Friday, 9 December 2016

Small and perhaps a bit Too Colourful

Phlebia radiata, Wrinkled Crust.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
Phlebia radiata, Wrinkled Crust.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
There's a lot of this Wrinkled Crust around this year, on dead broadleaved trees of various species.  If you look at this photo:

Pond on Hayes Common, 23 November 2016.
Pond on Hayes Common, 23 November 2016.
You can just about see orange markings on that trunk in the foreground.  So despite the bright colour, they are not all that conspicuous.

On the same trunk are some other small, colourful fungi.

Ascocoryne sarcoides or Ascocoryne cylichnium.  Pond on Hayes Common, 23 November 2016.
Ascocoryne sarcoides or Ascocoryne cylichnium.  Pond on Hayes Common, 23 November 2016.
There are two Ascocoryne species that can't be separated without a microscope.  While looking at this photo, you can also see a black "bootlace" of the sort that Honey Fungi (Armillaria species) use to spread - very effectively - from tree to tree and along a trunk.

Calocera cornea, Small Stagshorn.  Dacromyces stillatus, Common Jellyspot, in the background.
Pond on Hayes Common, 25 November 2016.
Also on that trunk, two orange fungi,one small and the other tiny.  Small Stagshorn is easy to see when you get close, but the little orange blobs of Common Jellyspot are harder to see unless they crowd together in bigger clumps than this.

A short distance away, on a stump which was actually in the water, was this:

Unidentified Myxomycete.  Hayes Common, 13 November 2016.
Unidentified Myxomycete.  Hayes Common, 13 November 2016.
Slightly blurred because it was out of reach of a steady hand-held photo.  This is a slime mould or Myxomycete, not a fungus.  They are even more ephemeral than fungi, fruiting and dying back in a couple of days.   I have not been able to identify these purple blobs on stalks.

This is another slime mould:

Myxomycete.  Trichia species.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
Myxomycete.  Trichia species.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
It looks like an immature Trichia.  All these species like it wet - well, damp anyway.  In this particular hollow they certainly have it that way.  If you compare the photo above with the one in the previous post taken a few days earlier, you will see that the water level has risen noticeably.  The Inkcaps featured in that post are now under water, as is the stump on which I saw both of these slime moulds.

In fact .. here is the same hollow in February 2014:

Pond on Hayes Common, 9 February 2014.
Pond on Hayes Common, 9 February 2014.
Taken from the same angle, but from higher up, for obvious reasons.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Fungi In Hiding

Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
Fungi are often not easy to see until you train your perception into looking for the right things.  For example, recently I looked into a hollow on my local common that contains a pond.  I saw some interesting things straight away, but it wasn't until I went back and walked around looking carefully that I saw other, quite large fungi. 

Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
If you weren't looking down you might walk right past these.  Although they are called Common Inkcaps, I have not seen this species before.  These are growing in part of the hollow that is usually underwater. 

They are called Inkcaps because ...

Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 13 November 2016.
Coprinopsis atramentaria, Common Inkcap.  Hayes Common, 13 November 2016.
When they mature, they produce jet black spores and dribble them out in lots of fluid, which was actually once used as ink.  

It's possible for quite colourful fungi to be disguised too, among the yellows and browns of leaf litter.

Gymnopilus penetrans, Common Rustgill.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
Gymnopilus penetrans, Common Rustgill.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
On a stump in the same hollow is this Rustgill, and I had to step up close to be sure I was seeing what I thought I was.

Gymnopilus penetrans, Common Rustgill.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
Gymnopilus penetrans, Common Rustgill.  Hayes Common, 16 November 2016.
Up close it looks impossible to disguise, but it's a very similar colour to some of the Oak leaf litter that surrounds it.

Here is the hollow ...

Logs and pond on Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
Logs and pond on Hayes Common, 18 November 2016.
That colourful Rustgill is on the low stump in the left close foreground.  (The Inkcaps are to the left of the mound in the background.)

