Monday, 30 November 2009

Monday 30th.November 2009

After driving to and from Peterborough yesterday in the foulest conditions imaginable , and everyone and his mate on the roads , I was hoping to get out for some fresh air this morning , but yet again , the heavens opened for most of the morning , before brightening , very slightly around lunchtime . That was enough to head off to Down House , to do the Bird Survey , and with any luck , find some of the beautiful Wax Caps on the lawns at the back of the house . Starting off around the grounds , which were absolutely saturated , and in some parts , looking like marshland , the cold Northerly wind was bracing , to say the least .
Birdwise , the gardens around the house were quiet , with just 9 species being recorded here , the only species exceeding a single was the Starling , with a flock of about 25+ flying off as I approached them . I had hoped that the fruit trees in the orchard where I photographed a small flock of Ring Necked Parakeets on my last visit , might hold either Fieldfares or Redwings , but it wasn't to be . Close to that tree though , I did find Clavulina rugosa-Wrinkled Cub , growing

amongst the short grass . The large meadow only contained , Carrion Crow , Magpie , Green Woodpecker , RRParakeet and Woodpigeon , once again , lacking the Winter Thrushes that often are found on the Holly trees around the perimeter . Eventually , I did find a small flock of Redwing in the small woodland between the three meadows , and whilst watching them feed on Holly berries , I noticed a movement lower down at ground level . When I finally managed to get the binoculars on the scene , all I got was the white back end of a minimum of 5 Deer , one a positive stag . They disappeared into the woodland , and I came across a stand of Clitocybe nebularis-Clouded Agaric , darker than usual in the conditions in which they were growing . I recorded Blue , Long Tailed and Great Tit in the woodland , before crossing into the cricket field . As I did so , I disturbed three of the Deer herd , who had taken sanctuary in the field . Two immediately bolted away from me to the far corner , and I could see , now they were out in the open , that they were Roe Deer , all three female . The third went in the other direction , and tried to get back into the woodland , but couldn't initially find the gap in the stockfencing . She did eventually find the gap , without getting too fretful , and disappeared from view . The Cricket field , unusually , was almost devoid of Wax Caps , just a few Meadow , Snowy and an odd Parrot species , broke up the green grass . A small flock of 13 Jackdaws lifted from their perches around the hedgeline , but nothing else was recorded . By the time I got back to the gardens , a dismal 17 species was all that had been recorded , but the lawn behind the house , was sporting a colourful array of Wax Caps , but , not the rare pink species , Hygrocybe calyptraeformis , which I had hoped to find . Unlike the Cricket field , the lawn had good numbers of Hygrocybe coccinea-Scarlet Hood , a real blood red specimen . One specific specimen looked absolutely perfect , and I had to photograph it on it's own . Also amongst the short grass , I found Clavulinopsis corniculata , looking similar to the Golden Spindles that I posted previously .
Leaving Downe , I had to almost pass Keston Ponds , so stopped for a look as the light once again deteriorated . Almost straight away , I found the female Grey Wagtail , and she seemed to be accepting me now , as she came really close , before being frightened off by a passing car . Checking the Mandarin , I counted 7 at the usual roost on the bottom pond and 3 on the middle pond . one out in the middle , and a pair , unusually , out on the bank , but they entered the water and swam to the middle as soon as I got this shot , and I was still a good distance from them . The Mallard type numbers have increased again , and the only other things of interest were , what looked like a family group of 4/5 Bullfinches alongside the middle pond , and a Grey Heron , fishing on the far side of the bottom pond .
Tomorrow it's back to hedgelaying back up on the Greensand Ridge . You never know what might turn up , or not !

Friday, 27 November 2009

Friday 27th.November 2009

I'll be hedgelaying tomorrow , down near the junction of the M25 and M23 , nice quiet spot , and heading up North , well , North of Watford Gap , in what looks like atrocious conditions , visiting family on Sunday , so after doing some chores , headed off after lunch for a look around High Elms Country Park . The sun was out , but it was a much cooler day than yesterday , and by 1430 , it was downright chilly , nothing like those barmey Summer days at Burnt Gorse enjoying the butterflies . After leaving the car park , the thing that struck me most , was the quietness of the woodland . Never great for birdlife , I really struggled to hear/see much today . The best was Gt.Spotted Woodpecker , Mistle Thrush and Fieldfare , but apart from that , a few Corvids , the odd Tit and Finch , and I won't mention the ever present Rose Ringed Parakeets , too late , I have . A few Grey Squirrels , and that was it , so I started looking for fungi , and did much better than with the birds .
Looking more like an outcrop of coral than a fungus , a large specimen of Ramaria stricta was found on a fallen limb of Scots Pine .
After strong winds , is always a good time to find the very delicate Crepidotus variabilis , when it's host is laying on the woodland floor . A very common species , found particularly on dead Beech is Hypoxylon fragiforme . The newer specimens are bright pink , becoming brick red , before blackening . On the edges of the fairways on the golf course , I found 3 species of Wax caps , but , surprisingly not the red species , Hygrocybe coccinea-Scarlet Hood , that I was expecting to find . Snowy Wax Cap-H.nivea and H.ceracea , the yellow species , were found side by side in great abundance .
Fewer specimens of the normally more abundant Meadow Wax Cap-H.pratensis were found .By the side of a tee , close to the car park , I found a really large specimen of Field Blewitt , 35mm film cannister for comparison .The same cannister was dwarfed by the large group of Oyster Mushroom-Pleurotus ostreatus , that I found on a fallen bough , just behind the car park .

