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Early Summer in the Pollagh

Notice Nature > Albert Nolan Essays

Early Summer in the Pollagh.

19th May 2015.

Early morning or late in the evening are the ideal times to listen to the birds. As the day and seasons progress, birds become quieter and this is why May marks the national dawn chorus event. We arrive reasonably early for our walk and we stand by the car for a few minutes to take in the fabulous songs. A Robin, Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Dunnock are all performing.

People often feel a bit overawed when they set out to learn the different bird songs and especially when there are several singing together. It takes a while to tune in, but there are good identification CDs available from Birdwatch Ireland and get to know one species first and build up your ear slowly. I play mine in the car (ignoring the protesting kids) and this helps keep everything fresh.

White is the colour of the month and delicate Daises are in flower under the Hawthorn trees. This tree is also known as the May Tree and years ago people would dance around the May pole to welcome in the spring. The white umbels of Cow parsley are just starting to dominate and they will reach their full glory in the coming weeks. Learning birdsong is important at this time of the year as the trees and hedges are in full leaf and it can be very hard to see the birds. I hear a Willow Warbler and Robin singing and hear a Chaffinch calling. Overhead two rooks are flying.

Lately I have become fascinated by Galls. These are unusual growths that can occur on the leaves, flowers and stems of plants. The insect causes a localized increase in the growing plant hormone and this causes the swelling that we call a Gall. I find one on the upper surface of an Elm leaf and I think that it is Elm Finger Gall.

Beautiful wildflowers like Bush Vetch, Meadow Buttercup and Meadow Sweet are starting to flower by the sides of the path and these have attracted a Common Carder bumblebee that has come searching for nectar and pollen. On a patch of Nettles we find a tiny moth called a Nettle Tap Moth.

We pause by a field gate and hear a Wren and Chaffinch singing along the hedgerow. Ribwort Plantain is in flower and this is one of the few plants that can survive constant trampling. Nearby Gorse, Red Clover and Silver Weed are in flower.

Rooks/Jackdaws have young in the nest and are busy searching for food and we count thirty. We push on and in the grassy middle of the path we catch a Green Veined Butterfly. Butterflies have been scarce this year and hopefully it will pick up in the next few months.

We all have birds that complete our year and the Cuckoo is one of mine. I hear one singing in the distance and thankfully they are still common on the Pollagh trail. The way the meadows are managed benefit Cuckoos. The grass is not cut till late in the year and this allows Meadow Pipits to safely build their nests. These birds are the main host species for the Cuckoo and so long as we continue to cut the grass late, birds will continue to thrive.

More birds burst into song and we hear a Chaffinch, a male Blackbird giving a warning call, two Wrens singing and a summer migrant from Africa, a Whitethroat.

Cleavers or sticky back is scrambling throughout the vegetation and on a nettle leaf we find a tiny caterpillar. On a Bush vetch flower a Common Carder Bumblebee is feeding.

We reach our crossing point and above the meadows we are entertained by two displaying Meadow Pipits and a Skylark. Cuckoo flower is in flower and a male Blackbird crosses the path. A Willow Warbler is singing.

With tiny legs starting to tire, we head back towards the car. An Orange Tip Butterfly flies by. The male has bright orange patches on his wings and this makes it one of the easiest butterflies to identify.

A Reed Bunting, Wren and Blackbird are singing. Another Meadow pipit is displaying and we see a female Chaffinch on the path. I find an interesting plant on the path. It is called Pineapple mayweed and not only does it look like the fruit it also smells like one.

Deep in the woods I hear a Song Thrush singing. A pair of Swallows is flying and they come to the meadows to catch insects.
Pheasants like the tall grass of the Pollagh as they find deep cover. I hear one calling and also hear a Magpie, Blue Tit pair, Goldfinch and Chaffinch singing in a tree. A Rook is feeding and a Wren singing.

Broad leaved plantain, Common hogweed and Figworth are all in flower. Our walk ends with more insects. These are the natural glue that holds our environment together. We are all familiar with the bigger species but these tiny creatures are vital for the health of our environment. A Common Carder Bumblebee, Male and female Orange Tip and a Green Veined White butterfly complete another marvellous day discovering nature along the Pollagh trail.

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