Sunday, 15 October 2017

Tiny Predator

First thing this morning, I managed to add another tick to my life lists. I noticed on top of our compost bin, there were the remains of a Garden Spider with the head and thorax missing and only the abdomen left. Some inches away, there were a couple of dismembered legs from the unfortunate spider and between the two parts, the culprit sat, looking menacing - but tiny! This was the abdomen of the Garden Spider...
The perpetrator of this grizzly scene was a another spider. Much smaller and rather attractive (if a spider can ever be described as attractive), with translucent legs and a pink abdomen. It turned out to be a specimen of Enoplognatha ovata.
Known for being particularly ferocious little predators, they often prey on creatures much larger than themselves, as indeed this one had - the Garden spider must have been ten times the size of the
Enoplognatha ovata.
Later, when Malcolm and I returned home from shopping, the spider was still there and by now had returned to its meal. It was now to be found feasting on the legs of its prey.
I think this is a female. Enoplognatha ovata is very variable in both colour and pattern and rather common in British gardens, but it was a great start to the day, being able to add a new tick - even a somewhat alarming one!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Toadstools

As promised, some more pictures from yesterday's mycological meanderings. Among the Fly Agarics, there were a few small, pink-capped toadstools nestling in the moss. They turned out to be Rose Russulas. Looking slightly worse for wear from the attentions of slugs and snails which had chewed around the edges, exposing the white gills beneath.
The slugs had also had a good go at another toadstool, this time with a greenish coloured cap. I think this fungus is a Charcoal Burner, although it's often tricky to identify as they vary so much in colour.
Close to the edge of the line of Birches, a lone Brown Birch Bolete stood proudly.
Further along the path, the Wildlife Trust have created a few paths through the woodland and it was here that I found a fallen tree trunk with several more fungi on it.
These strange-looking objects are known as King Alfred's Cakes due to their resemblance to that Monarch's fabled and failed attempts at baking.
Growing on another bit of dead wood - this time, the old stump of a felled tree - was another fungal form. Known as a Many-Zoned Polypore, it has become more commonly called a Turkey Tail for obvious reasons.
Lastly, was a large and impressive group of fungi growing at the base of a group of Birches.
The pattern of concentric rings on the cap and the generally furry appearance, marks these as Woolly Milk-Caps.
Many other fungi were growing around the area, but they probably need more expertise than I possess, to identify them - but I'll not give up yet!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Fruit and Fungi

This morning, I thought I would see if I could find any fungi along the 'farm walk'. The task turned out to be much easier than I'd expected, as it seems to be good year for the budding Mycologist. Always the best to find are the Fly Agarics - probably the most easily identifiable fungus and the archetypal 'toadstool'.
Among the Silver Birches at this time of year, they always make a brilliant display.
Well-known for their hallucinogenic qualities, it is often said that anyone who ingests them, soon gets the feeling that inanimate objects are alive!
Needless to say, I didn't test out the theory, preferring to just enjoy the colourful scene.
As well as the Fly Agarics, there were plenty of other fungi thrusting out of the leaf litter, but I will have to try and identify them before posting them on the blog.
Also along the hedgerows this morning, the fruits of autumn were numerous and colourful. Rather delicate-looking and very red, were those belonging to the Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade.
Looking attractive and juicy, they are of course poisonous, although fatalities are very rare and would require the ingestion of a very large quantity.
Further along and the berries were quite different.
These are Privet berries and are also poisonous. Eating these could result in nausea, low blood pressure, headache, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Far better just to appreciate the shiny fruits on the bush and leave them to the birds.
More Fungi will follow as I try to identify them...

Monday, 9 October 2017

Early Start

We were up and about early this morning because Malcolm is away on his travels enjoying a few days of sunshine in Portugal. So, after taking him to the airport, I got back home for coffee, breakfast and an early walk. I started by heading for Mapperley Village and reservoir, along Slack Lane. at the reservoir, all was very quiet...
Just a few Coots, Gulls and a lone fisherman provided the company and from across the water, the sounds of distant geese and a calling grebe was all that could be heard.
Onward and upward, I headed for Shipley Hill.
Despite the gloomy conditions, the autumn colours were still quite lovely. The old Beech tree on the southern side of the hill, was looking wonderful...
Having manged to dodge a few Chestnuts falling from the trees - the squirrels were either being careless or they were shying them at me - it was safer out in the open.
A heavy dew made for a soggy walk across the grass, but a little 'bloom' on the pictures gives them an artistic feeling and highlights the colours.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Out and Back

