Nature On Our Doorstep, Wicklow/Wexford Border Area

The Covid19 quarantine (self isolating) regulations put in place by Government over the last couple of weeks do have a number of positive angles. The garden is beginning to take shape again, the guitar playing is improving and the nature walks with our dog Ruby have enabled both a reconnection with the local area while giving a timely reminder of the level of biodiversity surrounding our home.

In my life time biodiversity on land and under the sea has taken a massive hit, which was why I set up An Irish Anglers World back in 2008. Since then the graph has only gone in one direction and that is downwards due to the way that we as humans live our lives. We cannot have our cake and eat it, however it is our choice and as long as we as a species continue to prioritise economic growth over nature things are not going to change.

That said, the Covid19 pandemic and the subsequent decision by world leaders to place the world economy into “hibernation” is clearly beginning to show, at least in my local area, how pausing humanities modern approach to life is having a positive environmental effect. The question is, will world decision makers take heed and act on the obvious, they have shown us over the past few weeks that they can do it, but will they continue?

Will we as a species learn the lessons of this period in world history and place nature first, time will tell. In the mean while my temporary lay off from work has its benefits, allowing plenty of free time to get out in the air. Living in a rural upland area, the land above us is predominantly commercial sitka spruce forestry with pockets of beech wood on the forest periphery.

Within the surrounding forestry one can also find individual stands of sycamore, horse chestnut, scots pine, holly, birch, hawthorn and mountain ash (rowan). Below us are a patch work of fields and hedgerows stretching into the distance where dairying, beef and sheep farming are practised, while approximately five miles south of us are the ancient oak woods of tomnafinoge.

Relatively unspoiled the local countryside is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. To date based on sightings and or sounds/calls my wife Mandy and I can list within the vicinity of our home a surprising number of species:

Mammals

  • Fox, Badger, Sika Deer, Stoat, Red Squirrel, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit, Hare, Rat, Mouse, Vole,

Birds

  • Buzzard, Red Kite, Ravan, Rook, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Chaffinch, Chiff Chaff, Goldfinch, Magpie, Robin, Pied Wagtail, Yellow wagtail, Blue Tit, Great tit, Tree sparrow, Meadow pipit, Thrush, Cuckoo, Woodpecker, Tree Creeper, Pheasant, Woodcock, Snipe, Sparrow hawk, Jay, Mallard duck,

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Common Lizard, Frog,

Butterflies and Bees

  • Butterflies {Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Silver Washed Fritillary, Common Blue, Cabbage White, Orange tip}, Bumble bee, Honey bee,

Fish

  • Brown trout, Sea trout, Salmon

Trees Native to Ireland

  • Ash, Birch, Blackthorn, Broom, Crab Apple, Elder, Gorse, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Yew, Oak, Rowan, Scot’s Pine, Willow.

From wild upland to arable lowland, mountain trails and forest walks I suppose that we are spoiled for choice, however in these times of social distancing within what is a relentlessly fast paced world isn’t it great to have real time to commune with nature again. Long may it continue beyond the Covid19 crisis…………..

Friday 10/04/2020

A warm dry bright hazy April day, just a very light southerly breeze, temperature about 14 – 16 degrees, yellow flowered gorse giving off that coconut aroma.

Yesterday heard a woodpecker in the middle beech wood where the souterain is. There are buzzards nesting close to the house, we see them gliding the thermals and perched high in trees.

Today I saw my first orange tip butterfly of the season along with small peacock butterflies.

House martins arrived today and are sorting out the gable end nest.

Saw a cuckoo fly along the forest boundary at the back of us.

Observed a tree sparrow within a holly bush.

Thursday 16/04/2020

Climbed Croghan Kinsella (606 meters, 1,987 feet) from the Carrig wood entrance today. from this point the ascent is 400 meters and takes approximately an hour and a half through initially commercial forestry before merging into open moorland.

Although a beautiful sunny day, a chill north east wind prompted the wearing of suitable clothing especially post emerging from the forest shelter. Graded an easy/moderate climb, from Carrig wood the path to the summit initially utilises forest paths before steepening as one clears the forest line to an at least one in four scree path which runs alongside a dry stone wall. The heart will pump and the legs will burn but eventually the path will begin to flatten out as one reaches the summit plateau. Eventually the path takes a sharp right petering out into rough moorland with the summit visible roughly a quarter mile away to the east.

