The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased;

and not impaired in value - Theodore Roosevelt

Little Nuggets

Before the introduction of turnips, the less spiny varieties of Holly were once cultivated and used as a winter fodder for cattle and sheep, the leaves growing near the top of the tree having fewer spines making them more suitable.

The wood was once used to make traditional bagpipes. The leaves of several species yield high levels of caffeine, utilised by the indigenous people to brew narcotic infusions used in rituals. The berries attract birds, especially after frost, as it reduces toxicity.

European Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

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Swallows and Martins are from the same family. This one is Hirundo Rustica and in the US it’s called the Barn Swallow.

Both male and female build the nest and can make as many as a thousand trips to collect mud.

Eggs are incubated for 14 to 16 days and the young usually leave the nest within 18 to 23 days.

First to establish that swallows from the UK migrate to South Africa was James Masefield, brother of the poet John Masefield - after ringing a swallow in Staffordshire, it was recovered in Natal in December 1912.

It is estimated that around 90 million Swallows and Martins cross the Sahara.

Certain species of owl can turn their head virtually 270º in either direction.

The reason - they have 14 neck vertebrae, more than twice those of giraffes, whales and mice.

Swans however, have up to 25 vertebrae.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

We all know that Chlorophyll is the predominantly green pigment seen in leaves and that it uses a process called Photosynthesis to produce sugars. Carotene is another pigment (yellows, oranges and browns). Anthocyanins are responsible for the reds and purples in plums, grapes and blueberries.

In autumn, as night length increases, the production of Chlorophyll stops, as does photosynthesis.

As the Chlorophyl disappears it leaves behind the Carotene, and with excess sugars in the leaf, it produces more Anthocynanins. It is this process that gives the  leaves their autumn palette.

After 200 years, introduced red kites first bred in Northern Ireland in 2010. The one to the left, with a blue wing tag, was photographed in Ballywalter Park. Easy to identify with their forked tail, Shakespeare's King Lear described his daughter Goneril as a ‘detested kite’, as they were viewed as ubiquitous scavengers living on carrion and garbage. He wrote "when the kite builds, look to your lesser linen" apparently, during the nesting season, they would steal washing that was hung out to dry.

Red Kite  (Milvus milvus)

The process of deciduous trees losing their 'dead leaves' is called leaf abscission, seen in many of the plant family Fagaceae - oaks, chestnuts and beech. Marcescence is the name given to the retention of dead plant organs.

Opinion differs as to why this happens. Theories include retention of tannin to reduce insect feeding, protection from frost, non nutritious leaves stopping deer feeding on the live twigs and leaf retention may allow leaf nutrient retrieval to last a bit longer in autumn since the abscissa does not have to be completed until the spring.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Fly Orchids are apparently pollinated by a wasp of the genus Gorytes by inexperienced young males hatched in advance of the females.  The orchids' scent mimics the sex pheromone of the wasp and the male pseudocopulates in exactly the right position for pollinia removal and deposition. Once the female wasp emerges the males transfer their interest to the real thing.

This photograph was taken during the Burren Field trip in 2012.

Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)

Common Foxglove

Digitalis Purpurea

In Scotland it is called "bloody fingers" and "deadman's bells",  in Wales its called "fairy-folks-fingers" or "lambs-tongue-leaves".
The larvae of the Foxglove Pug moth (Eupithecia pulchellata) eats the flowers as does the Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes). 
A group of active compounds are extracted from the leaves, referred to as digitoxin or digoxin, the extraction contains cardiac glycosides used in the treatment of heart conditions and was first described by William Withering, in 1785.http://livepage.apple.com/

The British Geological Survey have a National Archive of Geological Photographs available online.

These pictures can be accessed free of charge through GeoScenic, where you can view and download the images for non-commercial use.

Pollet Head, Donegal

It is estimated that there are around 6000 species of fungi in Northern Ireland, excluding anamorphic fungi and including lichens. Around 3000 species have been recorded so far.

Red Squirrels have a taste for underground truffles, true and false. The Dutch common name for the Cep, Boletus edulis, translates as ‘Squirrel's Bread’.  In Finland, Red Squirrels have been known to pick and store fungi in trees. When dried they can form up to 25% of their diet. It is not known if Grey Squirrels also eat fungi.

When reproducing, the male frog grasps the female with his front legs and fertilises the eggs with fluid containing sperm. This form of pseudo-copulation is called Amplexus (Latin-embrace). 

In frogspawn the embryo is black to ensure that the absorption of heat speeds up development. 

The distinction between frogs and toads simply by appearance, has no taxonomic basis, all members of the order Anura (Greek for tail-less) are frogs, but only members of the family Bufonidae are considered "true toads". Tadpoles are also known as polliwogs.

Snails and Slugs are  members of the Mollusc phylum, slugs lack the external shell. They lay 80-100 eggs (3-4mm diameter) up to six times a year below the soil or in plant debris. Eggs are expelled through an opening at the side of the head in close proximity to the anus.

Eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of the Stinging or Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Once they hatch, the caterpillars build a communal web over the growing tips of the plant, when this is decimated they migrate to a fresh food supply.

Peacock (Inachis io)

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Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera) are apparently pollinated by a wasp of the genus Gorytes by inexperienced young males hatched in advance of the females.  The orchids' scent mimics the sex pheromone of the wasp and the male pseudocopulates in exactly the right position for pollinia removal and deposition. Once the female wasp emerges the males transfer their interest to the real thing. This photograph was taken during the Burren Field trip in 2012.

Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) is also called All heal and Marsh Hedgenettle. It had a reputation as a vulnerary, being strongly recommended by the herbalist John Gerard (1545–1611). He relates of a countryman who had cut himself severely with a scythe, and had bound a quantity of this herb, bruised with grease and 'laid upon in manner of a poultice' over the wound, which healed in a week, though it would 'have required forty daies with balsam itself.'

We know that Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) migrate from the continent to UK shores in varying numbers each summer, however radar records have now revealed that the species migrate south each autumn at altitudes of over 500 metres and speeds of up to 50mph. Findings also revealed that they take the 9000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Artic in a series of steps by up to six successive generations.