Yesterday found Malcolm and I taking his mum and her friend, for a short trip to Carsington Reservoir. It has been a long time since we visited the reservoir so it was good to get out and about there again.
It was a somewhat overcast day and the breeze was rather chilly, but at least it stayed dry as we walked around the water's edge. There was not much happening on the water. Just a couple of people fishing from row-boats lots of Coots, Greylag Geese and one Little Egret picking around the shallows.
We ended our trip out, with a nice lunch in Belper.
This morning, it was still overcast for our walk around our usual patch. We headed for Osborne's Pond along the track of an old railway line. The leaves are beginning to collect in large quantities as Autumn gets a hold.
With dog-walkers and horse riders using the same path, it can be a little tricky walking through Autumn leaves - you have to watch your step!
The colours of Autumn don't seem to be lasting long this year and the stiff breeze is doing its best to bring the leaves down just as soon as they turn colour.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Autumnal Wanderings

Once again, we find ourselves grounded by bad weather this morning. So, to brighten things up a bit, here are a few pictures from the last few days. As usual at this time of year, we will start with the fantastic colours of autumn - and in particular, the Maples. This golden one was just beautiful and fooled the 'automatic' setting on my camera into thinking it was looking at a sunset!
Another view of the same tree...
At Shipley Hill, the magnificent Beech Tree which stands guard over the southern side of the hill, is just showing it's colours around the edges.
In the back garden, things have started preparing for Autumn too. Spider's webs hang from every plant and fence post, tangling around your face whenever you try to get to the shed. Among the leaves, there lurks a stranger. Looking somewhat spider-like, this is a Harvestman (Phalangium opilio) and it has a face only a mother could love! This one, I think is a female as males have horn-like structures at the front.
Despite looking like one, it is in fact NOT a spider although closely related. They do not have fangs or produce venom and they don't produce silk for web-spinning either. They are however, ferocious little predators of other insects, small snails and slugs, which it catches using the tiny hooks and spines on its legs. Look out for them, they are everywhere at this time of year!
Moving swiftly on to something much more attractive, we encountered the four cygnets which have been raised on the overflow from Shipley Lake.
Now they are reaching maturity, it would appear that they have been abandoned by their parents as there is no longer any sign of them. But these four juveniles look quite able to look after themselves and are sticking together for the time being.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Autumn Invertebrates

During the autumn, it's often difficult to avoid walking into millions of spiders' webs which decorate the countryside. A couple of days ago, as we set out on our walk, we were treated to the sight of hundreds of webs, bedecked with dew drops and sparkling in the sunshine.
This particular web was built by and inhabited by a Four Spot Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus).
Moths too, are still to be found in the countryside and gardens at this time of year and they no doubt have to be very careful to avoid all those webs. This little moth was found on our patio doors a few days ago and after a short search, I managed to identify it as a Garden Carpet Moth (Xanthorhoe fluctuata). It is a common species and one which tends to prefer the more suburban areas.
My attention was drawn to a small willow tree last Friday. At the tip of a couple of branches, there was a flower-shaped growth of leaves which looked somewhat out of place and not at all like the other leaves of the willow. It was obviously a gall of some kind, but one which was new to me - so it too, needed identification.
It turned out to be a Camellia Gall produced by a tiny gall midge with a big name Rabdophaga rosaria. It is thought to be common in the UK, but not well recorded, so it's difficult to be sure just how common.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cheer Up

It's been so wet and miserable this morning, that I thought it was best to try and cheer up a bit with some more pictures of Autumn colours around Shipley Park. Firstly, from under the lovely old Beech Tree on Shipley Hill, just beginning to change into its Autumn finery.
When we sat for our coffee the other day in the picnic area by Mapperley Reservoir, we used a different seat from usual (thanks to some scum-bags who think you are supposed to sit on the backs of the bench with your muddy feet on the seat). This gave us a slightly different view.
With a little digital manipulation, you get a rather painterly effect.
Around Shipley Hill, the trees are all dropping leaves and nuts on the ground, making for a busy time for the squirrels.
It won't be long before this Silver Birch has dropped all its leaves, but for now, the sunshine illuminating them from behind as they turn yellow, made for a nice picture.
Out on the open meadows between Shipley a Cinder Hills, the scene was dominated by the shiny, black rolls of plastic-coated silage, waiting to be collected and stored for winter fodder.
With such a rich variety of grasses and wild flower species, it promises to be a tasty treat for the livestock when they're confined to their sheds in the months to come.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Colours

It seems to come round quicker every year, but it's that time once again, when the countryside begins to glow with Autumn colour.
As we set out for our walk to Osborne's Pond this morning, the chill in the air spoke of yet chillier days to come and falling leaves marked the start of autumn.
It was one of those bright, sunny mornings when you just want to be out and about enjoying the day and the colours.
Around Shipley Lake, the Maples are beginning to look their best, with the promise of more to come.
Already, some trees are displaying a breathtaking richness of colour.
With closer view and with a bright blue sky as backdrop, it just gets better.
With a little digital 'bloom', the trees on Shipley Hill make for a beautiful picture too.
No doubt there will much more to come over the next few weeks as Autumn strengthens its grip on the countryside.