Monday, 28 December 2009

Bird-ringing at a local Country Park

I assisted my BTO trainer with bird-ringing at a local country park this morning; unfortunately my 07:30 start was delayed by 25 minutes due to an unhelpful sat-nav directing me to the wrong park entrance. I must learn to read a road map whilst driving.
On arrival at the ringing site, the first net round had already been collected and processing had started. My first bag gave me the opportunity to study a winter thrush in the hand in the form of the redwing Turdus iliacus. Redwing are characteristically winter visitors although small numbers breed mainly in Scotland. As a target bird for the ringing session a number of redwing were successfully processed throughout the morning each receiving colour ring combinations as well as a number ring.
Despite a well considered health and safety warning and precise handling instructions from my trainer - I still elected to process the next bird. Somewhat different in both its size and disposition from the redwing, the 3 ♀ sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus was to strong for my less experienced hands and the bird was passed to my trainer to complete the processing. The size of the bird had immediately suggested a ♀ and this was confirmed by its wing length being significantly longer than the max. range for ♂♂ it was aged via the amount of chestnut colouring which was still present in both its wing and tail feathers. The thumb and index finger of my left hand bore the brunt of the hawks displeasure in being handled and the power in the grip of its talons is not something I think I could easily forget.

Later in the morning I had the opportunity to process a small number of greenfinch Carduelis chloris. These birds are simply beautiful in the hand. Greenfinch can be sexed according to the amount and distribution of yellow on the leading edge of the primary wing feathers: on the ♂♂ the yellow extends all the way to the feather shaft whilst on the ♀♀ the yellow does not reach this far across the width of the primary.

Blackbird Turdus merula were also processed including a 4 ♂ whose wing length was indicative of a Scandinavian winter migrant. Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus, great tit Parus major, dunnock Prunella modularis and a single robin Erithacus rubecula made up the rest of the morning's catch.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Blashford Lakes - birding highlights

Highlight of the day: a single water pipit Anthus spinoletta which alighted briefly on the shoreline of Ibsley Water in front of the Tern hide around 12:30. The water pipit is a scarce winter visitor to Hampshire last year having only 8 county records for December (Hampshire Bird Report 2008) - so we were very pleased to have this albeit brief encounter. Other Ibsley Water highlights included a small number of both goldeneye Bucephala clangula and goosander Mergus merganser; 13 snipe Gallinago gallinago - the only waders noted; a single kingfisher Alcedo atthis and two meadow pipit Anthus pretensis.
Elsewhere on the reserve other birds of note included 3(4) chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita feeding over the reed bed seen from the Ivy North hide along with 1(2) cetti's warbler Cettia cetti; 2 goldcrest Regulus regulus amongst a mixed tit flock.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve

songthrush Turdus philomelos
Looking south and west from West Mead hide
aged yellow brain fungus Tremella mesenterica
distant bewick's swan C. columbianus bewickii
a rare sight during term time - a Sparsholt birder
looking north from The Hanger
Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve West Sussex. Highlights including seven bewick's swan C. columbianus bewickii at distance; a single fem. merlin Falco columbarius; sev. (up to 7) bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula; large numbers of teal Anas crecca, wigeon Anas penelope and smaller numbers of pintail Anas acuta. Wader spp. were conspicuous by their absence excepting lapwing Vanellus vanellus in large numbers.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Candlesnuff fungus, Sparsholt College woodland floor 15th November 2009

Candlesnuff fungus Xylaria hypoxylon

Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools describes this fungus as common and widespread, growing on the dead wood of broadleaved trees (Sterry P. and Hughes B. 2009). I have it on good authority (my wife) that if you lightly flick the fungus - the spores come out of the top like smoke - apparently I missed this little trick - and the fungus itself - at the last Swanwick Lake fungi foray.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

5 great birds; 1 MEGA ! (and a bank vole): Ian's birding photos

bearded reedling Panurus biarmicus (Norfolk, October)

juv. hen harrier circus cyaneus (Norfolk, October)

common crossbill Loxia curvirostra (New Forest, June)

woodlark Lullula arborea (New Forest, June)

kingfisher Alcedo atthis (Norfolk, October)

The MEGA ! Brown shrike Lanius cristatus (Surrey, October)

... and the bank vole Clethrionomys glareolus (Surrey, November)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Fungi Foray @ Swanwick Lakes

A trugg full of 'shrooms and toadstools - including fly agaric Amanita muscaria; the deceiver Laccaria laccata; the amethyst deceiver Laccaria amethystea; birch polpore Piptoporus betulinus with Hypocrea pulvinata; Both lilac and white var. of Inocybe geophyllia var. lilacianal;Cortinarius spp. x 2; common bonnet Mycena alcalina; snapping bonnet Mycena vitilus; poison pie Hebeloma crustuliniforme; (Brown) birch bolette Leccinum scabrumi; Funeral bell (funeral cap) Galerina marginata; Turkey tail Trametes versicolor; glistening inkcap Caprinus micaceus.
Other spp. encountered en route Sep or penny bun Boletus edulis; Russula variata (versicolor) pictured below; Cortinarius Hemitrichus; soft-slipper toadstool Crepidotus mollus.
Russula variata (versicolor)
(Brown) birch bolette Leccinum scabrumi with very unusual twinned fruit body
Birch polypore Piptoporus betulinus with parasitic fungi Hypocrea pulvinata
two-toned pholiata Kuehneromyces mutabilis
the deceiver Laccaria laccata N.B. the distinct gill pattern which remains the same whatever different shape the fruit body itself displays (in deceipt).
the amethyst deceiver Laccaria amethystea N.B. the distinct gill pattern is the same as its close relative Laccaria Laccata

