Saturday, 31 October 2009

Autumn - ish!

With temperatures reaching levels more suited to late August, it certainly hasn't felt much like Autumn just lately. The sight of bare branches, misty mornings and heavy dew on the grass in the mornings however, point us to the undeniable truth that Christmas isn't far off (sorry to mention the 'C' word).
The damp mornings have been very good news for the fungi, thrusting up from the grass. This Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus) for instance.
First getting it's common name in 1797, the Shaggy Inkcap is a strange thing inasmuch as the cap of the fungus, when it has opened, starts to disintegrate around the edges, forming a thick, black 'ink' which drips off around the fungus.
You can see this process starting in the larger specimen in this picture, while the smaller one has yet to open and begin the process.
Other Autumnal 'fruits' in abundance at the moment are those belonging to the Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).
A relative of the Honeysuckle, the fruits are valuable to various bird species including Grouse, Partridge and Pheasant. If eaten by humans the berries can cause vomiting, dizziness, and slight sedation in children - the latter of which sounds like a good idea to me!
While out walking yesterday, we encountered this delightful bird searching for a meal - a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a male bird in this case.
A familiar member of the family of falcons, they are found almost everywhere in Britain and are a common sight as they hover by the side of motorways, looking for small mammal prey. This task is made easier for the Kestrel as it is able to see into the near ultraviolet light and in such light the urine trails of the mice, voles, etc. which it is hunting, begin to 'shine'. Extraordinary!
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