WEDNESDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2020

HOVERINGHAM + DCW

Near disaster from the outset as I realised I’d not put my warm jacket in the car but we set off round the railway lake to see what birds we could see, with me in short-sleeved shirt and lightweight fleece jacket – though the wind speed was 0 and the sun was easing the mist from the lake.

Railway Lake 09:30

However, birding was disappointing after a fly-along Water Rail and Dave erred towards the mosses while I looked for anything that resembled a fungus – without much in the way of success. I refused to attempt a homogeneous, crumbing bracket on an oak as worthy of a challenge.

Much of the day we recalled things we’d seen on previous visits to this neck of the woods including a disputed falcon, a lot of rosettes of Bee Orchid, a Great White Egret, Rob Johnson, Scaup and Plantago coronopus. Oh! and John Hopper, who was still there keeping an eye on the place. Dave and he had a long reminiscing natter and after a quick lunch and a fruitless scan for the two Black-necked Grebes, I felt the need for shelter from the increasing breeze.

Feeding Station

The trees around the feeding station took the edge off the chill and pulled in Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Blackbird and perhaps a few others that I can’t recall.

Aldercap – Naucoria sp.

We did find a few fungi, one of which, a toadstool in my vocabulary, produced a brown spore print and which keyed out, in what I am finding to be the increasingly functional key (mentioned last week) to be of the genus Naucoria. These are the Aldercaps which, given the abundance of Alders in the area, and the resemblance to the illustrations in my books looks to be likely. There are however, a dozen species and I’m only going so far as to suggest that ours might be the commonest, Naucoria escharoides, the Ochre Aldercap.

Naucoria – spore print and gills.

As the chill of the mid-afternoon set in and I realised my thermal vest had saved the day, we spotted the ‘red-head’ Smew that had eluded us earlier in the day, shining prominently in the afternoon sun.

Adult female or first-winter male Smew – from some way off.

TUESDAY 28TH JANUARY 2020

CHARNWOOD FOREST

A cold wind developed through the day so the choice of a relatively sheltered Charnwood over Hoveringham proved wise. We started though with an exposed Swithland Reservoir with birds as the objective but from the dam, there were none worth a mention but a diversion onto the road crossing produced a white, heron-sized blob that we, I think agreed was more likely to be a Great (white) Egret than an albino heron and 7 Buzzards. The dam was more interesting for the botanist with a nice variety of wall ferns:

Rustyback – Asplenium ceterach
Wall Rue – Asplenium ruta-muraria
Black Spleenwort – Asplenium adiantum-nigrum
Polypody – Polypodium agg.

Then we had a drive over to a wood last visited by Dave about 22 years ago and by me, never; Poultney Wood is probably better known as part of Ulverscroft Nature Reserve and is very different from the woods of Rushcliffe so, with its acid soils, Bilberry and Heather were on the day list.

My eyes immediately honed in on the fungi which have begun to attract my interest and I was delighted to find enough to challenge me. Rather conveniently they were all fungi on trees – brackets and crusts (except for a small group of puffballs) so I was able to narrow down the choices.

I used the disproportionately expensive but very helpful “An initial guide to the identification of mushrooms and toadstools by Paul Nichol; 4th edition” (36 pages, £12) and “Mushrooms by Roger Phillips, Macmillan 2006” (384 pages, £13.98) and was very pleased to put names to four species with some confidence and three others with less certainty as follows. (This time I took a photo and a sample of them all.)

Turkeytail – Trametes versicolor.
Hairy Curtain Crust – Stereum hirsutum
Bitter Oysterling – Panellus stipticus
Wrinkled Crust – Phlebia radiata
Hoof fungus – Fomes fomentarius
Pleurotus ? Possibly Pleurotus ostreatus
Phellinus ?

This one, the Phellinus ? keyed out quite nicely to the genus but I couldn’t pin it down. This is the underside – with distinctive-looking, elongated pores.

Phellinus ? pores.

And finally another fern to round off a fine list: Hard Fern is another rare one in Notts but which is common in the Peak District and Charnwood.

Hard Fern – Blechnum spicant

The wood was disappointingly bird-less apart from some chanting Nuthatches, though it was hardly spring-like weather and ended with a very brief sleety shower.

TUESDAY 21ST JAN 2020

CARSINGTON RESERVOIR + DCW

Our first trip out for over a month to a site that I’ve only visited for social and business purposes – never for its natural history. Dave has passed it several times but on this occasion we did the full 13.5km circuit so new ground for both of us.

Passerines were very much in evidence for the first part of the walk, much of which, though definitely not the dam, is well wooded. Dave’s keen ears soon picked up invisible Siskin and Bullfinch but I had no problem with the equally elusive Nuthatches.

Star of the day were Bank Voles. We had seen one quite well earlier but then this little chap was spotted next to the path.

Bank Vole

It is very unusual to even see a vole but to see one climbing right next to us was extraordinary – and to manage a short video makes for a real red-letter day. Though see later for the effect a Great Northern Diver had on a passing walker.