Friday, 6 November 2009

A bird in the hand

Parabuteo unicinctus
The Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus is a raptor of the south western states of USA, Central and South America - a bird of savanna, chaparrel and other semi-arid habitats. It is a social bird and will often be found hunting in small family groups, working cooperatively to exploit larger quarry. It's natural sociability making it an ideal bird to be trained for falconry (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2009 [Online]; The Peregrine Fund, 2009 [Online]). Peter Harvey took the opportunity today to study the species close up and in the hand when a falconer asked permission to hunt through his garden-side wood.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Fungi Foray @ Swanwick Lakes

The picture above illustrates a combined group effort from 5 -10 mins fungi foraging under birch Betula sp. and hazel Corylus avellana in East Valley, Swanwick Lakes NR under the guidance of Phil Budd (Course run by HWT). In no particular order: Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum; Common Earth-ball Scleroderma citrinum; Blushing bracket Daedeleupsis confragosa; Common Bonnet Mycena alcalina (pictured below); Lilac (purple) fibre-cap Inocybe geophyllia var. lilacianai; Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma marginatum; The Deceiver Laccaria laccata; Wood Blewit Lepista nuda; Winter (Velvet stemmed) Agaric Clitocybe sp.; Wood pink-gill Entoloma Rhodopolium; Hygrocybes sp. tbc; Galerina marginata; Cortinarius sp. tbc; Poison Pie Hebeloma crustuliniforme; (Brown) Birch Bolette Leccinum scabrumi; remnant Birch polypore Piptoporus betulinus.
Other fungi species identified on the day: Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria (pictured below); Tricholoma fulvum (not pictured).
Common Bonnet Mycena alcalina
Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria
And what of the mystery garden 'shrooms? Phil Budd without hesitation identified the specimen I had taken along as Fairy-ring toadstool Marasmius oreades.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Those garden 'shrooms again ! Just what are they?

Remaining somewhat frustrated by my continuing inability to ID the fungi sp. growing on the garden lawn. I will be taking today's record shots along with a single fruit body to Swanwick Lakes nature reserve tomorrow to ask a local "expert" mycologist exactly what they are?

Sunday, 18 October 2009

highlights of another slow wildlife weekend

A single chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita heard calling, then seen in the tamarisk Tamarix aphylla at Southsea Rock Gardens pm
In the garden a scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis displaying both a single withered flower and an optimistic new bud.

The fungi which reached a peak count of 18 by mid week, continues to defy positiive ID confirmation due to a severe lack of fungi field skills (poss. Galerina mycenopsis). Some individual fruit bodies have reached widths of up to 20mm, but most have remained below 5mm in width - these smaller caps are now shrivelled - although new fruiting bodies are still appearing at the soil surface.
Time for real wildlife experience seems meagre at the start of this college term.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

little beasts and garden 'shrooms

With no time this weekend for any lengthy wildlife expedition, a quick trip to the back garden produced albeit a limited opportunity for some natural history blog activity: with two female (European) garden spiders Araneus diadematus staking claim to the south facing shrubs, soaking up today's sunshine after yesterday's downpours.
I also noticed for the first time the appearance of fungi within the lawn, with up to 8 small brown caps all less than 1cm wide poking up through the distressed sward - after a hasty thumb through Paul Sterry's "A Photographic guide to Mushrooms of Britain and Europe" - my best guess being that they are possibly Galerina mycenopsis a fungi associated with mossy lawns and grassland? I will have to keep an eye on them to see how they develop.
fem. Araneus diadematus
fem. Araneus diadematus
Poss. Galerina mycenopsis

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Lizard, Cornwall 3rd and 4th October 2009

The Lizard, towards Kynance Cove and Asparagus Island

Dyer's greenweed Genista tinctoria

Genista tinctoria

Fox moth caterpillar Macrothylacia rubi

Bloody Cranesbill Geranium Sanguineum

Geranium sanguineum

Burnet rose Rosa spinosissima

Cornish heath Erica vagans

Clockwise from top left: Erica vagans, (European) Gorse Ulex europaeus, Western gorse Ulex gallii

Monday, 28 September 2009

Not a Bird ? Sparsholt College reptile sp.

Anguis fragilis

Anguis fragilis

Taking a short (and much needed?) break from blogging recent avifauna spp. sightings, it is time to include the photo record of a slow worm Anguis fragilis found under felt in the shelter-belt at Sparsholt College on 22nd September 2009 Given the size and colouration of the slow worm (iridescent gold, with black / brown sides and a central dorsal stripe), I would identify it as a juvenile. This slow worm was not the only specimen to be found. However, the first was to swift (!) to be caught when the tin was lifted. The juv. reptile showed its contempt for disturbance by defecating in the hand.

ARKive provides a brief guide to the biology of this reptile, along with some stunning video footage of the sp. Although any information the website provides regarding the slow worms legal status needs to be double-checked against both Natural England and UK Biodiversity Action Plan websites.

The slow worm is protected under Schedule 9 Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Rare passage migrant, Hayling Island

A juv. pectoral sandpiper Calidris melanotos has showed confidingly on a small pool beside the Hayling Billy coastal path (Hayling Island) for the last three days, whilst these photographs are not the best, they do show the key ID feat. a set of streaks starting at the throat and ending in a sharp cut-off point at the centre of the breast, the belly is unstreaked and noticeably whiter in appearance; legs are yellowish to grey green. This N. American bird is a rare passage migrant in Hampshire, a second bird has also been reported this week at Keyhaven (New Forest).