Monday, 27 February 2012

Around Cudham in February

Cudham churchyard with sheep, 25 February 2012.
Cudham churchyard with sheep, 25 February 2012.
Another day out with the Orpington Field Club. This walk started and finished at Cudham. On our last visit there we went down into the valley to the west; this time we went eastwards, across the valley and through Newyears Wood.

The top photo is Cudham churchyard, in which those two sheep are grazing. This is a good way to manage grass length when the ground is as uneven as you see. All those small hummocks are old and overgrown ant nests.

On the edge of the recreation ground was an Alder, full of catkins that gave off clouds of yellow pollen at the touch of a finger.

Alder catkins, Alnus glutinosa, in Cudham recreation ground. 25 February 2012.
Alder catkins, Alnus glutinosa, in Cudham recreation ground. 25 February 2012
And later we saw some Hazel catkins, just as ripe, on a trimmed-back shrub in a hedgerow.

Hazel catkins, Corylus avellana. 25 February 2012.
Hazel catkins, Corylus avellana. 25 February 2012.
One of the group commented at the start that I would not find much to photograph today.  In fact there was plenty, though not so much as on some walks.   We followed footpaths to start with, and then bridleways down into the valley. This sign is clearly for horse riders; both the paths ahead are bridleways, so this must be meant for people from a particular stable. We saw several horses, on roads and bridleways; it's a popular pastime in this area.

Horseshoe sign on a bridleway near Cudham. 25 February 2012.
Horseshoe sign on a bridleway near Cudham. 25 February 2012.
There were lots of fresh green leaf shoots to be seen. Honeysuckle, Cow Parsley, and Dog's Mercury were abundant.

Dog's Mercury, Mercurialis perennis, by the side of a bridleway near Cudham. 25 February 2012.
Dog's Mercury, Mercurialis perennis, by the side of a bridleway near Cudham. 25 February 2012.
We had a break at Strawberry Bank, a chalk bank managed by Bromley Council dedicated to the memory of a local naturalist, Gordon Dickenson. It's mown flat at the moment, but we could see signs of the rich plant life to come.

Some of the group resting on Strawberry Bank. 25 February 2012.
Some of the group resting on Strawberry Bank. 25 February 2012.
There were occasional Primrose flowers, and I saw a solitary Wild Strawberry flower. We had a moss enthusiast in the group who showed me a few of those which grow on chalky soil, including this one:

Pointed Spear-moss, Calliergon cuspidatum.  A chalk soil moss. 25 February 2012.
Pointed Spear-moss, Calliergon cuspidatum.  A chalk soil moss. 25 February 2012.
The so-called common names of most mosses are not really common. They were made up in recent times, and are known only to bryologists. In many cases I think you have to have some experience to tell mosses apart, but this next one is fairly distinctive.  It was growing on clay soul by the bridleway. There aren't many native species that grow in this tree-like fashion. Its Latin name means fox-tailed; our moss expert added to my education by explaining that the word alopecia originally meant fox-mange.

Fox-tail Feather-moss, Thamnobryum alopecurum. A dendroid Moss. 25 February 2012.
Fox-tail Feather-moss, Thamnobryum alopecurum. A dendroid moss. 25 February 2012.
As we walked on through Newyears Wood, a group of small deer ran across a ride ahead of us. I just managed to get a shot of the last one with my iPhone; this clip is not very good, but it was this or nothing!  One of them was leaping with all four legs at once, like a cutesy cartoon.  Apparently nature can be cute too.

Roe deer crossing the path in Newyears Wood. 25 February 2012.
Roe deer crossing the path in Newyears Wood. 25 February 2012.
Most of these photos were taken with my Ixus 100. Strawberry Bank and the deer were taken with my iPhone. I used that for the Strawberry Bank shot to take advantage of the high dynamic range feature, to capture the small branches and the clouds as well as the land. And for the deer, it was what I had in my hand.

Finally, a shot that probably interests only me. Most of the country gates have little stamped metal plaques like this, showing the makers' names. This one is fairly new.

