Eye on Nature: Your notes and queries for Ethna Viney

Woodpeckers, dog stinkhorn, hybrid mallards and territorial badgers

Dog stinkhorn: the fertile top has an offensive smell – but not nearly as unpleasant as that of the common stinkhorn, ‘Phallus impudicus’. Photograph: AlbyDeTweede/Getty

Dog stinkhorn: the fertile top has an offensive smell – but not nearly as unpleasant as that of the common stinkhorn, ‘Phallus impudicus’. Photograph: AlbyDeTweede/Getty

 

While walking up Doon bog road, near Clifden, I saw a woodpecker drumming on an ivy-covered tree next to indigenous woodland. I hadn’t heard of one this far west.
Paula Vine
Clifden, Co Galway

Woodpeckers have been reported from Achill recently.

On a recent woodland walk I saw the plant in my photograph. It was erect and bright yellow, and about 4cm long.
Charlotte Warham
Oylgate, Co Wexford

The fungus expert Kieran Connolly identified it as the dog stinkhorn, ‘Mutinus caninus’, usually seen in autumn and now faded. Although the fertile top has an offensive smell it is not nearly as strong or unpleasant as that of the related common stinkhorn, ‘Phallus impudicus’.

In Templemore park we saw a huge male mallard, at least twice as big as a normal one. His colour pattern was a bit all over the place. I think mallards can hybridise with domestic ducks. Does this one’s large size give him an advantage over lesser males in the eyes of the females?
Albert Nolan
Newport, Co Tipperary

Mallards hybridise with a great many other ducks, and it is not surprising that they breed with domestic ducks, whose ancestors were mallards. Whatever about attraction, that large drake would have an advantage in the bullying stakes both in getting mates and in seeing off the competition.

I found clumps of badger hair on a forest path. The hair had white tips so probably came from the neck. Were the clumps from territorial disputes?
Paddy Demery
Kilcoole, Co Wicklow

Yes. This time of year sees the greatest male aggression and the most territorial disputes. In the forest, compounds of family setts would be closely patrolled in spring.

Ethna Viney welcomes observations at Thallabawn, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, or by email at viney@anu.ie. Please include a postal address