Where we are… We live in Roscommon but cover western counties of Mayo, Donegal, Clare, Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan mainly. But never say no to an opportunity in Britain or western Europe

Old STORIES and Photographs

We cannot resist a good photograph, be it Winter or Summer or in between. Sometimes these are bespoke photographs. i.e. taken to support a report or a study like S. romanzoffiana which we have been covering for many years. Others reflect the current season and nature evolving each year. Many are just filed for later use and plundered for occasions like these headline article for the HOME page.

Autumn 2020: Autumn in the Wood…

We are happy to now live near Lough Key Forest Park, Co. Roscommon. This is a paradise for Wildlife for much of the year and a Happy Camping ground in the Summer. Today — an Autumn day — straddles the seasons with Summer leaves falling and Fungi everywhere. Today we focus on one species… Land around Lough Key was acquired in 1641 by  the The King family who held it for 300 years before it became a State owned Forest Park. Many avenues of Beech Trees were planted during this period but details of that planting evades us. However, many of these trees now have weakened trunks, hollow at the base, with numerous examples of this fungus attached to the main trunk — standing or fallen. Wildlife has prospered this year. Why? More people at home, working in their gardens, providing for the local wildlife?  In our small garden we have some plants very attractive to wildlife. Elderberry for the Pigeons; Blackbirds feeding on Darwins Berberis until they seem unsure in flight! Bees on all sorts of flowers. Blackcaps and Buzzards in our local Woodland.
Goldeneye displaying at Lough Meelagh before their long journey back to the Arctic
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BELOW Trooping Funnel Clitocybe geotropa A fresh fungus with sturdy stype and a strongly gilled cap with delicate fringe and concave top.
LEFT Bracket Fungus Brackets on one tree, the lower one being fresh and white. Older fruits can be 60cm wide and 18cm thick including both the hard brown cap of many years and softer hyphal tissue under the bracket.
White Saddle Fungus Helvella crispa In grass or in hard wood litter and often damaged before its tricornate cap can develop. A grey specimen also present may have been the Elfin Saddle
Other Fungi At this season a wide variety of fungi are emerging from the leaf litter — some of the more striking ones are shown HERE.
Bracket Fungus ABOVE Ganoderma applanatum This species is a ‘pest’ for Beech trees with hyphae penetrating into the heartwood and causing the tree to rot from the centre, leaving the familiar ‘caves’ large enough to stand up in.

Bracket Fungus on Beech Trees

Bracket Focus  Ganoderma applanatum This species is a ‘pest’ for Beech trees with hyphae penetrating into the heartwood and causing the tree to rot from the centre, leaving the familiar ‘caves’ large enough to stand up in..
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DATA BOX: INFO on Archived material.

0: Beech Trees and their decay. 1: Some Visiting Waterfowl from the far North. 2: Unusual variant Perching Bird.


SNIPPETS from recent Home Page ARTICLES
A R C H I V E 2021:  0 Ye Olde Beech trees
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis travel to Ireland every Winter from the east coast of Greenland to the north and west coasts of Ireland. One of our most impressive nature experiences is to see 1000’s of these flying over Lissadell and Ballyconell in Co. Sligo and commuting nightly to Inishmurray in Donegal Bay
From Leitrim… (RIGHT) Goldeneye Bucephala clangula  Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus

Lough Gara, Co. Roscommon.

A spreading low lying lake with good reserves of Orchids in Summer and Waterfowl in Winter with one of the Country’s largest number of Whoopers. Might make a good site for a Local Nature Reserve if such an attraction could be established and promoted?
Tufted Ducks (ABOVE) Teal Male and Female (LEFT) Goldeneye. (BELOW) Even now displaying and courting prior to flying back to their northern breeding lands in the Spring
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We love seeing rare visitors to our island, migrants like the Goldeneye ducks that have now arrived along with their larger brethren, the Whoopers (RIGHT) Ireland has less Winter migrants in terms of Ducks in particular. Many of our ducks come from Northern countries typically migrating through the Baltic into west European mainland countries. The theory is that they settle there only moving to Britain and Ireland in extreme cold. Guess what; it’s not that cold any more and we don’t have large flights migrating to Ireland! These images are from Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon (L. Gara featuring in the lower images.) Three of the most interesting migrants we still have in good numbers. These are the Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swans and Goldeneye. (Images collected from December.)

Retaining Biodiversity:

Unlike some of our rare orchids these handsome members  of our biodiversity can choose not to fly to Ireland if food sources remain plentiful on the Continent. It’s a pity but, perhaps, the best we can do is try and facilitate our native breeders through very detailed commitment to maintain clean waters and protecting rare species through a chain of Local Nature Reserves — a Godsend for children and not common in Ireland.

How to get a Nature Reserve:

We have often longed for a Nature Reserve near our place, where people can go to see ducks and geese — like Peter  Scott’s reserve at Slimbridge. This was developed after the war on a very personal basis by a passionate Wildfowler. Unfortunately we don’t have the innate wealth of wildfowl but if encouragement was provided birds might fly in, either as Winter Visitors or later on to stay and breed? Many sites are protected in Ireland (see NPWS) but are not developed to encourage children and visitors. A site would require near access to wildfowl, i.e near the sea or lakes or even expose cut-over bog, like Boora Bog!