Gate maker's sign at Strawberry Bank. 25 February 2012.
Gate maker's sign at Strawberry Bank. 25 February 2012.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Myathropa florea

Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, female, on Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, on the Orchid Bank at High Elms Country Park, 14 July 2011.
Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, female, on Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, on the Orchid Bank
at High Elms Country Park, 14 July 2011.
I saw these attractive hoverflies several times last year, from April right through to October. Their bright golden fur makes them stand out, and the bat-shaped outline on the thorax, which you can see in the second photo, is distinctive.

Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, female.  Kelsey Park, 8 August 2011.
Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, female.  Kelsey Park, 8 August 2011.

Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, male.  Farningham Wood,  2 October 2011.
Hoverfly, Myathropa florea, male.  Farningham Wood,  2 October 2011.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Walk Around Knockholt, Part 2

Scarlet elfcup, Sarcoscypha coccinia.  18 February 2012.  Austriaca means 'originating from Austria'. Microscopy is required to separate this fungus from Sarcoscypha austriaca and Sarcoscypha jurana (which has not been recorded in Britain). S. austriaca is believed to be the most common species.  This specimen has been examined and is confirmed to be S. coccinia.
Scarlet elfcup, Sarcoscypha coccinia.  18 February 2012, 11.37 am.
This is part two of my notes of a walk by the Orpington Field Club on Saturday 18th February. To recap briefly: we followed public footpaths around Knockholt; all these photos were taken with an Ixus 100; I am showing them in chronological order to give a sense of the walk.

The Scarlet Elfcup above was probably the star of the day. We saw two specimens in different parts of the wood; this was the first. It is small, but vivid, and is normally regarded as a better poster child for fungi than the more common black, brown and yellow jellies and the various brackets and crusts that can be seen in this season.

Further on we passed a couple of giant redwoods, certainly not native. They look imposing among our trees, though nowhere near the height and bulk they achieve in the USA. A fallen branch gave me the opportunity to see the scaly leaves and the ripening cones, which look like a bunch of lips.

Leaves and cones of a Wellingtonia, Sequoiadendron giganteum. 18 February 2012.
Leaves and cones of a Wellingtonia, Sequoiadendron giganteum. 18 February 2012, 12.02 pm.
The walk leader pointed us to a clump of Velvet Shank, a pretty fungus that can withstand being frozen solid, unlike most soft mushrooms. It was near here that we found the second Scarlet Elfcup.

Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes, in Vavasseur's Wood. 18 February 2012.
Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes, in Vavasseur's Wood. 18 February 2012, 12.04 pm.
Soon afterwards, we stopped for lunch in Vavasseur's Wood, named after a 19th century silk merchant. While the others sat on logs and at a picnic table, I nosed around and photographed this tree streaked with the orange alga Trentepohlia, which is quite common. It's by itself here, but Trentepohlias can also combine with fungi to form various lichens. We had a quick burst of sunshine just in time for me to capture this vivid shade, which is caused by carotenoids, chemicals from the same group as those that colour carrots.

Trentepohlia on a tree trunk in Vavasseur's Wood.  18 February 2012.
Trentepohlia on a tree trunk in Vavasseur's Wood.  18 February 2012, 12.13 pm.
There were some primroses in flower, too, but I didn't get a decent photo.  I did find this common puffball, still full of powdery spores that puffed out, at a touch to the papery top, in greenish clouds that floated off in the breeze. It was sheltered under a tree, so probably escaped the snow.

Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum. Found under a tree in Vavasseur's Wood. 18 February 2012.
Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum.  18 February 2012, 12.20 pm.
Then I found this skull, which used to belong to a Roe Deer (that's my best guess, anyway). It's in quite good shape, and I passed it on to the Field Club for our collection.

Skull of a Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus, which I found in Vavasseur's Wood.  18 February 2012.
Skull of a Roe Deer, Capreolus capreolus, found in Vavasseur's Wood, Knockholt.  18 February 2012, 12.31 pm.
While I was mooching around, I heard a series of crashes as a branch fell from a nearby tree. It seemed to be sprinkled with small, shallow, white cones, which when I got closer turned out to be the undersides of small fungus brackets, perhaps Turkeytail again (there's a photo in Part 1), this time a new growth.

