The Trees, The Flowers, The Birds

Of course, what’s really great about this time of the year is how the trees have mostly come into leaf and the lovely wild flowers are covering the ground all around. Meanwhile, the migratory birds are returning.

Interestingly, I was part of a group walking around some trees in Castlebar just this week (as you do), where, among others, the Sycamore was in full leaf. Meanwhile, just one day earlier, no more than 40 km away, I visited some Sycamores as yet without leaf.

Yesterday, I was up at the new Arrowrock Hostel, on the beautiful eastern shore of Lough Arrow, Co. Sligo, where the bluebells cover the ground under their mature Scots Pines.

Sycamore and Primrose, north Mayo

Sycamore and Primrose, north Mayo

On Monday, I was up in Sheskin Forest, where the primrose lords over the hedgerows and damp grassy knolls.

 I love the way my house has a wild hedge on one side of the garden. It gives us wild primrose and dog violets, among others.

 

 

Punctually challenged Ash

Punctually challenged Ash

Meanwhile, my Ash trees stubbornly refuse to partake in the whole re-awakening thing …

This photo shows the characteristic black buds in the foreground, with another Ash in the background and Hawthorn plus Ivy in the middle. The Hawthorn is just about to blossom. Admittedly, the black buds of the Ash are beginning to budge at this stage.

 

 

The neighbour’s Crab Apple is in full bloom too. It reminds me that each year I ‘allow’ the kids to try the fruit. They’re still too young to remember the experience by the time the next year’s crop comes around.

The swallows are well back by now, as are the House Martins and Cuckoos. The House Martins have been seen in south Mayo for over two weeks, but there’s still no sign of ours. It’s lashing rain outside and the weather is promised bad for the weekend. That’s not good, because I need to paint the outside wall of the house, where our Martins have their nest, before they return. I don’t want to disturb them once they’ve arrived.

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Thursday Trees – Sycamore (An Seiceamair)

Although non native, the Sycamore can be found all over Ireland and is widespread and numerous. It was introduced to Ireland during the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The Sycamore is a deciduous tree, whose leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and brown in autumn before falling. It is often found in hedges and in public parks.

Growing up to 35 m, the Sycamore has a 5-lobed leaf, with toothed edges. A member of the Maple family, its fruit is borne in what all young Irish children call ‘helicopters’.

It can be difficult to distinguish the Sycamore from the Field Maple, another non-native. However, the latter generally has three largish lobes towards the top of its leaf, with two distinctly smaller ones at the bottom. The Sycamore’s lobe sizes are less differential. Also, the Sycamore’s ‘helicopter’ has its wings at angles to eachother, while the Field Maple’s form more of a straight line.

The bark on young Sycamores is quite smooth and grey, but turns scaly and begins to break up on older trees.

Sycamore Leaf

Sycamore Leaf

In recent years, Sycamores in Ireland seem to be subject more and more to the Tar Spot, a black fungus on the leaves.