Listen back to our latest series of nature talks with Aengus from NatureNorthWest in conversation with John Breslin at Highland radio. We discuss the topics mentioned and answer listeners questions about seasonal nature topics. Click on the dates below to listen back. Next nature talk is on Tuesday the 26th of May at 12.30 on Highland Radio
28.4.20 Swallows and Bumblebees
21.4.20 Cuckoos and Magpies
14.4.20 Willow Warblers and Willow trees
Next talk is on Tuesday the 26th of May at 12.30 on Highland Radio
Some questions answered from previous radio shows…
Wood Wasp or Hornet?
Quite a few people have been asking about alarming articles claiming hornets are in Ireland. They have never been recorded so far. There is the greater horntail wasp which is completely harmless, its long spike at the back is for laying eggs, not stinging thankfully! Check out this to tell the difference. http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/…/Vespavelutina_compariso…
Why learn birdsong?
Birdsong is all around us in spring/summer. It is a constant noise source wherever we go, be that town, city or countryside. Learning a few of the songs is surprisingly easy and once you know a few the rest start to make sense. This article (click here) explains the reasons to learn bird song very well. If you are interested in taking part click here.
Early birds at the feeder
Why do different birds come at different times to the bird feeder? Well, the very first to become active are the ones with biggest eyes. In the case of feeders and bird tables that is Thrushes and their relations, such as the Blackbird and the Robin. They will often be the first bird to be actively feeding and the last bird to be active in the evening. Originally woodland birds, they are adapted to take as much light as possible. Another reason different birds come at different times is where they are in the local pecking order. Younger birds are lower down the social order so tend to visit at the more dangerous exposed time of during the day. Older birds tend to come early and chase away the others. Often flocks of some species of bird will be passing through an area so you might suddenly see a lot of Goldfinches, where as Chaffinches can tend to linger a little longer.
There has been reports of crows stealing pebbles from graves around Donegal. While NatureNorthWest has not observed this behaviour there are also reports from other countries supporting this behaviour. A possible reason could to aid digestion. Crows have a crop, gizzard and stomach. They can store a certain amount of food in their crop, they crush and breakdown difficult to swallow food in their gizzard (as they have no teeth). Perhaps the crows are eating the pebbles so that they will get lodged in their gizzard and aid in the breakdown of food. Large mounts (relatively) of grit deposits have been found below rookeries where crows nest. If anyone has seen this behaviour please get in touch.
Red or Grey? Red are native, fitting into Ireland’s biodiversity whereas grey squirrels were introduced into Ireland a little over 100 years ago. They are slightly bigger and a bit tougher than our native reds and also carry a disease that kills the reds but they can tolerate. At the moment there is a nationwide drive to stop the spread of greys into red territories. In Donegal red squirrels are to be found around Inishowen and around Lough Eske. Check this site for mammal sitings and please enter any records of mammals you see to the Ireland Mammal Atlas Survey.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about spiders in the media. They have been observed by many in their homes and some say this is happening more than usual. Fear not, this is perfectly normal. They eat a lot of pesky house flies which could potentially carry disease so they are doing us a big favour. At this time of year males are seeking out females as its breeding season, hence they end up roaming through our own patches. This year has been very good for insects because of the kind weather so there has been a lot of spider food about. This could attribute to the high numbers observed. They pose no risk to us, in most cases there little jaws cannot penetrate our skin. Anyway, we are not their prey. There has been mention of a venomous spider that has arrived in Ireland recently called the false widow spider. They can give a bite and in very unusual circumstances can cause a reaction. I have not heard of any reports of them in the NorthWest but if you have heard to the contrary please get in touch. There is a great free app about spiders called ‘Spider in da house’ If you have a smartphone try to download it in your app store. Our friends at Atlantic Aromatics tell us that while there is no scientific evidence to back this up, anecdotally Peppermint essential oil has been sending spiders running throughout the land!
An amazing creature is the little silverfish that you might find scuttling around your house. eating up tiny bits of dried vegetation, sugars and other bits of house dust. Living for several years they are extremely well adapted to the small places in the house. They don’t carry disease, so do us no harm in that way but can eat glues such as book bindings and occasionally fabrics. They can survive for up to a year with no food and are regarded as one of the most ancient forms of insect life on the planet. Our friends at Atlantic Aromatics tell us that their Cedarwood Essential oil has been very effective in deterring these little insects.
About one quarter of all the creatures in the world are beetles of one type or another. We have over 750 beetle species in Ireland, you can access the different species names at the biodiversity data centre. Clock beetles can refer to a few different large black beetles usually found outside. They don’t hurt us in any way, preferring to eat up small slugs, millipedes and other ground dwelling creatures; in so doing help keep their numbers in check. As a nocturnal creature they are usually found under damp spots. This time of year they can be found looking for a dark not too cold hiding place in your house. If found catch them with a sheet of paper and a glass and pop them outside where they can keep eating those slugs!