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Holly berries in May in Belleek Wood and Cuckoo in Brackloon

A holly tree with berries in May. An odd sight to say the least, and one I came across on Sunday while walking in beautiful Belleek Wood, Ballina.  We associate the lovely holly tree with Christmas, and, yet, four months later the Belleek holly tree still has its berries which you would have expected the woodland’s abundant bird life to have feasted on long since.

According to Wikipedia, the berries of various species are slightly toxic to humans, although its poisonous properties have been exaggerated and poisoning deaths are almost unknown. Berries attract birds that eat them after the frosts have reduced toxicity.

So one possible explanation may be that due to the mild winter the berries did not lose any of their toxicity and the birds of Belleek Wood had plenty of other food available so did not need to eat the holly berries.

Or just simply, the Belleek holly tree was late producing its berries.

Meanwhile, it was a real joy at the weekend to hear the cuckoo in full voice in another of Mayo’s beautiful woodlands, Brackloon Wood, near Westport.

By Anthony Hickey

Follow writer and photographer, Anthony Hickey, as he travels around his native Co. Mayo, Ireland.

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