Amethyst Deceiver

Working in the allotment part of the meadows today, I accidentally disturbed a purple fungus growing around the base of the autumn fruiting raspberries – the Amethyst Deceiver:

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What a wonderful name and what a wonderful colour. In fact, I was wearing a coat of the same shade:

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The name apparently comes from the fact that when this fungus is weathered or old, its colour fades and it becomes difficult to identify. It is a common and edible fungus, although it has a rather alarming ability to absorb arsenic from the soil and can accumulate a high concentration of it. So probably best to give it a miss, actually.

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Because there are not a great many mature trees, Autumn here does not bring large quantities of different types of fungus and so I was pleased to see these lovely ones today.

Dog Sick Slime Mould

Yes, I am really writing a blog post about Dog Sick Slime Mould (Mucilago crustacea). Here is some of it:

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There are three patches of it on the shorter grass where the meadows have been cut

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A patch of vibrant white Dog Sick Slime Mould in the grass.

Slime moulds are really odd things. About 500 different species in the world, they used to be classified as fungi but they have now been kicked out of the fungi kingdom and are classified in a kingdom all of their own. For most of the time, slime moulds are tiny single cells and are part of the wide range of organisms that help break down organic matter in the soil. However, when food becomes scarce, often in the Autumn, the cells all combine together to form structures such as this. The membranes between the cells break down and become much larger multi-nucleus ‘plasmodia’ and these plasmodia can move quickly towards food using cytoplasmic streaming. They can also form fruiting arms and release spores.

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Having found these in the meadows yesterday, I have been trying to read up about them but have struggled to take in the information – any description seems to involve lots of biological terms that I have long forgotten the meaning of and needed to look up. But hopefully I have grasped the basics and reported them correctly to you.

Now I have a dog and, although she is rarely sick, when she is it certainly looks nothing like this. All images I can find of this slime mould have it as this crusty white stuff and so I’m afraid that I’m unable to shed any light at all on to how it got this name.

Yellow Browed Warbler

As the Autumn migration continues, a rare and exciting tiny little bird has turned up in the meadows – a Yellow-Browed Warbler:

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An insectivorous bird that has a long yellow eye stripe and two yellow bands on its wing.

These little birds breed in Mongolia and then migrate south-west in the Autumn to over-winter in forested hills of Asian countries such as India. But every Autumn a few inexplicably turn up in the UK – usually a couple of hundred although in 2016 the number was larger.

It is not understood why they arrive in the UK, so far off course, and it is also not known where they then move on to. The last couple of Springs have seen a few of these birds passing back across the UK, suggesting that they did find somewhere to successfully over-winter such as maybe Spain, and are then returning to Mongolia to breed.

Perhaps it will be this little bird here that was caught, ringed and released in our meadows yesterday that will be retrapped elsewhere over this coming winter and so shed some light on what they are doing.

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The bird ringing morning was very busy yesterday.

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The birds collected from the net are put into bags before they are recorded, ringed and released. 

 

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Firecrest
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Long-tailed Tit

The flock of Goldfinches swirling around the meadows has perhaps doubled over the last couple of days and now number around 70 birds. They descend en masse onto the dried up heads of Knapweed, onto the feeders or to drink and wash in the pond. They are a noisy bunch with much squabbling and in-fighting and no sooner have they all arrived, do they all take off again and are gone.

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Not room for them all on the feeders so they peck around underneath
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Coming down to drink

It seems that October is a very interesting month in the world of birds.

 

 

 

Masters of our own Destiny

In order to become masters of our own destiny, we have taken delivery of a sit-on grass cutter with a large collector on the back. With this, we hope to be able to cut and collect small areas at a time, disposing of the hay in dribs and drabs as we go along. By the Spring, we should have cut the lot.

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Having found secure off-site storage for it, getting this piece of equipment seemed the best solution to our annual conundrum of how to cut and get the hay away.

The collector lifts and tips.

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And progress is being made in the first meadow:

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Although the larger second meadow is always that much more daunting:

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However, we will get there before it all starts growing again next Spring and it feels so much better not having to rely on other people to find the time to come and do this for us.

 

 

The Chiffchaff

A couple of days ago, the bird ringer caught and ringed 83 birds here in one morning – that kept him busy, he was delighted but exhausted. 65 of these birds were Chiffchaffs and if he managed to catch 65 in his nets, then many, many hundreds must be passing through the meadows on their journey south to the Mediterranean and West Africa.

Certainly we are noticing them in the hedgerows. They have a characteristic tail wagging, wing flicking action and they flit and fidget around, often with tight loop the loop flights to catch passing insects. Completely insectivorous – there is nothing on the feeders for them.

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A small olive-brown warbler with marked eye stripe and dark legs. In the spring it has a very distinctive call of Chiff-Chaff after which it gets its name but it doesn’t sing at this time of year.

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Another Chiffchaff – this one is ringed.

As we sit in the hide and watch Chiffchaffs, we cannot help but also notice a flock of Goldfinch that have taken a liking to the pond and feeders. There are 30 to 40 birds in the flock and they are quite a noisy group.

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Its lovely to see them enjoying what we have provided.