circa.4300 BC to 2020 AD

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Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey     
September / 2020 - Michael Ryan



 We had a large family of Blackcaps in the garden in late July zipping back and forth from a conifer bush to feed on the dark berries of the Berberis Darwinii.
  Earlier in the year the orange flowers of the berberis are a magnet for insects. As soon as the berries appear in July they are quickly devoured by birds. Both male and female juvenile blackcaps resemble adult females having a brown crown on their head. Between them and the other birds feeding on them, all the berries were gone within a few days.


Top left, a juvenile Blackcap, top right, a Blue Tit and right, a female Blackbird, on the Berberis bush.


 The Comma butterfly, first recorded in Ireland in  2000 in Wexford, has since spread around the       south east counties, is now known to over    winter in Carlow and is spreading west and north
  Our second and third sightings of Commas in    Ireland was in Mount Usher gardens in July where two were feeding on a flower bed. The   small white mark on its underwing, left, is what it’s name derives from.

  These vividly coloured growths, known as Robin’s Pin Cushions, appear on the stems of wild roses in late summer. Also known as Rose bedeguar gall they’re caused by a tiny insect, a species of gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae).The adult wasp lays eggs in the buds or developing leaves during mid-summer period. The eggs hatch into small white larvae that secrete chemicals that cause the abnormal growth.
  Instead of buds developing into normal shoots and leaves, they are converted into hard woody structures that have an outer covering of moss-like leaves, which are either reddish pink or yellowish green. The internal part of the gall contains a number of chambers in which the grubs develop. This one pictured is in our garden and the wild rose it grew on has an old growth on it from last year which might be worth dissecting to see if any of those little chambers are visible.


  Last year when we visited Emo Court (above) in Laois we’d seen, among other things, a raven feeding ivy berries to a juvenile and Lucy found owl pellets at the base of one of the majestic redwoods that line the avenue.
   We returned in July and the lovely sunny day helped bring out the wildlife. Lucy spotted a pair of mating damselflies on a laurel bush beside the lake and later a very striking dragonfly. Damselflies nearly always perch with wings folded while dragonflies have their wings outstretched.
   We sat on a bench opposite a large old yew tree enjoying the sunshine. We were about to move on when a red squirrel appeared in trees behind it. The companion with us had never seen a red squirrel jumping before and could barely believe the agility of this one as it made a spectacular leap from one tree to the next. We lost sight of it till we saw it was on the outside of the yew tree. Red squirrels lose their ear tufts in mid-summer but, as if to make up for that, this one had a spectacularly bushy, almost white tail. He began eating the yew berries, at one time hanging upside down suspended by his back feet using his front paws to grasp the berries.

   Damselflies mating, Emo Court. Sorry, I don’t know exactly what species but they are but they are probably either Azure or Variable Damselfly.

            Red Squirrel feeding on yew berries at Emo Court and no, the picture above isn’t upside down, the squirrel is.

Images & Text by :- Michael Ryan