Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Ashdown Woodland Track

Silk Button Spangle Galls on a fallen oak leaf.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Silk Button Spangle Galls on a fallen oak leaf.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
I am starting to see where the interesting places are in my new area.  Of course, some are obvious and are marked on maps.  But some are not.

I went along a track that leads off a steep road towards the "Secret Lake."  I was looking for fungi, but didn't find very many - more on that next time.  But it's an interesting track.

Track on the Ashdown.  15 October 2017.
Track on the Ashdown.  15 October 2017.
The bracken is turning brown, and some trees are shedding, but many are not.  There's woodland ahead.

Gate into the woods.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Gate into the woods.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
That fallen sign welcomes you.

Fallen sign.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Fallen sign.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Just past this gate I found some interesting fungi .. I'll show them next time.  But the track past here gets to be unusual.  Soon, there's a stream down on the left.

Stream on the Ashdown.  15 October 2017.
Stream on the Ashdown.  15 October 2017.
Something else is going on.  That squared-off block on the far side is not natural.  It's made up of smaller blocks.  There has been some sort of construction here in the past.  It turns out that iron ore was worked on the Ashdown in the Tudor period, and it's likely to be related to that.

Further on, there's a junction at which one branch quickly peters out into a narrow gap, and if you squeeze through and look back you can see this:

Woodland Steps.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Woodland Steps.  Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
It's almost like part of a pyramid, very atmospheric.  It's too high up to have been for water.  The stream is down below the bottom level of this area.  So this must be more of the old iron workings.

One of my maps places an "old furnace" further along this track.  I wonder if that label is misplaced, and the furnace was here.

The bridge I took this next shot from was a solidly constructed stone bridge, so this is not just any old ride through the woods.  There must have been some serious industry here at one time.  This is the stream from that bridge.

Stream in the Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
Stream in the Ashdown, 15 October 2017.
I would think that is big enough to supply water for a smelting operation, and the "secret lake" further on might have been dammed up to provide that supply.

Fungi next time ...

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Marbled Carpets

Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
This is a Common Marbled Carpet.  It's quite variable in colouration, but consistent as to shape and general markings.  Some colours are identical to the related Dark Marbled Carpet and you need to look underneath the wings to tell them apart, but if they have the big orange-brown blotches shown by this one, the are always the Common species.

Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Common again, but you need to look underneath to be sure.

Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Yet another Common Marbled Carpet.  Here's the underside:

Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
Common Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma truncata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 26 September 2017.
That dark line across the wings, although spiky, is more or less curved.  If it were more angular, almost a right angle bend, this might be a Dark Marbled Carpet.  Here's a specimen from a couple of years ago:

Dark Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma citrata.  Hayes, Kent, 4 September 2014.
Dark Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma citrata.  Hayes, Kent, 4 September 2014.
And the underside:

Dark Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma citrata.  Hayes, Kent, 4 September 2014.
Dark Marbled Carpet, Dysstroma citrata.  Hayes, Kent, 4 September 2014.
I think that's a pretty subtle difference and I am only 90 per cent sure that this one is a Dark!  Examination of the genitals would be a sure method of identification, but I don't want to learn how to dissect moths.  I always let them go.

Both these moths like to rest somewhere near the light, and rarely actually go into the trap.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Some of the Ashdown.

Camps in a grove on Ashdown Forest.
Camps in a grove on Ashdown Forest.
Here are some impressions of the Ashdown Forest, which is mostly moorland.  But it does have plenty of trees, some in groves like this one which is just downhill from The Hollies car park, some in woods, some along streams.

I wrote to a friend recently that you can't get lost in the Ashdown.  That's because it consists of several large hollows with roads along the high points, so that if you go uphill you will eventually find a road.  And you can see across the hollows to the high points opposite.

But you can't get lost only as long as you are mobile.  There are plenty of places where it would be hard to find you if you got stuck or had an accident.  And there are plenty of places where you could do just that.

The Airman's Grave, downhill from The Hollies car park.  Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
The Airman's Grave, downhill from The Hollies car park.  Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
Here you can see a broad path downhill, houses in the distance, it looks as though you could walk to the far side of this depression to that ridge of trees in less than an hour, if the path carries on like this.

Pool on Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
Pool on Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
Just at the bottom of this immediate dip is a stream, with pleasant pools.  I'd been taken on a walk here about 10 years ago and shown an interesting fungus, so I tried following what I could remember of the way: cross the stream and walk up it, looking for a place to cross back. 

A path on Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
A path on Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
I didn't find the second crossing place.  I was soon walking on this path, which is not exactly well-trodden.  The bracken I pushed through was covered with dew and I was wet to the waist, and completely soaked to the knees.  My view ahead was this, with trees screening my view of the stream to the right, and to the left:

View from a path on the Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
View from a path on the Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
This looks very different from the safe-looking broad path I started out on.  It was lucky I knew to keep going uphill, because after eventually negotiating some boggy ground which fed the stream I got back safely.   But if I had fallen at this spot, who would have found me?  I was pleased that I had a good signal on my phone.  (Another sign of not being in a real wilderness.)  And the GPS was invaluable, as it showed me where I was on a map.

