Saturday, 22 November 2014

Seasonal Purple

Trichaptum abietinum, Purplepore Bracket, on dead Scots Pine.  Keston Common, 10 October 2014.
Trichaptum abietinum, Purplepore Bracket, on dead Scots Pine.  Keston Common, 10 October 2014.
Here are some purple, or purplish, fungi.  The first photo is the underside of small brackets that grow on dead conifer wood.  That's usually Scots Pine in this area.  Like many fungus undersides, this Purplepore Bracket is rather beautiful.  This group is a couple of inches across.

Chondrostereum purpureum, Silverleaf Fungus.  Hayes, 18 November 2014.
Chondrostereum purpureum, Silverleaf Fungus.  Hayes, 18 November 2014.
This looks similar, but is from a different family, grows on deciduous wood, and does not have visible pores on its underside.  Several of these little Silverleaf Fungus rosettes seemed to be growing from the ground, but were actually attached to tree stumps that had been cut off at ground level.  This doesn't look very leaf-like, or indeed very silvery, until you see the underside.

Ascocoryne species, Purple Jellydisc.   Keston Common, 19 November 2014.
Ascocoryne species, Purple Jellydisc.   Keston Common, 19 November 2014.
This one looks like miniature intestines.  It could be one of two very similar species, but the name Purple Jellydisc is usually applied to whatever looks like this.  Lie the other two, it is growing on dead wood.

Russula species, probably R. fragilis, Fragile Brittlegill.  Keston Common, 9 November 2014.
Russula species, probably R. fragilis, Fragile Brittlegill.  Keston Common, 9 November 2014.
At last, a more traditional toadstool!  There are a few pink species of Russula but I think this is probably the Fragile Brittlegill.  That last name is well deserved.  In fact, the gills of nearly all Russulas break up easily if you brush them with your finger.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Beauty and the Beasts

Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  High Elms Country Park, 11 November 2014.
Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  High Elms Country Park, 11 November 2014.
I've been walking in woodlands for a couple of weeks looking for fungi.  In most places they are not abundant, but a few can always be found eventually, sometimes really pretty ones, and in some sites they are everywhere.

This Wrinkled Peach from High Elms is interesting.  It only grows on dead elm trees.  Now, all the mature elms in this area were killed off by Dutch Elm Disease about 40 years ago.  So this dead and fallen trunk must be that old.  I know of two more in this area, and there must be many others I am not aware of.

Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  High Elms Country Park, 11 November 2014.
Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  High Elms Country Park, 11 November 2014.
This is the underside.  Undersides of fungi are often lovely.  When people, me included, put fungi on line to get, or confirm, an identification we are sometimes told rather testily to get more details.  What are the gills like?  How are they attached?  And, ideally, look at the spores under a microscope.  If not, then at least get a spore print, which will tell you the colour of the spores. 

Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  Spore print, 12 November 2014.
Rhodotus palmatus, Wrinkled Peach.  Spore print, 12 November 2014.
So here is its spore print.  Pinkish, as you can see, and if I anticipate a light coloured print I try to get it on dark paper; and I had some blue lying around.

Collybia butyracea, Butter Cap, being eaten by fungus gnat larvae (Mycetophilidae).   Hayes Common, 9 November 2014.
Collybia butyracea, Butter Cap, being eaten by fungus gnat larvae (Mycetophilidae)
Hayes Common, 9 November 2014.
But looking at gill attachments can produce some surprises.  This is a different species that I cut down the middle, only to find it was hosting a little group of larvae.  Finding a sudden handful of wriggly things is an everyday hazard when slicing fungi.  Even when they are not obvious, if you leave them out for spore prints and don't sort them out within a day or so, you are likely to find larvae appearing.  So I suggest not doing this in a bedroom.

These are fungus gnat larvae.  You can also find various beetles.

