What is this purple fungus I found on my wood pile? Readers’ nature queries

Ethna Viney on ladybirds, frost flowers, dove eggs, a hermit crab and foxes

Cobalt crust found in Co Cork.

Cobalt crust found in Co Cork.

 

I spotted this purple fungus while sorting our wood pile and was amazed by the beautiful deep purple colour. – Aisling Ryan, Baltimore, Co Cork
That’s cobalt crust, a fungus that grows on dead wood. When fresh it’s a brilliant blue and darkens as it gets older.

Seven-spot ladybirds found in Co Dublin.
Seven-spot ladybirds found in Co Dublin.

This was one of many clusters of seven-spot ladybirds on a fence beside the Liffey in St Catherine’s Park. They appeared to be dormant and very exposed to predation. – Pat O’Connor, Castaheany, Dublin 15
Ladybirds in hibernation cluster together to conserve heat. The cluster doesn’t look like insects to predators.

Frost flowers found in Co Cavan.
Frost flowers found in Co Cavan.

I noticed these ice formations on a branch in Bellamont Forest, Cootehill. I thought they were unusual and beautiful. – Nuala McAteer, Cootehill, Co Cavan
Frost flowers are usually associated with long-stemmed plants in freezing conditions. The sap in the stem expands, causing cracks in the stem wall. Water oozes out into the freezing air forming strands of ice and creating these fascinating shapes.

Collared dove egg found in Co Wicklow.
Collared dove egg found in Co Wicklow.

On Christmas Eve I found this collared dove egg on the grass in our back garden. There can be up to 12 collared doves in the garden at any one time. – Kieran Fitzpatrick, Greystones, Co Wicklow
It’s certainly a bit early for egg-laying and must be due to the relatively mild winter so far. Collared doves lay two eggs at a time and have two or three broods in the year.

Hermit crab found in Co Wexford.
Hermit crab found in Co Wexford.

We saw this hermit crab between the shore and the dunes on Curracloe beach, Wexford, on New Year’s Day. He was all on his lonesome on the sand in his little home. – Caroline Lawless, Co Wexford

Procreating foxes found in Co Sligo.
Procreating foxes found in Co Sligo.

Just when we were hoping 2021 would be a bit more normal, my son caught these urban foxes procreating in his garden in Killiney. – Tim McFadden, Enniscrone, Co Sligo

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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