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Thursday 26th.November 2009

Today's planned workparty up on the Common , was cancelled last night because of illness and shortage of personnel , so I took the opportunity to visit Leybourne Lakes at New Hythe , on a beautiful , if chilly , sunny morning . On the way down , I planned my 'want list' , Bittern , Firecrest , male Smew , Goldeneye and Redpoll . Five hours later , I made my way back home with the 'want list' still intact . I mustn't complain though , as during the visit , I recorded 41 species , which I was well happy with . As it happened , three quarters of the list were recorded in the first hour or so , followed by long gaps without adding to the list . In order of recording , House Sparrow , Black Headed Gull , Cormorant ,
as soon at went for the camera to take this adult and Juvenile ( on the left with white front ) they started to take off , so from a stand still , the shot became an in flight one . Tufted Duck , Coot , Robin , Woodpigeon , Long Tailed Tit , Wren , Moorhen , Magpie , Mute Swan ,
these two of this year's brood were well on their way to getting their adult plumage , and already seemed to be bigger than the female who was with them , Mallard , Lt. Grebe , Gadwall

( male on the left ) , Common Gull , Goldfinch , Fieldfare ( only 6 recorded ) , Shoveler , Blackbird , Grey Heron , Teal , Blue Tit , Grey Wagtail , Carrion Crow , Great Crested Grebe ,

Chaffinch , Dunnock , Jay , Bullfinch , Shellduck , Pochard ,Redwing ( only a small flock of these too , and very flighty ) , Kestrel , Sparrowhawk , Great Tit , Green Woodpecker , Starling , Greylag Goose , Canada Goose and Chiffchaff , once again , feeding with a mixed Tit flock . When I visited , about this time last year , I found good numbers of Hygrocybe psittacina-Parrot Wax Caps , and this year the show of this fungi was even better . They start off green , like this specimen , but as they age , they become yellow , with a greenish tinge . Also found in the same area were Snowy Wax Caps and just a few Meadow Wax Caps . Another find was this freshly emerged specimen of Shaggy Ink Cap / Lawyer's Wig-Coprinus comatus .
As I said , I didn't get any species on the 'want list' , but I really enjoyed the visit , especially as the sun shone , although I did pass through rain on the way home . Only other sighting of interest , was a very quick glimpse of a Fox , and from it's body language , it was up to no good .
One shot from yesterday , whilst hedgelaying up on the Greensand Ridge . Whilst clearing an area for the brash , left over branches , from the hedge , I noticed some fungi lower down in the sunshine , that turned out to be a troop of 32 specimens of Clitocybe geotropa . These specimens were the biggest in the troop , the middle one being the size of a bread plate . And finally , just for Warren , whilst we were having breakfast this morning , this Jackdaw turned up for his .