Collybia butyracea, Butter Cap, being eaten by fungus gnat larvae (Mycetophilidae).   Hayes Common, 9 November 2014.
Collybia butyracea, Butter Cap, being eaten by fungus gnat larvae (Mycetophilidae).
Hayes Common, 9 November 2014.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Two Iris Seed Pods

Seed pods of Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus.  Spring Park, 17 October 2014.
Seed pods of Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus.  Spring Park, 17 October 2014.
Two types of ripe Iris seed pods seen on wet days.  First is the Yellow Iris or Yellow Flag,  a plant that grows in shallow water and so is common around the edges of ponds.  This one was in the pond at the bottom of Spring Park wood.  These pods look a little like miniature corn on the cob.

Seed pod of Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 4 November 2014.
Seed pod of Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima.  Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, 4 November 2014.
And the showy pods of Stinking Iris, crammed full of vermilion seeds.  The leaves have a very odd smell when crushed, which is sometimes compared to roast beef, though I wouldn't want to eat it if it smelled like that.  Those who have tried them tell me that it takes a long time to get flowering plants from these seeds.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Oak Leaf Galls - and a Festoon

Common Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum.  West Wickham Common, 14 September 2014.
Common Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum.  West Wickham Common, 14 September 2014.
Some oak leaf galls from the local commons.  These are fascinating things, created by tiny wasps that somehow cause the oak leaf to grow these shield-like shapes behind which the larvae grow.  At the end of the year, the galls drop off, and just now they can be seen scattered over the woodland floor.

Silk Button Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus numismalis.  West Wickham Common, 15 September 2014.
Silk Button Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus numismalis.  West Wickham Common, 15 September 2014.
A different type of gall.  I went back the day after the gall walk to get some better shots, including this one and the next.

Smooth Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus albipes.  Hayes Common, 15 September 2014.
Smooth Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus albipes.  Hayes Common, 15 September 2014.
And yet a third, with one of the first type also in the picture at top right.  All these are created by different species of wasp.

And to prove that they drop off:

Fallen oak leaf galls.  Two Common Spangle Galls, gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum.  One Smooth Spangle Gall, gall wasp Neuroterus albipes.  Keston Common, 30 October 2014.
Fallen oak leaf galls.  Two Common Spangle Galls, one Smooth Spangle Gall.  Keston Common, 30 October 2014.
 Here are some fallen galls photographed in late October.

Larva of a Festoon, Apoda limacodes.  West Wickham Common, 14 September 2014.
Larva of a Festoon, Apoda limacodes.  West Wickham Common, 14 September 2014.
While looking for galls, the walk leader found this, which I was very pleased to see.  It's the odd-looking larva of a Festoon moth.  Festoons are scarce taking the country as a whole, but where they do live, they are often numerous, and there are plenty around here.  There's a good shot of an adult at the bottom of this post showing moths in July, trapped less than 100 yards from where this photo was taken. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ivy Feeders



Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, in flight.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, in flight.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
Again, tidying up my photo folders, here are some insects feeding on ivy in September.  Ivy is the last big feast for many insects, and a bank in flower on a sunny day can always be relied on for an array of photogenic creatures.

I was pleased to catch this bee hovering, so that its body is sharp even though its wings are moving so fast as to be almost invisible.  This was taken at 1/180th of a second.  It has pollen baskets full of yellow pollen but still seems to be after some more. 

Some say that the honey-bee's role as a pollinator is exaggerated because the pollen it collects is packed away in a solid wet lump, and that much is true, as you can see here.  But you can also see how much dry pollen is scattered over its head, body and legs.  That is perfectly good for future pollinations.

Hoverfly, Eristalis pertinax.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
Hoverfly, Eristalis pertinax.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
This Eristalis pertinax is a Dronefly, so called because of its similarity to a male honey bee.  In fact it's a hoverfly, and completely harmless.  Here it is working over one of the ivy's anthers.  Compare this to the honey-bee and you can see that this fly has only a few grains of pollen on its legs.

