Eye on Nature: An unusual duck and digging woodpeckers

Your notes and queries for Eanna Ní Lamhna

What is this unusual duck I have spotted at Blessington St Basin over the past few weeks? Andrew Bacon
It's a male hooded merganser, a North American species. Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland says there have been a couple of them in the Blessington St Basin for several years now, part of a group of exotic wildfowl that were apparently dumped there illegally by a collector.

Gregory Daly found this egg at Bunduff, Co Sligo, on January 30th. It was cold and exposed on open sandy ground at the back of sand dunes about 500m from a lake. It measures 12cm in length and is presumably a mute swan egg. Michael Bell
It is a swan's egg as it's rounded equally at both ends and is the right size, most likely a relict from last year. An out of season egg is a remote possibility: during the rehabilitation of 42 oiled swans in the DSPCA home in the 1980s winter, one laid an egg.

A flock of sparrows recently visited our garden and this little "white one" was with them. It has stayed and has a blue band around the leg. Emma Pettit, Co Cork
It is a domestic canary, which come in a wide array of different plumage colours and patterns. It must be a pet that escaped from a cage or aviary, and the blue leg ring was put there by the breeder.

We have had woodpeckers here for several years now and hear but never see them pecking wood. Could these holes in a dead tree in the garden be caused by a woodpecker? They seem a bit low down. Rachel Elliott, Cavan
Declan Murphy, who studies woodpeckers, says the holes are indeed made by woodpeckers but are for feeding, not nesting. They are digging out beetle larvae.


This bird visits our garden. Is it a buzzard? Laoisa Stapleton, Dublin

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