This peacock butterfly, snapped by photographer Claire Waters, has four false eyes on its body which it uses to scare away predators like birds
THE weather forecasted heavy showers for 1pm, but we were planning to be done by then, on our way home for Sunday dinner. I was leading an An Taisce Living Limerick nature walk with Geoff Hunt environmentalist and wildlife expert through the varied landscape, of Aughinish nature reserve.
We met in the car park and with an enthusiastic group started to discover the nature all around us. The high banks around the car park are full of wildflowers. We explained that all of these flowers and grasses support a diverse range of insects. We have far too much manicured lawns and these are a practical desert for nature.
Our first insect was a large white or cabbage white as they are commonly called. These lay their eggs on wild and cultivated members of the cabbage family. This leads them into conflict with gardeners as their vegetables are eaten. We also found a bumblebee, Bombus hortorum, feeding on a flower. This has a very long face and also the body was unusually long.
We swept the long grass with nets and found a whole unseen world of insects. Colourful solider beetles and crab spiders that wait on flowers to ambush insects and looper or inch caterpillars. These belong to the geometric moths and loop their bodies as they move.
By the edge of the path we stopped to smell the scent of the pineapple mayweed. This not only looks like a pineapple but smells like one too.
We walked along by the semi shaded path and this is the perfect habitat for the speckled wood butterfly. They are brown with lots of creamy patches. On ragwort a cinnabar caterpillar was feeding. This absorbs the toxins from the plant and this means that birds will learn to leave it alone. Ragwort was also full of red tailed bumblebees who had come to feed on its abundant nectar and pollen.
A strong and fast flying butterfly dashed by. We identified it as a peacock and it has four false eyes on its body. It uses these to scare away predators like birds. When it landed on a nearby stone, its closed wings were very dark, and this is excellent camouflage.
Heavy showers forced us to briefly take shelter under a convenient sycamore tree. While we waited we examined the black tar fungus and tiny red galls on the leaves.
Common blue butterflies were flying around when the sun came out. They have dazzling blue wings but the females are a little bit duller. More stunning insects were a seven spot ladybird for the youngest member of our group and an emperor dragonfly patrolling around several small ponds.
The stony nature of the ground allows some interesting plants to flourish. Carline thistle, eyebright, knapweed and burnet rose.
The tide was out by the bird hide exposing the mudflats. We saw a few curlew, and heard the whistling calls of the redshank.
An Taisce Living Limerick:
Thursday, August 8: Wildlife safari Curraghchase Forest Park. 11am-1pm. Meet at the car park. Discover the diverse trees, flowers bugs and birds that make up Curraghchase forest park. Suitable for kids and buggy friendly.
Saturday, August 10: 8.30pm- 11pm bat and moth walk. Meet at the car park. Discover the amazing world of bats and moths on this family friendly walk.
Sunday, August 11 from 11am-1pm. Wildlife walk Castleconnell bog. Meet at the entrance opposite McGill’s Garden centre. Bogs host a diverse range of plants and insects for stunning dragonflies to rare butterflies.
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