It was fun!  And I saw this:

Marsh Gentian, Gentiana pneumonanthe.   Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
Marsh Gentian, Gentiana pneumonanthe.   Ashdown Forest, 31 August 2017.
A Marsh Gentian, quite a scarce plant which I had seen a few miles away on another part of the Ashdown on a different walk.  Around it are the mauve clusters of Cross-leaved Heath flowers, and yellow Dwarf Gorse flowers. 

That walk was only a short distance, but it felt longer.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

August Moths at Sevenoaks

Common Wave, Cabera exanthemata.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Common Wave, Cabera exanthemata.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
A whole bunch of light-coloured moths turned up this month at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, in the trap set behind the visitor centre and all around it.  This is a nice side view of a Common Wave, which does not usually rest with its wings up like this.

Common Wave, Cabera exanthemata.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Common Wave, Cabera exanthemata.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
This is a more usual view.  It's very similar to the Common White Wave:

Common White Wave, Cabera pusaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Common White Wave, Cabera pusaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
This one was in the greenery near the trap.  The Common Wave is usually darker and more speckled, but that's variable.  The best way to tell them apart is to look at the outer dark cross-band on the forewing.  On the Common Wave, it has a distinct curve, whereas on the Common White Wave it is straight.

Two Light Emeralds, Campaea margaritaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Two Light Emeralds, Campaea margaritaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
There were lots of Light Emeralds around too.

Here are some of the good lookers.  A Blood-vein, the first I have seen at Sevenoaks, though it's not scarce:

Blood-vein, Timandra comae.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Blood-vein, Timandra comae.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
A Pebble Hooktip, on the outside of the trap.


Pebble Hook-tip, Drepana falcataria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Pebble Hook-tip, Drepana falcataria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
And I can't miss out this Purple Thorn ...  I love Thorns ...

Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.
Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 26 August 2017.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

More Pugs

Lime-speck Pug, Eupithecia centaureata. Jubilee Country Park, 2 June 2012.
Lime-speck Pug, Eupithecia centaureata. Jubilee Country Park, 2 June 2012.
More Pugs!  Starting with this easily recogniseable Lime-speck Pug from Jubilee Country Park.  The white wings with a dark fleck are unmistakeable.

White-spotted Pug, Eupithecia tripunctaria.  Hayes, 10 May 2017.
White-spotted Pug, Eupithecia tripunctaria.  Hayes, 10 May 2017.
I had a couple of these White-spotted Pugs in my garden trap in Hayes this year.  They look a lot like the hard-to-identify pugs in my last post, but they have a white fleck on top of their thorax and if I remember to look for that, I know what I am seeing.

Tawny Speckled Pug, Eupithecia icterata subfulvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 12 August 2015.
Tawny Speckled Pug, Eupithecia icterata subfulvata.  Cuckoo Wood, High Elms, 12 August 2015.
A few times, I have had the opportunity to run my trap in Cuckoo Wood, High Elms while a group are doing a glow-worm survey.  This Tawny Speckled Pug turned up in 2015.  You can't mistake this one.

Cypress Pug, Eupithecia phoeniceata.  Hayes, 31 August 2015.
Cypress Pug, Eupithecia phoeniceata.  Hayes, 31 August 2015.
 Nor this, a Cypress Pug, with a wider and narrower wing profile and a marbled patterning.

Finally, a couple of green pugs.

Green Pug, Pasiphila rectangulata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 14 June 2017.
Green Pug, Pasiphila rectangulata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 14 June 2017.
In fact, this one is called the Green Pug.  The colour fades in older specimens, but the broad wingspread is still recognisable.  And it is generally a darker colour than this next one.

V-pug, Chloroclystis v-ata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 19 June 2017.
V-pug, Chloroclystis v-ata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 19 June 2017.
Finally, the V-pug, one of those creatures which has an initial as part of its scientific name.  The V on the wings is easily recognisable ..

V-pug, Chloroclystis v-ata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 5 July 2017.
V-pug, Chloroclystis v-ata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 5 July 2017.
.. If you can see it, because sometimes it prefers to rest like this, with wings up.  But that's a giveaway too.

So, I have covered some of the many pugs in these two posts.  No doubt I will encounter even more of these tricky specimens.  Learning continues ...


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Pugs

Double-striped Pug, Gymnoscelis rufifasciata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 August 2017.
Double-striped Pug, Gymnoscelis rufifasciata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 August 2017.
Pugs are a group of small moths, most of them in the tribe Eupitheciini of the family Geometridae, that mostly look very similar to each other.  When thinking of how to describe and identify them, the phrase "stare until your eyes drop out of your head" came to mind.  Because mostly, the differences are very subtle, but can often be quite distinct if you can become aware of them.

This Double-striped Pug is one of the easiest, particularly when fresh.  Though please note, it has many more than two stripes.

Foxglove Pug, Eupithecia pulchellata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 29 June 2017.
Foxglove Pug, Eupithecia pulchellata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 29 June 2017.
In fact this Foxglove Pug is sometimes mistaken for it for that reason.

