by Paul Cormacain
A TREECREEPER turned up in the front garden last week. These birds can be common enough, but you do not tend to see them all that often.
As one book says, many woodland birds are more likely to be heard than seen. If you pick the right spot, go quietly, or even remain still for a time, you could well be rewarded by the sight of this small bird.
I would sight it at intervals in Fermanagh woods, even along the banks of the Lagan, and in many of the National Trust and Wildlife Trust properties. And now, for the second time in 23 years, one has turned up in the garden.
In A Natural History of the Nests and Eggs, published in 1856, they give the word `Y Grepianog' as an old English name for the treecreeper. This sounds more like Welsh than English to me, so I looked up the name in a few languages. The Welsh is actually `dringiedydd bach', the Irish version is `snag', and the Scottish is `snaigear'. That information is from Bannerman and Lodge, a book only published in 1963.
The `familiar creeper', `tree climber', or treecreeper, spends most of its time in trees. In our garden it was climbing a cherry blossom in the front garden, but is more frequently seen in wild trees.
Its body is designed to allow it to climb tree trunks, usually head up. If it is trying to pull out an insect from behind some tree bark, it may wedge its tail against the trunk. On a branch, if it finds itself on the underside chasing insects, it is quite happy to crawl along upside down.
And it does so in a very agile fashion.
Nesting starts in March, and a second brood is frequently reared the same year, but not in the same nest. The construction of the nest is of grass, straws, fibres of roots and twigs, bits of bark, spiders' webs, and the cocoons of chrysalides, lined with the cocoons and feathers.
The treecreeper uses a hole or some crevice in the bark of a tree. A hole previously used by tits may be used. There may be eight or nine eggs in the first brood, and possibly four or five in the second. They are white in colour with some red spots. Both parents take turns at sitting on the eggs, and in about a fortnight the young appear.
I hope you see treecreepers in your garden! More records of butterfly sightings have come in to me. The first peacock of the year was sighted near Ballyclare in late March, and about the same time two small tortoisehells were seen near Lisburn.
As well as the local small tortoiseshell, another was seen in Buncrana, where a peacock was also sighted, as were two in Sligo. In Dublin, the holly blue was sighted as early as St Patrick's Day. An orange tip turned up in Limerick, and more peacocks were in Fermanagh and Bangor.
A few moth sightings. Yellow horned moths were reported from Ballycastle, as were a number of other more common moths. Then a female emperor moth turned up in Donegal.
Have you seen any butterflies or moths so far this year? Have you reported them?
Today: Hit the road early for the dawn chorus at Castle Archdale Country Park. Phone 028 6862 1588 to find out how early!
Tomorrow: Wildlife gardening fair at Crawfordsburn Country Park, 11 am, phone 028 9185 3621
Monday April 25: Lisburn RSPB, at the Friends' Meeting House, will gather at 730pm and hear about wetland management, and phone David McCreedy on 028 4062 6125
Saturday April 30, Sunday May 1: Whale and dolphin observation and workshops at Portrush Countryside Centre, 9.30am. This would be of great interest to anyone with a liking of cetacean conservation. Phone 028 7082 3600
Sunday May 1: Could you resist this? "Enjoy the carpet of woodland wild flowers along the steep slopes... to the sounds of the Cladagh and a symphony of birdsong." At 2pm, meeting at Marble Arch Caves, details on 028 6862 1588
Saturday May 7: Dawn chorus walk at 6am, at Oxford Island, more from 028 3832 2205