What’s this strange rock we found after Storm Ophelia? Readers’ nature queries

Eye on Nature: Ethna Viney on amber, scarlet elf caps, squirrels and mistle thrushes

 

We found the strange object in our photograph on Killiney beach after Storm Ophelia in November. Is it a rock? It has a very distinctive smell, like resin or something soapy. It has air bubbles inside, is very light, feels like plastic and does not dissolve in water. – Ethna (11) and Olivia (nine), Killiney, Co Dublin
Dr Mike Simms of the Ulster Museum has identified it as amber. (You can read more about it in this weeks Another Life).

I snapped these waxy, cuplike toadstools in a forest near Lough Erne. Are they rare? – Kevin Smith, Dublin
They are scarlet elf cap, also known as elf cup, and are fairly widespread in woodland.

I photographed a grey squirrel that has a brown head, back and tail. Is this unusual? – Declan O’Loughlin, Celbridge, Co Kildare
Grey squirrels can have brown fur on the head, back and tail especially, but not exclusively, in summer.

The birds scattered as the grey squirrel in my photograph scampered along a branch to the bird feeder and hung upside down like a trapeze artist to feed on the sunflower seeds. – Proinsias Mac an Bheatha, Clontarf, Dublin

A bird that looks like a magnificent thrush and sounds like a chattering magpie seems to have travelled a long way for the red berries on a tree on Moyne Road in Ranelagh, as a neighbour reckons that it comes from Scandinavia. – Gwendolen Morgan, Ranelagh, Dublin
It sounds like a mistle thrush, which is a native resident.

We have six goldfinches feeding at the kitchen window. Great to watch but didn’t know they could be so bossy. – George Keegan, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare

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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