Eye on Nature: An unusual fairy ring and early flowerings

Your notes and queries for Eanna Ní Lamhna

I found this in the woods by the river and was wondering what it is. – Teddy Fransens (10)

It is an oak leaf with a cherry gall on it. This is caused by a small wasp, which lays an egg on the leaf. The grub develops in the gall and the adult wasp will emerge in midwinter.

We spotted this bird outside our classroom window. Can you identify it? – First Class, Coolnasmear NS, Co Waterford

I can – it is a very odd-looking female chaffinch. As it lacks most of its normal colours, it is described as being a leucistic individual.


The attached photo is of a lone cowslip that would seem to be a very early flowering. It seems to point towards a confused and confusing natural world. – Paul Bird

It’s early, I’ll grant you that. The National Biodiversity Data Centre receives most records of this species in April and May, but it has received records of this plant in flower in every month of the year. Climate change is generally making plants flower earlier.

I saw these catkins on a leafless tree in Dublin on February 1st. Is this very early? – CO Donnell
No, these are the male catkin flowers of the hazel tree. The wind blows the pollen to the small female catkins, fertilising them, before the leaves open. So this is the right time of year for this and catkins are one of the earliest signs of spring.

What causes this circle of fungi, which my neighbour found in his back garden last autumn? – John Mc Carthy, Limerick

While it is called a fairy ring fungus, one thing is certain: it wasn’t caused by the fairies. A spore blew in from another area, germinated and expanded underground in a circular fashion. It sends up its mushroom fruiting bodies just inside the circumference of the growth.

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