Eye on Nature: Your notes and queries for Ethna Viney

Fighting swans, frost flowers, Sabellaria worms, and blackbirds

A pair of swans on the Lansdowne Road stretch of the River Dodder, in Dublin, suddenly turned on their juvenile offspring on January 7th and, hissing and honking, chased the terrified youngster until he was out of sight.
Rodney Devitt
Sandymount, Dublin

I photographed some of the icicles that naturally form and emerge from a pipe protecting the cattle water trough in the early January mornings. The water in the pipe freezes and forces the ice out through a pin hole in the top when it expands.
John Ryan
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

They are called frost flowers and are usually associated with long-stemmed plants in freezing conditions. The sap in the stem expands because of the cold, which causes cracks in the stem wall. Water oozes out into the freezing air and forms strands of ice that spiral outwards, creating these fascinating shapes. The same conditions were obviously replicated in your pipe.

What are the formations in my photograph, taken on Booley Bay, in Wexford?
Brian Foley
Lucan, Co Dublin


Prof Mike Guiry, a seaweed expert, confirms that they are colonies of Sabellaria, marine worms that make tubes from sand and encrust rocks from the lower shore downwards. A sign, he says, of a clean and healthy beach.

There were 11 blackbirds in my garden recently and three more in the next garden. At least four were cocks.
Derek Pullen
Bray, Co Wicklow

They were winter migrants from Europe.

Ethna Viney welcomes observations and photographs at Thallabawn, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, F28 F978, or by email at viney@anu.ie. Please include a postal address