Friday, September 30, 2011

Early one morning

Tuesday was a hard day. I walked up to the RSPB HQ at The Lodge. It's a tough commute but someone has to do it.

Although the weather turned out hot and sunny later, the early morning in this part of the world was foggy and damp. The heath was shrouded in a misty, dewy coat.

The myriad spiders' webs on the heather were all dewy and lovely.
Common storksbill (Erodium cicutarium) is still flowering in the sandy ground on the path. 
You can see the long seed pods behind. They resemble the long bills of birds; storks in this case, or maybe not? Storksbill is in the Geranium family. According to Wikipedia Erodium is from the Greek erodios meaning 'heron'. Geranium is derived from the Greek word geranos meaning 'crane', and Pelargonium (also in the Geranium family) is from the Greek pelargos, meaning 'stork'. So storksbill is in fact, more correctly, called heronsbill.

Yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) was also adding a splash of colour.
A few shaggy mushrooms were growing in the heather and on the path.
And this weird and wonderful furry, fuzzy yellow polypore is, I am pretty sure, a dyer's mazegill (Phaeolus schweintzii). It was growing at the base of a larch (Larix decidua). It was apparently (and one could guess from the name) used for dyeing wool.
I made my way past the log pile....
...the cherry leaves added some autumnal colour.
The Lodge house was just coming to life, with people arriving for work. 
The gorgeous blue atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica glauca) which you can see to the left of the photo above and here below....
...was putting on quite a sexy autumn show with its branches festooned with male catkins.... 
...standing upright and proud.
In the afternoon I walked home via the new heath over towards the Iron Age hillfort. The views off the ridge here are fine. 
I found some floral dainties by the path. The beautiful heath speedwell (Veronica officinalis).
And here, a real treat, trailing St John's wort (Hypericum  humifusum). Scrumptious!
I can't post a blog without the mushroom of the moment making an appearance. Fly agaric is everywhere. A youngster forcing its way through the sandy soil.
A mature specimen looking dazzlingly spicy (and reflective - apologies for that!). But that colour!
And (a photo I took in the morning) after the dazzle and razzle.......
I passed some sweet chestnut trees (Castanea sativa). 
Thank you so much to the Romans for introducing this tree to Britain. With very little effort I procured a modest harvest.
Very tasty!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Fun Girl Foray: Part Two

This post continues my recent fungal foray round the RSPB Lodge nature reserve (Part One is here). If you don't like Amanita muscaria, well, I'd stop reading now. As I said in my previous post, I am not a fungal expert and have put up these photos just to show the variety I managed to find on even a short foray. In nature's infinite book of fungal secrets, only a little I can read.

My last post finished at the lower end of the RSPB heathland (at GR TL 19423 47837). I'm pretty sure this is a common earthball (Scleroderma citrinum). I hope I got that one right. It's nestling amongst pine bark debris, sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) seedling.

And some more earthballs, larger this time, under the Scots pine trees.
Boletes again? 
Here's a view looking across the heathland. The colours are glorious. On days like this when there is no-one else about it feels like my private nature reserve. 
The old stumps are festooned with lichens.
Growing under the birch trees, I think this pretty-in-pale-pink mushroom has a Degas-esque quality.
A curious bracket fungus on an old birch stump. Update: Most likely to be birch polypore or razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus). Thanks to Abbey Meadows for suggestion. I can see a nose and an ear....
Yay! My favourite fungi! It's so outrageously opulent in the otherwise subdued brown leaf litter. Here's a fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).
I believe that Amanita is from a Greek word for mushroom. Muscaria (from the Latin for fly) refers to the use of the mushroom as a fly deterrent. In his 13th century 'De VegetabilisAlbertus Magnus writes 'vocatur fungus muscarum, eo quod in lacte pulverizatus interficit muscas'. A translation of this (from Wikipedia) runs thusly...'It is called the mushroom of flies, because crushed in milk it kills flies'.

