Eye on Na­ture

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 viney@anu.ie. Please in­clude a postal ad­dress

I’m a bee­keeper. Re­cently I opened a hive that had been empty dur­ing the sum­mer and found this in­side. I won­der is there an in­sect hi­ber­nat­ing there? Si­mon Ó Cróinín, Ráth Chairn, Co na Mí

It’s the nest of the patch­work leaf-cut­ter bee. Each bun­dle of leaves is a cell that con­tains an egg and pollen to feed the larva, which will pu­pate over win­ter and the bee will emerge in spring.

As I watched a doc­u­men­tary about vam­pires I heard scratch­ing at the win­dow. It was one of my vis­it­ing foxes har­vest­ing midges from the win­dow pane. Dolly O’Reilly, Sherkin Is­land, Co Cork Moun­taineer­ing Ire­land had its au­tumn gather­ing in Clon­bur, and while hill­walk­ing on Maum­trasna, Co Galway, we found this nest, which we thought might have been home to a fam­ily of meadow pip­its.

He­len Law­less, Blan­chard­stown, Dublin 15 It does look like a meadow pipit’s nest.

Can you shed some light on the floss cov­er­ing our gar­den? John Har­ring­ton, Coon­agh, Lim­er­ick

They are the sheet webs of tiny money spi­ders, linyphia spp, which start out as domed webs and get flat­tened by air loaded with dew.

I have been sup­port­ing a flock of spar­rows and ev­ery time they come to feed a cou­ple of

Far left: poi­sonous mush­room, and a meadow pipit’s nest. Above: sheet webs of tiny money spi­ders, nest of the patch­work leaf-cut­ter bee; and (left) a vis­it­ing fox chaffinches ac­com­pany them, re­turn­ing to perch close to them on the gar­den wall. Pat Kear­ney, Clare­mor­ris, Co Mayo

This may have been an in­stance of cross-feed­ing, where the chaffinch nest was close to the spar­row nest and the spar­row par­ents re­sponded to the nestlings’ call. Or a case of or­phaned chaffinch nestlings adopted by the spar­rows.

On Mount Le­in­ster I came across this yel­low-capped mush­room. Cather­ine Rice, Jenk­in­stown, Co Kilkenny

It’s the red-stalked bo­lete, also called the bit­ter beech bo­lete, and is poi­sonous. It has a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with beech and oak.

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