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tuesday 24th.November 2009

Unexpectedly , today was the last Dormouse survey of the year . I thought that they had all been done , but I was mistaken , and for those who had thought they had seen the last of little furry things for the year , sorry . The weather forecast was interesting this morning , one TV channel said it would be grey all day , the other said rain all day . If they get their information from the same source , how could they be so different ? Anyway , we set off to do the 50 box site first , not really expecting to find anything , so we were pleasantly surprised when we found a semi torpid male in one of the boxes . He was awake , but not charging around , so making a photograph quite easy . We popped him back into his box once he had been sexed and weighed . About half a dozen boxes further on , the photo opportunity was even easier , with a fully torpid male being found . Interestingly , the two animals were different in colour , this one an almost grey/brown , whereas the previous one was much more of a gingery/brown . The torpid animal started to react to the warmth of my hand , so we quickly returned him to his box as well . Coming towards the end of the 50 boxes , I slid the lid of this particular one , to find an eye looking up at me , it was a Yellow-necked Mouse . It seemed to be of the opinion , that if he kept his head under the leaves , I would not see him . Unfortunately for him , he was evicted from the box and scampered off across the fallen leaves , only to stop some distance away , to check on what exactly was happening , before heading off to look for new accomodation . No other animals were found in the remaining boxes , nor at the other site where there are 20 boxes , but several nests were found , but they were all cold , showing that they were not in use now . Whilst walking through the vegetation , I was surprised to disturb a moth , which flew off a short distance , then settled again on the underside of a leaf . I managed a shot , now all I need is for someone to identify it , please . Driving between the two sites , I spotted a flower on the roadside verge , and stopped . It turned out to be what I always think is the first flower of the new year , even though we haven't finished this one yet . It is Winter Heliotrope-Petasites fragrans , a member of the Daisy family . The flower is very similar to Butterbur-P.hybridus , but this will not be in flower until March , by which time the Winter Heliotrope will be finishing .
Three new fungi were found today , the first , with a great common name , is Amanita Citrina-False Death Cap .
The second , looking very elegant amongst the grass is Panaeolina foeniscii .The third , also amongst the grass , one of the Wax Caps , Hygrocybe nivea-Snowy Wax Cap .And finally , the Boletus that I found last weekend , has now been identified as Boletus queletii .
Many thanks to Ian for his help with the identification .

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday 22nd.November 2009

Weather and visitors meant I didn't get out today , so am just posting a few more NZ shots . Firstly the Paradise Ducks , or Putangitangi in Maouri . Unusually , the male is the dullest of the pair , but still a striking bird . The female , even more striking , with it's white head and even more colourful plumage . As I have said before , the introduced Mynha birds are the 'bully boys' in the garden , sometimes numbering 15/20 , especially when scraps were thrown out . The New Zealand Woodpigeon , was a bird that I never saw on the ground , always seen like this one , high in the Gum Trees , or , secreted amongst the thick vegetation , down by the stream . A few insects found around the garden , included this Weta , looking somewhat like a Cricket . This one , a female , identified by the ovipositor on the end of her abdomen . These insects are nocturnal and this one was prepared to defend itself with those strange hind legs . In amongst the vegetation , I found quite a few juvenile Stick Insects , but I was never fortunate enough to find an adult , although our daughter said she saw the adults quite often . One of the many Spiders found around the house , not surprising as the house is built on sloping land to the back , giving ideal habitat for the Spiders underneath . And finally , one of the Bottlebrush flowers , to which my favourite NZ bird , the Tui , was attracted to each morning for it's breakfast .

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Saturday 21st.November 2009

Only had time for a short visit to Keston Ponds and Common today , but it was an interesting visit . I headed first to check on the Mandarins , 10 roosting on their favourite branches , just above water level , and a single male , looking rather dishevelled , on his own in the open water . It wasn't long before all was explained , as I had arrived whilst he was in the middle of his morning ablutions . Taking no notice of me , he continued , watched by the other two 'Ms' on the pond , Moorhens and Mallard types . I'm sure that sometimes they moved close to him to get their morning shower . He finished off with a 'walking on water moment' , as he seemed to stand on the surface , and with a good flap and a shake , got rid of all the surplus water . I did get a shot of it , but he was so active , it came out very blurred .The middle pond was devoid of any birds , not even the Grey Wagtail , and the top pond held just 2 Moorhen . In fact , very little bird call was heard at all , except for Nuthatch , Great Spotted Woodpecker , a few Corvids and a few Tits . So I headed off looking for fungi , and soon came across what would have been a really good sized Amanita muscaria-Fly Agaric , but someone/thing , had smashed it into three pieces . Almost alongside , was another , just having emerged , but already having been a snack for something . The white sack , that all members of this family emerge from , can be seen clearly in the ground . My next find was a member of the Boletus family , but as yet , I'm not sure which one . As can be seen by the photographs , the stem was as wide as the cap , and on site , I thought it might be Satan's Boletus-Boletus satanas , but on checking up from the reference book at home , it is too late in the year for that particular specimen , I shall keep looking . In all , I found four specimens of the fungi , all had been kicked/pulled from the ground .
On previous posts , I have shown Laccaria amethystea-Amethyst Deceiver , and this is another of the same family , L. laccata-Deceiver . It gets it's name , as it is very variable in appearance , and therefore difficult to recognise at first sight . On the open grassland area , above the ponds , I found Clavulinopsis fusiformis-Golden Spindles , I like it when they look like their common name , and close by , under Beech , Russula atropurpurea-Blackish-purple Russula .
The water from the bottom pond runs off to form the start of the River Ravensbourne , so called I believe , as when the Romans made their camp nearby , Ravens were seen to drink from the small stream . I followed the flow downstream for a short way , passing several small waterfalls , some , like this one , man made , and others formed by tree roots and the like . On the bank sides , in the shaded areas , I found Liverworts , one of the lowest classes of vegetation .