I found these growing at the base of my Japanese maple tree? Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on dead man’s fingers, otters, mosquitos, snow buntings and sparrowhawks

A fungus called dead man’s fingers, Xylaria polymorpha.

A fungus called dead man’s fingers, Xylaria polymorpha.

 

My poor Japanese maples had a bad year: first a blackfly infestation, then scale insects, and now I discovered these growing at the base of one of them. They are hard and leathery and inside they’re fibrous and woody. – Valerie McSwiggan, Sandycove, Co Dublin 

Dead man’s fingers, Xylaria polymorpha
Dead man’s fingers, Xylaria polymorpha


They are a fungus called dead man’s fingers, Xylaria polymorpha.

I was walking by the Liffey and on the steps from the Loopline Bridge I saw three otters resting. The water is very salty there and there is no riverbank available to them. They were hissing at me quite aggressively, so had they been washed down from the river? – James Clarke, Dublin
That sounds like a mother and her cubs. There is nothing strange about them being in the salty water; they fish regularly in the sea. The mother was probably teaching the cubs to fish.

The insect in the photograph bit a friend of mine and he’s since developed what may be a systemic allergic reaction.

Mosquito
Mosquito

He didn’t include anything to indicate size but says it was huge. It looks like a large mosquito, but is October not a bit late for them? – Paula Trench, Athlone, Co Westmeath
Previously there were only four mosquitoes reported as native in Ireland but with international travel many more have arrived here. The one in the photo does not resemble the native ones so is likely to be a foreign one – which could have come from anywhere.

A friend and I came across three snow buntings just north of Slieve Meelmore in the Mourne Mountains on October 29th.

Snow bunting seen just north of Slieve Meelmore in the Mourne Mountains
Snow bunting seen just north of Slieve Meelmore in the Mourne Mountains

They’re striking and beautiful birds and we heard their musical call as they lifted off. – Helen Lawless, Rathangan, Co Wicklow

Bill Nelson in Blackrock, Co Dublin, sent this photograph of a sparrowhawk with its prey, a pigeon.

A sparrowhawk with its prey, a pigeon.
A sparrowhawk with its prey, a pigeon.
  • 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.
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