07 December 2021

The Clifden Nonpareil moth

 Clifden Nonpareil, Catocala fraxini, the blue underwing, 15th September 2020.

Angus continues to run moth traps and amazingly he continues to add to the 600+ moth species he has already recorded here. In September 2020 we were beyond amazed when an unexpected, new to us and very rare moth came to his trap in the garden.... a Clifden Nonpareil, the third Irish record, previously only recorded in Ireland in 1896 and 1845. 
  This beautiful and very large moth has a wingspan when fully open of more than 8 cm, here the blue band on the very pretty underwing is just partly visible. 

There was a wow moment when we first saw the uncommonly distinct markings on it's underside. It flew off into the trees after we took a few photos.
This is where the moth trap had been set up.

Tivon's Clifden Nonpareil, 30th  September 2021.

Tivon began to do his own traps and the following year we were amazed all over again  when incredibly, in late September, in his trap on the farm 600m from the garden, Tivon recorded the 6th Irish record of the Clifden Nonpareil! The 4th record had been near the Hook peninsula, Wexford and the 5th was on the Wicklow coast, both a couple of weeks earlier in mid-September 2021.

15th September 2021.
Another fantastic record by Tivon this year is the impressive and very rare migrant, the Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Agrius convolvuli,
 here photographed resting on Alfie's hand.

3rd October 2020. Tivon at the moth trap in the garden at dawn.

3rd October 2020. Tivon 

Moth trap magnetism affecting Zoë and Alfie!

September 2020.

Alfie and Angus identifying and recording moths.

Some moths require close examination.

3rd August 2020. One of Zoë's lockdown interests, before she thought of sitting the Leaving Certificate exams, was to identify some of the many parasitic wasps that have evolved with moths.

9th July 2021.
There can be so many moths in Angus's traps that they can be hard to count. I affectionately snapped this photo looking out the window from inside the house. Angus has brought the moth trap inside a pop up tent on the deck, the moths once identified and recorded are released.

24th January 2021. The lockdown of a moth enthusiast!

The egg cartons make safe resting places for the moths until they are identified and released. 

27 October 2021

The meadow beds.

27th May 2020.
 This post is a collection of photos all taken with roughly the same view, looking towards the south west where the beds curve down alongside the meadow to meet the Food Forest.

17th June 2020.

24th June 2021. 

7th July 2020.
The succession of perennials provide nectar, pollen and habitat for wildlife throughout the year and especially in the autumn after the meadow is cut. 

21st July 2020. 

28th July 2018.
The area doesn’t bear close inspection and it receives a minimum of attention during the growing season. 
1st August 2021.
19th August 2020.

19th September 2020.
The meadow (centre right) has had its annual cut while the meadow beds on the left continue to provide cover and forage for the months ahead. 

19th December 2020.

7th January 2021.

Stay safe and be well,

20 January 2021

Making a puddled pond.

 "Another pond?" this was the most frequent phrase to be heard from those friends and family that were able to visit us last year (in the brief interludes between lockdowns). Nothing on our previous scale this time though!

 In January 2020, while the bees were hibernating from the cold and much flora and fauna were dormant, there was a good spell of dry weather when there was a window of opportunity to make a new pond. It’s close to the house and much smaller than the others, it has since been nicknamed the puddle! 

Here it is in the foreground in January 2021.
Scroll on to see some of the upheaval involved in its creation.... 

2nd June 2010. 
Let's begin with a little background.... The second pond, seen here shortly after its excavation in 2010, was made to provide a safer breeding environment for dragonflies. It could be described as well-intentioned, although admittedly ill-designed. It felt, and indeed was, unfinished and disconnected to its surroundings. Time for drastic remedial measures...
January 29 2020.
The work begins by stripping the top-soil from the existing meadow, to create optimal conditions for species diversity in the renewed meadow area. It is an ideal site in full sun. The excavated soil was moved elsewhere in the garden where it helped to increase soil depth and contours, (another post)!
 The pipe bringing water from the gutter of the house roof is visible in this photo
The soil in the garden is very variable, frequently areas of  loam and clay are interspersed with areas of sand and gravel. It was pure luck that where we dug we found a high enough percentage of clay to be confident that it would hold water.
The secret to a clay lined pond is in the puddling, squashing out air pockets and compacting the clay to form an impermeable layer. 