Small brackets, perhaps a fresh growth of Turkeytail, Trametes versicolor, on a branch that fell while I was nearby in Vavasseur's Wood.  18 February 2012.
Small brackets, perhaps a fresh growth of Turkeytail, Trametes versicolor. 18 February 2012, 12.33 pm.
So my lunch period was quite productive! Afterwards, we left the woods and walked down Blueberry Lane to a path over some hilly fields full of sheep. This was delightfully pastoral, though we had to negotiate several high and awkward stiles to follow the path.  At first the sheep just ran away, but after a few minutes they would at least stand still and look at us.

Sheep in the fields near Knockholt, 18 February 2012.
Sheep in the fields near Knockholt, 18 February 2012, 1.17 pm.

Sheep in the fields near Knockholt, 18 February 2012.
Sheep in the fields near Knockholt, 18 February 2012, 1.18 pm.
And now we were nearly back to the churchyard from the opposite direction. I saw a Green Woodpecker flying low in a neighbouring field, and picked up some pheasant feathers as we walked along. We came past the rear of a large house, which I see from the map is called Court Lodge and, from web sources, appears to be a childrens' home. At the end of the long lawn is this classically-inspired folly.

Domed folly in the grounds of a big house in Knockholt, apparently called Court Lodge. 18 February 2012.
Domed folly in the grounds of a big house in Knockholt, apparently called Court Lodge. 18 February 2012, 1.47 pm.
At this point it was getting darker and starting to rain; the walk had been timed perfectly. We passed though a garden with several exotic trees, including one which looked like an evergreen willow, then back through the churchyard and away. A very pleasant and interesting walk.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Walk Around Knockholt, Part 1

Orpington Field Club members in the churchyard at Knockholt, with snowdrops. 18 February 2012.
Orpington Field Club members in the churchyard at Knockholt, with snowdrops. 18 February 2012, 10.05 am.
The Orpington Field Club have events arranged for most weekends this year. This one was a walk through fields and woods, following public footpaths, around Knockholt, a village high on the North Downs. I have shown the times of each photo to give the structure of the walk.

I was not expecting to see much botany. We have just had a few cold days and nights, down to under -8C where I live, and some snow, which I expected would kill off anything left from last year and discourage new growth. But there were a few interesting plants, and in general, more to see than I expected.

Rain was forecast, so I took only my small camera, an Ixus 100; it's easier to protect from the wet than a big SLR with a macro lens. It's normally a good camera, but it's less so in poor light conditions, such as in the woods on a cloudy day. Still ...

We started at about 10 am and looked round the churchyard.  Close to the gate was a wooden seat that was so covered with lichens that it must not have been sat on for a long time. The seat itself was just as thickly covered as this back piece.  (I have switched the first two photos around in time so as to put a wide view at the top of this post; I will keep the rest in time order.)

Flavoparmelia caperata on a seat in Knockholt churchyard, covered with lichens. 18 February 2012.
Flavoparmelia caperata on a seat in Knockholt churchyard, covered with lichens. 18 February 2012, 10.02 am.
The churchyard was full of snowdrops. There were thousands in the nearby woods, too; I have never seen so many in one place.

Snowdrops in the churchyard at Knockholt. 18 February 2012.
Snowdrops in the churchyard at Knockholt. 18 February 2012, 10.05 am.
We walked along the road, past a few early Lesser Celandines and some daisies (which seem to flower, if sometimes in small numbers, all year round) and struck off across the fields, at one point coming onto the North Downs Way.  I was in a small group ahead of the others, who were finding Male Ferns and Broad Buckler Ferns.

The North Downs Way near Knockholt.  18 February 2012.
The North Downs Way near Knockholt.  18 February 2012, 10.36 am.
It was good to get past this track into the woods and out of the cold wind.  We started to see a few fungi on felled trees; the usual small brackets, past their best, and a piece of Lumpy Bracket, Trametes gibbosa, which we failed to identify at the time. We passed along the edge of a wood where Douglas Firs were planted.  The coarse texture of their bark made for some fanciful shapes.