Here is another, older Amanita looking rather like a crème brûlée spinkled with nuts.

This dark, flakey-topped mushroom was growing under some pine and birch trees. 
Almost a bagel? (The little fly is well camouflaged.) Update: identified as brown roll rim (Paxillus involutus). Thanks to Abbey Meadows :-)
This looks like a Russula.
As I was nearing the Gatehouse (the RSPB shop and main entrance to the reserve) there were fly agarics scattered all through the birchwoods to the left of the main drive. 
Agarics wear petticoats. This one, growing right against an old birch tree, was more forward than most in coquettishly revealing her underskirts..... 
...and made me think of Toulouse-Lautrec's La Troupe de Mlle Eglantine (here from Wikipedia).
Fly agaric mushrooms contain potent psychoactive, hallucinogenic chemicals (mainly muscimol). That doesn't seem to bother this ladybird.
They are just so lavish and beautiful. I love this time of year.
This little button was just pushing its way out of the damp earth. 
I walked home via the new heath under blue skies.
There's a short cut to Sandy through this gate and down the hill. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Fun Girl Foray: Part One

What better way to spend a late September afternoon than on a fungal foray around the RSPB Lodge nature reserve? Perhaps it might have been enhanced if I'd taken a fungi id book with me and my glasses. Slight oversights which left me floundering a bit at times. To be honest, I'm out of my depth identifying anything but the most common, recognisable fungi, so have mostly put up photos here to show the variety I found even sans my glasses.

The back way into The Lodge. Down a quiet lane.

A red admiral was very obliging.
The back gate is flanked by 2 old stone pillars, part of the old Peel estate wall. The Peel family (namely Sir William Peel, then on his death his brother Sir Arthur Wellesey Peel, both sons of Sir Robert Peel), owned the estate from 1851 to 1934.
The estate was then purchased by Sir Malcolm Stewart of the London Brick Company. The RSPB bought it for its new headquarters in 1961. 
The Lodge reserve is situated on the greensand ridge. The reserve is heathland and acid grassland, with deciduous and coniferous woodland. A real treat to have such a lovely site a short stroll from home.
Heathland is a rare habitat round here and the RSPB are taking steps to restore large areas to heath to encourage birds such as nightjars (worth popping to this link to hear a nightjar call) and provide more habitat for the resident natterjack toads (call here). Even though the heather is just past its best it looks fine in the autumn sunshine. (The white patch is a Cladonia lichen, forgive me for not knowing its name.)
There's a path leading round the bottom edge of the heathland. I often have the place to myself in the afternoon and evening. I'm not complaining. It's very sandy as you can see with heather (Calluna vulgaris), Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) and birch (Betula pendula).
I found a few heather bushes still in flower.
And underneath some heather, at first I'd though someone had thrown away their lunch, this shiny brown sticky-bun-like mushroom. A bolete I think?
I wondered if it was a penny bun (Boletes edulis)?
Around an old stump were some yellowy browny mushrooms. I wondered if it was honey fungus?
The ground was a mass of pine needles and cones. The air smelt of pines. 
This delicate mushroom (about 2 inches across) was growing at the lower end of the reserve.
I noticed this patch of yellow dust on the dead bracken.
This perky little fella was coming up through the bracken debris. Another bolete?
And this wee one (same species?) with a lovely smooth silky top. 
This dainty little mushroom was only the size of a 10p piece.
This distinctive bolete (?) had been uprooted and was lying unceremoniously discarded in a pile of pine chippings.
And this one I think I now know thanks to Abbey Meadows, is sepia bolete (Boletus porosporus)
The cute halberd-shaped leaves of sheep's sorrel (Rumex acetosella) were growing amongst the pine needles and wood chippings. 
May I state now for the record that no fungi were damaged during the writing of this blog.

Part Two to follow. Update: here is Part Two.

Any help with id most gratefully received.
And for the record I don't intend to pick or eat any fungi.