Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Uibhist a Tuath ...

Corncrake (Crex crex)


The Corncrake, one of the country’s rarest breeding birds, remains vulnerable in Scotland with counts showing their numbers are largely static following recent declines from a high in 2014, RSPB Scotland has warned.

In 2018 only 884 calling males were recorded during RSPB Scotland’s annual survey. This is a marginal increase of just 2% (18 birds) from 2017, and still down 31% from the 2014 high of 1,289 males. There were suggestions of slightly healthier results in areas such as North and South Uist, with increases of 18% and 30% respectively from last year, but these were outweighed by losses elsewhere; key sites such as Islay continued to lose birds. The fact that the species is languishing at low numbers and struggling to recover continues to prompt concern that the long-term survival of these birds as a breeding species is now under threat. This fascinating and generally secretive bird is best recognised by its rasping call and slight twitching of leaves as it moves effortlessly through tall grasses and other vegetation in order to stay concealed. Although fairly easy to hear it is not always easy to see - its voice carrying some considerable distance easily confusing the expectant observer.

The above image of a calling male from May 2017.

More at:

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Just why would you …

Earpick Fungus (Auriscalpium vulgare)




Growing solitary or in small groups, nearly always from rotting pine cones that are usually fully or partially buried, A. vulgare is a small, inconspicuous, widespread toothed fungus that is often overlooked. Even when making a concerted effort to find this rather unusual species, it can be surprisingly difficult to locate, even in known locations, as its colours and form blend in extremely well with the needles and cones littering the floor in coniferous woodland.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 470, fig. p. 471.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp. 42-43.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, figs. p. 280-281.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Kretzschmaria …

Brittle Cinder (Kretzschmaria deusta)


Kretzschmaria deusta, commonly known as Brittle Cinder, is a worrying plant pathogen which has the ability to seriously damage trees by causing deep seated decay within the root system and lower stem. The fungus produces wavy-edged cushions or crusts clinging to the substrate timber. Initially greyish with white edges, as shown in the image above, the fruitbodies turn black and become extremely brittle with age. Easily spotted when young, K. deusta is probably under-recorded because it can so easily go unnoticed once it darkens; old fruitbodies looking more like charred wood than anything produced by a fungus.

Maybe not one of the glamour species but certainly fascinating when viewed in close detail. To give an idea of size, the above specimen, recently photographed in local Surrey woodland, was approximately 35mm in diameter.

References:

Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 328, fig. p. 329.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Rivendell …

Middle-earth taxonomy ...



The genus Helvella includes a number of saucer or saddle-shaped fungi with a simple stem, cup-shaped forms, and includes some species with irregular and distorted heads and a hollow, ribbed, furrowed stem. It is a widespread, speciose genus of ascomycetes (Pezizomycetes: Pezizales) whose members are found in various terrestrial biomes of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Although easily separated from other macrofungi by conspicuous polymorphic apothecia, it is surprisingly difficult to distinguish between Helvella species. Skrede et al., (2017) suggest there are at least 55 Helvella species in Europe. The White Saddle Helvella crispa and Elfin Saddle H. lacunosa are probably the two most commonly encountered species in the UK.

Despite some recent intermittent heavy rain it was nice to get out and find three, possibly four, species of HelvellaH. lacunosa in its various guises being the most evident with a careful bit of searching.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, pp. 602-605, 608.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, pp. 207-208.
Skrede, I., Carlsen, T. and Schumacher, T. (2017). A synopsis of the saddle fungi (Helvella: Ascomycota) in Europe - species delimitation, taxonomy and typification, Persoonia. 39, pp. 201-253.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, pp. 310-313.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Flames without fire …

Flame Shield (Pluteus aurantiorugosus)



In Britain P. aurantiorugosus is now an uncommon find and is primarily restricted to southern England and south Wales. It occurs mainly on rotting broadleaf stumps and large logs of buried hardwood timber. The above specimens were recently found and photographed in a hollow cavity within a heavily decayed beech; the cap of the single specimen about the size of a pea. This striking species can appear at any time from early summer right through to the end of autumn providing the weather is mild.

Certainly one to look out for …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 254, fig. p. 255.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Strange case of the jumping fungus …

Flea’s Ear (Chlorencoelia versiformis)




Although C. versiformis is regarded as a rare saprotroph fungus with a restricted range on decaying wood of broadleaved species, this is the fourth colony I’ve observed locally in West Sussex during the past year. It is apparently critically endangered in Britain having declined by more than 50% pre and post 1960. I can’t help feeling it may be more common than thought just overlooked in the areas it occurs. The above images, showing various growth stages (top to bottom showing age development), were all taken in West Sussex on 24 October 2018.

References:

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Third time lucky ...

Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)



If there's one species of fungi that says 'take my picture', it surely has to be the Wrinkled Peach Rhodotus palmatus.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 236, fig. p.237.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 268, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 152, fig. p. 153.

http://markcolvin.blogspot.com/2018/09/slugs.html
https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/rhodotus-palmatus.php

Monday, 22 October 2018

Dark holes and rotten logs ...

Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus)


You can't beat a hole in a rotten log ...

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 470, fig. p. 471.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp.44-45.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 233.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, fig. p. 281.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Pony poo …

Nail Fungus (Poronia punctata)






This rare ascomycete fungus, found on the dung of ponies and horses, takes its vernacular name from the resemblance of the fruiting bodies to broad-headed nails. P. punctata is now very scarce in Britain and Ireland and confined to sites where ponies feed exclusively on rough pastures and heathland. Herbicides, plant pesticides and synthetic chemicals used in the worming of horses have been blamed for the demise of P. punctata across much of Europe. The spores are ingested by livestock whilst grazing and are passed out with their dung. The spores germinate and form the mycelium of the fungus, eventually producing the visible fruiting bodies after the dung has had time to weather.

This species was included as Endangered on the Red Data List prepared by Bruce Ing (1992); and as Near Threatened on the Red Data List produced by Shelley Evans et al. (2006). P. punctata is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species.

My thanks to good friends Jim and Dawn Langiewicz for their recent help in locating this species and to Nick Aplin, Sussex county recorder for ascomycetes, for the above photomicrographs. These show the ascus apex staining blue in the top picture and a germ slit on the ascospore in the top right in the bottom picture.

References:

O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 372, 407.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 344, figs. p. 344-345.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Stubble …

Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus)


Not an image we often see but this small group of early stage H. erinaceus emerging from the sawn end of a decaying beech tree recently caught my attention.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 470, fig. p. 471.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp.44-45.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 233.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, fig. p. 281.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Piggyback …

Asterophora lycoperdoides and A. parasitica





Fairly widespread but uncommon throughout Britain and Ireland, because of their diminutive size and behaviour of fruiting within decaying fungi that themselves are unlikely to grab the attention, Asterophora lycoperdoides, the Powdery Piggyback, and A. parasitica, the Silky Piggyback, are easily overlooked. A. lycoperdoides is very similar to A. parasitica, except that the hyphae in the cap surface of A. lycoperdoides develop into a brown powdery mass of chlamydospores (asexual spore-like reproductive structures); an unusual trait for a basidiomycete fungus. In addition, unlike A. parasitica in which the gills are well developed, the gills of A. lycoperdoides are rarely well formed, as shown above, and produce few basidiospores (sexual spores).

Both species can be found on the decaying fruiting bodies of Russula nigricansR. densifoliaR. fellea and R. foetens. There are also reports of them being found on the decaying caps of certain milkcaps (Lactarius species). The above specimens are all pictured growing on decaying Russula nigricans, the Blackening Brittlegill. The bottom image is A. parasitica.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 184, figs. p. 185.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 69, 381.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 150, figs. pp. 150-151.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Mycena seynesii…

Mycena seynesii (Quél. 1877)


M. seynesii (seynii) is a rarely recorded, small to medium sized, chestnut-brown to purplish-brown Mycena. It is found either solitary or in small clusters on the cones of Pinus species. The above example, one of several specimens discovered, was recently found and photographed in West Sussex on the decaying cones of Pinus radiata.

References:

Aronsen, A. and Læssøe, T. (2016). The genus Mycena: Fungi of Northern Europe, Vol. 5, pp. 154-155. Danish Mycological Society.
Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 218, fig. p. 219.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Beauty in many forms …

Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus)






H. erinaceus is surely one of the most striking and beautiful of all British woodland fungi. It is certainly a pleasure to see and photograph and an even greater pleasure to turn a corner in an old woodland and find your own specimen. It is a rare species of dead or damaged hardwood trees where it grows on beech and oak; its delicate pendent spines giving the mature fruiting body the appearance of a frozen waterfall. The above images were all taken this year and show a selection of the various stage forms of the developing fungus. The Bearded Tooth is of conservation concern across its European range. It is listed as one of only four non-lichenised fungi on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and is thereby accorded the highest level of protection for a fungus in the UK. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species.

Now to find a coralloides

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 470, fig. p. 471.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp.44-45.
O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, p. 233.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 280, fig. p. 281.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Oudemansiella …

Porcelain Fungus (Oudemansiella mucida)


O. mucida is a widespread and common beech wood species. Appearing in late summer to late autumn it is typically found on rotting beech trunks and fallen branches where it grows in clusters. It is semi-translucent, slimy and white in appearance. When O. mucida is found on a beech tree it usually outcompetes other fungi nearby by means of a powerful anti-fungal agent called strobilurin. It is saprobic [deriving its nourishment from non-living or decaying organic matter] or weakly parasitic to living beech trees. While it has a strong connection to beech, it has also been found growing on oak on rare occasions.