Bark of a Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga species.  18 February 2012.
Bark of a Douglas Fir, Pseudotsuga species.  18 February 2012, 10.56 am.
To one side of the path was a large, dead bracket fungus with a very photogenic texture and appearance.  Where a piece has come away, or been broken off, you can see striations which are the tubes which led to the pores in the lower surface.

Bracket fungus, old and dead. 18 February 2012.
Bracket fungus, old and dead. 18 February 2012, 11.04 am.
There were green things, too. Grasses everywhere, of course, but not in flower.  The trees were covered in mosses, and there were some patches of this liverwort, filmier and flimsier than a moss, which I would expect in damper places.

Metzgeria furcata, a liverwort, on a tree trunk. 18 February 2012.
Metzgeria furcata, a liverwort, on a tree trunk. 18 February 2012, 11.06 am.
I am not really obsessed by fungi, but there are lots around, so it's a good opportunity to learn, and some of them are very photogenic. The small brackets form wonderful patterns. This Turkeytail is very common and makes some lovely shapes.

Turkeytail, Trametes versicolor. 18 February 2012.
Turkeytail, Trametes versicolor. 18 February 2012, 11.14 am.
In another section of the woods were several Tutsan specimens; a yellow-flowered Hypericum which is often used as a garden plant. It does also occur as a native, so these are not necessarily garden escapes. These specimens had no flowers, only the dried remains of their black fruits, and the leaves were a bit bedraggled.

Some of the group examining a Tutsan, Hypericum androsaemum. 18 February 2012.
Some of the group examining a Tutsan, Hypericum androsaemum. 18 February 2012, 11.16 am.
Further in, I was intrigued by this rotting branch of what was probably a cherry or a close relative. The outer part of the branches had rotted away almost completely, leaving the inner part surrounded by unbroken bands of bark, which must have been particularly resistant to fungi and beetles.

Decaying branch of a cherry or relative, Prunus species, with the bark still present in strips around the remains of the wood.  18 February 2012.
Decaying branch of a Prunus species, with the bark still present in strips around the remains of the wood.
18 February 2012, 11.36 am.
And later we came upon a group of plants with the unlikely name of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those who had been here before were expecting to see this, and indeed it is spreading though the woods and seems to be thriving. These specimens appear to have been nipped by the frost, and their flower-buds are only just visible among the old and new leaves; they are below and to the right of centre in this photo.  You can also see that these plants are competing with brambles and nettles, so they must be tough.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Trachystemon orientalis.  Flowerbuds look frostbitten.  18 February 2012.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Trachystemon orientalis.  Flowerbuds look frostbitten.  18 February 2012, 11.28 am.
That's about half-way through my photos for this walk, so I will continue next time.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Hoverfly or Bumblebee?

Greater Bulb-fly, Merodon equestris, a hoverfly that mimics a bee,  and a tiny fly on ox-eye daisy,  Leucanthemum vulgare.  The hoverfly was wrongly identified as Eristalis intricarius by Mike Edwards from a glance at this photo.  Hayes Common, 21 May 2011.  Matt Smith on iSpot says: The upper outer cross vein appears to bend almost 90 degrees before it joins the vein with the U in it just before the wing tip. This is typical of Meredon, in E.intricarius this would have only a shallow gentle curve. Eristalis is variable but usualy also has a wing shade near the stigma whatever the color form.
Greater Bulb-fly, Merodon equestris, on ox-eye daisy,  Leucanthemum vulgare.  Hayes Common, 21 May 2011.
I thought this was a bumblebee until an expert told me it was a hoverfly. Later on, I got a species I.D. from the iSpot site. I know enough now that I could never mistake it for a bee; those little poky antennae are completely fly-like, and of course it only has a single pair of wings. But it does imitate a bumblebee, and quite successfully to a quick glance.

I saw another imitator on a day when we were actually looking for bumblebees. I could see this wasn't one from its colour, which is unlike any of our local bumblers. It's actually another of the same species of hoverfly, which is variable as to body colour.

The common name, Greater Bulb-fly, was given because its larvae feed on lily and narcissus bulbs. Most hovefly larvae feed on aphids, but this species isn't among the goodies.

