Beach finds from a starfish to a badger’s skull. Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on a Dodder cormorant’s spring plumage, witch’s butter and goose barnacles

Brittle star

My son Dara (5) found this starfish on the beach. – Cliona Kelly, Donabate, Co Dublin 
It's a brittle star, in the starfish family.

Cuttlefish bone

I found this object on a beach at Tramore, It was about 15cm long and 6cm wide. – Paul Halley, Tramore, Co Waterford
It's the bone of a cuttlefish.

Witch’s butter fungus

During our walk at Tintern Abbey we spotted this black growth on the bark of a tree. – Rowena McGrath, Ramsgrange, Co Wexford
It's a fungus called witch's butter, which grows on broadleaved trees, especially oak.

Badger skull

My granddaughter, Aebhin Ryan, found this skull bone on Banna strand. Any chance of identifying it? – Padraic Coughlan, Ballyard, Tralee, Co Kerry
It looks like (and is the right size for) a badger skull.


My husband spotted this white-headed cormorant fishing in the Dodder. We've only seen fully black cormorants before. Is it a variation or to do with the breeding season? – Donna Marie O'Donovan, Rathfarnham, Co Dublin
This is the cormorant in spring plumage. It loses the white colour at other times of the year.

Goose barnacles

Could you help me identify these sea worms? We found them attached to a log washed up on the shore after stormy weather. I've never seen anything like them before. – Suzanne Nicholls, Tramore, Co Waterford
The creatures in your photo are goose barnacles, which float in the ocean as larvae and attach to whatever flotsam they encounter.

Hen pheasant

This hen pheasant visited my garden to feed on seeds dropping from the bird feeders. – Peadar Mac Rory, Letterkenny, Co Donegal

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