The above group was recently photographed around three metres up a mature beech tree.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 200, fig. p.201.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 116, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 138, fig. pp. 138-139.

Autumn equinox …

Chicken-of-the-Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)



As the season changes from summer to autumn, the days shorten, the temperature drops and the sun rests low in the sky. It is a time of year that I particularly like as the trees start to whisper to one another in the breeze, and their leaves turn from green to many shades of gold. It is of course not only the trees that provide this multitude of colour …

L. sulphureus, with its beautiful orange or sulphur-yellow colouring, is difficult to miss. Commonly known as Chicken-of-the-Woods or the Sulphur Polypore, this common bracket fungus is most often seen on beech, oak, chestnut and less frequently on cherry and other hardwoods. Only rarely are these remarkable fungi associated with conifers. The wavy-edged young brackets are soft and spongy with broad margins, but as they age the margins become thinner and paler. Their colours vary from egg yellow to pale creamy yellow with pink and orange tinged bands. The flesh is yellow-orange when moist, drying out paler.

The above images depict a beautiful specimen recently photographed at the base of an old oak in local Sussex parkland …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 504, fig. p.505.
Kibby, G. (2017). Mushrooms and Toadstools of Great Britain & Europe, Volume 1, pp.66-67.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 303, fig. f.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 252, fig. p. 253.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Slugs !!!

Wrinkled Peach (Rhodotus palmatus)



Only the second I have ever seen and this one had also been half eaten by slugs.

One day I'll find a really nice group in pristine condition ...

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 236, fig. p.237.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 268, fig. a.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 152, fig. p. 153.

https://www.first-nature.com/fungi/rhodotus-palmatus.php

Friday, 14 September 2018

Not a bee in sight…

Beeswax Bracket (Ganoderma pfeifferi)


G. pfeifferi is a widespread but uncommon find in England and very rare in Scotland and Wales. The above group was recently found and photographed in a cavity within a decaying beech in West Sussex woodland. My thanks to Martin Allison, county recorder for basidiomycetes, for confirming identification.

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 484, fig. p.485.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 268, fig. p. 269.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Life in death …

Ceratiomyxa porioides



The above macro images show the plasmodium, transitional stage and sporangia of the plasmodial slime mould C. porioides living on the heavily decayed remains of a dead beech tree. Despite their small size slime moulds must surely be one of the most fascinating organisms to grace the natural world. Next time you pass the decaying remains of a tree, it need only be a small branch, stop and take a closer look - you’ll need a hand lens for many species - and see if you are not enchanted by their diversity and beauty.

Please note: Some authors regard C. porioides as a var. of C. fruticulosa.

References:

O’Reilly, P. (2016). Fascinated by Fungi – exploring the majesty and mystery, facts and fantasy of the quirkiest kingdom on earth. Llandysul: First Nature, pp.78-79.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 334-335.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Winter retreat ...

Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi)


Post mating, the female Wasp Spider A. bruennichi weaves in the region of five flask-shaped egg cocoons, typically containing several hundred eggs, in the higher parts of the vegetation. The eggs overwinter in their cocoons, hatching the following spring.

References:

Roberts, M.J. (1995). Spiders of Britain & Northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Multizonata ...

Zoned Rosette (Podoscypha multizonata)




P. multizonata is a widespread but generally uncommon fungus in Southern England and one which is infrequently recorded. It is associated with ancient woodland, a habitat that has sadly declined in much of Britain and throughout Europe, where it is parasitic on the living roots of broad-leaved trees, especially oaks (Quercus) and, less frequently, Beech (Fagus sylvatica). It is believed that nearly 50% of the European population of P. multizonata occurs in the UK. It is a UK BAP priority species.

The above images depict two specimens recently discovered at the base of an old oak in local Sussex woodland …

References:

Buczacki, S., Shields, C. and Ovenden, D. (2012). Collins Fungi Guide: The most complete field guide to the mushrooms and toadstools of Britain & Ireland. London: HarperCollins, p. 550, fig. p.551.
Phillips, R. (2006). Mushrooms. London: Pan Macmillan, p. 303, fig. d.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, p. 288, fig. p. 289.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Simocybe ...

Simocybe sumptuosa




Little brown jobs are often far more than that when viewed through a macro lens. The above specimens of the delicate S. sumptuosa were recently found and photographed on a rotten oak log at Wiggonholt Common, West Sussex. My thanks to Martin Allison, county recorder for basidiomycetes, for confirming their identification.