Parasites and spider bites: readers’ nature observations and queries

Eye on Nature: Is it true that nesting birds carry no scent?

False widow spider

False widow spider

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I came across these fungi growing out of the dead lower branches of some Sitka spruce. What is the fuzzy one doing?
Bill Daly, Kildare


Mycologist Kieran Connolly tells me that it is a parasite of bonnet mushrooms called Spinellus fusiger.

I saw a siskin fall from a fairly low branch on one of the fir trees in my garden. It struggled on the ground for a few moments and then lay still.
Gerry Burns, Richhill, Co Armagh
It could possibly be caused by trichomoniasis that affected greenfinches in recent times but also affected chaffinches and siskins. The parasite trichomod blocks the bird’s throat, thus killing it by starvation. Move birdbaths and feeders to another part of the garden.

I’ve read that nesting birds carry no scent, and that a hen pheasant sat quite still while dogs walked within a few feet of her. Can this be confirmed?
Paddy O’Reilly, Woodford, Co Galway
I think that a bird’s scent glands are probably well covered when a bird is sitting on the nest. It is more likely that the stillness of the bird would not attract a dog’s attention.

I saw this spider (top image) hiding near the back door in my parents’ house and wondered what it was.
Steven Birney, Kilmainham, Dublin 8
It looks like one of the false widow spiders. They can have a stinging bite.

This brave little gentian was blooming here during November.
Joan Ruddy, Bearna, Co Galway


Spring gentian normally flowers from April to June.

To remind us to feed the birds in this cold weather, Larry Dunne of Rosslare Harbour, Wexford, sent this photo of a robin at a feeder.

  • Ethna Viney welcomes observations and photographs at Thallabawn, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, F28F978, or by email at viney@anu.ie. Include a postal address
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