There are some more vivid fungi on that big log, but they are small.  Next time ...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

King Alfred's Cakes

King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica.  Cross section.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016
King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica.  Cross section.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016
The story goes that when King Alfred was in hiding, he was offered a place to stay by an old woman who asked him to watch her cakes as they cooked.  Lost in thoughts of his own strategy, he did not concentrate on that too-simple task and the cakes burned.

King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, on Silver Birch.  Beckenham Place Park, 7 December 2013.
King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, on Silver Birch.  Beckenham Place Park, 7 December 2013.

These brown blobs are a fungus named after that story.  They start out brown, and later turn black.

They are crisp and brittle, and a knife goes through them with a pleasing crunch, exposing an interior consisting of concentric spheres - hence the species name.

King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica.  Cross section.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016
King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica.  Cross section.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016

It is said that they make good tinder, and can be used as hand warmers.  Well, I thought I would investigate this.  I brought a few chunks home from Petts Wood (they are very common) and put the on my metal balcony.  (NO LIGHTING FIRES IN THE WOODS!)

King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, on the back balcony of my house in Hayes, 19 November 2016.
King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, on the back balcony of my house in Hayes, 19 November 2016.
They are very light.  The biggest piece here is 5 cm across and weighs about 4½ grammes.

It turns out that they can be lit easily, using a lighter or a match.  (I tried both.)  An experienced woodsman should be able to get them going with a spark from flint and steel.  They smoulder, with no flame, and they are persistent; they don't go out even if they start with just a tiny red dot, like the top piece in the photo below, which I lit at the very tip.

King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, burning on the back balcony of my house in Hayes, 19 November 2016.
King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica, burning on the back balcony of my house in Hayes, 19 November 2016.
These are the two pieces on the left in the previous photo.  When a breeze blew over them, they glowed.  I let them go for about 10 minutes and then put them out with water.  They lasted long enough and burned hot enough that they could easily have have been used to ignite some dry twigs.

They gave off a very pungent smoke which I could still smell on my clothes a few hours later.  I would not want to hold one in my hand as a warmer, it would be too likely to burn me, but their use as tinder is definitely a goer.

p.s. They appear almost always on dead Ash.  But I read that their DNA can be found in almost all trees, they just don't fruit on most of them. The top photo, showing some on Silver Birch, is quite unusual.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

More New This Year

Lunar Marbled Brown, Drymonia ruficornis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 11 April 2016.
Lunar Marbled Brown, Drymonia ruficornis.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 11 April 2016.
Here are some more moths from my garden light trap which I saw there for the first time this year.

I have seen these Lunar Marbled Browns in the West Wickham Common trap.  In their season they can suddenly turn up in large numbers.  This was the first one to appear in my garden.  I took this photo in natural light, and in fact this is three photos combined in a "stack" to improve the depth of focus. 

Usually, to take photos to stack, photographers use a rack on which the camera can be moved precisely, and usually they don't use living subjects.  So for this I chose a torpid moth, used a tripod and refocused with great care.

Tinea trinotella.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 1 August 2016.
Tinea trinotella.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 1 August 2016.
This red-headed micromoth, Tinea trinotella, which has a wingspan of about 16mm, is one of a group of rather similar moths whose caterpillars feed on organic debris, and can often be found in birds' nests. This one looks quite smart, but many of its relatives are more scruffy.

Kent Black Arches, Meganola albula.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 July 2016.
Kent Black Arches, Meganola albula.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 18 July 2016.
I was pleased to see this Kent Black Arches because it's quite scarce and localised.  I have also seen one specimen in the West Wickham Common trap.  One book tells me its caterpillars eat dewberries, which I do not think are common here, but another says they will also eat brambles, close relatives of the dewberry and very common indeed, which makes a lot more sense.

