What is this beautiful vision? Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on frosty beauty, alien harlequin ladybirds and a possible avian flu victim

These frost patterns appeared recently on the polytunnel. I had forgotten how beautiful they could be. – Fred Fitzsimons, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan
I haven't seen these floral ice patterns since the cold bedroom windows of my childhood.

I found these on Tramore beach in Donegal. They were all about the size of a thimble, with the consistency of thick clingfilm. – Susan Wolfe, Portnoo, Co Donegal
They are marine organisms called salps, which are part of the zooplankton. They feed on phytoplankton and are important in the biological cycle of the ocean as they control phytoplankton blooms.

Although I've seen grey partridges before, I've never seen a red-legged one. That's what I think this one in my garden must be. – Gary Hill, Mullingar, Co Westmeath
According to Birdwatch Ireland, the red-legged partridge is indigenous to southwest Europe, and was introduced to Ireland where breeding takes place, mainly in Meath, Kildare and Wexford.

I recently discovered this moth outside at night. Is it normal to see moths at this time of year? – Bernard Grant, Wexford
It's the December moth, which flies in winter.


I came across this frozen bird, a water rail or similar, in the callows above Banagher on the Shannon, during a frosty spell in early January. – John Madden, Banagher, Co Offaly
Yes, it is a water rail and it may have been the victim of the current avian flu.

What is this insect? – Ann Moran, Templeogue, Dublin
It's the larva of the invasive alien harlequin ladybird. You should destroy it and any others like it as it preys on native ladybirds.

In the woodlands of Howth in early January, three-cornered leeks were flowering in defiance of the seasons. – Francis Devine, Howth, Co Dublin
They are also called three-cornered garlic.

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