Hoverfly, Eristalis tenax.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
Hoverfly, Eristalis tenax.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
Though this one, also a pollen-eater, seems to be a bit more messy!  It's a closely related species, Eristalis tenax, that is distinguished by its darker lower legs and the vertical row of hairs on its eye.  The eye of the other species is hairy all over.
Hoverfly, Myathropa florea.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
Hoverfly, Myathropa florea.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
Another hoverfly, the photogenic Myathropa florea.  This fly has more of an overall honey colour and has a distinctive pattern on its thorax that looks like the Batman logo.  (That small white ring in the middle of its thorax is a reflection of my camera's ring flash.  The ring flash a great tool and has let me take many good shots, but it has this one drawback.)

You can see the looped vein towards the end of its wing that is the mark of the Eristalini.  You can see the same loop on the Eristalis pertinax two pics up, once you know where to look.

Hoverfly, Syritta pipiens.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
Hoverfly, Syritta pipiens.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall.  31 August 2014.
Another hoverfly, the smaller Syritta pipiens, from a different group and with quite a different look.  It is distinguished by its fat thighs.  This one is after the nectar produced by the ivy.  Although ivy does not have petals, it produces nectar from a dome-shaped hypanthium.

Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis.  Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, 21 September 2014.
While I was photographing the insects on the ivy, I was pleased to see this very smart Nursery Web Spider on the nettles below.  As with all spiders, this creature has interesting and often startling mating habits, and the male will sometimes pretend to be dead to get close enough to mate.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Ruby Tiger

Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
Just one star today, a moth that looks almost dowdy at first glance but whose fiery red undertones  make it quite different from the others.  Even the brown scales on its forewings are reddish and foxy.

Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
 The bright red thighs stand out in a frontal view.

Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
Ruby Tiger, Phragmatobia fuliginosa fuliginosa.  Hayes, 14 September 2014.
From the side, the thick fur collar stands out, and the thighs just give its underside a reddish glow. 

Many of its relatives are much more colourful.  But it's a nice one to find in my trap. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Hayes September Moths

Small Blood-vein, Scopula imitaria.  Hayes, 7 September 2014
Small Blood-vein, Scopula imitaria.  Hayes, 7 September 2014
 Just a few of the moths from my garden trap in September.  The first is a Small Blood-vein, nicely patterned and shaped.  The food plant is not well known, but the lrarvae have been found on garden privet and on honeysuckle, so it can be expected in suburban traps like mine.

Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella.  Hayes, 7 September 2014.
Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella.  Hayes, 7 September 2014.
 A tiny moth, less than 5mm long, but the banding makes it stand out if you are on the lookout for micromoths.  This is the moth whose caterpillars turn our horse-chestnut leaves into dead brown crinkles before the end of the summer.  It is very common and often comes to light.

Black Rustic, Aporophyla nigra.  Hayes, 22 September 2014.
Black Rustic, Aporophyla nigra.  Hayes, 22 September 2014.
 Next, a couple of Rustics.  These two are typical late summer moths.  To the naked eye, the Black Rustic looks almost featureless except for those two cream smears.  The flash brings out some very familiar patterning that shows it belongs in the family Noctuidae.

Vine's Rustic, Hoplodrina ambigua.  Hayes, 13 September 2014.
Vine's Rustic, Hoplodrina ambigua.  Hayes, 13 September 2014.
This Vine's Rustic is marked very like its relatives The Rustic and The Uncertain, but they do not usually fly as late as September.  The oval and kidney-mark of the Noctuidae are very clearly outlined.

Tachystola acroxantha.  Hayes, 20 September 2014.
Tachystola acroxantha.  Hayes, 20 September 2014.
This is another micromoth, but small rather than tiny, sometimes nearly 1 cm long.  Those pointed wings with an orange fringe make it very easy to identify.

Large Ranunculus, polymixis flavicincta.  Hayes, 25 September 2014.
Large Ranunculus, polymixis flavicincta.  Hayes, 25 September 2014.
Finally, a pretty moth that came to my window rather than the trap.  It flew in when I opened a fanlight.  I have jars ready to lean out and catch any moths that walk up the outside of the window, but it's much safer if they are obliging like this one!  This way I don't have to climb up onto my computer table.