Hoverfly, Merodon equestris, on corky-fruited water dropwort, Oenanthe pimpinelloides.  Bumblebee walk in Jubilee Country Park, 19 June 2011.
Hoverfly, Merodon equestris, on corky-fruited water dropwort, Oenanthe pimpinelloides.
Jubilee Country Park, 19 June 2011.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Jelly Rot

Jelly Rot, Phlebia tremellosa.  Bottom surface.  Fungus.  Keston Common, 24 December 2011.
Jelly Rot, Phlebia tremellosa.  Bottom surface.  Keston Common, 24 December 2011.
Here's another of those small fungi that creep over rotting logs. This shows well how they can appear as a crust on the surface, and also project outwards in small fans or brackets.  You can see from my thumb that this is quite small.

The first photo shows the underside of a small bracket of this one, Jelly Rot. The intricate folded appearance clearly distinguishes this from the otherwise similar small brackets I have seen. You can compare it to the Hairy Curtain Crust I posted a while ago.  In the second photo you can see that when it grows as a crust, this is what the visible surface looks like; to form a bracket, the top of the underside grows away from the wood and becomes covered with strange hairy fingers.

You can also see in the second photo many tiny springtails. These are ubiquitous on damp rotting wood.

Jelly Rot, Phlebia tremellosa.  Crust and top surface of brackets in situ, growing on dead Silver Birch.  Keston Common, 24 December 2011.
Jelly Rot, Phlebia tremellosa.  Crust and top surface of brackets in situ, growing on dead Silver Birch.
Keston Common, 24 December 2011.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Two Similar Hoverflies

Hoverfly, Eupeodes luniger, female, on chicory, Cichorium intybus.  Jubilee Country Park, 1 July 2011.
Hoverfly, Eupeodes luniger, female, on chicory, Cichorium intybus.  Jubilee Country Park, 1 July 2011.
Here are two hoverflies that are quite difficult to tell apart. Not that they are unique in that! But with this pair, there is a way. In E. corollae, the yellow markings extend right down to the edge of the abdomen; in E. luniger, they do not, quite.

The E. luniger above is feeding on pollen on a Chicory flower in one of the few places locally where you can find it. This is in Jubilee Country Park, which is so pleased with its Chicories that the very smart flower is used in the park's logo. The E. corollae below is on a much more plebeian plant, the Common Ragwort. The location is Husseywell Park in Hayes, which derives its name from "Housewife's Well."

Hoverfly, Eupeodes corollae, on Common Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, in Husseywell Park, Hayes, on Monday 25th July 2011.
Hoverfly, Eupeodes corollae, on Common Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, in Husseywell Park, Hayes,
on Monday 25th July 2011.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

King Alfred's Cakes

King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica, growing on a dead Ash. High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.
King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica. High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.
Given the choice of these two common names, I pick King Alfred's Cakes every time, though perhaps people who weren't fed colourful tales from history as a child won't get the reference. It refers to the story of how King Alfred the Great, defeated (temporarily) by the Danes, took refuge incognito with a woman who asked him to watch her cakes on the griddle, and how he was too wrapped up in thoughts of recovering his kingdom and let them burn. And these small black balls do have the look and texure of charcoal.

This is an old specimen, on a dead Ash. They rarely grow on any other species.  Below are some more shots from the same Ash, and you can see from the second one how it got its species name concentrica.

King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica, growing on a dead Ash. High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.
Dead Ash trunk covered with King Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica. High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.

King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica, growing on a dead Ash. High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.
Old King Alfred's Cake, Daldinia concentrica, mostly worn away, growing on a dead Ash.
High Elms Country Park, 10 January 2012.
I saw some more of these in Scadbury Park on 21st December, and this time they were young, fresh and still a little brown. I cut through this next one to confirm the concentric rings inside, and you can see that it was quite juicy, though the texture was still hard and crisp.

King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica.  Scadbury Park, 21 January 2012.
King Alfred's Cakes, or Cramp Balls, Daldinia concentrica.  Scadbury Park, 21 January 2012.
As with so many plants and fungi, you have to be careful that you don't confuse them with something else. For example, the fungi below are different; still black and hard, but smaller, with many crowded together, and without the concentric rings inside; and on Beech rather than Ash.

