Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Parrots in the Peak ;)

First of all, an apology to birders who were drawn in by the title. I'm afraid this edition of my blog contains no birds at all. The parrot waxcap is pictured right.
Had a nice outing to Greno and Wheata Woods at the weekend, taking out an acquaintance who is keen to learn about fungi. Much of the earlier flush had gone over, but it was not bad for showing some of the main groups of fungi, as within the first 5 minutes we saw brackets, amanitas, russulas, lactarius, boletes, and others. We found trumpet chanterelles - what you birders would call a "lifer", and after scrupulous checks, I scoffed the lot. Not bad: a nice earthy taste, but not very substantial. And best of all, I'm still alive.
Just realised that this month marks the 40th anniversary of my arrival in Sheffield. Wow! Like so many, I was captivated my the lure of the Peak District on my doorstep, but over the last few years, I've been discovering the charms of South Yorkshire. However, now is a good time to rediscover the Peak District: now I've retired I can go out during the week, when it's not quite as busy as at the weekend or in high Summer.
So yesterday, the forecast being good, I set off for one of my favourite walks near Bretton (the one between Eyam and Abney, that is). It has everything - conifers, beech, oak, birch, rowan, hazel, and rough pasture, not to mention fantastic views. And most surprising of all for a circular walk, it is almost all downhill. Yes, yes, I know... it just seems like that.
It was a day where Summer collides with Autumn, to make it almost perfect. Sadly the heather had all but gone over, but there were still butterflies searching out the last remaining blooms. As I set off, there was thick cloud over the Derwent Valley, below blue skies. By the time I'd got my boots on, it had burned off, so the only photo I got was with my phone camera.
One of the main reasons for this choice was to hunt for waxcaps - the jewels of the fungus world, and I was not disappointed. Yellow, orange, red, pink, black, white and green... (the parrot waxcap) . I also saw lots of what is now called the Scarlet Catterpillarclub. No, not an exclusive organisation for red wannabe butterflies, but a fungus which infects insects to use as a food source.  The colours in the woodland fungi were pretty spectacular as well - yellow chanterelles, red and maroon russulas, orange lactarius, red and white fly agaric, and verdigris agaric. Don't want to fill my blog with too many photos, so please follow the link on the right to Flickr if you want to see more. There were plenty of brown birch boletes down in the valley, but it was only under pretty much the last tree of the walk that I found a magnificent cep. Patience rewarded.
In addition to fungi,  (I'll list these on the fungi lists page) I saw peacock, small tortoiseshell and small copper butterflies. Sorry, birders, the only other flying things I saw were a light aircraft, a glider and these : the Birdpeople of Great Hucklow

Friday, September 17, 2010

Puttanesca it is, then

Tuesday was another day at Old Moor. With the aid of the Wader ID sheet that was put together by Kate, the assistant warden, I managed to ID a ruff. At least, I think I did. Visit my Flickr pages if you want to check! Lots of teal and golden plover, and otherwise the usual suspects. There was very little in the reed bed area, partly down to very strong winds and partly due to work taking place on a nearby bank.
Wednesday, I did a bit more clearing out - my room is starting to look slightly less cluttered and I even set up my old microscope and looked at some spores of fungi from Monday. No idea what I was looking at, but one step at a time!
On Thursday, yet more bramble jelly was made, this time a "limited edition" (i.e. only 3 small jars) of a spicy version. In the evening I went to the AGM of the Sheffield Wildlife Trust. It's quite exciting times for them, as they are just taking their first steps towards the ownership of a large area of woodland in the North of the city - Greno Wood. There was a very interesting talk about woodland by Mel Jones, a local expert, followed by a very acceptable buffet.
So to today. Friday is pasta day. I went to Little Matlock Wood in the Loxley Valley, in the hope of getting a few choice mushrooms. I've experienced some mixed fortunes here in the past, but felt confident, considering the current profusion, that I'd find some goodies. You can never rely on fungi, so plan b was a nice home-made puttanesca sauce. I could hardly believe how little there was around. If you look at my new lists page, you will see how little. even the one badius was pretty puny .
As if to compensate, I was treated to a viewing of a kingfisher along the river, and a couple of grey wagtails put on a show to allow me to get photos. I also saw a treecreeper, and some very noisy jays, who seemed to be warning off a raptor that I glimpsed only fleetingly. A passing dog walked informed me that it was a "sparrerork", but I have been warned about believing men in hides, and I suspect the same goes for dog walkers.
Finally, I was very excited to find that one of my photos had been chosen to go on a BBC Nature blog.
I'm including it here, but this is the link in case you don't believe me :-)
Click on this post's title

Monday, September 13, 2010

A full-on day

This morning I went out to one of my favourite fungi sites - a small birch woodland above Ladybower. On the way out, my first treat was a kestrel hovering low over the bank of the reservoir. There were a few of the usual suspects in the rough grassland on the way - dung roundheads and liberty caps. The woodland itself didn't disappoint. There were about 15 that I could comfortably record, either immediately or with a small amount of work with my new edition of the trusty Phillips, and there were probably at least as many again that I could narrow down to the family, such as mycena, russula, and lactarius, plus a few more that I was unsure about. As well as the old standby bay bolete, I found a couple of fine ceps and even a few chanterelles.

Among the non-edibles, I found an amanita that was new to me (a. porphyria), several lactarius and a laccaria bicolor.
On the walk back, I had a great close up view of a couple of wrens larking about, a hare loping along the path, and this fine fellow:

This evening I had my first outing with the Sheffield Bird Study Group. Unfortunately it was rather dark and windy, but nevertheless, large numbers of gulls obliged by coming in to roost, and we even saw 4 yellow legged gulls, apparently. Perhaps not the easiest initiation for a crap birder like me. The members made me very welcome, and I can look forward to a meeting soon about photography.
My cocoa tonight will be accompanied by the gulls section in my birds field guide.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time flies when you're having fun!

