Monday, 30 September 2013

29th September - Some More Pretty Pictures!

Again a promise of sunshine this weekend, but the reality was much different.  There was though an east wind, which I hoped might turn up something.  There had been reports of thousands of Swallows and House Martins along the south coast, but as we set off, there was no sign of wither, even around the house.

Along Lymington Bottom I found this dead dragonfly.  Looking closely the body looks red, and I think this was a Common Darter.  

We left the body on a leaf on the grass, and headed off up Brislands towards the wood.  A Chiffchaff was in full song as we walked past the development land.  We could see it at the top of the bush, but ant effort to photograph it was made impossible as it darted about, finally ending up iside the bush calling instead of singing.

The east wind was quite strong as we walked along the lane in the open, there was no sign of any swallows, but in the field on the south side I could hear meadow pipits, I am not sure if they were passing through, or had taken up residence in the rough ground.

We turned into the wood, and immediately were confronted with calling birds.  There were Blue and Great Tits, but there were also quite a few warblers calling, and with the area now well cleared of the bushes and bracken, it was possible to get close, and be able to see them.  Once again though they were zipping about in the branches catching insects.  I saw at least one lemon yellow Willow Warbler, but the majority were Chiffchaffs like these.

As we walked further down the footpath, a Robin sang from the oaks, it does seem strange with the path now completely clear, but at the same time, tidy, and providing the opportunity to see something.

We turned off the main path, and headed around the north perimeter, the sun was now trying to come through the clouds, and again we came across a large flock of tits.  I could hear blue, great and a marsh, but the dominant calls were from the Long-tailed Tits, there was a large flock calling constantly above us as they moved through the canopy.

The floor of the wood is still very barren, and we were looking for fungi in the leaf litter and on the dead wood.  We passed several old branches with bracket fungus and King Alfred Cakes on them, but Helen found this Beefsteak bracket emerging above a little hole in the ground at the base of an Oak tree.  It looks like a porch roof.

The Beefsteak Fungus is so called because at times it has secretions of red fluid on the cap that looks like little pricks of blood, you can see them here on the edge.

They are a faitly common fungus, typically found on oak trees.

A little further on we found a clump of dead wood, and these little bonnets growing all over them. These are Burgundydrop Bonnets, so called because of the colour of the stipe and cap.  The sun picked them out quite nicely.

We were searching now the leaf litter, and the old stumps, and as you looked closely you began to find more.  These are Angel's Bonnets, not sure why they have inherited that name, it must be to do with their colour, they are are quite small about a centimetre across on the cap.

The main challenge to photographing these lovely organisms is they are almost always in the dark, and as a result I have to increase the ISO to a very grainy high speed.  I suppose I could use flash, but sometimes that produces an over bright image, that doesn't appear natural.  The grainy appearance of these pictures I think preserves the dull conditions the fungi live in.

I wandered off, and was called back as Helen had found some more.  These are tiny Saffrondrop Bonnets.  The stipes look red, but they apparently lighten with age to an orange colour, once again they were very tiny, about the size of a fingernail

We were now exploring an area close to the edge of the wood and the sun was getting through the trees.  On a pile of old birch and beech trees we found these clumps of white fungi in various stages of growth.  The sun was catching the cap and gills, creating a delicate image.

They are Porcelain Fungi, so called because of their appearance looking like fine smooth shiny porcelain.  Getting in closer with the dappled sunlight the porcelain look is very evident

Another find was these Snapping Bonnets, they have long thin winding stipes, finished with a very delicate cap.

Instead of sticking to the path we wandered through the area close to the edge of the wood.  This is an area of hazel and beech trees, and the ground is covered in dead leaves.  I found these very white and round mushrooms at the base of several beech trees, and there were also some just emerging, they being more conical and oval in shape.  On this one the cap has broken away from the stipe to leave a collar.  It was extremely white and smooth on the cap

Fungi this plain are very hard to identify, but reading at home the only conclusion I can reach is that this is a Death Cap, but possibly the variant Alba, which is pure white.  They come in shades of light green and yellow, and white.  It is the most dangerous mushroom in the UK, and is quite commonly found in Beech Woods ion the south.  It is the white form that can confuse people, and they think it an edible mushroom, you can see why, if this is in fact a Death Cap.

I walked out at the West End and scanned the fields.  I did pick up a few Swallows moving, but not that many, we decided to head back into the woods.  The clearing of the main paths had also reached this side of the wood, and what had been quite a dark area was now very open and light.

As we walked along the path we found more bracket fungi on the old tree branches, but there was nothing new.  We also noticed the red marks on the trees, indicating these were the ones to go.  There is a large plantation of Spruce in the middle of the wood, and I was pleased to see that these and some of the trees around them had the red mark.  This will open up a large area in the centre of the wood, and who knows what that will attract next spring

We carried on to the crossroads, noticingthat some of the quite mature Beech Trees were also "marked".  When they are gone it should let in a considerable amount of light, allowing the smaller trees to develop, and also the flowers on the floor of the wood.  As you may recall once the bluebells die back in the spring the floor resembles a war zone with nothing growing.

We turned down towards Old Down Cottage, and again the ride had been cleared.  We found a group of four Speckled Woods around the edge using the sunny patch to duel  and also soak up the warm rays.

The butterflies look a little tatty now, it must have been a hard late summer.  We came out of the wood, and walked past the pond.  The only item of interest there was an Emperor Dragonfly, hawking for insects by the reeds.

At Kitwood we crossed the small paddock, and headed across the field back into Old Down.  At the style we turned right and walked towards Gradwell.  As we reached the exit, the open area was bathed in sunlight.  Looking back you could see the spiders webs drifting in the wind, the silk being lit up by the sunshine

A few Chiffchaffs called as we walked towards Gradwell, but I couldn't find them.  At the end of Gradwell there was a clump of Ivy in full sun.  I stopped to watch a few bees on the flowers, then noticed these two Commas enjoying the sticky nectar too.

As we walked down Brislands towards home, we noticed the huge amount of chestnuts on the Sweet Chestnut trees.  There is bumper harvest this year, and they look quite spectacular. 

 I have noticed that the oak trees too, are also full of acorns, and many of the branches look like they are struggling with the weight.  In fact along Gradwell lane a branch had come down, and the lane is covered in acorns, which were thought to have contributed to the break.  Here are some of the acorns in one of the oaks, but believe me there are loads.

Where the sun was catching the bushes, there were insects, its that time of year as they make the most of the warmth.  It was nice to find a Red Admiral on a bush along Lymington Rise, they are always a lovely find.

I had course today to consider why I write this blog, and what benefit it brings.  Initially we set out to see how many birds I could record in a calendar year around the village, and very quickly that transformed itself into recording all aspects of the natural history around the village, as you can see by today's collection of impressive fungi.  Once the year was completed we decided to keep going, and it has turned into a study of the natural world.  When do the first Swallows arrive, the first bluebells open, are they late this year, what impact does the way the fields are farmed have on the wild life, I am beginning to to put together a record very much in the same way Gilbert White did all those years ago down the road in Selbourne.  

I am fortunate I have the ability to record these events in pictures, and these allow me to confirm what I see, but also for people to share in the finds and beauty.  I know conservation is important, but we all have a role to play, if you don't know its there, then how do you know you have to conserve it?

Finally I wanted to show what is likely to be the last "green" view down Brislands, it won't be long before the sides of the lane turn orange and brown from the leaves, and the trees their dark sleeping state.

Posting this on the 30th, I can record my first Redwings of the autumn, as I left the house this morning I could hear the calls overhead in the cloud.  Earlier than my first last year by eight days, winter is definitely close.

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