Allowing for a twenty minute rest at the summit, I departed my house at 11.00.am and returned just after 14.00.pm. On the way I had the opportunity to observe three female deer feeding in a forest clearing, while peacock butterflies were abundant in the warmer sheltered forest sections. Up on the moor I kept disturbing what I thought were initially skylarks but on closer inspection through my binoculars turned out to be meadow pipits, which hovered in the strong breeze before settling back into the scrub whence they came.

April 26th, 2020

Went for a stroll to an area of wood that has a large stand of mature Eucalyptus trees, whoever planted those, heard the first cuckoo, watched a wren within a thicket and also jays dancing within the trees.

April 30th, 2020

A chiff chaff visited the garden.

May 7th, 2020

While walking the dog in the beech wood this morning a young fox crossed our path, later a female deer bounced out from a thicket spied us and bounced back in again. Later in the afternoon while strolling along the Bann river, a tributary of the Slaney, near Hollyfort I came across a mallard duck. A walk along approx’ 500 meters of the Bann river up and downstream of Hollyfort bridge revealed only one salmon parr.

May 14th 2020

Heard a cuckoo twice within the last couple of days as again, but only once, a woodpecker drumming from what sounded like the lower beech wood. Around noon today three buzzards were circling on the thermals above our house. While walking the dog I heard but did not see wrens calling from within thickets along the woodland path.

Bluebells are appearing along the roadside but not in the woodland glades yet. It is very sunny today but cold, 8 degrees centigrade, due to a northwest breeze. Cabbage white butterflies are visiting the garden as well as plenty of bees, bumble bees and what I call bibio or whin flies.

May 18th 2020

A polar/continental air stream has pushed around to the south warming up the breeze, carrying a hint of dampness but still no rain, the sky is grey and the air is fresh. A buzzard wheels above Carrig wood, its tail and wing feathers controlling a circular wide banking movement, scanning the ground below for carrion or prey the great bird emits a plaintive high pitched call.

Prompted by the sunny weekend a carpet of bluebells is now emerging on the woodland floor. Mossy and strewn with leaf litter from last Autumn in conjunction with the tree canopy a visual, aural softness envelopes. Beech and oak are the predominant tree species in this section of woodland creating a level of biodiversity in marked contrast to the commercial mono culture that surrounds it.

Sample Oak Leaf

Sample Beech Leaf

May 25th 2020

The red kite, a once common bird of prey became absent within Ireland roughly 200 years ago due to predation from man. In 2011 a partnership between Ireland’s NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust reintroduced these stunning looking raptors into the Avoca, Co. Wicklow area using stock donated from Wales.

Nine years later the success of the project can be gauged by a regular evening phenomenon whereby red kites flock over the village of Avoca, Co. Wicklow. Last evening was no exception with up to a dozen birds soaring and swooping in the strong southerly wind which pushed up the Avonmore river valley. A wonderful sight which is free for everybody to enjoy…..

May 27th 2020

Took a walk through the beech wood close to the viewing point this morning with a view to capturing bluebells in full bloom, I was not disappointed. Their scent wafted under the tree canopy helped by a light southerly breeze, in patches the forest floor was a carpet of blue.

All of a sudden about fifty meters away there was a movement in the leaf litter, a red squirrel oblivious of me was hopping and bounding from mossy rock to log to tree stump, stopping briefly to observe along the way. One of the largest that I have seen, he/she disappeared behind a tree. Maybe it shinned up in the lee because I did not see it for five minutes.

Then out of the corner of my eye another sudden movement through the leaf litter. This time I followed keeping low along a ditch, then there were two the second one smaller. Proceeding to climb up a large beech they vanished into the canopy above. Pure magic………..

June 1st 2020

Mandy and I heard woodpeckers drumming a month or so back and searched for the nest without any luck. Through research we found out what type of tree they use for nesting and also found out that once the nesting starts the drumming stops. Mandy has a phone app’ with bird calls on it. She memorised the woodpeckers call and yesterday evening identified a nesting site due to the call sounds emanating from a particular area.

This morning we visited the site and established a pattern of behaviour where the chick would call and the parents would flit between trees close by settling briefly to scope the lie of the land before flying to the nesting tree with collected food. They would not land at the nest hole but instead below or to one side where they would scope again before moving towards the nest hole whence the chick would poke its head out ready to receive food.

The birds are obviously very secretive and both male and female work in tandem to bring a steady supply of grub to their hungry and very noisy offspring. To capture the above images was a first for me and was the culmination of a plan that worked to perfection……

 

 

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