Sunday already! Still busy clearing out the clutter, and joining things like there's no tomorrow. Had an excursion round my local patch above Rivelin Valley earlier in the week and bagged a couple of nice bay boletes and an orange birch bolete for the pot - a simple pasta sauce was again the preference. It brought back memories of when I trawled the area very regularly, and even kept records. Bits of it look quite different. Some areas seem to be more managed whilst other areas are getting wilder and more overgrown. No wax caps or field mushrooms in the meadow but maybe it's still early days.

Yesterday, I went out with a group from Sorby Natural History Society. It was a bit of a return to the fold. I'm going to try to get back into recording and reacquainting myself with names (although it appears that some of them have changed and common names are now de rigeur for even the most unlikely candidates). One advantage of going out with a group is that there are more sets of eyes, although this can also be a problem, as with so much around, progress was slow. Barry, one of our leaders, was keen to show us the parasitic bolete he had discovered, but it must have taken us a couple of hours to cover the few hundred yards to the spot. But eventually we found it and here it is:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Another splendid day at RSPB Old Moor

I was determined to get out and about today despite the grim weather forecast. When I checked my weather app this morning it wouldn't load - obviously, as it transpired, it was embarrassed at being so horribly wrong. Or beautifully wrong. I set off to Old Moor. It was a glorious day with fantastic light and I was delighted to find that there were lots more dragonflies around today than went we went last week. I was pleased with some of the photos I got - plenty of common darters, and also common hawkers, brown hawkers and migrant hawkers. I say all this with confidence, but it is just bluster as I am still a novice. I'm getting a bit better at birds, but I find those waders really tough to ID - they all look pretty much the same to me. People in hides were bandying around names around like curlew sandpiper, spotted redshank, stint... oh dear! I got talking to 2 guys in the bittern hide who suggested I should join a group and go to meetings and on outings to learn from others. Of course they are right, so now I have the time perhaps I'll investigate the local RSPB group in Sheffield.
Birds that I saw and am more confident to ID included little grebe, great crested grebe, grey herons, lapwings, the ubiquitous coots and moorhens, canada geese, teal, marsh harrier and tufted duck.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Walking South Yorkshire: 2nd Sheffield walk

Yesterday I tried out another walk from Rob's book. It started at Glen Howe Park and took me via familiar territory through Brightholmlee and down to More Hall Reservoir. The return leg took me to an area I hadn't walked before, over Spout House Hill. This involved some stiff climbing and way finding, but the views from the top were really spectacular.
It was a little disappointing on the fungi front, after the profusion of Tuesday's outing. There was collybia maculata, boletus chrysenteron, ganoderma applanatum, and my first wax cap of the year - a solitary hygrocybe nigrescens.
Near the highest point, I disturbed a hare, and on the bird front, I saw quite a few swallows near a number of the farmhouses on the route. A kestrel was hunting on the summit, and on the reservoir there was a great crested grebe. I also flushed out a green woodpecker from the scrub on the ascent. The star butterfly was a small copper.

In Praise of Blackberries

Delicious, versatile, easy to identify, plentiful and free. And this year so plentiful that you can pick just those immediately in front of you at arm height. No need to stretch and risk scratching and bites from unseen insects, although it is still wise to keep an eye open for sneaky nettles and rival wasps. When they are so prolific, no special equipment or effort is needed. Just a bucket. The secret is to ignore those large juicy ones just out of reach and select from the space immediately in front of you. This makes the whole process relatively stress-free. Of course there are always those very ripe berries which squish between your fingers, and the stubborn one which refuse to come quietly, but on the whole, this becomes one of those therapeutic, getting in touch with nature-type activities. I can well imagine that in this country you are never more than a few yards away from a blackberry bush.
Then you get them home and the next stage of the ritual begins: wash them, pick over them, weigh them, and decide what you are going to do with them. They are so versatile, it's difficult to decide: pies, crumbles, cobblers; on their own or combined with apples; seedy jams, clear, sparking jellies, sweet and spicy cordials with just a hint of brandy to preserve and enhance their medicinal qualities, vinegars, wines, liqueurs... the possibilities are endless.  

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First of September 2010

Today is officially my first day of retirement. I'd intended to continue working for a few years more, but the way things have worked out, I think - in fact I know - I'm going to enjoy setting about that "to do" list! For a start, I am resolved to refresh my fungi knowledge, as I have really just kept things ticking over for the last few years. To that end, I'm going to rejoin Sorby Natural History Society and aim to start recording again and meeting up with the fungi community. I'm also going to try harder to learn about birds. I shall spend more time at Old Moor, and worry people in hides. What a perfect time of year to be doing this. The fungi have stared to appear with a vengeance, even if 90% of them are brown roll rims, and the birds are starting to migrate.
Speaking of Old Moor, we went there on Monday - a glorious day. I said hello to Nicola, the official Old Moor Twitterer, took a lot of rubbish photos and was baffled by assorted waders.
Yesterday, I combined one of Rob's walks with a fungus foray. Number 2 in the book, for anyone who has a copy (see earlier post). It was a shortish walk taking in a couple of the woodlets around the Greno Woods area. There was masses of stuff around. This year, grisettes seem to be very profuse. One small but perfectly formed cep, along with a couple of nice bay boletes, was introduced later to some fresh pasta, white wine and various flavourings.

Time to get out the dehydrator, I think.