Not much in the way of wader habitat with the reservoir full to the brim but we saw a couple of Snipe, a Redshank and Lapwings.

Peewit or Green Plover

There are signs all the way around the reservoir forbidding entry to the ‘conservation areas’ most of which feature a lapwing and its alternative names. In all my life of bird-watching I have never heard anyone use these names – they are universally known as Lapwings.

I’ve been swotting up on fungi courtesy of Peter Marren’s book, Mushrooms (number 1 in the British Wildlife Collection) and I brought home a small sample which produced a blackish spore print and I believe I pinned it down to being of the genus Hypholoma but, fool that I am, I didn’t get a picture.

Later though I took this one.

Unidentified fungus

Which of course I can’t identify as I don’t have the specimen.

Somewhere near Upperfield Farm, Dave spotted one of the Great Northern Divers that we knew were present and a little later on we were able to view it a little closer, only we didn’t, because a passing lady, one half of a husband and wife team, showed an interest in what had attracted our attention and she was more than delighted to observe the diver through my modest telescope. She said we had made her day, asked appropriate questions about its plumage, declared that she had wanted to see this wonderful bird since reading Swallows and Amazons, and thanking us profusely for fulfilling her wishes, declared that her dream had come. I think she was going a bit over the top when she revived how momentous the event was, when she decided we had made her decade and I told her so. Nevertheless, it cheered us up to realise we had worked such magic, as she sprinted off up the hill to catch her other half who clearly had never read Arthur Ransome’s classic or at least had not been so affected by it: I tried reading it as an adult and I couldn’t understand the nautical terminology – and that was after spending 18 months on a trawler!

It was a long walk by my standards and when we both needed a rest we magicked up a little accommodation though Dave grabbed the armchair.

Wooden it be nice

A Goldcrest accompanied for some of the way.

Goldcrest

MONDAY 2ND DECEMBER 2019

RUTLAND WATER + DCW

A winter’s day but no wind to speak of and some warmth in the sun at times.

Cormorant Trees on South Shore, Lyndon

Egrets were the order of the day with numerous Little and at least 5 Great White. The former have not warranted a mention on bird news for years and it seems now, that their Heron sized followers are to be taken for granted.

Great White Egret

We started with a look along the shore at Barnsdale and a wander into Barnsdale Wood where I was pleased to have Dave draw my attention to Square-stalked St. John’s-wort Hypericum tetrapterum and two sedges. The road to botanical competence is long and winding; Remote Sedge Carex remota, I have seen a few times but not really recognised it as being stand-out different and Thin-spiked Wood Sedge Carex strigosa, I have never seen before. I am pleased to say that I would have recognised them as being unfamiliar so I’m getting there.

Great Crested Grebe

There is a variety of sheep along the walk to the hides at Lyndon and they include this ‘panda’ variety.

Kerry Hill Sheep

I tracked it down with the assistance of google to being of the Kerry Hill breed originating from Powys around the English/Welsh border.

And a couple of recent garden encounters; a milder spell towards the end of November brought a small rush of December Moths and the first day of bird-feeder stocking tempted a Blackcap to the suet.

December Moths
male Blackcap

MONDAY 18TH NOVEMBER 2019

ATTENBOROUGH + DCW

Jay

Our bird-oriented winter outings are developing a theme of wandering local sites, interspersed with occasional trips to more distant, out-of-county locations. This one was slightly out of the ordinary, in that we trespassed in to Derbyshire for much of the day, having begun at Nottinghamshire’s best known nature reserve. This meant missing out on the Cattle Egrets but a wisp of about 15 Snipe was a notable group and 48 species on the day was not a bad total. It included 78 Pink-footed Geese heading north-westwards and a couple of Ravens, the latter leading to a brief encounter with a lady, familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s ebony bird and who could recite the first part of Chaucer’s prologue to the Canterbury Tales.

78 Pink-footed Geese
Twa Corbies

Several mixed-heritage bulls together in a field seems unusual. Three of them were having a sparring match with a bit of hanky-panky thrown in but there was no messing with this guy.

Plant of the day (though certainly not photo of the day) was a very nice Derbyshire specimen of False London-rocket Sisymbrium loeselii.

THURSDAY 14TH NOVEMBER 2019

KEYWORTH

Not much in the way of wildlife; just a few ducks and gulls along Lings Lane enjoying the watery conditions.

Mere Sick and the pastures off Lings Lane

But Fairham Brook which behaves entirely naturally as it passes Keyworth Meadow coped perfectly with the exceptional rainfall despite its meanders and trees growing and falling into the channel and in a small way attenuated the flows and prevented worse flooding downstream.

WEDNESDAY 13TH NOVEMBER 2019

FRAMPTON MARSH, LINCS +DCW & Nova

Pink-footed Geese

Once again, Frampton was thronged with birds. I’ve said before that it is the m0st ‘birdiferous’ place I’ve ever encountered though this was mainly down to three species, Brent Geese, Wigeon and Golden Plovers with flyover Pink-footed Geese contributing.

