Sunday, 21 October 2012

20th October - Then O'er a Mushroom's Head Our Table Cloth is Spread

It had rained all day yesterday, and I wasn't able to get out.  The morning dawned damp but dry.  Everywhere there was water drops and heavy dew.  The spider's webs looking like jewels strung on fine silk, and catching what little sun there was.

As well as the webs, the trees were covered in water drops, and the drops can be seen to refract the images that surround them.  This berry capturing the house behind it, but upside down.

We set off to walk around the woods and down into the paddocks.  The ivy along Lymington Rise was now looking worn out, and for once there were no insects on it at all.  We walked down Brislands, and as usual there were Jays around the oak trees, but of more interest was the flock of 17 Redwing that came from the hawthorn trees alongside the fields.

In one of the gardens there was another tree lit up by the spiders webs, and water drops.  This one looked almost ready for Christmas.

The bracken along Brislands is now dying back and looks brown and dead.  Where it was very high during the summer, the ground beside the hedgerow is beginning to return to the open area it was back in the spring.  The same can be said for the path into Old Down, it is now much more manageable as a path as you walk down it.

The wood is still very green despite the time of year, and this is mostly due to the number of Oaks.  The Beech trees are now golden, and in the light the leaves look wonderful.

The Larches will be the next to change colour, they are starting to go a light brown, and I couldn't help remember the beautiful lime greens of the spring as the new delicate leaves emerged.

We took the northern perimeter path,and almost immediately came across a patch of fungi.  They were scattered amongst the leaf litter and the dead stumps and branches.  This was the first patch, Stinking Russula a form of Russet Toughshank called Collybia Aquosa, which seems to be quite common in the wood, but they are normally found with oak and beech.  The pale colours and densely clustered mode of growth being distinctive, in addition the are seen from late summer through autumn.

The leaf litter was now quite a good area to search for fungi, something that has not been the case so far this autumn.  This is a Bare-toothed Russula Lilac Bonnet which looked very delicate with a pink tinge.

Some of the fungi were so small it was impossible to identify them.  This is I think a type of bonnet, but I don't know which.

I was able to get the camera down on to the ground to take the pictures at mushroom height which adds a little bit of drama to them.  These are Burgundydrop Lilac Bonnets, and with the nettles create their own little world.

We were now walking across the wood, and well off the path, the leaf litter was the best area to search, but some of the dead branches were also showing signs of small Staghorn fungi.  These are like corals on rock, growing upright and coral white,

The final find in the litter was this Grey Puffball Collared Earthstar that was now starting to die back having released it's spores through the hole at the top.  These are bizarre fungi where the fruit body starts life as an onion shaped "egg", then the outer skin splits and spreads into rays revealing the puffball centre.  The collared is the most familiar, but usually found in rich drained soils, which was definitely not the case where we found it.

There was no path now, and we came out of the wood, and walked along the side of the field.. It was a very still day, with hardly any breeze, and with that came silence.  This was then punctuated by the whistle of a train on the Watercress Line, and very soon it came into full view as it headed towards Alton.

Earlier in the year I had photographed the train in almost the same place, but then it was fronted by the yellow flowers of the rapeseed.  Today it was the dull browns of the tilled field.

We left the wood, and walked down through the paddocks.  A Sparrowhawk zipped overhead from the wood and flew off towards Ropley.  Just recently I have seen quite a few of this lovely hawk, it may be due to a good breeding season, or migrant hawks following the migrating birds, whatever the reason, it is wonderful to see them so often.

When though, we were out of the wood there was still some fungi about.  Dotted about the field were these small delicate little mushrooms.  They are Fairy Ring Champignions  Pleated Inkcaps, the field was full of sheep, so they may have grazed some of them.

A honk from behind us alerted me to something flying over, and I was amazed to see a lone goose flying in the direction of Ropley.  It was a Greylag Goose, and after the binoculars I managed to get a distant picture.  Number 84 for the year!

The walk up Andrews Lane was quiet.  We checked the fields and the tall trees but there was nothing.  We came out at the top of the path, and tried to locate a bullfinch that was calling but it decided to keep hidden.  As we walked by the side of the field we disturbed two Red Admirals, would these be the last for the year?

At the of the field path we paused to watch some movement in the Horse Chestnut.  The tree's leaves were riddled with the dead areas caused by the leaf miner moth caterpillar, and as we watched we could see that there were at least three Blue Tits pecking away at the leaves.  I have previously advised on the study that is looking into this behaviour, and this was the first time I had witnessed this behaviour.  Mind you it will take a lot of Blue Tits to help this tree.  The blue tit was very mobile, and it was difficult to get a clear shot, this was the best I could get.

As well as the blue tits, there was also Blackbirds feeding on the hawthorn berries, and a Chiffchaff feeding on flies from the ash trees.

The walk around the road and the farm revealed very little.  We stopped at the gate to check the field.  A Buzzard was on its usual position on the pylon, but I only saw it when it flew from the pylon to the wires.  There were about 50 wood pigeon feeding in the field, and we counted four Yellowhammers on the wires above the road.

The bramble in the hedge alongside the road had some flowers blooming, and we also found this Dog Rose in bloom, with a few drops of water on the petals

It was now early afternoon, but there was still signs of the morning dew, and the rain of yesterday on the leaves in the hedge.  I like this image with the water drops on the branch and the leaves of the dog rose, and if you look closely is that me or Helen in the water drops?

