Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lush June

After a dry spell we are back to showery, mild weather typical of Ireland. The rain makes things grow, and not just the vegetables, but the slug populations, and weeds too. One finds oneself in a constant battle of wills. Thankfully the frog population is healthy and at the moment we are seeing lots of tiny frogs less than 1 inch long!

In late June, there always seems to be a huge spurt of growth, from grass, hedges and trees. Pathways would soon disappear and gates and gaps would close in, without some clipping and mowing. In many respects we are just trying to tame nature. Without us this garden would soon become a truly wild place.

Among the flowers pollinators are busy and I hope happy.

Tonight in Ireland, 23rd June, is St. John’s Eve. A midsummer festival celebrated  with bonfires at sunset. It is not a tradition that is widely celebrated any more, which is  shame. So tonight I will celebrate with the joys of midsummer – some of the flowers!

HAPPY MIDSUMMER one and all.

Long-eared owls

Last week we saw an adult Long-eared owl around the garden. It was around 11pm – and nearly dark. This morning when my husband was opening the blinds in the kids bedroom, he spotted an owl on a fence post near the polytunnel.

Of course we all gathered around and it was wonderful for the kids to see the owl though it was far off. This time it was obviously a young bird. Nearly the size of an adult but all feathers – like a puffy ball!! With binoculars we could see it amazing orange eyes.

While we were delighted to see the owl, the garden birds were not. It was being dive-bombed by swallows. Blackbirds, thrushes and other small birds were all alarm calling all around it. I wondered that it was happy to sit out in the open as it was!

When it was time for the kids to leave for school I knew it would probably take flight. So I took the opportunity to try and get some photos. This was as close as I got! (oh for a telephoto zoom lens. If you click on photo you will get a bigger view)

Long-eared owl

Long-eared owl

Long-eared owls are native to Ireland and are quite widespread throughout the country. It has two distinctive ear tuffs (they were only just visible on this young bird, but very obvious on the adult seen last week). The young have a a high-pitched squeak reminiscent of a rusty gate opening and we have been hearing this on and off late at night (about midnight) for the last few days. The adults can give a low hooting display (which we haven’t heard). They hunt small mammals, frogs and small birds (hence the fuss happening with the garden birds this morning). They like nesting in conifers and while many of the conifers around us have been felled a small patch remain, so they may have nested there.

More information and a for a better photo take a look at the BirdWatch Ireland website.

Spot the owl!

Spot the owl! Click on photo to get larger view

Progress on 16 for 2016

Time I did an update on my progress for my 16 for 2016


16:  Plant sixteen different vegetables in the garden

Lettuce, radish, broad bean, runner bean, dwarf french bean, climbing french bean, squash, courgette, leeks, onions, beetroot, carrot, cabbage, romansesco, purple sprouting broccoli, red cabbage, mange tout, pea, kohlrabi, mustard, tomatoes, cucumber, mustard leaves, rocket, parsnip

15: Read fifteen books in the year

I sometimes keep a list of what I am reading but haven’t done so this year, but a quick count in my head has brought me to 7, which is about half way. I love fiction but have read two excellent natural history books so far this year. Dave Goulson’s “A  Buzz in the Meadow” and Michael McCarthy’s “The Moth Snowstorm” which I do intend to do a blog about very soon.

14: Send fourteen wildlife records to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Had the lovely wood white butterflies, and also cowslips, two bee species and a peacock butterfly all from Moorehall. And this week at home it’s been an amazing week for wildlife. The highlight being a long-eared owl on Sunday night (and heard again last night), two hares and the lovely Grey Dagger moth. So I make that eight in total. My husband has also seen a three legged fox, quite fit and healthy too. I actually still have to send these last three records in,

13: Find thirteen interesting items

Not doing that well on this one. Found a lovely bit of drift wood.

12: Give away twelve plants to worthy homes

I gave six lupin plants to a friend a couple of weeks ago (and didn’t actually think of the challenge when I did it), I have also give my mother 3 (I think), and I gave my sister  a couple of tomatoes plants, and just remembered gave a friend some romaseso seedlings – does that count. That would make 16!

11: Have eleven fun days out with the kids

Brought kids to Enniscrone, Moorehall, Feile na Tuaithe at Turlough House, and to the beach at Ross (but summer holidays still to come when we will hopefully have some more).

10: Complete ten butterfly and or bee transects this year

I did my fourth one on the 2nd June, so a little behind.

9: Try nine new recipes.

I’ve tried a couple of cake recipes but they don’t really count. But have tried one from the Happy Pear cookbook which everyone liked, a sort of potato and fish curry.

8: Go on eight cycle rides

Now I have been picking my youngest up from school on the bike the last couple of weeks but I don’t think that really counts. We did have one ride around our country lanes though, but way to go on that one!

