A storm petrel at sea by Michael Viney

BirdWatch Ireland says impact of fisheries on seabirds is thousands killed as bycatch

Ecosystem engineers: ants   can alter the properties of soil. Illustration: Michael Viney

No organism is more important than the ant to the complex ecology of our soil

Passion for trees: autumnal colours in Co Mayo. Illustration: Michael Viney

With the sycamore taking over, it is time to get less random about what trees we plant

Long-distance swimmer: one Irish eel covered 6,900km in 10 months. Illustration: Michael Viney

We used to think that eels sped to meet up in the Sargasso Sea for a single, springtime orgy, but it seems some are quite happy to(...)

The freshwater pearl mussel, which has been singled out for special threat of extinction. Illustration: Michael Viney

Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report makes for a very sobering read

In the 1980s there were about 5,000 breeding pairs of curlew in the Republic; today, surveys have found fewer than 150 pairs.

Decimation of nesting bird populations has prompted measures to protect habitats

Mweelrea: waiting at the top of the bog road for half my lifetime. Illustration: Michael Viney

Another Life: The €40,000 judgment for a woman who fell on the Wicklow Way, a strenuous hillwalking route, might trouble anyone wi(...)

This summer has demonstrated, once again, the very different regimes of weather in Britain and Ireland

Autumn in these islands is becoming a blurred and hesitant season, unmarked by anything so distinct as ‘the fall’

‘No helpless bit of flotsam’: a Portuguese man-of-war. Illustration: Michael Viney

The venomous ‘jellyfish’ on European coastlines are not the passive drifters they seem

Favoured food: A linnet at thistledown. Illustration: Michael Viney

The prickly problem of thistle removal can result in a sore wrist . . . and much muttering

Peak arrival: flocks of geese arrive from the Arctic in October. Illustration: Michael Viney

‘Anser albifrons flavirostris’, or the ‘bog goose’, long a traditional quarry of Ireland’s rural hunters, is now Europe’s rarest g(...)

Direction home: some seabirds use smell to  guide them. Illustration: Michael Viney

Maps for seabirds, rain for grass and some shade for Earth: the many gifts of DMS

Gale force: the wind carries scores of insects and spores. Illustration: Michael Viney

Their gossamer allows spiders to go ballooning, sometimes taking off in their millions

Sensitive: choughs, the red-billed crows of the coast. Illustration: Michael Viney

A reader’s report made me uneasy: choughs are deliciously wilful and wild; shall we see them tamed into pigeons by the Wild Atlant(...)

Virtual reality: a beanstalk twining up the Millennium Spire. Illustration: Michael Viney

The digitisation of human life suggests at least a psychic transformation of the species

Tallamh Bán: around a high bend on the Wild Atlantic Way. Illustration: Michael Viney

The US presidential candidates hopes a €9m wall will save his golf links in Co Clare. But nature might be more powerful than that (...)

Urbanite: Vulpes vulpes has moved into towns. Illustration: Michael Viney

Dogs are catching ‘lungworm’ from molluscs infected with the potentially fatal Angiostrongylus vasorum. So many Irish foxes are in(...)

Impatient with Impatiens glandulifera: Himalayan balsam. Illustration: Michael Viney

The unprecedented spread of misplaced plants and animals, transported through global human activity, feeds growing argument among (...)

Elephant hawkmoth caterpillar: spectacular and fearsome. Illustration Michael Viney

A “red list” of Ireland’s threatened moth species finds about 16 per cent of our 500-odd larger moths warranting concern, with se(...)

Sunbathing blackbird: enters a trance of voluptuous bliss. Illustration: Michael Viney

A preening blackbird, and concern about UV harm to Arctic wildlife

Insect orgy: a blue tit snatching a fly from alexanders. Illustration: Michael Viney

One study counted 118 insect species visiting hogweed, some for copulation. Such insect orgies are common to many umbellifers

Killers: orcas hunt at the top of the ocean food chain. Illustration: Michael Viney

The orcas that travel between Scotland and Ireland are fish eaters, even following salmon and mullet up the River Lee into Cork ci(...)

