Thursday, 31 October 2013


Yesterday I arranged to meet Keith, at silly o'clock (it was still dark!), in the car park at Wilstone, one of our local reservoirs.

Our quest? to see if we could locate the American vagrant that had been giving good sightings over the last few days...A female Ring-Necked Duck (aythya collaris)    Did we see it?  Eventually yes...sort of, but not until a grown up birder with a big spotting scope had pointed it out to us, it was quite distant!

In case you don't know what a Ring-Necked Duck looks like, here's a picture of it!

After the excitement of seeing 'the duck' we set off to walk around the rest of the reservoir.  After walking for about fifteen minutes it suddenly hit me that I no longer had the back pack, containing the wide angle and macro lenses that I usually carry around with me!  A quick rewind and I came to the conclusion that I'd left it in the bird hide, unloading my camera and bins onto Keith I set off to hopefully retrieve my belongings. Now, have you seen that funny walk  people do when they're in a hurry? .....two or three quick steps followed by a funny sort of  straight legged jogging then a few more quick steps, add in some muddy tracks and grassy banks...get the picture? I even passed two lycra clad young ladies that were out jogging/ walking their dogs (okay...okay...they'd stopped for a chinwag)  back at the deserted hide, there was my bag, exactly where I'd left it.  I shouldn't have worried, it was still early and any sensible birders were still in bed!!

It was a rather slower walk that I took to catch  back up with Keith!...the rest of our journey around the reservoir was rather less eventful, save for a quick glimpse or a long staying Water Pipit and a close flyby of some Greylag Geese that were returning to the water after feeding out in the nearby fields.

Our next stop was College Lake, just a few minute's drive away, where we were hoping to see the (three?) Jack Snipe that had been reported as showing well the previous evening. As we walked the circuit of the lake we stopped off at the various Jack Snipe to be seen though!

There were quite a few Common Darter dragonflies about along the footpaths, this female decided to have a little game of hide-and-seek with me.

At one end of the lake there is a large area covered in rough grass and small trees/shrubs and it's always a good spot for seeing Kestrels, Red Kites and Buzzards. It wasn't long before we were treated to a graceful/lazy flyover by this Buzzard.

Soon we heard the angry  kaar, kaar call of a Rook, it didn't take long to spot what all the noise was about, up in the sky above and, slowly drifting towards us, was a female Kestrel being harried by a rather persistent  Rook.

This went on above our heads for quite a while before the Kestrel  decided she had had enough and made a graceful exit.

There was one final hide to visit in the hope of seeing those Jack Snipe, although we did managed to spot four or five Snipe none of them were Jack Snipe. In other words we'd experienced what grown up birders call a 'dip' (or they've dipped) when time is spent looking unsuccessfully for their target bird.     And we'd just dipped...a big fat dip!!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Yes, it's fungi time again!     I always look forward to this time of year when I can get out into the woods in search of these colourful curiosities.

Let me set the scene.....Landscape photographers do it with wide angle lenses and tripods whilst standing and staring, misty eyed, into infinity....Bird photographers do it with mega long lenses whilst sat in a warm and comfortable hide(?)....Fungi photographers do it with macro lenses, bean bags, flash guns, cable releases and reflectors whilst crawling around on all fours, in the darkest and wettest corners of the woods, their arse in the air and their nose almost buried in the smelly, dirty and rotting leaf litter!

Here is a selection of images taken on a couple of recent visits I made to my local woods.

Yellow Stagshorn  (calocera cornea)   Grows in clusters up to 8cm (3in) tall on dead conifer wood.

Shaggy Parasol  (macrolepiota mastoiea)   Can be seen growing in woodlands, parks and gardens. The cap can grow up to 18cm (7in) in diameter.

Verdigris Agaric  (stropharia aeruginosa)   These start off with a blue-green coloured convex and slimy cap that, with age, flattens out to around 8cm (3in) in diameter and develops the yellowish patches as shown here.  Grows to around 10cm (4in) tall and can be found in wooded areas, parklands and gardens. In one of my reference books under the heading that says if its edible or not says...poisonous (probably)...are there any volunteers out there willing to clarify the situation?

Common Funnel  (clitocybe gibba)  With a cap diameter and a height of around 8cm (3in) this, as the name suggests, is one of the most commonly found funnels, in deciduous woodland and grassy areas.

Lilac Bonnet  (mycena pura)  This fungi is very variable in size and colour and this is possibly the pink form (mycena rosea) it crows to about 8cm (3in) tall with a cap measuring 5cm (2in) diameter. Grows in mixed woodland but is mostly associated with Beech.

Rooting Shank  (xerula radicata)  This 20cm (8in) tall early fruiting Shank is very deep rooted and has a cap diameter of 10cm (4in) It grows on buried wood.

Rufous Milkcap  (lactarius rufus)  this is one of the large family of Milkcaps that derive their name from the way that their cap and gills exude a milky looking (the colour varies between species)  type of latex when damaged.  8cm (3in) tall with a cap diameter of 10cm (4in) this particular Milkcap is closely associated with acid conifer woods. 

Burgundydrop Bonnet  (mycena haematopus)  When damaged or broken this Bonnet releases a red coloured liquid, hence the name. It grows to around 7cm (3in) high with a 4cm (1 1/2in) diameter cap that starts off conical and then develops into a flatter bell shape. Grows on decayed deciduous wood.

Sticky Scalycap  (pholiota gummosa)  15cm (6in) tall with a 10cm (4in) diameter flattened cap. Grows in clusters, this small cluster was part of a large ring, on decayed or buried wood of deciduous trees.

Chestnut Dapperling  (lepiota castanea)  A small Dapperling with a distinctive colour, The 5cm (2in) diameter cap starts off conical and gradually flattens out.  Grows to a height of around 5cm (2in) in deciduous woods. It is deadly poisonous causing liver and kidney damage if ingested.

Candlesnuff Fungus  (xylaria hypoxylon) This very common fungus can be found year round growing on the dead wood of broadleaved trees. It gets its name by the fact that its appearance resembles a burnt candle wick. The fruiting body grows up to 6cm (2 1/2in) high.

Common Puffball  (lycoperdon perlatum)  The distinctive apical pore, the dark coloured circular patch on the top, helps separate this from other similar puffballs. Grows to around 9cm (3 1/2in) tall and is very common in most woodland. The body is pear shaped with a thick, stumpy stalk; white when young (as here) and covered with conical spines that are slowly discarded as it turns brown with age.

Angel's Bonnet  (mycena arcangeliana)  This  greyish-yellow bonnet, that gives of a smell similar to that of iodine, grows to around 7cm (3in) tall with a cap, that starts off conical then becomes bell-shaped, of around 5cm (2in) diameter. It grows in clusters, sometimes large, on decaying deciduous wood, typically Beech or Ash.

** As we know mother nature often doesn't conform to the shape, colour and size that is prescribed to the things that we find around us, taking this into account the above ID's are accurate to the best of my ability, I'm a long way off from being an expert!  So, if anyone thinks that I may have got something wrong or has more accurate knowledge  please feel free,  your comments would be much appreciated...I won't be upset...honest!!