Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Plant

Kilmacurragh

Old gate and wall segment Kilmacurragh

Old gate and wall segment, Kilmacurragh

The Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin is a familiar venue for those looking for peace and tranquility, never mind beautiful flowers, hot houses and international plantings.  Indeed its old iron framed glasshouses are iconic.

Not so many are aware of the Botanic Gardens’ venture in Wicklow, Kilmacurragh.  This is an old estate between Rathdrum and the N11 that offers much of the attractions of the Glasnevin park but without the glasshouses. It dates from the sixteen hundreds although a lot of the plantings are more recent.

The old house is now in ruins but the place has a nice mix of shade, glade, pond and open field that encourages exploration.

.

.

.

.

While much of the planting is of non-native trees and flowers, it is hard to deny the wild beauty apparent at every turn.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

.

Flower Border Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens Wicklow

Flower Border Kilmacurragh Botanic Gardens Wicklow

 

 

There are more concrete factors that help to bring Kilmacuragh into the ‘Wild Places’ category.

.

Firstly they are managing and researching wilfflower meadows.  The estate used to have extensive wildflower meadows and some of these are being restored.

It is hoped that the research will be available to others, including home garden owners, that want to develop a sustainable patch of wildflower meadow, which can attrack so many insects.

.

Oak Drive Kilmacurragh

Oak Drive Kilmacurragh

Secondly there are substantial amounts of great native wild plants.

Not the least of these are the Oak trees.  In particular, there is an ‘Oak Drive’.  This I am reliably informed, used to be the main Wexford raod.  It is a grassy path bordered by fine Oak trees, of which there are still far too few in Ireland.

.

.

.

Flower Borders Kilmacurragh

Flower Borders Kilmacurragh

Thirdly, there is an abundance of insects such as Bees, Dragonflies and Butterflies.

.

.

Finally, it is a great place to watch birds.

A red kite flew over at a fairly low height as I was getting out of the car!  Later a Buzzard flew over the fields.

.

.

In short, then, a great place to look at plants, to watch birds, to have a picnic or just to chill out!

 

Advertisements

River Liffey. Part 1 Freshwater

Best known as Dublin’s river and for its tidal sectionKippure from Liffey Head Bridge and port area, the river Liffey rises in county Wicklow and tumbles down gathering tributaries before calming and spreading out into Blessington Lakes.  it then crosses into Kildare and meanders around before ending up for only a small part of its journey, in Dublin.

Raven Silhouette over LiffeyIts source lies in the heathery bog land near Kippure mountain in a small dark peaty pool.

Expansive and fresh, this is the land of Ravens.  Their far-carrying ‘croak’ and unusual tail shape are distinctive.

.

.

.

.

.

Click Beetle at Liffey side.

.

.

In fact the area often looks pretty deserted of wildlife at first glance.  However patience will usually be rewarded and there is also plenty of insect and smaller  life in the water and bog nearby if the beauty of the landscape doesn’t grab you.

Grouse and other ‘game’ birds used to be reasonably common amongst the heather but I haven’t seen any up there in a long time.

.

Coronation Plantation & Liffey.

Gathering pace, the Liffey’s rocky descent continues through the Coronation Plantation, now looking more like a river.
Grey Wagtail F flying Liffey Ballysmutton
Merlin can sometimes be seen here while Grey Wagtails often flit from rock to rock.

Dipper with food LiffeyDippers like fast water with plenty of insects and bugs and this section of the Liffey is nearly ideal.

Dippers nest at a number of locations along the river, each pair keeping a lenght of river for their territory.  Sand Martins also nest here where the river bank is suitable.

Sand Martin flying LiffeyDescending further in a wide meandering circle around Dublin, the volume of water increases and the flow becomes a bit calmer.  It flows through Blessington Lakes where Great Crested Grebes and a variety of Duck can be seen including Goldeneye.  Past the Poolaphuca dam and power station the river enters Kildare.  Getting nearer  to Dublin, Herons become more common.Heron on Lock Liffey Lucan

Reaching Dublin the water is non-tidal up beyond the Strawberry Beds.  Birds such as Swans, Cormorants  and Little Grebes come to the fore. 3 Swans on Liffey Dublin

 

Cormorant Flying over Liffey………………

Serenity is now fast disappearing as the Liffey Little Grebe & young Liffey
Liffey running through Dublin Centre from airencounters the buzz of the city.


