What are these weird dots on the kitchen table? Readers’ nature queries

Eanna Ní Lamhna on early-rising mushroom hunters, sea potatoes and a garden digger

Spider waste

Spider waste

 

Could you tell us what these little black dots are? They appear randomly around the house, on the floor but also on the kitchen table. – Freddie White
They are the remains of food items eaten by spiders – or indeed spider poo.

Sea potatoes
Sea potatoes

We saw thousands of these shells on the beach by the dunes . They were empty and very fragile. We would like to know what they are. – Matias O Conaill
These are called sea potatoes from the potato-like appearance of the empty white shell (test). It is a heart-urchin, which lives in deeper waters in burrows in the sand, where it feeds on deposited particles which it collects with its tube feet.

Larva of the cockchafer (maybug)
Larva of the cockchafer (maybug)

I found this while digging in the garden. I left it alone and it descended back down through the loose soil. Any idea what it is? Frank Walsh
This is the larva of the cockchafer (maybug), which lives in the soil for three years and feeds on plant roots. Rooks eat them and follow the plough to pick them from the soil.

Caterpillar of the goat moth
Caterpillar of the goat moth

I saw this on the bog near Littleton, Co Tipperary. Can you tell me what it is? – Frank Rafter
It is the caterpillar of the goat moth, which feeds on living wood for three years. It is only seen in the open when it is fully grown and looking for a pupation site. It has a musky, goat-like smell.

Half-eaten mushrooms
Half-eaten mushrooms

Who is getting to the field mushrooms early in the morning before I do? No beak marks, so not birds. – Brian Trench
Badgers and pine martens eat mushrooms; so do bank voles and red squirrels.

Juvenile sparrow hawk
Juvenile sparrow hawk

We spotted this lovely bird in our Dublin garden on Sunday morning and were wondering if it is a northern hawk owl? – Eoin Mangan
No, it is a native juvenile sparrow hawk. Northern hawk owls live and breed in the northern boreal forests of Alaska, Canada and Newfoundland.

Have you a nature query, observation or photo you would like to share with The Irish Times? Submit it, with location of the image, via our website irishtimes.com/eyeonnature

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