Wigeon

Star birds were two Whooper Swans, a late Greenshank, two Marsh Harriers, a glimpsed Cetti’s Warbler and four Avocets.

Having Nova with us made the day for me and if there had been no birds at all I would have enjoyed the day as the weather was sunny though chilly and a lovely interval in the drenching rains of autumn 2019, which have returned as I write the next day.

Golden Plovers

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 30TH 2019

NETHERFIELD & HOLME PIERREPONT +DCW

Following weeks with loads of rain a chilly, settled, anticyclonic period and a local trip to see some birds proved to be rather disappointing in its objective but the company was good and of course there are always the plants despite the late season and a single encounter with a dragonfly.

Migrant Hawker

This female Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta was in the reed bed safari on the slurry lagoon at Netherfield and looked immaculate despite the late date. The flight period extends from late July into November but I don’t know how late into the season, new adults emerge. This one looked like it had done so a few days ago but I suspect it is at least 4 weeks old.

Star birds were Buzzard, Jays, predictable ducks, Grey Wagtail, Cetti’s Warbler, Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker etc. No sign of the Yellow-browed Warblers and Bearded Tits we were hoping for and no sign of anything exciting that we were not expecting.

Cotoneasters were looking good though and Dave drew my attention to Cotoneaster x watereri and this, one of the parents of x watereri which is the hybrid of C. frigidus and C. salicifolius.

Cotoneaster salicifolius

The reed bed safari is a nice touch at Netherfield and allows visitors to get up close with the reeds which although dominated by Common Reed have some Wood Small-reed in places allowing direct comparison if it were needed – and without much else to photograph, I decided that it did:

Calamagrostis epigejos (L) and Phragmites australis (R)

TUESDAY 15TH OCTOBER 2019

RIMAC, LINCOLNSHIRE + DCW

Six-and-a-half hours of steady slog around a mostly bird-free wilderness of salt-marsh, dunes and foreshore, and for sure, there is a lot of the latter at low tide north of Mablethorpe.

Roe Deer

Doe Deer were confiding (to a degree) and vocal and there were a lot of crows and Redwings but scarcer migrants were in short supply and the best of these was a Whinchat and a Brambling though the few Stonechats might also have been passing through.

Prolonged scans of the said foreshore produced only crows until the afternoon and long hikes out to sea revealed a few curlews and two small parties of Common Scoters. Eventually we found some birds – lots of Shelducks, Wigeon and gulls at Saltfleet Haven and there were small skeins of Pink-footed Geese moving south just off shore all day long and all too far away for a useful picture so the best I could manage was this Long-tailed Tit.

Long-tailed Tit

Mid October is a bit too late for the plants to arouse much excitement in me but Dave found a lot of old friends including this:

Bog Pimpernel

Anagallis tenella without its pink flowers might not look much to you (or me) but for Dave, it was plant of the day!

A dubious decision by my Nissan sat-nav to take us through the centre of Lincoln did not brighten the day and no sooner had I got home than BirdGuides announced both Lapland Bunting and Yellow-browed Warbler – at Rimac!

WEDNESDAY 2ND OCTOBER 2019

LANGAR + DCW

Following several days of very heavy rain, today began with a light frost and then wall to wall sunshine though the botany season is nearing its natural end and soon the priority will be birds.

A horse appearing from a thicket onto the Langar – Cropwell Bishop road turned out to be the precursor of what I assume was the Belvior Hunt in their finery with a well-behaved pack of hounds at the redcoats’ command. One van driver was impatient so the hounds were ushered into a group for his convenience.

The sound of the horn could be heard intermittently throughout the morning and a fox did a leisurely looking circuit of Langar, presumably having been disturbed by the hunt, as the horn sounded in the distance. By lunchtime there was no further sign of them and we felt free to wander.

Common Darter

The appearance of two pairs of forewings and two pairs of hindwings on this darter must be caused by strong shadows.

I know next to nothing about the identification of fungi but this one was putting on a good show in a covert and it proved quite simple to find a match from illustrations. I think I’m right but don’t rely on me.

Heterobasidium annosum

The underside of a Comma shows how it got its name.

Comma

The margins of some fields held a bewildering mixture of plants with many native species of doubtful provenance and many aliens presumably aimed at nectar sources and pheasant cover. The latter included a variety of Cabbage Brassica oleracea, (possibly Kale), Lucerne Medicago sativa ssp. sativa, Chicory Cichorium intybus, Quinoa Chenopodium quinoa, Phacelia Phacelia tanacetifolia – and this:

Ethiopian Rape (Brassica carinata)

Well, that it is what it keyed out as ‘in the field’ but Dave is going to give a sample some further interrogation in his ‘lab’.

Last week’s apple proved rather difficult and the combined botanical and horticultural brains of Nottinghamshire have not, so far, come to an agreement.

As usual at this time of year, gangs of gulls were loitering in the fields; nearly all were Lesser Black-backed, of mixed ages. This is a first year.