Acrobasis advenella.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 August 2016.
Acrobasis advenella.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 3 August 2016.
Acrobasis advenella is not scarce at all, and it's quite colourful.  It's techically a micromoth because it's in the family Pyralidae, but it's not all that small, with a wingspan of about 20mm.  Its caterpillars live on hawthorn and rowan, both very common. I have a couple of hawthorns in my garden.

Green Silver-lines, Pseudoips prasinana.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 29 July 2016.
Green Silver-lines, Pseudoips prasinana.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 29 July 2016.
There aren't many green moths, and usually the colour fades fast.  This Green Silver-lines is almost entirely green, but even this would have been a more vivid colour when fresh.  The bald thorax tells us that this specimen has been around for a while.  Its caterpillars feed on oak and birch.

Red-line Quaker, Agrochola lota.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 22 October 2016.
Red-line Quaker, Agrochola lota.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 22 October 2016.
This Red-line Quaker was almost my last catch of the year, and I was pleased to see it.  It's not rare, but I had not seen one before.  The caterpillars feed on willows, and I wonder if the willow by my front steps has provided a home for this one.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

New This Year

Streamer, Anticlea derivata.  On the wall above my garden light trap in Hayes on 2 May 2016
Streamer, Anticlea derivata.  On the wall above my garden light trap in Hayes on 2 May 2016
I've been catching moths in my garden for five years, in a fairly basic light trap, and I still get new species to add to my list.  There were 22 new species this year.  Some of them I had already seen elswehere, but others were completely new to me.  That doesn't mean they are rare!  There are about 2,500 species of moth in the UK and a lot of them, often quite common ones, just don't live near me or only arrive occasionally.

Here are a few of this year's new arrivals.

The Streamer's caterpillars feed on dog-roses and the adult arrives quite early in the year.  I had not seen one of these before.

Light Brocade, Lacanobia w-latinum.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 13 May 2016.
Light Brocade, Lacanobia w-latinum.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 13 May 2016.
Light Brocades have turned up a few times in the West Wickham Common trap, about a mile away, but this was the first one in my garden.  Its caterpillars eat broom and related plants, and there's not much of those off the commons.

Esperia sulphurella.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2016.
Esperia sulphurella.  Male.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 21 May 2016.
The so-called micromoths – and some of them are indeed extremely small, much smaller than this, which has a 15mm wingspan – usually turn up in the middle of the year, so it's nice to see some early on.  I had not seen this Esperia sulphurella before, though it's not rare.  The caterpillars eat dead wood.

Metalampra italica.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 20 July 2016.
Metalampra italica.  In my garden light trap in Hayes on 20 July 2016.
Metalampra italica was first seen in England in 2003, but now seems to have established breeding colonies.  It still arrives as an immigrant, and that's probably how this got into my garden.  This was a nice catch.  It's another micromoth, with a 12mm wingspan.  Again, the caterpillars eat decaying wood.

Lesser Swallow Prominent, Pheosia gnomaIn my garden light trap in Hayes on 31 August 2016.
  Lesser Swallow Prominent, Pheosia gnomaIn my garden light trap in Hayes on 31 August 2016.
I've seen Lesser Swallow Prominents in a number of places, but this was the first to come to my garden trap.  Its caterpillars eat birch, and, like the trees, the moths are common.  They are smart-looking creatures and, despite having "lesser" in their common name, are quite large, with a wingspan up to 50mm.

I'll post some more next time.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Filming at Downe Bank

Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson being filmed on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson being filmed on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
Back in July I watched Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson being filmed for a section of his "Britain's Ancient Tracks with Tony Robinson" series.  Now it has been broadcast, my photos are out of embargo.

Irene, our local orchid expert and also currently chair of the Orpington Field Club, was showing how Darwin investigated the way orchids are pollinated, and she was able to collect pollinia from a Common Spotted Orchid  using a pencil as Darwin did.  From this distance all you can see is the pencil, and in the film itself the little pollen packet was only just visible.