Wildlife – Saint Stephen’s Green Dublin

Right in the heart of Dublin City, Lake SSG DublinSt. Stephen’s Green is an oasis from shops and offices.  People come here to relax, to hear music from the bandstand, to sunbathe and to have their sandwich for lunch.

But this small green haven is also an oasis for wildlife.  A small stream and waterfall feed a lake / pond and a mixture of well kept lawn and flower beds contrast beautifully with large trees and thick bushes.

The lake is the usual focus for people looking for wildlife and as usual this is well represented by Ducks.

Mallard are the most numerous but there are a good few Tufteds.

In late Summer the ducks moult and tend to sit around in lazy non-descript groups keeping their feathers dry.

It is one of those places where a pocket camera can deliver good pictures.

.

Mallard Duck M St Stephens Green Dublin
.

While common, Mallard, at least the males, have really brilliant colours that change depending on the angle of view and the sun.

.

.

.

.

Male Tufted Ducks on the other hand are very formal Black and White and seem to resemble the shape of the bathroom ‘rubber duck’.

Tufted Duck M St Stephens Green

.

.

.

.

From time to time more exotic ducks arrive.  This year there were a few Mandarin Ducks.  The female  below was resching for the Willow leaves for which they have a ‘sweet tooth’.

Mandarin Duck F or juv reaching for willow St. Stephen's Green

Lesser Black_backed Gull St Stephens Green Dublin

Regarding the ever-present Gulls, Black-headed and Herring Gulls predominate but other species can be seen like this Lesser Black-backed Gull which has yellow legs and whose back is a grey in between the light grey of the Herring Gull and the near black of the Great Black-backed Gull.

.

,

,

,

Common birds such as Robins, Chaffinches, Rooks, Thrushes and Blackbirds roam freely here.

Blackbird M St Stephens Green.

As they are used to people, it is often possible to get closer than usual so that more details of the birds can be seen.  It is hard to beat whiling away a few minutes in the city park with a Blue-tit taking a bath right beside you.

Blue Tit bathing St Stephens Green

Mute Swan drinking St Stephens GreenEveryboby’s idea of a park bird, the Mute Swan, is accessible as always but nore unusually, Herons can sometimes be seen up close if care is taken.Heron on Rock SSG Dublin

.

Grey Squirrel SSGMammals live in the park too but as usual are not as easily seen.  Most of the rodents such as Rats and Mice go about their foraging largely un-noticed.   Not so the Grey Squirrel which is now unfortunately found in most of the city’s parks.

.

.

.

Young Foxes playing St. Dtephen's Green

A surprise for many will be the foxes which live in the park and go mostly unseen!  How many commuters pass by with heads bowed or with heavy thoughts and unseeing eyes on warm mornings when the foxes sunbathe or frolic in the foliage?

Moorhen struggling with large leaf on nest SSG pondLet’s close this short view of the park’s wildlife with a common, likeable bird, the Moorhen.

Strong colours, a busy demeanour and huge feet make them, for me, the cutest of the parks residents.

Every year they nest and rear young, many of whom are killed by predators.  Many times their nests are flooded or vandalised and yet they rebuild.  No wonder they are so common in waterways around the country.

Moorhen baby walking in pond SSGMoorhen looking to feed baby SSG pond
.

.

.

.

.

Finally a big thanks to all those responsible for keeping the park so clean and vibrant and a home for so many wild things.

Flower display SSG


Wicklow Way, Kilmore Quay – Spiders and Insects – Review of 2010 – August

August

Wicklow SW and Lough Dan from Wicklow WayWicklow is known as the Garden County.  Some garden!

Brilliant scenery, great walks, and full of wildlife, this is my extended home!

Amazingly it is close to around 2 million people and yet remains mainly wild.

Perhaps we should keep it secret.

.

The wicklow way winds its way across the mountains with railway sleepers in places making the going easier.  There are great wild flowers to be found.

Wild Flower mix road side Blessington.

.

.

.

.