Pine marten: devours birds, rats, mice, snails and berries. Illustration: Michael Viney

Examining the droppings of the pine marten tells us much about the animal’s biology and population

Marsh saxifrage: part of the flora of peatland. Illustration: Michael Viney

It’s hard to see the saxifrage as useful in terms of offering food or medicine. But it’s part of the peatland flora that soaks up (...)

Invasive: mink are now too widespread to eradicate from Ireland. Illustration: Michael Viney

Half a century after the first escapes from fur farms, mink are now seen across Ireland

Home brew: making country wine is no more difficult than following any other recipe. Illustration: Michael Viney

Whether elderflower, blackcurrant, rhubarb or gooseberry, country wines livened up our social life in our first decades at Thallab(...)

Zostera: its thin leaves floating in the water like a mermaid’s emerald tresses, perhaps a metre long or more. Illustration: Michael Viney

In times long past, Zostera fringed every sheltered coast on both sides of the North Atlantic

Photo opportunity: Killary Harbour, on the Wild Atlantic Way. Illustration: Michael Viney

‘Ecological clerk of works’ is an unfamiliar job title. But the clerks look after the discovery points on Fáilte Ireland’s coastal(...)

Hoverflies: many are farmer friendly. Illustration: Michael Viney

Episyrphus balteatus is one of many Irish species with bodies striped in black and yellow in hope of protective confusion with the(...)

Dominant presence: ivy’s offence is firstly aesthetic. Illustration: Michael Viney

The debate continues about the pros and cons of our most widespread climbing plant

Wood carpeting bluebells: “Falls of sky-colour.” Illustration: Michael Viney   Falls of sky-colour: wood-carpeting bluebells. Illustration: Michael Viney

The animals’ rooting can keep both plants in check. But its toxin means that too much bracken on its own may not be good for them (...)

Bright eyes: rabbits were brought in for food by Norman settlers. Illustration: Michael Viney

Ireland’s wildlife is a limited and tenuous network, much of it imported, in which the rabbit has an indispensable place

Mistle thrush: first recorded in Ireland in 1808. Illustration: Michael Viney

‘Storm-cock’ is an old, vernacular name for a bird imagined to predict bad weather

Sealed off by a landslide: a cave of ancient bear bones at Chauvet, in France, was shut off by a landslide 30,000 years ago. Illustration: Michael Viney

A bone found in Alice and Gwendoline Cave, in Co Clare, revealed that humans arrived in Ireland 12,000 years ago, a whole 2,500 y(...)

Carbon sink: forests cover more than 10 per cent of the land in Ireland. Illustration: Michael Viney

For Ireland to have carbon-neutral agriculture by 2050, 1.25m hectares of trees need to be planted. What will it mean for our land(...)

Cheating heart: cuckoos lay eggs in other birds’ nests. Illustration: Michael Viney

Irish pipits, as I’ve watched many times, don’t hesitate to mob the hawk-like cuckoo at its teetering perch on a telegraph wire

Blackbirds are notorious robbers and versatile snackers. Illustration: Michael Viney

While blackbirds and starlings vary their menu, crows like to bury a little snack for later

A friend welcomed a badger sett on his land even when they wrenched a sheaf from his best daffodils, just nicely in flower. Illustration:  Michael Viney

Research into getting badgers to eat drugs that counter TB has found they like chocolate

Another Life: Michael Viney on the acre in the late 1970s (with a sky from one of his illustrations for his column)

The English journalist and naturalist – this paper’s longest-serving columnist – has always been a keen-eyed yet sympathetic chron(...)

Safe flight: it is important to respect nesting grounds of birds in remote areas. Illustration: Michael Viney

The wear and tear of tourist footfall poses a threat to seabirds of the northeast Atlantic

River life: a caddis fly by the stream. Illustration: Michael Viney

Caddisflies could take a prize for their variation of species

Irish resident: the bank vole seems to have arrived with German machinery for the Ardnacrusha power project in the 1920s. Illustration: Michael Viney

Major changes have been set in train by an invasive little vole and an alien shrew, with consequences for the barn owl

Great spotted woodpecker: well established on east coast of Ireland. Illustration: Michael Viney

A bird that was once widespread in Ireland is returning

Tully: my drawing may exaggerate the bungalows across the bay although the winter sun catches enough gables to speak of great change. Illustration: Michael Viney

