22nd May is International Day of Biodiversity. Here are just a few of the recent highlights from the garden and further afield. There is so much wonderful biodiversity out there. Go and explore.
One of the distinctive features of our Irish countryside are our hedgerows. These field boundaries are part of our cultural and agricultural heritage, often forming townland as well as farm demarcations.
In many counties, including Mayo, hawthorn makes up a large proportion of these native hedgerows (hawthorn is estimated to occur in about 90% of hedgerows in the county).
Hawthorns flower in May, so it is sometimes called the May tree, or whitethorn. This year there is an abundance of hawthorn blossom, much like last year. Some of the hedgerows look almost white (perhaps an indication of why it is also called whitethorn). Anytime there is a strong wind, the little roads around us are covered in fallen blossom. So it almost looks like it has been snowing!
In Ireland, the hawthorn is often associated with fairies and the underworld. Lone hawthorns in the middle of fields will not be touched for fear of upsetting the fairy folk. Hawthorns can live up to 400 years old, and while they never get tall, they can become quite gnarled, so you can see where it may get this reputation.
Enniscoe House and Estate can be found near Crossmolina in Co Mayo, on the shores of Lough Conn. Steeped in heritage the Georgian house dates from 1790 and today is run as a family hotel. We visited a couple of weeks ago to take part in a bumblebee workshop (held by the National Biodiversity Data Centre). The second half of the day involved looking for and identifying bumblebees. It also allowed us to enjoy the grounds including the beautiful woodland, but especially the organic walled garden. The garden is divided into two; first the formal garden or pleasure grounds, and secondly the vegetable and impressive fruit growing area. Strawberries, apple trees and currants were all in bloom. The garlic was huge in comparison to my own! And the potatoes were coming on very well.
Enniscoe is also the location of the Mayo North Heritage Centre, where people can go and explore their North Mayo ancestors / genealogy. There is also a looped walk, a museum and all important tea rooms.
Creating a Four-Season Pollinator Garden The workshop will investigate the foraging behaviour of different native pollinator groups, honey, bumble, and solitary bees, hoverflies, and butterflies. We will also discuss appropriate garden design: siting and shelter; choice layout and flowering sequence of forage plants. The location is an established pollinator garden and the day will include […]
Cuckoo bumblebees, as their name suggests, take over the nests of ‘true’ bumblebees. The Cuckoo queen enter their host nest, and kill the existing queen. The remaining workers then rear the cuckoo’s young. The cuckoo bumbles, of which there are six species in Ireland, can be difficult enough to distinguish from true bumbles. However one distinguishing feature is the lack of a pollen basket on the back leg of the bee.
The photo below is of a forest cuckoo bumblebee. They appear to be having a good year with sightings in Mayo and Clare in the last couple of weeks
They are probably one of the easier species to identify with their large white tails and their single yellow band.
Note: no pollen basket on bee on left but Garden bumblebee on right (a true bumblebee) the pollen basket is obvious.
In rural Ireland, turf is an important fuel resource for many families. These days modern methods of peat cutting can very damaging to bog habitats particularly when carried out on an industrial scale. But even on smaller scales, modern turf cutting machines are being used more and more often, and the impact of these isn’t positive. The picture below shows rows of machine cut turf – sometimes called sausage turf.
Even when modern machines cut the turf, it is still footed by hand. Footing involves stacking the individual sods so that they dry. Dried turf is then put in stacks till people are ready to bring it home.
Post inspired by this weeks one a week’s photo challenge – Modern.