At home in Blessington, someone grew ‘wild’ flowers in a rough patch beside the road.

Perhaps not truly wild but they were colourful and probably beneficial to other wildlife.

.

.

.Cross Spider on home wall

.

.

Birds were still around but they tend to go a bit quiet in August.

.

.

.

Insects and bugs on the other hand, seem to be everywhere,

.

.

‘Evil’ spiders were commonplace, this one paler than usual on the wall of our house.

.

.

.

.

On a short visit to Kilmore Quay, one of my favourite places, the weather was good and many insects flitted in the dunes.

6 Spot Burnet moth with tongue rolled up, Kilmore Quay dunes.

.

.

.

.

There were many 6-spot Burnets feeding on the wild flowers.

When we were young (just a few years ago), my brother Don and I regularly cycled to Bull Island and spent a lot of time in the valley between the dunes and St. Annes Golf course, looking for birds such as Cuckoos, Pipits, Larks, Reed Buntings and the odd Long Eared Owl.

But a lot of our time was spent looking at or for other things – Pigmy Shrews and Butterflies & Moths, mainly.

The 6-spot Burnet was one of the commonest moths, together with the Cinnabar.

.

Male Common Blue Buttterfly Kilmore Quay dunes.

,

,

.

.

.

.

.

,

,

,

The dunes at Kilmore Quay also held many Common Blue Butterflies.

This is a male with its wings together showing the markings underneath.

They whiz around a lot and annoy would-be viewers and photographers but when they do alight they often ‘pose’ like this with the wings up.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Male Common Blue Butterfly, wings out, Kilmore Quay dunes.

,

,

,

But the colours shown when the wings are ‘out’ in the ‘normal’ position, are superb – a brilliant electric blue, seeming to shimmer and almost defy hue definition.

.

As is common for the animal kingdon,if not for humans, females are a duller brownish colour.

,

,

,

,

,

,

,

,

,

Grey Seal Kilmore Quay harbour

.

.

.

In the harbour at Kilmore Quay, Grey Seals were frequent visitors to feed on discarded fish scraps from the fishing activities.

The Grey Seal has a different shape head to the less common ‘Common’ Seal.

It is said to be more dog-like and this one does look a bit like a dog looking for a bone!

.

.

.

One of Ireland’s birding jewels, the Saltee Islands, is a short ferry ride from Kilmore Quay, but that’s another story.


Insects, Spiders & Flowers – Review of 2010 – June

June

In mid-summer Dublin looks great, especially if it isn’t raining. But then it actually doesn’t rain as much as is commonly believed and when it does it is mostly not too heavy.  It is rare not to be able to get out for a walk.  The wildlife is generally at full charge with multi-coloured flowers, some nests still being used, babies being nursed and youngsters out exploring.

Garden Bumble Bee Bombus hortorum with pollen on Cornflower
In my garden Bumble Bees were buzzing.  There are usually a few types although bees of the beekeepers’ kind are apparently on the decline in Western Europe.  Bumble Bees are much larger and are the bees we usually visualise.  The pollen sac collected from numerous flowers can be seen clearly in this photo of a Garden Bumble Bee on a Cornflower.

It is worth planting suitable flowers to attract insects.  Apart from the joy of watching them and the knowledge that you are helping them, flowers planted near vegeatable plots can help to keep greenfly and other creatures less desirable by food and image gardners, in check, by encouraging insects that feed on them.

For this purpose, the best flowers are those with strong scents and this often means old varieties as modern catalogues are full of pretty flowers in a plastic doll fashion – nice for a fleeting look but no real character and of little use to anyone or anything.  How often so even find a modern rose with a good scent?

Incidentally those supporting the conservation of old seed varieties should be supported as much as possible as remarkably, large corporations are being allowed to trade mark and own life-forms such as new seed varieties and they are actively trying to remove the older varieties to avoid competition!

On a visit to Athlone for a 50th birhday celebration, I got a chance to look around some of the Lough Ree lakeside habitats.  Damselflies were mating around the wet and marshy areas and a dense mixture of different plants and flowers made progress slow.

Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata Lough Ree AthloneAmongst the more colourful and surely the most interesting flowers were the orchids. The one below, taken with a compact (party) camera, is an Early Marsh Orchid, I believe, though I’m no expert. The petals have lovely markings.
Early Marsh Orchid petal detail


_____

Coming back to animal life, spiders tend to get a bad press.  In June they were also thriving.   But what’s not to like about this beautiful spider which was camaflagouging himself by extending his legs along the seed head of a grass stalk beside Blessington Lakes.

There are a lot more spiders around us than many would believe, or wish to know about! Looking under the leaves of most plants will show at least one spider although they can be very small and hard to see.

In the home spiders are useful in keeping other insects under some control and are worth the odd ‘cob-web’. Balance is all important. Politicians please note.


Dublin City, Wicklow – Baby Birds, Insects & Sport – Review of 2010 – May

MayRoof Section of NIB building Dame St Dublin 2406

Many of us get fed up hearing about how it always rains in Ireland.  Well it doesn’t.  And when it does it is usually not very heavy and not for too long.  And sometimes (usually in May) we get some weeks of sunshine!   May 2010 was one of those times.

Buildings in Dublin looked at their best.  It is amazing though, how little those of us who are used to the city, really see and how seldom we look up!  The roofline in some parts of the city is great, particularly in Dame Street (opposite) and Georges Street.    Have a look up next time you’re in Dublin but I can’t promise mediterranean style blue skies!

Garda Memorial Garden

Dublin Castle also looked well with its just opened Garda Memorial Garden.  This is an interesting design with a water feature but it’s hardly in keeping with the old castle and Royal Chapel beside it.   Still, it has to be better than squeezing another new building in.

Oregan Maple tree & front square Trinity College Dublin

Down the road in Trinity College, the magnificent Oregon

Maples were in full leaf and dominated front square.  There are many great old trees (and buildings) in Trinity and a walk around the grounds is rewarding – especially when the sun shines.

Sometimes it’s good to be a ‘local tourist’.

I am fundamentally a northsider and it was good to visit my original home area in good weather.

In the sea, sporty folk kite-surfed while in tall trees in the woods. young herons called for thier supper from large stick nests.

Kite Surfer jumping over Dalkey Island

Grey Heron juvenile in high tree nest

May usually brings the height of nature activity and this includes gardens all over the country.  Even our own unkempt parcel of private wilderness was looking well and thriving with plants, insects and birds.  ‘Friemds’ will understand how wild a garden can be!

Starling feeding leatherjackets to juvs in nest box

Lesser Housefly Fannia canicularis on Bluebell flower BG 2284xL

Finally a word about the ‘new’  birds of prey.  I have seen a buzzard in County Dublin but so far none of  the reintroduced species.  I took a spin out to the Reddross area of Wicklow in the hope of seeing one of the Red Kites but no joy.  Although the scenery was too photegenic to ignore in the sunshine.

Rape field & Moon nr Redcross Wicklow


Nests Finches, Trinity, Canal – Review of 2010 – April

April

Refpoll FemaleSiskin Female

It was still cold in Ireland but the promise of better weather was there, albeit slightly misleading as usual.  In our garden the nut feeders were being over worked by finches and tits.  Sparrows also seeem to have mastered this aerial dexterity – I don’t remember them being good at this when I was young but that was a long time ago.   Garden feeders seem to have been important  in providing energy for birds in winter, especially in towns.   As well as some beautiful but infrequent Siskins, we got Redpolls for the first time.

Loo-king ready for the ball. TCD

.

.

.

In Dublin preparations were made for the annual Trinity Ball.

.

.

It was right into the nesting season – Ducks, Swans, Sparrows, etc. were all working hard on the next generation.

.

.

Sparrowhawk F collecting twigs

.

.

I found this female Sparrowhawk collecting twigs in a wood.
.

.

.

.

,

,

,

At home various nest boxes were occuppied – 1 Starling pair and 2 Blue Tit pairs.  Robins were happy to use an uncovered vent hole.

Robin flying with grub to nest in house vent

,

,

,

,

,

,

,

Back in Dublin some sunny days brought out people and flowers.

Cherry Blossom TCD .

.

,

Cherry Blossom brightened up parks and gardens while a barge festival brought interest to the Grand Canal.

Barge Festival Grand Canal Dublin