Refections on a life less ordinary by the stormy sea in west Galway

Wetlands: a home for wildlife, including newts. Illustration: Michael Viney

As climate changes, bringing both drought and floods, wetlands will be a moderator

Nephrops prawn: more than 80 per cent of them collected in the Clyde firth in Scotland and surrounding sea lochs had eaten plastic, including monofilament line and fragments of plastic bags. Illustration: Michael Viney Nephrops prawn: more than 80 per cent of them collected in the Clyde firth in Scotland and surrounding sea lochs had eaten plastic, including monofilament line and fragments of plastic bags. Illustration: Michael Viney

Plastic litter that has ended up in the ocean is taking a special toll on marine life

Claws for concern: marine life is vulnerable to trawling. Illustration: Michael Viney

Satellites can track fishing vessels, but enforcement of marine conservation zones requires patrol boats

Syn-bio fun: fluorescent pet fish. Illustration: Michael Viney

Syn-bio provides cheap, standardised, off-the-shelf ‘bricks’ of DNA that build new forms of organism. But many fear it could get o(...)

Swan song: could the whoopers desert Ireland too? Illustration: Michael Viney

Could whooper swans leave Ireland in a migratory change shaped over many years?

Allotments: a big part of the Galway food scene. Illustration: Michael Viney

Green ideas make so much sense given the energy spent in transporting foods from every corner of the globe

Protected: lampreys live in the lower Shannon. Illustration: Michael Viney

The Shannon is Ireland’s wildlife heartland, partly because its floods have set such close bounds to farming

Autumn crocus: the rare – and toxic – Irish wild flower. Illustration: Michael Viney

Some of the ingredients in your kitchen are rich in aromatic myristicin, which is a molecular precursor of MMDA, a drug similar to(...)

Starry starry night: Dark Sky Ireland finds  more value in an unpolluted night than in filling B&Bs with star-struck winter hobbyists. Illustration: Michael Viney

Living in remote areas lets you enjoy the clarity of night skies without light pollution

Scots pines at Doolough: remnants of Ireland’s ancient pines lay buried beneath. Illustration: Michael Viney

In Mayo, trees planted by a 19th-century Scottish sheep rancher supplanted Ireland’s ancient pines

Into the light: uncovered pine stumps on the shore. Illustration: Michael Viney

Ireland offered has dramatic examples of rogue waves, including those that swamped the bow of LÉ ‘Róisín’

Imprints from the past: successive ice ages and weathering have left the fossils of early limestone Ireland’s chief visible heritage. Illustration: Michael Viney

Limestone formed when Ireland was still down near the equator, its deserts and dunes flooded by warm and shallow seas

Timely: this autumn’s supermoons and all the talk of life on Mars give a topical edge to I Was There’s distillation of evolution. Illustration: Michael Viney

‘I Was There’, ‘Sea Gastronomy’, ‘Ireland’s Birds: Myth, Legends and Folklore’, ‘Dordán Dúlra’ and ‘This Is the Burren’

Heads down: the ewes turned their rumps to the wind. Illustration: Michael Viney

I feel particular despair for all the young city women rushing through their lives, lost in a hectic flow of virtual conversations(...)

Lumbricus terrestrism draws leaves down. Illustration: Michael Viney

In Octobers past, this was my month for lifting the maincrop potatoes, taking care to rebury every earthworm tossed aloft, before (...)

Summer visitor from Africa: the death’s head hawkmoth photographed by Michael Bell

A devil’s coach horse, a trapped crow and a death’s head hawkmoth

Snack time: a snail on petalwort. Illustration: Michael Viney

This coastal plant helps to stabilise exposed sand against the pull of wind and soak up eroding water

Earth star mushrooms, tar spots, pheasants and spaniels

Hare-brained: human population growth threatens the planet. Illustration:  Michael Viney

Mad growth of human race gobbles up space and wipes out ever more species

Aching bee stings, moulting blackbirds and ‘dog’s sick’ mould

Where pollinators can flourish: a blackthorn in flower. Illustration: Michael Viney

A plan backed by 68 organisations shows the plight of pollinators is moving up the agenda

A white swallow at Tacumshin from a photograph by Eric Dempsey. Illustration: Michael Viney

The Wexford lake in autumn is a prime staging post for thousands of Ireland’s migrating swallows, house martins and sand martins (...)

