Late autumnal berries really come into their own now, which is why I love having the yellow berried Rowan , Joseph Rock. These berries ripen later than native Rowan, and yellow and orange berries are left on the tree longer than red, so just as the birds need some extra food, like these male and female Blackbirds, which will be joined by Mistle Thrush and, if we are lucky, winter thrushes like Redwing, the berries are ripe and ready. In addition, Joseph Rock has brilliant autumn colour which is just beginning to intensify. Conditions: Sunny and cool spell. Temperature: Max 9 Min 4c.
It is getting near to the time of year when birds really need fat in their diet to boost their energy levels against the colder weather and the relative shortage of food in the wild. In our garden, we have had more success lately with filled coconuts (RSPB sell and deliver them, though they aren’t cheap) than fat balls but whatever works helps , as you can see from these Blackbirds, Long-tailed Tits and Great Spotted
Woodpecker. Conditions: Sun after very rainy days. Temperature: Max 11 Min 0C.
This wet weather is benefitting the fungi, if not much else. Fly Agaric, surely the one toadstool that everyone recognises, if not from nature, then from children’s books, was always described to us as kids as highly dangerous. Though there are few records of it being fatal, it is probably best to view it as toxic. It was used for centuries in different cultures, especially in the East, as an hallucinogenic drug, by shamans and
others- whether ‘Fly’ comes from that or, as most people think, from its use in the past as an insecticide, a piece left in a saucer of milk, it is best to enjoy looking at its beauty than to meddle with its dangers. It is at least unmistakable, unlike many fungi. Conditions: Rain arriving, heavier to come. Temperature: Max 14 Min 8C.
Dusting behaviour in birds– this Wren was recently displaying typical behaviour for Wrens following wetting it’s feathers in a pond. It took about quarter of an hour to thoroughly dust bath in a hollow. The Wren spread its wings, wriggled, ruffled all its feathers, and even disturbed dust into the air, so that every feather was dusted, preened and dried and the dust reached the skin. This is called ‘maintenance behaviour’, maintaining feather and skin health and cleanliness as well as using dust for its anti-parasitic properties. It also meant it stayed in one place long enough for lots of photos, whereas Wrens are often so quick and secretive in their movements they are a job to photograph! Conditions: Showers. Temperature: Max 13 Min 9c.
It being another wet day, with lightning predicted later, I am returning to a sequence on birds bathing. Nothing enters the water with more energy than the House Sparrow, undeterred by an audience, whether or Blackbird or the
more sedate bather, the Chaffinch. Having very few visits from House Sparrows ourselves in Pitsmoor it is always a delight to watch groups of them when we visit Monyash in the Peak District where there squabbling noise accompanies every day. Conditions: grey and wet down south. Temperature: Max 17 Min 12 c.
The Hairy Curtain Crust fungi is one of hundreds of fungi that grow on live or dead wood (Crusts or resupinates are not easy to distinguish in some instances from bracket fungi). This one is bright orange when young and soon the leathery or gelatinous fruiting bodies merge into horizontal ‘shelves’ as they fuse together and undulate along a fallen tree trunk (often Oak) like this. The Hairy Curtain is one of the more common and easy to identify, especially when young and brightly coloured, before it turns
cream/buff. Conditions: rain and more rain. Temperature: Max 16 Min 12C.
Parasol Mushroom– This very distinctive mushroom, fairly common up until November in well-drained meadows and grassland but less common in the North and Scotland, can grow up to 40 cm high and in diameter. Its scaly top has led to it being called Snakes Hat in parts of Europe, where it is prized for its nutty smell and flavour. This fungus emerges in an egg-shape and becomes flatter as it matures, leaving a fleshy
ring where the base splits from the stalk (see photos). It has a very distinctive ‘umbo’ (a raised knob) in the centre.
It is hard to confuse with any other fungi but always be careful when trying something you aren’t sure of, and leave a piece uncooked so that it can be identified if anything goes wrong!- the flesh sometimes turns pink when cut. Conditions: Breezy with light showers. Temperature: Max 16 Min 10C.