Nature Notes #55 ‘Fungal Jungle (Part 2)’

06-10-16-earthstar-hale-woods-dave-stewart-2

20-12-15-earthstar-delamere-forest-bill-morton-6I have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to fungi. I always have since I discovered an antique green coloured spotted Verdigris toadstool when I was a kid and ever since whenever the opportunity comes along I’ll take a peep or photograph them. I consider myself an enthusiastic spotter of fungi rather than a mycologist ( I’ll leave all the expert stuff to Fungal Dave).

September – October starts the puffball rolling and with the arrival of autumn comes a time of plenty, beneath the berry laden hedgerows, hidden in fields and scattered in the leaf litter of a woodland floor are the fungi families and a life form which is more tuned to us humans than they are to plant life. I try my best to identify what I can and as a rule I generally don’t rely on posting any photographs to forums or online experts of the fungal species which I find. If I make a mistake with identifying them it’s my mistake and an added opportunity to learn from it.

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What fascinates me about fungi is the variety of species from slime moulds through to the intricately structured ornate species and the variety of habitats they occupy plus they come in some weird shapes, colours and wonderful forms.

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Where are the best places to get to see them and when. The best place I know to see fungi is without doubt Delamere Forest although examples can be found anywhere. The growth in the use of wood chippings from garden centres has increased the dispersal of some species. I’ve found earthstars, stinkhorns and milkcaps in weird places and well away from their usual habitat. Local Nature Reserves are a good source of spotting toadstools/mushrooms. One particular site close to me is Runcorn Hill and its declining heathland and its mixed deciduous woodland. Keep a lookout for fruiting Fly Agaric and with the mild weather conditions I would expect to be seeing them well into December.

Images 1 & 5 Dave Stewart and images 2-4 WSM.

05.10.16. Birdlog

05-10-16-mediterreanean-gull-adult-winter-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-3I had an hour to burn up after work so I decided I’d flog the pinata that is my patch on Frodsham Marsh. After taking a peek over the mitigation there was a return to form with birdvoid. So, I retraced my steps to look over No.6 tank. It was surprising to find that the muddy margins of the open water was also absent of any birds?

05-10-16-mediterreanean-gull-adult-winter-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-7However, the open water was littered with upward of 1000 Black-headed Gull and hidden in their throng was a smart-looking adult winter Mediterranean Gull. At least something to salvage from my saunter to the marsh this evening. Small flocks of these gulls drifted off inland and included the Med Gull. I followed their course and found where they were heading for. A ploughed field at the junction of Moorditch and Lordship Lanes, the field must have been ploughed earlier in the day because it also attracted 100 Lapwing, 8 Ruff and of course the gulls.

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A couple of Chiffchaff were calling from the reedy ditches on No.5 tank but I’m still optimistic about another phylloscopus spp here before these easterly winds change direction. There was a obvious movement of thrushes with both Mistle Thrush and Blackbird present.

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05-10-16-blackbird-and-rowan-berries-yardinere-bill-morton-3Observer and images: WSM.

03 & 04.10.16. Birdlog

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03.10.16. Birdlog

With all those Yellow-browed Warblers basically dropping out of the trees from Pickerings Pasture out to the furthest reaches of ‘Old Cheshire’ on the Wirral, I foolishly and with a little expectation scoured the lanes from Brook Furlong to Redwall reed bed., Then after drawing a blank I continued along Moorditch Lane out to the upper reaches of No.3 tank and with a couple of Chiffchaff, a solitary Goldcrest and a small flock of Long-tailed Tit later I was losing the will to continue. If we’re going to see a YbW on the marsh then it will have to do so by chance…I’m giving up chases shadows.

Apart from my fool’s errand I did get a chance to pop by head over the banks of No.6 tank and saw the juvenile Curlew Sandpiper joining up with 5 Ruff and the usual ducks which appeared to lack any counts of Wigeon?

Observer: WSM.

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04.10.16. Birdlog

04-10-16-common-snipe-frodsham-marsh-tony-broome-3I decided to try for Yellow-browed Warblers along Brook Furlong Lane and headed down there early via the coffee shop as usual. I was heartened to see the first Redwing fly over calling as I walked back to the car. The wind was a fresh SE2-3 and the sky clear blue. Surely the marsh would give up something. After all, we were in the middle of one of the biggest eastern vagrant periods in recent years with hundreds of Yellow-browed’s throughout the country. I parked up at the old log and got ready for a short vigil whilst sipping the coffee. A trickle of Meadow Pipit and the odd alba Wagtail went over calling high up, heading south. Two Swallow hugged the tree tops as they too headed for warmer climes. I wandered down towards Redwall reed bed and the field below the log, straining my ears for the high-pitched call that would give away the position of a Yellow-browed Warbler, but despite straining really hard, there were none to be found, despite Hale and Pickerings boasting birds on the other side of the Mersey for their second day.

