Saturday, 25 October 2008

Autumn days & fungi...

Hm. Been busy since the last post. Wednesday was spent on a bat-finding course; all very interesting and a quartet of nice species seen in the various roosts visited: Whiskered, Brown Long-eared, Lesser Horseshoe and Common Pipistrelle. Not a lot to say about the day, beyond the fact that it was fascinating. Future visits and future updates on bat work will follow...

Quick visit to Cambridge for some work (and good GRIEF it's boring driving up and back) - enlivened by a Red Kite en route...

Today I met Na for a wander in the woods (not a euphemism, I hasten to add). Her friend Kim accompanied. A saunter around the Bovey valley woodlands produced few interesting birds, although our first Redwing (Turdus iliacus) of the autumn were pleasant sounds: always nice to hear them tseer-ing overhead. Warm enough for some inverts to still be in flight, with a colony of mining bees a pleasant diversion for a short while. The highlight of the walk, though, was the variety of fungi on the stumps, branches and soil - well into the double figures for variety of shape and form - presuming all were different species. Some photos of them below; all mercifully unidentified! We also saw another of the leaf-type lichens, similar to that from Rifton the other day...

The lichen first: had to climb the bridge over the Bovey and cling to the relevant tree to get near enough for even this shot. If you care to scroll to the Rifton picture, you can see the difference in the shape of the spore capsules - I assume this means they're different species...

The final fungus of the day, shown first - I'm being contrary. 

A bracket fungus on a treestump...

On the trunk of said tree, these were growing... were these.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Weekend news...

Not a lot happened this weekend. We took advantage of a good spell of weather to ring at Slapton again, catching a whole host of Long-tailed Tit and Goldcrest in particular. The Long-tails were particularly interesting, in that we caught over 40 of them, with a good dozen retraps, which included birds ringed in ~2003, 2004 and 2005. Not a bad lifespan for such a small and apparently fragile bird. They seem to be coping admirably with the recent run of poor springs and summers.

Sunday found Na and myself wandering around Berry Head in a stiff southwest wind, searching somewhat casually for some migrants. The weather didn't help much, but we managed a brief female Merlin, which apparently came in off the sea and headed inland rapidly.

A search of the quarry and a cup of tea at the seawatch point provided prolonged views of a pale-phase adult and a very gingery juvenile Arctic Skua harassing Kittiwake offshore - the 200 or so kitts preferring to loaf in the sunshine just offshore with the skuas lurking in the midst of the flock - every so often the skuas would decide it was time to see if someone else was ripe for hassle, and roll off the sea, raising the entire flock in the process: a fine sight in yellowish autumn sunshine.

We finished off with a tour of Brixham breakwater, to see if the winter flock of Purple Sandpiper had returned, which they have - around 10 snoozing on the old fishing pier off the end of the breakwater. Cracking little birds... No pictures today though; sorry.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Some pics from this morning's training session... Insert appropriate cooing and 'aaw's wherever you wish.
Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius. A torpid male (look, you can see his bits just above the tail tip there - heh! Rodent porn!). This chap was interesting, as he appears to be re-growing his tail. Weighed a healthy 20 grams, so should see the winter through happily. The critical weight appears to be about 11-12 grams.

Cate (with dormouse) & Na (with his house in a bag) rummaging.

One of a selection of fungi we found today - perhaps a porcelain fungus?

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Not an advert, but...

Heh! Looking at the Clustrmap for to see where people might be reading this (more than I expected - a whole 86 people since whenever I got the map installed! Weird...); click the wee map lower down on the right of this page & you'll see it. . Anyway, I digress. On the map page there is usually an advert, and in case it's changed when / if you look at it, here it is:

Amazing what you can do digitally now, isn't it? Cosmetic dentistry via fibreoptic cable... Maybe they strip down the wires coming through the phoneline & use them to scour your teeth down... Beats hell out of internet dating, to my mind - far more enterprising. And is it me, or does the geezer appear to have been photoshopped into a whiter smile? Skin tones seem suspiciously different...

As if anyone really cares...

I'm off to do some bird-ringing now, so don't expect me to write anything for a while.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cleaning nestboxes - niiice...

Spent today cleaning out the nestboxes in mid-Devon, which are up as a Pied Flycatcher 'RAS' project. RAS (Retrapping Adults for Survival) basically involves long-term monitoring, of Pied Flycatcher nestboxes in this case, over several years. Young birds are ringed and adults retrapped each year to monitor their survival and movements both within and between sites over the years. Interesting stuff, but the end of the year is the grim bit - cleaning out the nestboxes and checking for the chicks which failed to make it. This summer seemed to be fairly good, as we found just a handful of decomposed corpses in the boxes, as well as a couple of nests with unhatched eggs. However, it's also the most important bit - now we know the boxes are clean and ready for whoever wishes to roost there over winter - including dormice! The day was enlivened by the constant squeakings of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests, with the odd Raven 'gronking' overhead.

Best find of the day was this rather fine lichen, fruiting away on a fallen tree:

I'll name it when I can!

I've also finally managed to upload a few more pictures from the Isle of Man work this summer on - feel free to have a wander over!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Greyish Willow Warblers and sundry others

Well. Since the last post it's been a decidedly busy ol' time. The mysterious N and myself have decided to search for somewhere to live - I'm joining her to look at a flat in Chudleigh later - and have spent the last couple of weekends doing a spot of seasonal bird-ringing. Our exploits took us first to one of her Dartmoor sites, where we caught almost sack-all. Almost... We did catch a rather grey Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), perhaps not as grey as those discussed by 'fat Paul Scholes', but decidedly duller than our local birds. Interestingly, it looked rather Chiffchaff-like in the field, without reasonably close scrutiny. Wonder how many others go misidentified?
OK, it's a slightly overexposed picture, but you can see the colder, rather greyish tones to the bird.
Slightly greener around the rump and on the remige/remix fringes. Perhaps an intergrade towards 'acredula'?

Last weekend we returned to the ever-dependable Slapton. Our brief holiday from the site allowed the jammy gits to trap, ring and photograph in glorious technicolour, the site's first Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) since 2003. Arse. Fortunately the bird has been lurking in the same area ever since, allowing us to catch brief - in fact almost unidentifiable - views between net rounds. As usual, the bulk of the ringing was Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica), but some more porky Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) and Sedge Warblers (Acr. schoenobaenus) were also trapped and ringed. Birds of the weekend were a smart adult female Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus), a late Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia) and a couple of Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis); the latter are rarely caught at Slapton, perhaps because we don't make enough effort for them! Too busy to take pictures, I'm afraid, so you'll have to imagine them!