Hairy Wood Ants (Formica lugubris) photographic project
Over the last few years I been involved working on a project around county Tipperary,Ireland involving photographing nests of Irish Wood Ants (Formica lugubris), this has been one of the most interesting photo project I have ever worked on.
The images in this post are captured between 2014 and 2017 ….
These Ants are on the international endangered species list and exist in locations that are kept reasonably private, just to find and get to see these nests themselves is a task and an amazing feeling.
When you get closer to the nests for the first time you will notice just how large they are (3 feet off the ground) and how many Ants that each colony contains, each nest can hold tens of thousands of Ants, the entire surface of the nest is on the move with Ants coming and going from small entrance holes. This flow of movement is 24 hours long during the months that the Ants are active.
They create a clear trail through the woods as they clear a path, traveling both outwards from the nest and returning again with food for the Queen Ant living deep in the ground under the nest itself.
It is thought she lives in a protected area some two meters underground.
In order to protect themselves and nest with its queen, they can shoot out acid some four feet from their bodies.
I will be working on this project most of this summer and look forward to each return, watching these wonderful Wood Ants is an amazing experience and working around them with a camera is great fun.
In the bleak midwinter
By Christina Rossetti
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Our local woodlands in September begin to fill with many kinds of fungi, its an almost magical sight, they make great subjects for Macro photography. You need to be happy getting down into the damp and muddy forest floor but the results can be well worth the effort.
Here are some basic facts about Fungi …..
Mushroom Magic and Folklore
Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day, and you’ll see fungi galore popping up, nestled in amongst the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores beginning to sprout in the grass, forming what’s known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes and sizes and colors, and – depending on where you live – you might find some that are conducive to magical practice.
It is important to note that unless you are absolutely positive about the type of mushroom you have picked, you should never ingest it or take it internally. There are many toxic mushrooms which look similar to edible ones – if you’re unsure about what you have found, check with a naturalist or other mushroom expert.
That having been said, there are a number of folk magic uses for mushrooms, and you can incorporate these at a symbolic level, rather than actually ingesting them. Let’s take a look at some of the legends and myths about mushrooms from around the world.
In many areas, the appearance of a ring of mushrooms on the ground is cause for either rejoicing or alarm. In Great Britain, these circles are known as fairy rings – and they are where the Fae come to dance and frolic after a rainstorm. However, like many other locations associated with faeries, humans who dare to enter such a ring may find themselves asleep for a hundred years, or worse yet, whisked off to the land of the wee folk, never to return.
In Holland, these rings are believed to be left when the Devil sets down his milk churn – once he picks it up, there’s a big circle left in the grass. In some countries, such as France and Austria, these rings are associated with sorcery and malevolent magic, and travelers are well-advised to steer clear of them.
Vance Randolph says in his book Ozark Magic and Folklore that in many parts of the Ozarks, it is believed that “mushrooms must be gathered when the moon is full – gather ’em at any other time and they will be unpalatable, or perhaps even poisonous.” He adds that it is said that mushrooms growing in an orchard where apple trees are in bloom are always edible.
One of the best known mushrooms, at least in European culture, is the red-and-white Fly Agaric. This mushroom appears often in illustrations of fairy tales – you might see a gnome or a fairy perched on top of one. Experts believe that the Fly Agaric was used as a hallucinogenic by northern European shamans and religious leaders. Interestingly, it contains two toxins that reduce the body’s response to fear stimulus, so it may have been ingested by warriors prior to battle. In central Europe, the Fly Agaric is associated with the Yule season, and there is a theory that Santa Claus’ red and white suit originated in the colors of this magical mushroom.
In ancient Egypt, mushrooms were a rare delicacy indeed. They were associated with immortality, and as such, only royalty could consume them – because, after all, royal persons were descended from the Egyptian gods themselves. Hieroglyphs found in Egypt indicate that mushrooms were being consumed with meals as long as 4,500 years ago.