7: In addition to number 2 below have seven Mayo days out to some of my favourite Mayo places.

Have been to Moore hall, Ross beach and Raheens wood

6: Try to do six random acts of kindness to complete strangers

I have let strangers ahead of me in the shopping queue a couple of times but most try harder on this one

5: With the help of my family make, and put up five bird, bat and /or insect boxes

We’ve done this with the school garden club but must do some at home too

4: Make four home-made presents for family and/or friends

Oh dear falling short on this one – though I did make my father a birthday cake – does that count?

3: Have three swims, ideally in the Atlantic

Only paddles yet!

2: Find two new places in Mayo to explore

None yet but hopefully over the summer holidays

1: Record one new species for the garden

Actually the Grey Dagger moth (see above) would count for this one. The long eared owls we had about ten years ago but not since, so also nice record for the garden.


Garden flowers – June update

Over the last couple of years I have been trying to increase the number of flowers in the garden, specifically to help our pollinators but also for our own enjoyment. Flowers add so much – colour, scent and of course the fun of watching bees, butterflies and other insects.

My wildflower success this year has been ragged robin. I have always loved this flower and two years ago bought some wildflower seed as I wanted it around our pond. The seeds didn’t germinate very well but I gather seed last year from the couple of plants I did manage to grow and these germinated brilliantly. So I had enough plants to try some in the meadow too, where I thought it may be a bit dry but where they seem to be doing well despite the lack of rain. Buttercups seem to be doing particularly well this year and many fields around us are yellow with them.

Meanwhile the bee and butterfly garden is proving attractive to bees but not so many butterflies yet! Some of the delphiniums have suffered slug damage so I may need to grow a few more.

Other flowers include these lovely heritage roses which clamber though the hedge. They are heavy scented. And the blue irises by the pond always seem to do well here though I have tried to grow them elsewhere in the garden and they disappeared after one poor year of flowering.

Finally this flower is actually a vegetable – scorzonera. I tried growing last year as a veg but again had poor germination so thought I’d leave a few plants in the ground and see if I could get seed. They have rewarded me with lovely yellow flowers that smell of marshmallows. The flowers grow on tall stalk about 60-80cm high.





Garden – June Update

Well things are busy in the garden this month but at least we are reaping some of the benefits. We’ve been enjoying broccoli from the greenhouse from over wintered plants, which are being gradually cleared out and replaced by cucumbers and tomatoes, and also a few early beans. We’ve also had a few early strawberries, and the first courgette is just coming.

In the polytunnel things are getting a bit overgrown, as the early potatoes need to start coming out. The broadbeans have cropped well and we are enjoying them for dinner. The mange tout seem to have suffered from our recent dry and sunny spell as I think they prefer cooler conditions, so leaves are looking a bit yellow but they are still producing peas.

Outside plums are forming as are some pears and apples – though I am a bit concerned that the pears are already looking a bit scabby.

In the vegetable garden things are a little slow. Cabbages though have benefited from the warm weather as there has been minimum slug damage. Beans and onions are just coming slowly. I am gradually catching up with weeding but they seem to continue to grow!!

Keep Mayo Buzzing

Saturday June 18th 2016
An introduction to native pollinators and the all-Ireland project to protect them

Get to know the local seasonal bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and hoverflies that help to pollinate our food crops, their lifestyles, favourite plants and habitat needs. Find out about some simple steps you can take to help the ongoing national project to conserve and build our pollinator populations.

The day includes two short walks to practise identifying pollinators (weather permitting!) and their forage plants.

10:30 AM to 4.00 PM near Straide, Foxford, Co Mayo, Ireland

€35, including tea and coffee, information pack

Bring rain-gear and strong shoes for the observation walks.


For booking and more information please use contact form:

Moore Hall Wildlife

Those of you that read my blog regularly will know that Moore Hall is one of our favourite local places to go for a walk here in County Mayo. It never fails to inspire. During our trip last weekend it was nice to see all the early summer woodland plants.

But the highlight was seeing these wood whites. These butterflies are not common in Mayo and though I think I may have seen them before, this is the first time I got close enough to take a photo! Wood whites are what is called a cryptic species. Different wood white species can only be differentiated by either dissecting their genitalia or by checking their DNA.  In Ireland, it was originally thought that we had the Real’s Wood White (Leptidea reali) and Wood White (Leptidea sinapis), but recent research shows that  we  don’t have Real’s Wood White, but the Cryptic Wood White (Leptidea juvernica) –  a species completely absent from Britain but present in other parts of Europe. These two were engaged in a mating courtship – the reason I was able to get so close!

Wood whites

Wood whites