Saturday, 30 October 2010

Saturday 30th.October 2010

A busy week , feeling like I was still in full time work . Monday was spent taking down some trees for a local volunteer group , to improve the surroundings of the present pond , and enable enlargement and landscaping .
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent up on the Greensand Ridge , with very little of interest found whilst working . Back in the yard , one of the other Wardens had brought in a large specimen of Hoof Fungus-Fomes fomentarius , which was on a large Beech that had to come down due to decay , making it dangerous to the public . His book gives it the common name Elephant's Foot , and it dwarfed the 35mm. film canister placed for size comparison .
Thursday was spent hedgelaying with the Surrey Group , unusually in the week , at a school near Cheam .
Carol had booked me on Friday to help her with some more heavy work in the garden . Two trips to the tip with branches too big to go through the shredder , did give the opportunity to have a quick look in at South Norwood Country Park , but here too , things were very quiet .
Half a dozen Shoveller on the lake , were the only out of the ordinary sighting , and the only excitement was when the local Carrion Crows decided en mass , to escort a Grey Heron to the other side of the Parish boundary .
This morning , I headed up on West Wickham Common in brilliant sunshine , but still very wet underfoot , from last night's rain . Still a good amount of fungi around , with White Helvella well outnumbering it's Black relation . Still very few Boletes around , and those that were had been eaten or damaged . Some interesting ones found were :

Mycena vitilis , growing out of small fallen Beech twig ,Oyster Mushroom-Pleurotus ostreatus , on a fallen Silver Birch ,and every now and again , Macrotyphula fistulosa , a very simple elongated spindle . Several noisy Jays and a good sized mixed Tit flock , which contained at least one Goldcrest passed through the dense stands of Holly . The most unusual sighting though , was what I first thought was a moth fluttering about some Bracken , till it settled , when I could see it was a very late Speckled Wood . Surprisingly , given the recent overnight frosts , I also saw a couple of Hoverflies . No sooner had I photographed the Speckled Wood , things went very dark overhead , and as I made my way back to the car , I got a good soaking . After lunch , with blue skies again , I went for a walk in the local wood , which is basically a local dog's toilet . It is mainly Sweet Chestnut which is coppiced in areas at varying times . I find very little fungi around Sweet Chestnut so headed for a small stand of Larch in the middle , an area where the Sparrowhawk often sites it's nest . Even here the fungi was hard to find , but I found a few of interest :Yellow-Cracking Bolete-Leccinum crocipodium ,deep in the leaf litter , Grey Coral Fungus-Clavulina cinerea ,and with more showing every day , the older Stag's Horn/Candle-Snuff Fungus-Xylaria hypoxylon , is really living up to it's first common name . Once again , the weather closed in , and heading home , I got soaked for a second time .

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday 24th. October 2010

Feeling ashamed how often a certain Blogger takes his good lady out , I decided last night to take my good lady , Carol , out for a run today , mentioning to her an early start , and dropping 'an airport' into the conservation . At 6.30 , still with the stars shining , we set off across south London from East to West . A journey that I do not like doing , but of necessity today .
An hour or so later , after getting lost a couple of times , we turned into one of the car parks at Richmond Park . The sun was low in the sky , frost still on the ground , and within 15 minutes , the first Red Deer was sighted , a large stag .
Also around , a few hinds too .
Fallow Deer are present too , these two rutting on the frosted grass .The sound of Geese , as two of three Egyptian Geese , looking quite exotic in flight , flew over the gathered herds .In the bracken higher up on the slope , I found this tired looking stag , and wondered if he was the dominant force last season , but had been usurped by one of the younger challengers .
Further in the bracken were several hinds feeding , and this young stag , who will not be challenging for a few years yet .
I have often posted that I have come across Rose Ringed Parakeets in varying numbers , but today was unbelievable . Everywhere in the Park , their calling filled the air and at one point a distant 'cloud' in the blue sky , which I thought were Starlings , turned out to be a loose flock of somewhere between 75/100 RRPs . This shot shows just a small part of the flock as it got nearer , and louder . Two were already looking for nest sites on a gnarled old trunk .Before a Carrion Crow arrived above them , probably declaring that he was here first .
When he departed , the RRPs returned to the tree in numbers .
Nearby , under a stand of Oaks , a Jay was collecting Autumn's harvest ,

before stashing them away under some dried grass , but will it remember where it put them ?
Heading down from the higher ground , several more stags and hinds were found chilling out .
and the local Jackdaws were helping out with the grooming , and getting breakfast too .Heading back to the car , several hinds were seen , still suckling last years young .The dominant male was keeping his harem together and any challengers at bay , by the odd bout of bellowing and a half hearted charge if anyone got too near . Speaking to a local dog walker , he hadn't sen any rutting amongst the Red Deer for 7/10 days , so a diary reminder to visit earlier next year .
The journey home was not quite as bad as the one going , but I was glad to get back where I know where I'm going .
Oh , nearly forgot , the reference to 'an airport' ? Well , the Park is right under the flightpath for Heathrow , and every 2 minutes or so , one of these or similar , passed overhead at about 500ft .
Carol has forgiven me , and actually said that she enjoyed the trip , even if unpacking the four suitcases would take most of the rest of the day .

