First Cuckoo Calling
Everyone has heard the rhyme ‘The Cuckoo comes in April, She sings her song in May, In June she changes her tune, and in July she flies away’. The sound of the calling cuckoo is one of Ireland’s most evocative calls of nature and one that is remarked upon by anyone who hears it. It can be heard calling from late April, usually in more marginal agricultural land (Photograph: Shutterstock).
The emergence of the Mayfly helps mark the transition from spring to summer, and is an eagerly anticipated event for many fishermen. The larvae spend two years growing on the bottom of suitable lakes and rivers, before rising to the surface to spend only a few days as the winged insect we know as the Mayfly. The adults don’t have mouth parts and can’t eat – their only priority is to mate and start a new generation. Before dying, the female drops back to the water surface and deposits up to eight thousand slow sinking eggs to begin the cycle again (Photograph: Jan-Robert Baars).
September isn’t just about going back to school and the night’s drawing in again. It’s also when bramble gives up its bounty. Many of us have memories of being taken blackberry picking as children and hopefully it’s a real connection to nature that isn’t being lost to the next generation. Whether you eat them straight from the bush or bringing them home for a crumble, you can’t beat an Irish blackberry picked as autumn is taking hold (Photograph: Pixabay).
First whooper swans
In October each year, Whooper Swans arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland to spend the winter in the mild and wet Irish climate. The arrival of these large, noisy swans to traditional wetland sites, hearing their ‘whoop, whoop’ call, is for many birdwatcher a harbinger of winter and the many hours they will spend birdwatching at some of Ireland most important wetland sites (Photograph: Shutterstock).
Run of salmon
Ireland’s rivers are important spawning grounds for Atlantic salmon. The arrival of the first rains in autumn bring with it the first run of salmon to breeding grounds in rivers. The sight of magnificent salmon back in our rivers is a greatly anticipated seasonal event. The numbers of salmon in Irish rivers has decreased dramatically in recent decades, so the spectacle of salmon running up a rapid, is now even more special (Photograph: Shutterstock).
For many of us, spring brings memories of finding frogspawn as children, and what better way to learn about the complexity of nature than in this outdoor classroom. The Common Frog is the only species of frog found in Ireland. It is protected under the European Union Habitats Directive and by the Irish Wildlife Act. In spring frogs produce thousands of black eggs enclosed in an envelope of jelly. The tadpoles hatch and grow from April to May before turning into froglets and leaving the pond in June/July (Photograph: Edward W. Delaney).
From February, you start to see the first queen bumblebees coming out of hibernation. We know that one of our most common bumblebees, the Buff tailed bumblebee, needs to visit 6,000 flowers a day to get enough energy to maintain the heat she needs to brood her first batch of eggs! Hearing their buzz and seeing these queens hard at work is one of the loveliest signs that spring in on its way (Photograph: Mairead Ni Chuirc)
The Latin name for Primrose translates as ‘First Flower’. Depending on how mild the winter is, you can start seeing them from late January, but most sightings pick up in March and reach their peak in May. Like many plants, Primrose is entirely dependent on insects. They need to be pollinated before they can form a sticky seed. The food stored inside the seeds attracts ants who help to spread the seed by carrying them away from the flower (Photograph: Liam Lysaght).
The return of the first swallow to farmyards, or glimpsing the first swallow feeding along rivers, is for many a very significant seasonal event. Swallows spend the winter months in Africa, mainly south of the equator, only to return to the place of their birth from late March. The flocks of swallows that gather in late summer are also a much noted seasonal event (Photograph: Shutterstock).
Flowering of hedgerows
From late April, hedgerows turn the rural Irish landscape into a picture postcard with their riot of white flowers. It’s hard to underestimate the important of a flowering hedgerow in providing food and shelter for our insects, birds and mammals. On a farm managing some of your hedgerows to flower at this time of year is one of the most important actions you can take to support wildlife (Photograph: Liam Lysaght).