Wildlife in October 2017
1st October: Fineshade Fungi
It's the time of year when fungi are suddenly appearing all over the wood. Here are four pictures of some of the ones that we've seen recently - and we'd love to publish as many more as possible. Please do send us your toadstool and mushroom pictures - this will probably be the main focus of Fineshade's Wildlife Diary this autumn.
One problem with fungi is that some of them are very difficult to identify properly - unless they are examined under a microscope. The one on the left we are pretty sure about - it's a Magpie Inkcap (Coprinus picaceus). Linda Peirce has been watching these come up in one area of Fineshade for many years, but she thinks this is the earliest she has ever seen one. And on the right is the Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus), a much commoner and widespread species. But those below are much less certain.
We think the one on the left is another inkcap, the Pleated Inkcap (Coprinus Plicatilis, while the magnificent specimen on the right might be Bitter Knight (Tricholoma acerbum).
If you know your fungi please tell us what you think.
But what we would really like is a good mycologist to come and visit the wood to see what's here - there seem to be very, very few well-documented Fineshade records in the county database, so who knows what could be found?
5th October: Sparrrowhawk
This week Lee Hellwing sent us this superb picture of a Sparrowhawk lurking in the Wild Service Tree in front of the Wildlife Hide.
Sparrowhawks breed regularly in Fineshade Wood and the one pictured here may well have come from one of this year's local nests. It is certainly a young bird and still in juvenile plumage - see how the dark feathers on its back all have pale fringes?
The bill of the Sparrowhawk is hooked and rather small but it is the feet and long sharp talons that help to make the Sparrowhawk such a successful predator. You can just see one of the talons silhouetted in this picture. These are used to catch the small birds that form the Sparrowhawk's prey. You can often see them flashing past the bird feeders in front of the hide but they seldom stay around long enough to get such a compelling picture as this.
9th October: Anyone for a Penny Bun?
We met a young man from Poland looking for fungi in the wood. But he was not too happy - after an hour and a half of searching he had found only one fungus. He held up a small black bag. But it was apparently a very delicious one and therefore the effort had, just about, been worth it.
With great pride he drew out his brown prize. He didn't know its name in English but suggested that I should try eating this type of mushroom if I managed to find any more. On searching my fungus book I think what he had found was a Penny Bun (Boletus edulis).
There is an excellent blog about Penny Buns by Ian Carter here.
I wonder why the tradition of searching for and eating fungi has died out in this country, while in mainland Europe it is still widely practised? Certainly the young Pole knew far more about the fungi in this English woodland than I did. He immediately advised me to refrain from eating the grey-capped specimens I had been looking at nearby. "No, no, no! Those are most unpleasant!".
Can anyone identify this species from the picture? And please can anyone confirm the Penny Bun identity too?
13th October: Historical fungi records
We are very grateful to the Northants Biological Records Centre for sending us the historical records they hold of fungi in Fineshade. Clearly Fineshade has been neglected by mycologists in recent years because there are just two authenticated records, both from 17 years ago. On 24th May 2000 someone recorded the rare Foetid Parachute (Micromphale foetidum) and the much more common Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus).
However, of great interest, are six records from Victorian times. They were collected over the years 1835 to 1859 and include both rare and common species. Three of the records are anonymous, but the other three are accredited to "M.J.Berkley". We wondered who this person was, wandering round Fineshade and Westhay Woods almost two centuries ago. Wikipedia, of course, supplied the answer. He was Rev. Miles Joseph Berkley, and the country's leading authority on fungi. At the time of his Fineshade records he was curate of Apethorpe, a village just 5 miles away to the south east, and lived at King's Cliffe.
One of the species Berkeley recorded here was Tapesia Rosae, (left), a rare fungus that can be found on dead rose stems. The date of the record is October 1835. Let's look to see if we can find it again this October, 182 years on!
Berkeley's other Fineshade records were Inocybe curreyi and Massarina tetraploa. The three anonymous records were of Leafy Brain (Tremella foliacea), Hornbeam Milkcap (Lactarius circellatus) and Bent Milk-stool (Lactarius flexuosus)
23rd October: Three birds in flight
Once again we are most grateful to Kurt Hellwing for sending these great images that he took during a recent visit to the Wildlife Hide. With pictures like this one can see details that sometimes tell you the age or sex of the bird.
For example, here the dark bird is a Buzzard and the barring under the body and wings indicate that it is an adult (at least 2 years old). The Green Woodpecker is a female - males have a red mark on the cheek.
It's not possible to tell the sex or age on the Jay but the picture shows the beautiful blue-black barring on the coverts (the small feathers on the upperside of the wing)
27th October: Fallow deer
In front of the Wildlife Hide in Fineshade there is an open glade known as the Deer Lawn. In autumn and winter months herds of fallow deer sometimes gather there and, during his recent visit, Kurt Hellwing was able to take these pictures. Top right is a doe with fairly typical colouring. They sometimes have more pronounced white spots, though these often fade during the winter. Notice the very distinctive white rump outlined with a black horseshoe. The doe below seems to have two fawns with her, but it is unlikely that they are both hers. Single fawns are born in June after a gestation of over seven months. They are usually weaned by October.
Fallow deer come in a variety of colours and the picture below is of a magnificent and rather unusual melanistic buck. (Note: male Red Deer are called stags, but Fallow Deer males are called bucks.) Rutting is coming to an end now. It has been going on for the last month or so, and it has been possible to hear the bucks groaning and, just occasionally, the clashing of antlers as they compete for superiority. However, Fallow Deer are very wary and it is not often that such good pictures as these can be obtained.