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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Common Cock Chafer on my wall.

This large Beetle I spotted on my outside wall this morning. First I'd spotted it very early, before I went out again at around 8am, with my camera, intend on capturing it. It was still quite dark and dull, so flash was needed, as well as my lens. At first I thought it was a large Moth, until, when a friend came to pick me up, pointed it out to Francis. He immediately recognised it as a Meikeveras he knows it in Dutch. It translates simply as May-Beetle. Googling this and then the latin name, directed me to this site telling me that it is a Common Cock Chafer, family of the Dung Beetles, (Scarabaeidae)

Common Cock Chafer, Melolontha melolontha.

We concluded that this one looks as if it had just collided with, and then pasted itself onto te wall. Cladia and I read later that it often crashes into lighted windows, so I guess this position is not unfamiliar to it. Somehow, the name (cock) Chafer sounds very familiar. Did I perhaps see another one in the recent past? I'll have to check.

Common Cock Chafer, Melolontha melolontha.

And two others which were wondering what I was doing down here in front of the wall:
One of the two male Chaffinches, Fringilla coelebs

And while the Beetle was very quiet and sitting still, these were showing off its reportoire and making a racket.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My cat is crazy about carrotine

The main part of my dinner consists of grated carrots. Later I will add roasted mushrooms (sliced) through this, and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese (also grated.)

I'm not talking recipes here, nor talking lifestyles. What has intrigued me is that Nina out cat is crazy about the carrot peel, or other bits of raw carrot. She will be licking the peel or piece of carrot, and turn it, and herself, about and round & round on the table, and if I'm not on the case, she'll turn the whole lot of veggie peel onto the floor, just because she's so hot about carrots.
has any of you see a similar behaviour, or heard/read about this?

(Could it be that as a white cat she is yearning for a bit of carrotine, to give her white fur a little colouring? (the natural colouring of animals is (in) carrotine. As example: the carrotine in certain Caterpillars gives Blue Tits their yellow breast. If they fail to find these, the offspring will turn out a lot paler.)

OK, I know, this has nothingto do with Wildlife, conservation, etc. However I am really interested, even without the cat, in what is this chemical or in carrotine? Because I also wonder if it has a similar effect on other species of the Cat family.

nina has been doing this for awhile, it is not just a feline whim or something.

I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Irish Butterfly Survey

We all like the Butterflies in our garden. We love their bright colour, how these can sparkle on a dull day, when some Butterflies still choose to fly, about the Flowers in our gardens, along the road, or down in the fields or woodlands. Even down at the coast I often see them, where Butterflies like Small Tortoise Shell, gorge themselves on the rich nectar of Sea Asters and the many other flowers which have chosen the inside of the bay as their habitat. The large umbels of Alexanders too, attract many Insects, their tall heads softly swaying in the sea breeze as they clamp their many legs on the little white flowers, making up the umbel.

Numbers have dwindled however, and it is very sad that the whole of Europe is losing many of its Butterflies.
With such extreme weather patterns and colder winters means that many are lost. in hibernation. Without counting them, we won't know if all species are affected equally, or if it hits certain species more than others. And the only way we can find out this, is by counting them between April and September.
Britain was the first in counting their Butterflies in 1976. The favoured methodology is where volunteers walk certain transects. They each walk their chosen 1-1.5 km., once a week .Recording every Butterfly they see, it will soon become apparent when the volunteer spots less during his or her walk than on previous walks. And also where numbers and which species are down on previous weeks.
If you think that you like to look out for these beautiful creatures, during your daily walk, you can sign up with the Irish Butterfly monitoring scheme
As I reported last year, Ireland has now 3 new Butterfly species breeding in this country, which was very good news indeed. (However, we do have to make special efforts not to destroy their habitats just after them moving in. )

You do not need any special skill to take part as volunteer. Each one will receive a booklet and identification charts are supplied as well as notes and there are very good field guides on the market.
The Butterflies are recorded between April and September, and you can still sign up. It being quite late by now, you'd probably best contact one of thde regional contacts which you can find on here on the Scheme's Contact Page

In Tipperary, you can sign up with the Tipperary Insttute Biodiversity and Research.

Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta

Last year I had many Moths visiting my kitchen, most of which were Small Magpies. This year my kitchen had been strangely empty without these little flyers, these first few months of 2009.
So I was very pleased to spot the first one of the year.