At the junction of Lyeway, and Kitwood I could hear thrushes from the trees.  Scanning around I found several Mistle Thrushes and some Redwings feeding on the berries.  I have read that the berries are not so plentiful this year, and that it is likely to be a hard winter for natural food.  This is early to be seeing thrushes stripping berries from the trees so maybe this it is going to be hard for them this winter.

With the thrushes was a pair of Magpies, you may have noticed that I have not posted any photographs of magpies, mainly because I am under instruction to only photograph two or more, a single is bad luck.  So here at last are a pair at the top of a conifer.

They are beautiful birds, and despite their reputation, which I think is unfair, I love watching them.

We crossed the field towards Old Down, and I was amazed to see a lone female Roe Deer just lying down in the middle of the field, casually looking around.

Rather than walk around the wood we decided to go into the wood and walk around the south perimeter path in search of more fungi.  Over the style, and onto the path and immediately the find of the day, a Fly Agaric Mushroom, probably the mushroom everyone can relate to.  We were really pleased to find this lovely mushroom here in Old Down Wood.

Think of any fairy tale illustration of elves or goblins sitting on or under a toadstool, and most likely the cap of such a fungus will be bright red with white spots.  As the name suggests it was formerly used as an insecticide, with pieces often floated in milk, to intoxicate and kill flies attracted by its aroma.  Most people though would also be aware of the poisonous reputation of the mushroom, although fatal reactions are rare.

Modern research has also shown that the two active ingredients' effect the brain and can inhibit fear and the startle reflex. This would corroborate theories that the ferocious Viking Berserker warriors used fly agaric prior to going into battle, bringing on the uncontrolled rage and fearlessness for which they were renowned.  Regardless it is wonderful to know that they are here in Old Down.

The wood was still very wet, and we quickly made our way out.  As we crossed the field I paused to take another photograph of the four trees along Brislands, that are now beginning to change colour.

In this photograph you can just make out the blue sky to the west, and again Four Marks seems to be just on the edge of the good weather.  The cloud moved west again, and the afternoon became quite dull. 

Coming out on to Gradwell, Helen found the final fungi of the day, this Beech Woodwart.  It starts with this lovely orange colour, and then becomes darker and eventually a black blob.

With evening coming on I took the chance to walk up the road past Plain Farm in the hope of finding owls again.  Once again I was disappointed, and only saw five buzzards and a sparrowhawk.  The hawk was probably interested in what was happening in the fields, and the wires above the hedges.  Linnets and Chaffinches collected on the wires from the field and hedge.

Back at home, the sun finally came out, only though to produce this wonderful October, Four Marks sunset.


  1. Drove up the Meon Valley A32 past you Saturday evening heading to Guildford for a gig and witnessed that wonderful sunset, plus some of the autumn colours in the trees were stunning - enhanced by the low sun:)Also I know its the season to see Jays but this year is a bumper..6 flew over my house last week and I rarely see them around here

    1. The Autumn colours are a little sporadic around here. They look much better along the roads, but I think that is due to the trees being sycamores rather than oak. I had hoped that there might have been some Ring Ouzels moving through, but all I have found are Redwings. No Fieldfare yet though.

    2. Def sycamore colours showing well,some oak are still fairly green - others just on the turn as your pics show. Yes..seen lots of Ring Ouzels on the hants blog. Haven't seen any here or redwing and fieldfare, although I haven't had a proper walk around my patch. In the garden have been migrant blackbirds and song thrush which turns up every year albeit earlier than usual - being quite urban here thrushes are thin on the ground til winter arrives.Weather patterns are looking perfect for winter migrants..keep those eyes peeled!:)

  2. The Grey Puff Ball above looks more like a species of Earth Star to me. I don't think Grey Puff Balls have a skirt and are more likely to occur in clumps. I've come across Earth Stars in Old Down Wood in the past. If it is an Earth Star it's a more exciting find because these are quite scarce.

    1. Simon, thanks for the comments, sorry I am late replying but have been away. My knowledge of fungi like insects is only rudimentary at the moment, birds are my speciality, and the books I had were not extensive enough. I have now acquired the Collins guide, and realsie that some of my previous identifications were flawed. I agree the "puffball" is a collared earthstar, which is exciting. I will now be going back and correcting some of the others curtesy of my new guide! Thanks again

  3. Thanks Chris. I'm no expert either, just have a very good guidebook by Roger Phillips. I've come across much more obvious Earth Stars in Old Down Wood on one of the side tracks that goes through the Blue Bell area and near what to be looks like an abandoned badger set.

    Do you know what the stone markers with Win Coll are? Winchester College?

    1. I haven't been down that path for a while, as it has been too muddy but I will check it out this weekend.

      As for the markers it is for Winchester College, who I believe have ownership. I know they lease the farmland around the area. I have been told at one stage the wood had very restricted access due to the fact that pheasants were bred there, but things seem to be a little more relaxed now. I am though concerned about the behaviour of the farmer of the fields surrounding the wood. I know many people have had run ins over walking dogs, and the recent ploughing of the footpaths and then not replacing them has not happened before.

  4. Thanks for the information Chris. Haven't had any run ins with the farmer yet, but do get a little fed up about the amount of dog mess on the track into the woods. Our child minder lives in Ropley and this evening when I went to pick up the kids up I had a fantastic view of a Barn Owl.

  5. Nice step-by-step tutorial there. Mushroom kits are really the way to go for beginners to get started at growing their own mushrooms at home. psilocybe cubensis syringe


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