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 .
3 hours ago