Today we look at Lakes, Geese and Ducks, 3 Counties in December…

A R C H I V E 2021:  1 Winter Visitors

An unusual bird in our Garden…

A R C H I V E 2021:  2 Winter Passerines

A super little Fellow!

Forgive us being familiar but we were surprised recently by a very unusual bird in our garden. Hope you are feeding your Birds; it is a very rewarding activity and a pleasant distraction from COVID 19… Also, the birds can need help sometimes when the weather is cold or wet. RIGHT: A familiar bird wrapped up in new clothes, like the Emperor everyone mocked him for his daring appearance. This yellow bird is in fact a Greenfinch but of a variety (variant) we have never seen before! This bird was seen on our Feeders on the 9th - 11th Feb and then for just one more day on the 27th Feb. On arrival (possibly after a long migration?) he ate ravenously and vigorously defended himself from other Greenfinches — who tended to pick on him because ‘he looked different’?

So what’s going on here?

This seems to be a lutino Greenfinch; we have never seen one before. The black/dark pigment found on a normal Greenfinch is missing so the tail and wings of this specimen are largely white and the green plumage is various shades of brown or yellow. The bright yellow wing flashes remain the same as they are in the ‘normal’ greenfinch — pure yellow. Greenfinches became scarce in Ireland 10 years ago and many died from Trichomonosis. But they have become adapted to garden feeding and are increasing in numbers. For many years we would only see 1 or 2 of these birds at our feeding station. This year numbers have greatly increased with up to 8 present at one time — but never a yellow one until recently! They form large flocks, and may migrate long distances, often congregating in tall bare trees during Winter as shown in the photo (Top Right) where up to 60 might occur at one time on a sunny evening with up to 120 in trees around the Green where we live.

Variant Characteristic (RIGHT)

These two photos show the bird taking over one of our feeders for a solid hour of stocking up other — Greenfinches were driven away. During the evening and night this bird stayed in an Elder Tree at the bottom of the garden, often alone or sometimes molested by other Greenfinches. Because of its cocky and determined behaviour we suspect this was a male bird but the identification characteristics for the species were not readily available in this bird’s reduced colour palette! The size, bill and head shape also suggest a male…

More about Greenfinches

The four images (BELOW) show the standard Greenfinch, females on Left and males on Right. These are large stocky finches, the male perhaps slightly stronger and more inclined to fight over a favoured feeder. The most definitive way of sexing is the dark smudge between the eye and the beak on the male bird (RIGHT). He is also more radiant green as compared with the browner female (Left). Both however possess the bright yellow bars on wing and shoulder and the females does have a greener sheen on her back than on the rest of her body. The material on the beak of the male (Far Right) may be regurgitated food which can be a sign of Trichomonas gallinae (the parasite responsible for this infection). However, all Greenfinches seen this year were fit, lively, fat and active and showed no signs of wasting or coughing or exudations from their mouths. More information on Trichomonosis can be seen HERE

Other associated Birds:

Greenfinches have been one of the less common garden feeders, especially in the numbers we have had this Winter. Following their epidemic the resurging numbers and the presence of abundant food, now means that there is a large established population remaining in the area and now starting to breed — which is very pleasing As Winter turns into Spring the very typical “zzzweeee” call can be heard everywhere as the flock splits up into pairs. When the sunshine increases and the demand for bird feeders becomes less the males start to woo the females with a very subdued song. The effect of the equinox, and hormones rising, then starts  the commencement of breeding in these finches and all other birds. Finches are a very sizeable group among the perching birds and in Ireland if you put out food the birds will come… but give them a few days to spot your location and then be prepared to keep the feeders full, especially in cold weather.
ABOVE: The lutino variant showing a largely yellow wings, chest, head and shoulders where dark pigment is absent… BELOW: Normal Greenfinch (female) with fawn chest, brown back and wings with dark primary and tail feathers…
ABOVE: The lutino variant with striking white or pale grey primary wing feathers and coverts. Whitish patch in front of eye may indicate that this is a male? BELOW: Normal Greenfinch (male) with bright olive green chest and black smudge joining eye to beak indicating this bird is a male
LEFT: Another slightly dull and subdued Female waiting her turn at the feeders. A less showy bird with the black eye smudge absent. RIGHT: Another male Greenfinch showing off his distinctive eye make-up , much brighter  plumage in general  and slightly hooked  beak.
ABOVE: Part of a large group of Greenfinches gathering as a February evening draws in.
ABOVE: Our Variant Greenfinch (Blondie) in the Elder tree where he remained for a few days, coming over to the peanut feeder at regular intervals during the day.
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BELOW: Greenfinches are quite a gregarious species. Since they have recovered somewhat from Trichomonosis in the past couple of years, it has been lovely to see again large flocks (we have seen up to 120) of these birds gathering in the trees of an evening. The fork in the tail feathers, and the yellow wing stripe are usually quite visible.
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Sparrows are plentiful here, too, and a joy to watch all their comings and goings from bushes to the feeding table… busy little birds but not Finches! And that’s about half of the variety of species you can attract to your garden to calm all our nerves in these trying times…
Other Finches we get are: Siskins: (RIGHT) Similarly green but smaller and with more pattern on their wings with yellow, green and jet black patches on the male. A very attractive and abundant species to watch but one which is rarely seen during the rest of the year. Chaffinches and Goldfinches are more familiar species the latter forming ‘tinkling’ flocks with flashes of yellow and red. The Chaffinches sing with a long cascading song and a delicate flourish to end.