Blackberries come in many shapes and sizes. Illustration: Michael Viney

It seems the ambition of ‘Rubus fruticosus’, the common blackberry, is to take over most of this island

Fruit fly: scarce this year

Fruit flies, crayfish, grey squirrel and a catterpillar

Bicoloured dahlias, ramping fumitory, merlins and oak eggar moths

Off course: gales bring migrants within telescope range. Illustration: Michael Viney

Eric Dempsey’s new book, ‘Don’t Die in Autumn’, is an honest, joyous account of life as a birdwatcher

Gannets, wrens, seals and tachinid flies

Alone: a leveret could just be waiting for mother hare to come and feed it from time to time. Illustration: Michael Viney

Rescue is best saved for obviously injured animals and birds, cold and limp. Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland has all you need to k(...)

Extinction risk: Aphanomyces astaci killed more than 600 crayfish  in a stretch of the River Bruskey in Co Cavan. Illustration: Michael Viney

A fungal disease spreading from North America could wipe out a species near extinction in most of Europe

Goshawks, false widows, and albino swallows and foxes

Sparrowhawks, flying ants, robin’s pincushions and a trio of moths

Fighting back: the red squirrel is now in all 32 counties. Illustration: Michael Viney

They occasionally cross the river but stick mainly to the parts of Ireland to its east. What’s going on? And where does that leave(...)

White hares, warble flies and comma butterflies

Tracked across the Atlantic: bluefin tuna. Illustration:  Michael Viney

Around Ireland, electronic tags have been fixed to basking sharks, blue sharks, bluefin tuna, leatherback turtles and sunfish

The giant box crab: some are occasionally caught in shallow fishing trawls. Illustration: Michael Viney

The deep-swimming giant box crab are occasionally caught in shallow fishing trawls

Seal of approval: they are amiable but keep your distance. Illustration: Michael Viney

It is great to see grey seals return in numbers, but it is best to enjoy them from a distance

Young hares, a fledgling cuckoo and a rare rosy footman

An old Irish goat: you can learn about conserving the last ones during heritage week. Illustration: Michael Viney

Historic buildings and prehistoric sites are still what people think of when you mention National Heritage Week. Landscapes and wi(...)

Sea foam, wasp grubs and horntails

An escaped wallaby, a strawberry-stealing squirrel and a haunting owl

Limpets: Aristotle noted their mysterious powers of navigation. Illustration: Michael Viney

Optical structures within the limpet’s shell shine brilliantly when catching the light. That means they could work in your car’s w(...)

Crab spiders, gall midges and hummingbird hawkmoths

Sound reasons for surfacing: beached whales. Illustration: Michael Viney Sound reasons for surfacing: beached whales. Illustration: Michael Viney

Whales and dolphins have been killed by powerful naval sonars, the explosions of military exercises and the air-gun detonations o(...)

Mating moths, mistle thrushes and a hungry robin

In a pinch: a crab, part of the big planetary recycle. Illustration: Michael Viney

Where do the oceans get their new calcium from if not rivers rushing out dissolved limestone from the land?

Stick insects, pigeons and doves

Speckled woods: well designed for dappled light. Illustration: Michael Viney

The unusual weather – will there now be any other kind? – is making conditions even more unfavourable for the tortoiseshells, mars(...)

Nesting gulls, raucous magpies, squawking crows and dwindling swallows

Ragweed: one plant can generate up to a billion grains of pollen in a season, travelling hundreds of kilometres on the wind. Illustration: Michael Viney

Ragweed, the bane of hay-fever victims, causes half the summer attacks of asthma. It also invades ploughed fields, waysides and (...)

Diving beetles, a dead swift, and bug eggs

True colours: birds hide to finish changing their plumage. Illustration: Michael Viney

Summer is a time of coming and going, of great change, of moulting and preparation

Secretive otters, curious pine martens and disappearing goldfinches

Carbon footprint: Ireland’s herd size is set to grow. Illustration: Michael Viney

Methane from cows makes up more than half of the greenhouse gases arising from milk production. With Ireland’s dairy herd set to g(...)

Boarfish: “a special gift from a warming ocean”. Illustration: Michael Viney

A dramatic explosion in the numbers of boarfish in Irish waters has turned a minor nuisance into a staple catch

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