Autumnal fun – a fungus foray

At this time of the year there’s no doubt that Autumn is fully under way. Autumn is my favourite season, I always think late August/September time is the least exciting time of the year for wildlife. There’s not as much about so when Autumn approaches and the leaves start to change it’s as though it’s all coming back to life again. In my opinion anyway!

The leaves are changing and walking through my local woodland turns into an artist painting with hundreds of different colours and shades. As well as this, the badgers I film and watch are busy preparing for the winter, which is when they become less active. I normally get some great sights of them at this time and in the past the footage I’ve recorded has been very comical.

Looking to the skies and the feeders in the back garden, everything is very exciting. For example, so far in my garden the number of goldfinches has boomed. Most mornings before going out I look out and spend ten minutes or so watching the dramas as they squabble over the nyger seeds or sunflower hearts. It reminds me a lot from when I was younger, the time when one year we had literally hundreds in the garden at one time. We haven’t had that many for a few years but the sight of them is still so special.

I’ve also been starting to notice flocks of long-tailed tits on my routes, something which I find great as they’re a bird that I don’t often get in my garden.

Over the next few weeks, as the weather gets colder and we head into winter, I’ll also look forward to seeing all the winter migrants. Already I’ve heard people reporting of redwing. I also really look forward to waxwings which I imagine shouldn’t be too long now.

Here in Staffordshire I don’t live far from Cannock Chase which has a very healthy fallow deer population. At this time of the year obviously that only means one thing, rutting! Unfortunately I haven’t seen any behaviour yet this year but I look forward to in the next few weeks. Another Autumnal spectacle.

A big factor of why I decided to write this blog is because of one of my favourite Autumn activities. It consists of looking closer into the leaf litter, or perhaps on the sides of dying trees, and is of course, fungi foraying! At this time of the year when I’m either out on my patch or elsewhere I’m on high alert for nearby toadstools or bracken. My identification skills still aren’t there yet, I have a long way to go, but I enjoy learning about what I see. Not just the name but the fascinating biology behind it.

To expand my knowledge even more, yesterday morning I went on a fungi foray with my local (Lichfield) wildlife group . It took place at a woodland about 5 minutes from where I live so it’s basically one of my local patches. When I was up there just last week I noticed the number of different species I saw and also got a few photos too. However yesterday was good as you can learn so much from other peoples knowledge and so I did!

We were out for about 2 hours and saw a whole host of different fungi. From the common and typical candle snuff and coral to (at least) two different species of ink cap. At different locations you find different types, whether that be due the vegetation in the area, weather or soil type. So every time I go on a fungus foray at another location it’s very interesting to compare what I see. There was a few species that I was looking for yesterday, some of which I saw but others I didn’t, however I did see some that I hadn’t noted before. At this site a really common species was a type of honey fungi and field blewit (which is of course edible).

I didn’t get many photos but here are a few.

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Leaping into Spring!

Over the past few days and weeks the weather has been warming up, we’re seeing birds collecting nesting material in the garden, bees and butterflies are emerging, primroses are spurting up everywhere and frog spawn is emerging in our garden ponds. There’s no doubt about it Spring has sprung and it’s very exciting! I went along to one of my favourite local places yesterday, Elford Hall Gardens, and there were plenty signs that Spring has arrived!

Whilst walking around the walled garden I was having a good look in one of the small ponds and spotted a massive heap of frog spawn and at least 10 frogs surrounding it. The frogs were croaking, swimming around and poking their little heads above the water. Even though frogs are a species that I see throughout Spring, Summer, and sometimes into the colder months, they were great to watch and I managed to get some photos of them too.

Along with this, whilst walking around the gardens, there were lots of Spring flowers including primroses and daffodils. However the best moment of the visit was walking down a path and a swallow was flying right above our heads! This was the first time I’ve seen a swallow this year so it was very exciting and I couldn’t wait to record it as part of the Big Spring Watch.

The Big Spring Watch

For those of you who watched Springwatch at Easter on Friday evening you’ll already know all about this but for those of you who didn’t the Big Spring Watch is where you record when you see five seasonal events. By doing this the Woodland Trust hope to piece together the speed at which five seasonal events are first seen across the country from south to north.

The five season events are:

  • English Oak
  • Hawthorn
  • 7-spot ladybird
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Swallow

These records will lead to a better understanding of seasonal timings which means the Woodland Trust, along with many others, may be able to help species that appear less able to react to climate change. We know that our precious habitats are under threat and it’s important that we do what we can to protect these habitats and the species within them.

You can read more about the Big Spring Watch here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/natureuk/entries/ec03f10b-aa7e-46a4-8671-67d8f9069bec

I have already recorded one of the five seasonal events, which was a swallow, so don’t forget to do so yourself when you spot one of the events from the list.

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Flying Start to my Easter Holiday!

If someone was to ask me what my favourite bird is without a doubt I’d say a peregrine falcon. They may not be as beautiful or glamorous as some other birds but their speed, ability and performance is beyond me, plus they’re a raptor.

Occasionally I see one on my evening walks after school, visiting my local patch or nature reserve. As well as this I travel to Derby Cathedral quite often and watch them there. You can watch the peregrines at Derby by clicking here.

Even though watching them at Derby is fantastic, it’s a bit of a trek for me. So when I found out a few months back that last year a pair had nested at my local cathedral I was over the moon! I kept in touch with a man who works at the cathedral and yesterday morning I had a message saying that one of the birds had been spotted there quite a lot recently.

Due to this as soon as I got home from school yesterday evening, I got changed and walked down to the cathedral. It took me about 20 minutes to walk there and as soon as I got there, I raised my binoculars and there it was sitting directly in front of me. I was so thrilled. It was quite high up so I didn’t get the best view or the best photo. However by pot luck the man I’d kept in touch with recognised me whilst I was watching the bird and we had a chat about last years chicks, when the birds around and where it normally sits. This was very interesting and hopefully, in the future, I’ll get some better photos when it isn’t sitting as high up.

I arrived at 6.30 and observed it until about 7.40, when it vanished. Even though looking up almost vertically for over an hour didn’t do my neck or back any good it was worth it! I felt so privileged to see a bird like this so close to my house and I’ll definitely be making the most of it!

Here are some photos I got. They’re not the best but at least I managed to get some!

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My Wild Life

A few weeks back I heard about The Wildlife Trusts ‘My Wild Life’ campaign. The aim is to show how much nature matters to our lives. They’re doing this by showcasing stories of hundreds of peoples daily experiences with nature and how it is helping us all. The more people who add their story and make nature part of their life, the bigger the voice for wildlife, and it’s really important that we do this. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, over the last 40 years Earth has lost half of its wildlife. People need to realise this, how scary this decline is and that we all need to do something to reverse it.

I decided to do a blog about it as I think it’s fantastic a campaign. I’ve seen the stories everywhere, lots of different people have been getting involved and their stories are really heartwarming. Here is a link to the My Wild Life website where you can read more about it and some of the stories, where you can also add your own  – http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/

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