MONDAY 16th MARCH 2020


After four successive days work, a sunny morning got me out on a spontaneous trip to Skylarks with the additional motivation of several goodies on the menu.

I was overly generous in inviting along the resident dogs (Staffie and poodle) along with my closest human residents which spoilt the experience but they kept out of the way while I scoped up Red-necked Grebe, Smew (3 including a drake) and a Long-tailed Duck.

They were all way beyond the capacity of my little camera but the rapid chimes of a confiding Dunnock drew my attention.


The ring suggests a resident bird but as far as I am aware, the local ringing group does not operate here much these days so this may be an elderly bird?

There is a large grassy area to the north of the watery bits of the new reserve (Blott’s Pit) that doesn’t seem to have a name but did have some heather on it a few years ago indicating its sandy nature so I’ll call it Heath Field for now and I found this on it:

Otidia bufonius

I’m going to stick my neck out here and assert that this is Otidia bufonia though the literature is rather short on information about this particular Otidia or suggestive that it should be in a wood.



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.