Friday, 22 October 2010

Friday 22nd. October 2010

A week on , and in better weather conditions , I decided to re-visit Knoll Park , for two reasons .
Firstly , to see how the rutting season was progressing and secondly , to make sure I had seen Devil's Fingers at the site , as a fellow volunteer from the Common visited with directions , and although finding the GPS co-ordinates that I gave him , did not find the fungi .
Arriving in beautiful sunshine , and before getting out of the car , it was obvious from the amount
bellowing , that things had indeed moved on since last Friday . As I walked up to the copse of Sweet Chestnut at the top of the rise , some faces were familiar in their pits around the perimeter . Different from my last visit were the numbers of really young males , keeping themselves away from the older males , but probably getting a feel for the rut . In all , there must have been 25+ males within a 25mtr. circle of the Sweet Chestnut copse . So it was obvious that that number of males about , trouble would break out , which it did almost at once . Sometimes it was straight forward head to head , and sometimes it involved a referee . The nearby car park was not out of bounds either , and it was fortunate that not many visitors had arrived at this time . As well as the males , there were 65/75 females in and around the area , and the dominant male had by far the largest harem . There were still the four top stags , each with their pits right on the edge of the copse , and directly opposite the dominant stag was his biggest rival , No.2. , but to begin with , apart from bellowing , there was no trouble amongst the top 4 .
Part of the dominant male's gameplan was to keep threats at bay and keep his harem intact by deliberately strutting like an Austrian white horse that I have seen on the television . But , the peace didn't last too long , before the dominant male and No.3 . , pitted just to the right of him , decided that some sorting out was needed , and down went the heads to an almighty crash . It was very noticeable though , that when the 4 main contenders did lock horns , it was more of a 'handbags' job compared to the two that fought down and into the car park .
It was also obvious that the bellowing , strutting and coralling , was taking it's toll on the dominant male , and when he could , he took a time out to recover his strength , before starting all over again .But , at the end of the day , all that hard work gets it's rewards , when the victor gets his spoils .
For others , it was a mater of , forget about this year , take it out on the nearest tree , things will be better for me next year .And the Devil's Fingers ? Yes they are still there . Three fully out , and the one above , with the fingers just about to emerge .

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wednesday 20th. October 2010

The clear blue sky and promise of sunshine all day , had me heading out early , not knowing exactly where . En route , I decided on RSPB Elmley , and arrived on site , still with the blue sky and sunshine , but also a very fresh cold wind , whipping across the site .
The journey along the track to the car park was almost like driving through a cemetery . Just one or two Lapwings , a long distance sighting of a Marsh Harrier , a fleeting glimpse of a Green Sandpiper , a few Meadow Pipits and a startled juvenile Grey Heron that lifted noisily out of a ditch was as good as it got . Three Swallows were hawking around the car park and in the fields behind , once again at distance , anything between 100/150 Curlew , driven on land by the full tide . With such a poor start , I decided not to walk down to the hides , and slowly returned back down the track . Not much difference , until a female Kestrel , aided by the wind , sped just in front of the car and hovered . Seeming to have sighted something , dropped lower .
eventually dropping onto the grass , and mantling the area with her wings . I expected her to fly off with her meal , but she had obviously missed her target , and looked quite bemused as to what had gone wrong . Disconsolate , she flew off to find another target .
As I approached a bend with a ditch , I could make out birds on the far bank of the ditch , but it wasn't till I got closer , that I could identify them as Grey Partridge . I approached as close as I could , then waited for them to come closer , which they did .Never stopping looking for food , they came over the bank and settled in the lee of the bank to preen and rest .
At least one of the party was a male , identified by the bold chestnut horseshoe on his belly . It was in the same area where I had a pair along the track 2/3 years ago .Whilst photographing the Grey Partridge , a bird flew through the viewfinder and came to rest at the top of the bank . The first of two Wheatears found within 100 metres of each other .The second was on a gate post on the next bend in the track .Just beyond the same bend was the closest Curlew seen , and on it's own .As I moved off from the Curlew , I put up three Skylarks , and managed to get one in flight .Almost back at the road , this Greylag Goose was taking a nap ,and one of very few Rabbits seen , was enjoying the sun , whilst keeping out of that wind .
I then made the usual trip to Capel Fleet , but if I thought it was quiet at Elmley , the Fleet beat it hands down . Not a single bird along the wires , a distant Marsh Harrier and Kestrel was it , all the way to the Ferry Boat Inn . There were a good few Little Egrets on the saltmarsh below the Inn and an occasional Corvid , but my hoped for Winter Thrushes on the berry laden hedges along the lanes , did not materialise . Approaching the Fleet on my return , a family of Mute Swans emerged from a reedbed and took off . I only managed to get a shot of two of the four juveniles . But whilst stooped on the bend , a flash of white rump landed on a fence post , not far in front of me . My third Wheatear of the day was followed by the fourth , amongst the Sheep as I climbed the hill away from the Fleet on my way home .