Your notes and queries for Ethna Viney

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - OUTDOORS - Ethna Viney wel­comes ob­ser­va­tions and pho­to­graphs at Thal­labawn, Louis­burgh, Co Mayo, F28 F978, or by email at Please in­clude a postal ad­dress

I was lucky to pho­to­graph this heron on the Grand Canal in Por­to­bello, in Dublin. It walked out of the rushes hold­ing a strug­gling rat in its beak and flew to the other bank, waited for the rat to stop strug­gling, then swal­lowed it whole. Lo­cal pest con­trol. Rory Harte, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6

I found this live newt, which had lost its tail. What are its nat­u­ral en­e­mies – and will it re­grow its tail? Frank Folan, Bal­ly­vaughan, Co Clare

Yes, the smooth newt can re­grow a limb or its tail. Fish, ducks, herons and king­fish­ers all eat newts. I found this very soft shell on the beach in Castle­gre­gory. – John O Shea, Ven­try, Co Kerry

It is a po­tato urchin, which is nor­mally cov­ered with short spines. They live in the sand from the lower shore out to deep wa­ter. My daugh­ter Amelia found a mul­ti­ple-headed daisy in the grounds of her school. How can this hap­pen? Anne Golden, Gle­nageary, Co Dublin

This is a phe­nom­e­non called fas­ci­a­tion, caused by dam­age to the grow­ing point. It can be caused by ge­netic mu­ta­tion, vi­ral or bac­te­rial in­fec­tions, or en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors such as fungi, in­sect at­tack or ex­po­sure to chem­i­cals. Clock­wise from top left: heron on the Grand Canal; newt which had lost its tail; swan’s nest on the banks of the Dod­der; well-stocked thrush; and a po­tato urchin, which is nor­mally cov­ered with short spines This well-stocked thrush was spot­ted on the banks of the Slaney in En­nis­cor­thy, in Co Wex­ford. Larry Dunne, Ross­lare Har­bour, Co Wex­ford Birds build nests in strange places: Frank Folan, in Bal­ly­vaughan, has one in a teapot; Ellen Crushell found a robin’s nest with eggs in her son’s bike hel­met; Micheál O’Fa­harta has a wren’s nest in a hang­ing coil of rope. But Ro­nan Copeland, of Sandy­mount, saw this swan’s nest in the right place on the banks of the Dod­der.

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