. They can easily become prey themselves, and so are brilliantly camouflaged to hide them from the eyes of would-be predators.
Some poisonous insects emphasise their toxins at this time, especially the younger ones. Look at the spectacular warning colours of this nymph Forest Bug, and then compare that with its camouflage colours when it has developed wings and is free to fly away. Beneath the wingcases the bright red patterns are still visible and can be readily seen when it is airborne.
In the warm dampness of autumn some butterflies can be still found in the meadows, such as the Small Copper.
And most fungi are only in the middle of their fruiting season, such as these sparkling Puffballs.
In the late afternoons and early evenings Rooks begin putting on incredible aerial ballets, whirling and wheeling in enormous swirling clouds that can number thousands. An amazing spectacle to behold, and apparently these acrobatics are done for the sheer joy of it, although the young birds probably learn a great deal of their flying skills at this time.