The Small Magpie Moth, Eurrhypara hortulata

Don't you love her silver and longlegs, LOL! And she is right too, to show it off like this.

The Moth was, however, anxious to get back outside, and when I placed the tub out in a plantpot, among the Fatsia leaves where it was sheltered from the wind and hidden from predators, it took its time before deciding to fly off eventually.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ireland's Butterfly survey- Volunteers needed.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus.

The local House Sparrows used to house their colony in the Hawthorn,
Crataegus monogyna, behind our garden wall, where they had food in my garden just a hop over te wall, food in autumn/winter in the large hedgerow where their colony had chosen to set up home. Then in autumn/winter they went through a very bad patch when the disease Trichomoniasis invaded the colony. Some of them survived, but they are now spread out, over hedges around the estate, and trees around the estate. With 12 new houses and more and more people starting to become aware of their needs, I see less of them.

We all know that Butterflies and Moths are going through a very difficult time.
What the impact of a changing climate, and loss of habitat, to name just two of the obstacles the modern European Butterfly has to overcome in these times.

Richard Collins of the Irish Examiner writes that in certain parts of Europe, the number of grassland species has gone down by half!
It is clear that here in Ireland we have a loss, similar to this European outcome, yet we do need to find out how these creatures are coping with the changing landscape, climate, and most of all, loss of habitat.
So how do e find out how many there are? Simple really; you count them. In order to this however, you need a lot of people who do so for you.

So what kind of people do qualify to take part in this important survey? Well, almost anyone really.
All you need to ba able to, is go for a walk once a week between april and September, and along a route which you can chose yourself. about the length of 1.5 --2 kilometres. So think of all the good it wil do to you mind and to your body. and preferably the walk passes through different habitats.
There is a shortage of volunteers in rural Ireland it seems.

You will get identification charts and notes, to help you underway.

as it is not to sign up, you can still contact the Irish Butterfly monitoring sceme :

It is an European attempt to keep track of what is happening to the Butterflies of each individual country. The transect- survey was born in 1976, and 14 European countries are taking part. Ireland joined in 2006.

april might be gone, yet there is still a lot of time left between now and September.

According to Irish folklore, the Red Admiral Butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, is the representative of the devil. On a lighter note, the Irish also believe(d?) that Butterflies are in fact the souls of dead people. I do not know the finer pointsof this folkore, but I think it is a wonderful way to be remembered to certain people which you lost over the years.

Small Magpie Moth,
Eurrhypara hortulata

This little attractive Moth called in at about 5-6 times in 2008. The first time I saw it inside my kitchen, was in early January. So it was a real joy to see it, last night when it landed on the blind on my kitchen door. We tried moving it to the dark outside world, but were unable to. After searching the kitchen for it this morning, and, unable to find it, I was pleased when it returned to my table area and the kitchendoor, where it sat waiting very obliging, until I got around the table with a little container to help place it outside in these strong winds. and indeed the container was needed, like I thought it would. It hates the wind, you see, so getting outside or leaving the tub, is not very attractive!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Update on little Vole and Small Magpie Moth

The little rodent turns out to be a (baby) Bank Vole.

After the UK mainland broke its ties with continental Europe, from the coastal area of Western France, those land animals which found themselves on the broken on landmass, were stuck. By the time the western rock broke itself off, a lot of these UK mammals had not found their way west. (yet) and so, like before, we have ended up with a lower number of mammals. We have no Moles, nor any Weasels, nor Wildcat, to name but a few. Neither have we got a Field Mouse/Vole and no Water Vole.

The result of having so few of these smallish rodents, is that there is not enough food for predators such as Owls, and this little Vole therefore, is a great addition to the menu of not only Owls, but also Foxes.

In 1925, for the damming of the Shannon, a German company was asked to come and do the job. Loading their own heavy earth moving machinery, the Germans set sail to the west of Ireland.
39 years later, in Listowel, county Kerry, a German student spotted a little Bank Vole, discovering the island's first such Vole. The fact that a new species made its entree in the west was highly unusual. Usually, new ones are discovered in the east where they set foot first after coming here from the UK. They can easily be transported in cargo crates, lorries, or any other way of hitching a ride. The way this little Vole made it to the country is a lovely story, if ever there was one. It has colonised the south west of Ireland, and is now moving east at 4kilometres a day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bank Vole, Clethrionomys glareolus

Bank Vole, Clethrionomys glareolus

The other day this small Rodent entered our house for a brief period, before it died of its internal injuries. It had been brought into the garden by a cat and then escaped indoors.
I have no idea what species it is, not one I have come across before.

