Friday, 15 October 2010

Friday 15th.October 2010

At last , I could go to search for the rare fungi , Clathrus archeri-Devil's Fingers/Octopus Stinkhorn at Knoll Park in Sevenoaks . I drove in and out of rain on the way there , and the overcast skies said that there would be no sun today .
I parked up at the back of the Park , and walked across the Golf Course towards the house , and the area that the fungi had been found . The Park contains large numbers of Deer , and on the way , I came across this very dark Fallow stag on the other side of a valley , chasing the females , bellowing , and getting absolutely nowhere with the ladies .
Talking ladies , I passed this female Sika Deer , like the Fallow , introduced , but this one from Asia . With the house in sight , a male Sika Deer crossed in front of me , showing the much smaller antlers of this species .
Before I reached the house , I could hear much bellowing coming from the high ground beyond the car park , and went to investigate . By far the deepest and loudest of the bellowing was emanating from the animal which I presume was the dominant male , as he held the highest ground with the small copse , and he had 25/30 females in his harem , all feeding on the fallen Sweet Chestnuts fallen from the trees that formed the copse . On the house side of the copse were several other males , some , waiting and watching , others trying to out bellow the dominant stag . All around the copse , there were pits , some were occupied , but most were empty . What struck me about all the males , was the muscle that had obviously been built up in the neck , for this particular time of year . I watched the goings on , along with two other chaps with cameras , but apart from the bellowing and the odd charge from the dominant stag when another male got too close , not much was happening . I decided to continue with my search for the fungi . I soon found the bank under a large Beech tree , just as it was described and I started looking . To be honest , when I did find the first specimens , I was a bit deflated , as two had passed their best , one had been removed from the ground and a couple had been trampled , either by person or most likely , the Deer . Anyway , I got a shot of the best specimen , the fingers having collapsed rather than looking as if they were stretching out of the ground . The black areas on fingers are slimy and contain the spores , which are carried off on the legs of Flies . At least the smell is less repulsive than the Stinkhorn's . Like the Stinkhorn-Phallus impudicus , the fungi erupts out of an egg-like sack , and I found a few that were yet to erupt , and a single specimen , where the egg had opened , and the fingers could be seen inside , the first time I have seen this . Having got my shots , I headed back to the copse , arriving on the other side this time . All seemed the same until two of the males from the outer circle of pits met , no more than 15 metres from where I was watching , sitting on a fallen tree . It started with a lot of strutting and very deliberate high held heads . This was followed by continuous bellowing from the pair , which seemed to get every other stag in the vicinity joining in , including the dominant male . I took my eye of the pair to watch some of the others , when a crashing sound brought them back into focus , as they started fighting , right in front of me . I looked around , and I was the only person there . The fighting was interspersed with short periods of strutting and bellowing , and went on for some 4/5 minutes in total , at the end of which , it stopped as quickly as it started . The fighting pair eventually ambled down the hill , the dominant male took up his
position in his pit , just outside the copse , and everyone seemed to settle down for a snooze . During the disturbance , the females departed in ones and twos , and after all the strutting , chasing and bellowing to keep his harem , there were just 4 left when I took my leave , following them down the hill .
Heading back across the Golf Course , a few items of interest :Tormentil-Potentilla erecta , was one of the few things in the grass .Along with small groups of Meadow Wax Cap-Hygrocybe pratensis ,and the odd Scarlet Hood-Hygrocybe coccinea .
Very disappointing for birds , with just Corvids , Robin , Chaffinch and absolutely loads of Rose Ringed Parakeets screeching all over the place . Not surprising , as the many old damaged Sweet Chestnut trees provide ideal nesting sites , and the nuts provide food at this time of year . Still no sign of a Winter Thrush , I was sure I would get one today .
On the way home , I stopped off at Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve , but as I am coppicing tomorrow , I'll write that up tomorrow evening .


Warren Baker said...

Wierd looking things those devils fingers greenie !

I reckon you'll hear a Fieldfare while you're working tomorrow :-)

By the way the Dragonfly talk was all you said it would be - very informative

Phil said...

Great post Greenie!
Had me on the edge of my seat. And all taking place in the middle of Sevenoaks!!

ShySongbird said...

Quite an experience with the deer, Greenie, a very impressive display! Great photos of it too.

The Devil's Fingers fungi really is odd looking! You certainly manage to bring us some unusual things :)

A most enjoyable post.