Beech Woodwart, Hypoxilon fragiforme. The Knoll, Hayes, 18 January 2012.
Beech Woodwart, Hypoxilon fragiforme.  The Knoll, Hayes, 18 January 2012.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, on hairy St. John's wort, Hypericum hirsutum, on Orchis Bank, Downe.  25 June 2011.
Marmalade hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, on hairy St. John's wort, Hypericum hirsutum,
on Orchis Bank, Downe.  25 June 2011.
This is the commonest hoverfly locally, and it's very pretty with the alternating large and small black stripes on a yellow background, which give it its common name. In the first photo, a female is feeding on Hairy St. John's Wort in one of Charles Darwin's old study areas. It's good to see some of the less common St. John's Worts.

I took lots of photos of this species in 2011.   It seems to go for yellow flowers, which it sets off beautifully, and I also often saw it hovering in woodland clearings.

Here is a male on a flower of Bristly Oxtongue on one of my favourite locations, the border of the Hayes Station car park.

Marmalade hoverfly, Episyrpus balteatus, male, on a flower of Bristly Oxtongue, Picris echioides, at the edge of Hayes Station car park, 26 July 2011.
Marmalade hoverfly, Episyrpus balteatus, male, on a flower of Bristly Oxtongue, Picris echioides,
at the edge of Hayes Station car park, 26 July 2011.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Springtail

Purple Jellydisc, Ascocoryne sarcoides, with Springtail, Dicyrtomina saundersi.  Scadbury Park, 21 January 2012.
Purple Jellydisc, Ascocoryne sarcoides, with Springtail, Dicyrtomina saundersi.  Scadbury Park, 21 January 2012.
This is another shot from the Orpington Field Club trip to Scadbury Park on 21 January. I was photographing the fungus, Purple Jellydisc, the same speies that featured in my last post. At the time I didn't even notice these tiny creatures.

They are Springtails, a group of hexapods closely related to insects. Usually I see more elongated, darker Springtails, so I was quite surprised by these more globular specimens.  Springtails are extremely abundant in damp places, but are rarely noticed because they are so small. The piece of fungus is only about 2 cm across and I didn't even notice the Springtails until I was processing the photo.

There were several in the original photo, but I have cropped this so that the best one shows up well. But there are still two in the shot. Look at the near face of the right-hand blob of fungus. That one is too small for me to be sure it's the same species!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Three Colours of Rot

Black Bulgar, Bulgaria inquinans, growing on a fallen Oak branch.  West Wickham Common, 7 January 2012.
Black Bulgar, Bulgaria inquinans, growing on a fallen Oak branch.  West Wickham Common, 7 January 2012.
Here are three more fungi. That's what is growing in the woods in this season, so that's what I come back home with photos of.

This first one, the Black Bulgar, was all over a fallen Oak branch, each growth being only 5 or 6 centimetres across. It looks black in the shady woods, but the bright flash shows that it is really a rich dark brown, a textured outside surface surrounding a shiny, and much darker, central fruiting surface.

Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica.  High Elms Country Park, 12 January 2012.
Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica.  High Elms Country Park, 12 January 2012.
This brightly coloured specimen has a pleasantly macabre common name. It has a soft, jelly-like texture; finding this out means you do have to poke them, however unappealing the prospect might appear. At least if you know it's a fungus and not, perhaps, some weird animal deposit, it's not that unpleasant a prospect. I mention this as I have recently read about a mysterious jelly-like substance that a few people found in the countryside, which was determined to be stag sperm (and not, as some had suggested, something that had fallen from a meteor). That's something I would be more reluctant to prod with a finger.

Purple Jellydisc, Ascocoryne sarcoides.  Keston Common, 24 December 2011.
Purple Jellydisc, Ascocoryne sarcoides.  Keston Common, 24 December 2011.
The last one for today looks to me just like raw bacon.  (The yellow fungi around it are Hairy Curtain Crust.)  All three of these specimens are small, hard to notice unless you are particularly watching out for anything interesting. The last two are about 5 cm across, though they can grow bigger.

All of these, like many fungi, are saprophytes, growing on dead branches or stumps and helping to return them to the soil.