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There were a few bits and pieces around. 4 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, an immature Marsh Harrier and 8 Common Snipe, two of which flew over eastwards, the rest flushed from the wet field. Interestingly the photos of the birds showed one with a very pale underwing and one with a dark, heavily barred underwing. Anyway, pressed for time, I headed off back up the M56… but like Arnie, I’ll be back!

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

02.10.16. Birdlog

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02-10-16-weaver-estuary-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-7After missing out on the Black-necked Grebes on the River Weaver yesterday I took the early morning opportunity to get a second chance. Walking along the edge of the field below the south banks of No.1 tank passing Redwall reedbed and climbing up the dewy laden banks of the Weaver Causeway I was greeted by an almost mirror-like river. If the grebes were to be found then I wouldn’t have any difficulties in seeing them…Unfortunately they were not available for a viewing and apart from a few Great Crested and Little Grebe…I drew a blank. Anyway, such is birding, you either connect or you don’t!

The best part of looking out across the river in the early morning was the fine light and images I managed to achieve with my box brownie digital compact.

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I eventually made my way over to No.6 tank where a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was feeding closely along the edge of the muddy margins. my time birding was limited so AC took over for the rest of the day.

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Observer: WSM (images 1-4 & 6).

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02-10-16-curlew-sandpiper-juv-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-cheshire-bill-morton-7I started this morning with a watch from the corner of tanks 3, 5 & 6. A quick look over No. 6 revealed 7 Pink-footed Goose which flew off to the south. Over the next two hours there was a small movement of birds with 36 alba Wagtail, 22 Meadow Pipit, 21 Skylark and 5 Reed Bunting heading south and a flock of 38 Pink-footed Goose flew north. Also seen during this period were the female Marsh Harrier, a female Merlin, a Sparrowhawk, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Golden Plover and a Great White Egret flew up from Frodsham Score with 5 Little Egret. In the nearby trees were a Cetti’s Warbler, 2 Goldcrest and a Chiffchaff.

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02-10-16-marsh-harrier-frodsham-marsh-alyn-chambersAt midday a juvenile Little Stint was briefly on the mitigation area before moving on. No. 6 tank held 7 Curlew Sandpiper, 15 Ruff, 20 Little Grebe and a Great Crested Grebe.

Observer: Alyn Chambers (images 5 & 7-8).

On the lane opposite the Pump House going towards Kemira woods. I stopped briefly when I spotted a Hare and then noticed a Wheatear on the verge.

Observer: Ron Brumby.

01.10.16. Birdlog

01-10-16-ruff-and-green-sandpiper-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1

01-10-16-marsh-harrier-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-1The day started off fairly well with the female Marsh Harrier flying through from the west stopping briefly to put the frighteners on the ducks present on No.6 tank. Soon after the first signs of rain were felt smattering the optics and the beginning of almost continuous lens clothe wiping began.

01-10-16-curlew-sandpiper-and-black-tailed-godwits-no-3-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton-bill-morton-3

01-10-16-mna-looking-over-no-6-tank-frodsham-marsh-bill-mortonThe waters of No.6 tank were covered with ducks and they were soon joined by a couple of Curlew Sandpiper which were struggling to find somewhere firm enough for them to settle. The Curlew Sands were relocated some time later on the mitigation pools with a third bird alongside 17 Black-tailed Godwit. We were briefly joined by Merseyside Naturalist Association’s field trip to the marsh where they enjoyed the calidris plus a Sparrowhawk perched on a dead tree while ducks swam about it unconcerned. Other birds seen included: 15 Grey and a single Golden Plover, 20 Dunlin, 10 Common Snipe and 6 Black-tailed Godwit.

At the west end of the tank the conditions for some species were a little more favourable with 15 Ruff keeping company with 6 Common Snipe and a Green Sandpiper. A gathering of 25 Alba wagtails were actively engaged feeding while a Grey Wagtail flew over.

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Generally passerine passage was steady with another 45 Alba wagtail, 25 Skylark, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 30 Swallow and numerous Meadow Pipit could be seen/or heard as they passed overhead. There was a smattering of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest with a male Blackcap along the hedgerows and isolated elder bushes. A substantial flock of 300 low aerial feeding hirundines were mostly House Martin with some Swallow

A Kestrel that was perched up on a pole on the banks of No.5 tank was seen to cough up a pellet (see image).

Earlier AC had already done a watch from the Marsh Farm and some of his sightings are listed. We both had a go at watching from Marsh Farm and the Weaver Sluice gates where we found: 8 Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, several hundred Dunlin and a Little Egret. There was plenty of birds out on the mudflats but the rain clouds rolled in again and viewing became a burden so we retreated back to the car and existed stage left.

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Above image as seen from the marsh, Runcorn’s contribution to the world…an incinerator!

Observers: Alyn Chambers, WSM (all images).

As mentioned earlier the MNA field trip to the marsh continued after they left us. Soon after sheltering from the (at times heavy) rain they continued to the Weaver estuary and discovered two Black-necked Grebe on the river there. They also saw a Peregrine devouring a pigeon, so a good day all round.

Observers: Alexander Mansfield and MNA.