Last Thursday was a great day for wildlife spotting. First we headed for a day out at Moorehall. Around the ruins of the hall we spotted a bat flying about in the middle of the day! Not a usual occurrence. The area is well known for it’s bats and includes a population of Lesser Horseshoe Bats, Ireland’s only horseshoe bat. Unfortunately, no photograph of that but we did see this beautiful Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) not long after. This large butterfly likes deciduous woodlands so the woods around Moorehall are prefect habitat.
Silver washed Fritillary
When we got home from our walk there was a female sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) sitting on the roof of the greenhouse. They nest in the conifier plantation just below the house and we have been treated to views during this last few weeks of the young and adults particularly during feeding time when the adults come home with some tasty morsel between their talons. Again I wasn’t fast enough with the camera. However, more was in store!
And our final wildlife highlight of the day was rescuing this strange creature from the water-butt by the greenhouse! It took a bit of time for it to dry off and probably also warm-up so plenty opportunity for some shots. It’s has two common names including giant horntail and great wood wasp (Urocerus gigas). The long rear appendage, which we originally thought may be a sting, is in fact a harmless oivposter. The females drills homes in wood and uses it to lay her eggs. It is perhaps somewhat unfair to refer to it as a ‘beast’ as suggested by my title, as really it looks pretty amazing. The near furry texture of it’s thorax reminds me of bumblebees. Still it’s probably not something you want to find flying around your bedroom!
Agricultural shows are part and parcel of rural Irish life during the summer months. Many large towns in County Mayo have their own show, the better known ones are the Bonniconlon Show and the Ballina Show. This year we went to the Swinford Show. Despite being August it was a cool blustery day.
Agricultural shows are of course great places to see all kinds of tractors – a great attraction for our seven year old!
Old David Brown Tractor
Old David Brown Tractor
Tractors – old and new
It was fascinating watching the cows and bulls being washed, shampooed and groomed. People obviously take this very seriously and the animals must look their very best.
Cattle being power-washed
On the “cat-walk”
Horses, sheep, and goats were all on show and hoping for best in show in their particular category. There was poultry too – many were kept in cages so not good for taking photographs but again some amazing and strange looking creatures.
There are two sides to each show. It is not just the cows and sheep that get prizes. But also the best cake and jam makers too. We did not have time to wait for the marquee area to be opened to the general public. While we were there the judges were hard at work judging the best jams, breads, scones, and fruit tarts, not to mention the best flower arrangements and best vegetables.
We had a walk in Drummin wood and along the shores of Lough Cullen earlier this weekend. The wood has a new track, or should I say old track which has been re-opened and resurfaced. There were some lovely large specimens of hazel and holly.
Along the shores of Lough Cullen there was a wealth of wild flowers. It may be late summer but there was no shortage of colour. I just wanted to share a little of the beauty.
Not fully open Devil’s bit scabious
Fox & cubs
Angelica with wasp
Flowers including selfheal
Knapweed with a rather worn out bee
Grass of Parnassus was a plant I had to look up, as it is one I was not familiar with. In order to get a detailed photo I asked my husband to hold onto the flower head. It was really exquisite (it’s worth clicking on the photo to get a closer look).
Grass of parnassus
Grass of parnassus
And finally of course the lovely view over the lake.
It looked rather drastic at the time – but this type of hedgerow management has been used for hundreds of years in Britain and Ireland. Our hedge is looking well, all the trees have regrown. This is what it looks like today.
Ash in hedge
The climbing roses which grow though the hedge are a heritage variety. They have been flowering all summer. The smell is heavenly.
My second gallery this week – just a few of the wonderful bugs feeding and mating in the garden this week. And some purple loosestrife just because it looks nice and some wild raspberries because they taste great (they are particularly good this year, despite our poor summer. I hope the autumn cultivated ones will be as tasty!)
In the greenhouse, patience is finally paying off and we’ve been enjoying the first of the cucumbers. There are plenty of green tomatoes (no sign of them going red yet) and some interesting black ones (a friend gave me some seeds earlier in the year – I think they are called black berry).
Tomatoe – black berry
The bees are enjoying the oregano that is flowering. And we are still enjoying some alpine strawberries.
Carder bee on Oregano
I’ve seedlings started for some autumn and winter crops for the polytunnel including lettuce, mangetout and these leaf beat. There are more winter crops to go in, but I have already planted in some calabrese, which I have had mixed results with in previous years. After a poor summer in the vegetable garden I am hoping for a better autumn! Optimism when vegetable gardening in an Irish climate is essential.
This summer wind has been a near constant feature of our weather. Yesterday it was gale force winds more reminiscent of our autumn and winter weather, than August. The brambly apple tree fell victim to the gusts. Today, I had to remove two branches, both with fruit.
Wind damaged apple tree
This is the second time this tree has suffered damage – the first happened a couple of years ago when some cattle got into the garden, and again broke branches. I am hoping it will recover again.
In need of some comfort foot and so not to waste the apples, we made (and enjoyed) some apple and tay-berry crumble!
This week the BSBI (Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland) have been recording plants in Mayo. Nearly 40 botanists have volunteered their time to survey the county for the upcoming Plant Atlas 2020. I had the privilege of being able to join them for two days this week and I learned a huge amount from these gifted people.
Botanists hard at work
With still a day to go over 8500 plant records have already been documented. On my first day out one of the highlights were these lovely heath spotted orchids. We also saw Twayblade but by then it was too wet to take a photograph.
Heath spotted orchid
Yesterday we visited a coastal site near Louisburgh. We had wonderful views of Clare Island, Croagh Patrick, and Mweelrea Mountain (Mayo’s tallest mountain at 814m).
Getting down low we found some lovely plants including this delicate Rock Sea-spurrey (Spergularia rupicola). Sneezewoth is a plant I don’t remember seeing since I was a child. The stonewalls had some lovely ferns including this polypody. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and informative two days with some great botanists. I found their enthusiasm for plants totally infectious.
Sneezeworth (Achillea ptarmica)
More information about the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland can be found at their website at or their facebook page.