January 31st 2020 
And puddling is great fun when you're 8!

January 30th 2020.
As well as reducing the fertility of the meadow area, the excavation aimed to leave finished ground levels with a more natural feel around the new and existing ponds.
.The excavation work was completed in 2 short, winter days. The remaining work by hand and wheelbarrow continued for some time. 

January 30th 2020.
Working close to the bee hives, the east side of the 2010 pond is extended to increase its peripheral contours. We made every effort to avoid disturbance within the existing pond and the work was finished before the frogs began to spawn.

February 4th 2020. 
The existing pond with small extension visible, the dividing bank being gently dug out by hand.

February 6th 2020.
There were many mounds of soil to move after the initial dig with the excavator.

February 7th 2020.
I raked a very thin layer of the excavated soil over the whole area.
I admit, the project did involve a considerable amount of manual work!

April 18th  2020. 
Puddling is also fun when you're nearly 48!

The puddling continued throughout the spring.

May 4th 2020.
The overflow pipe for rain water coming from the barn area is just visible on the left of this  photo. The exceptionally dry spring delayed germination of the native seed bank.

June 8th 2020. 
 Although we didn’t plant seeds, I transplanted some wild seedlings that were coming up in the garden beds to compliment the existing seed bank in the soil.

July 1st 2020.
The new pond July 25th 2020.
We affectionately call it the puddle!

October 30th 2020.
The new pond reflecting on the year that was!

 All the ponds here have been made without artificial liners. The large pond lies low in the landscape, essentially kept full by the water table. The smaller ponds are puddled with clay and are on slightly higher ground, they are kept topped up by pipes carrying rain water from the house and barn roofs. 

Although there is a small stream that borders the garden, the ponds are kept separate from it. The ponds overflow first into each other and finally into a small area of natural bog. The bog is naturally flooded in the winter and usually dries up in the summer.  

 Natural water in the garden requires sensitive planting, we have had to learn to identify and manage volunteer species that are locally invasive. Initially Angus managed the wild pond area while I grew vegetables and flowers near the house. In recent years my enthusiasm for plants has extended and with it the area I care for. Yet water gardening is a journey that I feel I am only beginning. There will be trials and tribulations to follow no doubt.

11 January 2021

Hello again! A January catch-up.

 Numerous times over the last few years I have attempted to post to this blog but every time it proved to be tedious and slow to add photos, until now, trying again today, I seem to be able to drop photos in easily, Hurrah!

 So,  let's see, where shall I begin?

Something seasonal...

A brief selection of January garden photos from the last few years to get the blog rolling again!

January 20th 2020.
 Grasses at the trampoline, Miscanthus nepalensis and stipa tenuissima amongst others.

January 20th 2020.
Garrya elliptica looking festive with frost!

January 30th 2019.
The vegetable garden continues in abundance.

January 25th 2019.
There is some progress with the woodland garden, clearing small areas, planting small pockets.

January 5th 2019.
 Helleborus x hybridus.

January 25th 2019
A pretty Helleborus x hybridus double.

Galanthus nivalis, January 25th 2019.
I continue to divide and replant snowdrops.

January 25th 2019.
Galanthus "Wendys gold". 

January 14th 2019.
The work goes on... or is it play? 

At the big pond, January 21st 2018.

  January 10th 2018.
 The big pond with an ethereal mist.
January 10th 2018.
There are days when the winter light is magical.

January 10th 2018.
Water, beloved of light and wildlife.


Stay safe and stay well everyone.