It is grey with black, and very small. It is about 6cm long, 1.5cm wide. Its tail is about 5cm, I think. And it is also very very cute.

It has been a bit of a bad and very sad story this spring and a bad beginning of summer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

EU ban on seal trade

Although I have followed the campaign to get the EU to ban the trade in Seal products like furs, etc, my blogging mind has been muddled with a lot of other stuff lately, including Elly's passing.

It will be quite a challenge for the EU when she takes on Norway and Canada at the World Trade Organisation. The European Parliament needs to pass it this month, which looks like it will find no opposition.

The Canadian Trade minister, Stockwell Day, never even hinted at the manner in which these Seals are killed when he issued a statement in which he said:

We are disappointed that a ban is being considered. Canada will consider all the options available to us in order to protect the livelihood of coastal and northern Canadians and their families,,blockquote"

The fact that the Seals are skinned and tapped for blood, while the animal is still alive, is something which makes me just incredibly angry.
Is there something missing in the consciousness of those people which can only think of killing other creatures, in a very inhumane way? Be it in Canada, or Norway.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Flowers, brushstrokes and Lichen

Last week, I stopped when I spotted these yellow flowers. It is rare that I do this with cultivated plants and flowers, as I find their wild cousins (or ancestors in some cases) much more interesting. And think of it, they do not receive extra watering whenever rain has been absent for awhile, nor do they get special fertiliser delivered at their roots at times when they need it most. No, they have to fight their own battle. They have to push their roots out, and further out to find any bit of moisture, and they have to push above ground too, where space is at a premium.
Then the real struggle starts when the time arrives to develop flowers, and not just any flower; It will have to be brighter, emit a stronger scent, and create an easy way of transferring the all important pollen onto the carrier. The Fly, Bee, Moth or Butterfly, which shall hopefully deliver its parcel onto the next flower, eagerly awaiting this fresh dose, in order to guarantee the survival of the species.

As I opened this picture on my laptop, I noticed how the petals resemble brush strokes. I am not sure in which medium these are painted; was it oil, acrylics but I love how the yellow brings out the pale tone of the green background.

What is more, it reminded me immediately of Lottemarie, my late aunt, a sister of my father. She was a lovely person, and she had a great talent of not only create wonderful paintings, but also able to teach others. She taught art at the college. Lottemarie was also a great inspiration to Elly, my lovely friend, and mother.

She and her ex-husband Piet, and his wife,started an art gallery between their two houses, 2 miles from where we lived. This was very new at the time, and certainly the first one in our area of small villages and towns in the heart of Holland.
We, two young girls, would come to the opening nights of the exhibitions, 'twirling' around with the sherry, orange juice and wine glasses. Some years later, when Louise, my sister, got the strings of her new guitar under her belt, we would sing popular songs from bands like Creedance Clearwater Revival.
"Project Maarsbergen" was later handed over to the regional art circle to organise it all, when Lottemarie and her 2nd husband, Cees, withdrew more from it all.
Lottemarie used all kind of medium, oil, watercolour and acrylics. Elly who worked mainly in watercolour, travelled a lot because the flat landscape of the The Netherlands did not manage to inspire her at all. no chance of a tree in the middle of a field there. It is all flat and in straight lines. She therefore loved coming to Ireland and she has created a fair amount of Irish watercolours. Most of her acrylics are abstract. She started doing these only later, a little before we left in the eighties.

A typical Lottemarie in either oil or acrylic.

Could have been an Elly, in watercolour.

I think this Daisy would have challenged Lottemarie into picking up her brush, also.

Ox-eye Daisy,
Leucanthemum vulgare

Another thing Elly liked was Lichen, and I can picture her pen drawing of this Pine cone which must have been lying at the edge of the road for a bit, I think. There was Lichen here on everything on the road, 5cm pieces of bark or broken off a branch. It is a road I pass regularly, when I've brought my camera to the shop and take my time when I pass the hedgerow step for step.
hOwever, there is no hedgerow at this particular bit of road, where the 12 new county council are. So I intend to pass a little faster along thios stretch, on my way home.