There's a saying that goes something like "If you hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras."  (A variation of Occam's Razor.)  Well, that works fine if I am hearing "clip-clop" sounds from outside my house.  But if I were on the Serengeti, I would have to re-cast that saying completely.  Also, back to the world of moths, if you see only what you expect to see, you can miss some interesting rarities.

And since I moved house, I don't even know what I should expect to see.  I have seen three pugs here that never turned up at Hayes.

Freyer's Pug, Eupithecia intricata subsp. arceuthata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 June 2017.
Freyer's Pug, Eupithecia intricata subsp. arceuthata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 June 2017.
Freyer's Pug, with elongated wing spots (many pugs have these) and rows of fine lines on the wings.

Haworth's Pug, Eupithecia haworthiata. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Haworth's Pug, Eupithecia haworthiata. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Haworth's Pug, with an orange body.

Currant Pug, Eupithecia assimilata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 13 August 2017.
Currant Pug, Eupithecia assimilata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 13 August 2017.
And a Currant Pug, with much bigger dark wing spots and a more chestnut coloration than many pugs (and there are many pugs).

OK, those were easy, really.  Here are some I have encountered over the last few years.

Common Pug, Eupithecia vulgata.  Hayes, 1 June 2016.
Common Pug, Eupithecia vulgata.  Hayes, 1 June 2016.
 Common Pug.  We are encouraged to learn this one because it is "easy" ...

Mottled Pug, Eupithecia exiguata. Hayes, 28 May 2012.
Mottled Pug, Eupithecia exiguata. Hayes, 28 May 2012.
Mottled Pug.  I find this hard to distinguish from the next one:

Brindled Pug, Eupithecia abbreviata. Hayes, 25 May 2012.
Brindled Pug, Eupithecia abbreviata. Hayes, 25 May 2012.
The Brindled Pug.  I really hope I ave those last three right, because I am not very confident in identifying them, so if anyone thinks I am mistaken, please say.

At this point I will just add in this one:

Unidentified melanic pug, Eupithecia species.  Hayes on 5 August 2012.
Unidentified melanic pug, Eupithecia species.  Hayes on 5 August 2012.
Some species have melanic forms, dark-winged with no identifying features, though the wing outline gives a clue in some cases.  Most of these need to be dissected for a proper identification.

Next time: more pugs, all of them easier to identify than those last four.



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Trees (that were) In The Knoll

Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Making occasional trips back to Hayes while selling my old house there.  So while there, I have been looking in on The Knoll, my nearest local park, to see how it is getting on.

Here's what I saw early in June.  This is a Horse-chestnut tree that I knew was full of debilitating fungus.  Shown here: Two Weak Horse-chestnuts. It's the tree on the left in the first photo, also shown near the bottom of that post.

Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Here's a close-up of the torn trunk.  All of the wood is weak.  The colour shows that the lignin has gone, eaten by the fungus.  This is called white rot, and is known to be caused by (among others) the Dryad's Saddle fungus that was growing on the tree and fruiting so profusely.

So what about the other fungus-infested Horse-chestnut, which was under notice of being monolithed?

Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
The next time I visited The Knoll, this was it.  This severe treatment is probably just as well.  The Ganoderma that riddled this tree also causes white rot, and so does the Oyster Mushroom that was also growing on it.  And the Silverleaf fungus I saw on it last year is also a serious tree-killer.

Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
The fallen tree had also been tidied up, as had the branch of the tree further on that had been knocked off when the Horse-chestnut fell.

This park has a continuing issue with fungus infections in trees.  A big beech fell in 2013; here's an article I wrote for the Orpington Field Club website: The Giant Polypore and its Consequences.  White rot again.  It's not that the park management don't pay attention. It's that they seem to take action just a bit too late! That they have previously got there in time is shown by this monolithed oak tree further down the slope.

Monolithed oak tree in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
Monolithed oak tree in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
That has clearly never blown over.  Also, a fence has recently been built around a veteran pollarded oak nearer the top of the park, probably because people have sometimes set fires in the hollow core of the tree.

Fence around pollarded veteran oak in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
Fence around pollarded veteran oak in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
I don't think it's very effective, though.  The school tie on the fence is probably an indication of the cause of that missing paling, which has left a stretch of wire which could easily be climbed over. 

This tree still looks strong, but it has an infection of Laetiporus sulphureus, Chicken of the Woods, which is a tasty edible fungus but which causes a brown cubical rot which can be just as weakening as white rot.  I have photos .. here's one from 2012 ..

Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on a veteran oak in The Knoll Hayes.  25 September 2012.
Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on a veteran oak in The Knoll Hayes.  25 September 2012.
You can see the brown rot showing where the burnt areas have broken off.  With luck it will only have affected the centre wood, helping to hollow out the tree and leaving the strong outer wood whole.  Trees like this can remain strong and resilient.  But what with this park's history, I think the locals(*) will have to keep an eye on this one ....

(*) Not me any more.