All the photos I took during the actual filming were taken from a distance – I was warned away so that my camera clicks didn't spoil the sound track.  Absolutely all of my photos suffered from the high contrast caused by the brilliant sunshine.  Look at the cameraman's arm in that first photo.  The sequence was filmed in the shade to avoid this contrast problem, and so that the participants wouldn't squint all the time.

Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson being filmed on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson being filmed on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
I also took a few shots at the top of the bank before the filming, and there I was able to use Photoshop to tone down a lot of the contrast.  Raw photos taken on a good camera allow a lot of latitude for adjustments.

Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson before filming on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
Irene Palmer and Tony Robinson before filming on Downe Bank.  6 July 2016.
Here, Tony Robinson is apparently sorting out some sun-block.

But during the filming I also spent some time looking for butterflies on orchids.  I saw a lot of Marbled Whites on Pyramidal Orchids, which will have disappointed them as those orchids have no nectar.

Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, on Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis.  6 July 2016.
Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, on Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis.  6 July 2016.
This butterfly, with a golden band along the leading edge of its wings, is a female.

Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, on Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis.  6 July 2016.
Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, on Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis.  6 July 2016.
This one, browner and without the golden band, is a male.

I also spotted this pretty little Small Skipper on a Bird's-foot Trefoil. Much more rewarding!

Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris, on Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.  6 July 2016.
Small Skipper, Thymelicus sylvestris, on Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.  6 July 2016.
That was the second time I have watched Irene being filmed explaining about orchids on Downe Bank.  The last time it was about the pollination of Fly Orchids, and as an assistant I got a whole 3 seconds of screen time (non-speaking) on The One Show!  So I'm a star.  But not as much of one as these butterflies.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Fungus Season

Armillaria species, Honey Fungus.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Armillaria species, Honey Fungus.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
 Autumn is the fungus season, when many species put out their fruiting bodies.  Although this year, we have had an unusually sunny and dry start to the season, and there are fewer fungi than usual.

But that is far from saying there are none.  This group are from Beckenham Place Park, which had a golf course, some parkland and a nice piece of ancient woodland. 

The first photo is a Honey Fungus.  These are parasites on living trees, and can also consume the dead wood when the tree dies, very handy for a destructive parasite.  Honey Fungus used to be classified as a single species, Armillaria mellea, but is now split into about 10 species, and I can't tell which this one is.  It is too scaly to be the remaining A. mellea. 

Chondrostereum purpureum, Silverleaf.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Chondrostereum purpureum, Silverleaf.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
This is another destructive parasite, which causes silverleaf on plum trees.  I have seen it in an old orchard nearby.  The purple tint makes it easy to recognise at this stage.  There is another fungus that has small purplish brackets, but that only grows on dead conifer wood. 

Ganoderma resinaceum, Lacquered Bracket.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Ganoderma resinaceum, Lacquered Bracket.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Ganoderma is another genus that is parasitic on trees.  This one, Lacquered Bracket, is not the most common.   You can often see brackets like this on Beech; those are different species.  This one is on an Oak.  The books say it also grows on other species, but Oak is where I see it.

It's growing vigorously.  Those other species are perennial growths, and are nearly as tough as the wood they grow from, but this one is annual and is quite spongy.


Coprinellus micaceus.  Glistening Inkcap.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Coprinellus micaceus.  Glistening Inkcap.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
This one is different.  These sparkly caps grow in grass and among trees.  They only last a few days, but there can be several flushes in the same locality.  It's not always this easy to identify, because the sparkles can wash off in a good rainstorm and there are a few other similar non-sparkling species.

Finishing with another tree dweller:

Grifola frondosa, Hen of the Woods.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
Grifola frondosa, Hen of the Woods.  Beckenham Place Park, 16 October 2016.
This "Hen of the Woods" is edible, and is said to be tasty.  It grows at the base of Oaks.  This is the first I have seen, though coincidentally I saw another in a different local wood not long after.  Not to be confused with the yellow brackets of "Chicken of the Woods," this one does look a bit like fluffed-out hen's feathers.