In China and Japan, mushrooms were associated with longevity and strength – partly because some of the most popular mushrooms that grew there were known for stimulating the immune system. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, in particular, have been used in herbal remedies for centuries.
Mushrooms have been used by many cultures throughout time as part of ritual and religion. The toxin psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms, and the use of hallucinogenic fungi has been documented in rituals dating back thousands of years. Entheogen researcher Giorgio Samorini describes the discovery of rock art representing mushroom cults in Libya and Algeria from 7,000 – 9,000 years ago in his article The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000 – 7000 B.P.).
Out of the Woods
Out of the woods
the trail turns,
the field rises
wet with morning drizzle;
the path narrows,
a bevy of birds
an urgent chorus,
thru the eyelets
of my shoes
My socks are damp,
the bottom of my jeans
the bark on my
a dry stream bed now
all is naked,
become a lifting fog
Secrets of the Forest
There’s a dead tree connecting the earth to my heart,
And yet it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
One silver root, and four dark leaves.
A branch is at my neck,
And there is a leaf telling me secrets,
Gently in my left ear.
There are vines strung elegantly from trunk to my teeth
And I’ll play them for you.
The rain is the beat,
It’s the same as your pulse.
My blood runs cherry with every note.
It’s almost Christmas , so a big Happy Christmas Holidays to you all 🙂
While I was on an evening walk yesterday in one of county Kilkenny’s woodland parks – the Millennium forest, I came across a tree I see every year and every Christmas this one tree has been decorated with all kinds of great Christmas decorations !!!
Each year I have wondered who comes here to do so, as its a great thing to do and see as you walk past !
I think it has something to do with the origins of this forest , in the year 2000 the Irish forestry company coillte planted one forest in each of the Irish counties and made sure that each forest contained at least one tree for everyone living there. They then sent a letter to everyone telling them where in the forest their own tree was. each tree is not numbered as such but you can locate the area/plot number for your tree.
Clearly someone has taken full ownership of their tree, decorating it each year as they would a tree for their own front room.
So I think the great mystery of the Decorated Millennium Christmas tree is partly solved , I hope to be lucky next year and come across who ever it is who comes back to their tree each year.
Who every you are, Thank you and Merry Christmas to you !!! 🙂
The Irish Landscape offers some of the most wonderful views in this part of Europe, with rolling mountains and rocky, spectacular coastlines, there are many forests and powerful flowing rivers.
One of the area’s of photography I love the most is black and white and I feel that the Irish landscape is made for black and white images, often the days are wet and stormy and dark. I feel that shooting images in black and white captures these atmospheric days very well. On good weather days in the summer months getting out early or late to capture the sun low in the sky also works very well in a black and white photograph.
Below are some of the black and white images I am most happy with, so far during 2014.
Irish landscape photography – Black and White Gallery
Jenkinstown Forest park in County Kilkenny is one of my most loved Local places, the walks around the Forest here are amazing at anytime of the year but just now the leaves are starting to turn golden yellow and fall after a frost or period of high wind.
The Jenkinstown estate has a long history and the below image shows the castle that once stood here until at least the time this image was taken during 1930.
Part of the castle still stands and acts as a home for a local musician.
The park contains some great old buildings such as the round store house and animal shelter that these days offers a great place to read or shelter from a shower on a wet day.
Jenkinstown woodland park , County Kilkenny : Gallery
The Cult of the Green Man
Of all the pagan gods, the woodland spirit variously called the Green Man or Jack-in-the-Green is one that has lived on the longest in folklore.
The Green Man is seen mainly as a symbol of spring and the rebirth of the earth after winter.Carvings of Green Men can often be seen in churches, usually in the form of faces with branches and vines sprouting from nose and mouth.
The Magic of Trees
Stukeleys DruidIn Britain, the Druids worshipped such trees as the oak and the rowan and attributed great power to them. When people touch wood to ward off misfortune, this comes from the times when guardian spirits were supposed to live in trees. Touching the tree was a mark of respect to the spirit, as well as a plea for good fortune.
When I Am Among the Trees
by Mary Oliver
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”