Friday, 25 October 2013

Fly Agaric

 I came across this Fly Agaric fungi , while walking the dog the other day in Ashenbank woods.

They are supposed to be common and widespread, but I haven't seen many other examples as yet.

Very iconic this one, with its bright red cap and white stem.

As they push through the ground they look like  white eggs as the cap is covered in a white membrane, as the fungi develops the red cap breaks through the membrane, the white spots you see on the red cap are the remnants of this membrane which eventually fall off.

The newly emerged fungi is round , as it matures it flattens out..

These fly agaric fungi  usually found in Birch or pine woodland .

The fungi has tiny hair like roots which attach themselves to the roots of the tree, siphoning off nutrients, not causing any harm to the tree.

They are poisonous and hallucinogenic. 

As the name suggests it is said that if this fungi is crushed up and mixed with a milk it will kill flies.

I believe this theory has been put to the test, the flies were not killed but were stupefied, maybe making it easier to swat them.

[  The fly agaric does contain as one of its constituents "Ibotenic acid "  which is a mild insecticide  ]  

Another interesting theory, the hallucinogenic effect of this fungi relates to the distortion of size, loss of awareness of time and vivid dreams.

It has been thought that the effects experienced by Alice eating the mushroom in Lewis Carroll's novel ,
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
 are based after the psychoactive effects of Amantia Muscaria 

 Fly Agaric.

Just look,  don't touch.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dungeness & distant birds

There has been some good birds reported from the Dungeness area recently, so with all my DIY jobs completed.

 The call of the wild beckoned.

Dungeness is home to one of the RSBP's oldest nature reserves, created  back in 1931 to protect populations of seabirds, today it supports internationally important populations of wintering wildfowl.

 During spring or autumn the reserve is a good place to see migrating birds of all types, hence the attraction for many bird -watchers

Dungeness is the largest shingle formation in Europe, formed over several thousand years and covers an area of nearly a thousand hectares.

Its also home to one of  the UK's  nuclear power stations.

View from Makepeace hide

First stop was the ARC pit,  a walk up to the screen hide didn't produce anything unusual, but as I walked back from the screen hide towards Hanson hide, a Bittern was flushed, flew for a short distance and then crashed down into the reeds.

View from Hanson hide looking towards water tower.

As I opened up the hide shutter, and made myself comfortable, almost the first bird  I saw was a Great White Egret, one of the birds  I was keen to see, there has been reports of up to seven  Great white Egrets around the reserve, this one didn't stay for long, and flew across the front of the hide towards the reserve.

Great White Egret on ARC pit

Another target bird was also seen from this hide, a Glossy Ibis,
it never came close enough for a decent photograph, which seemed to be the general theme of the day, some good birds to see, 
but always a bit distant.

Glossy Ibis from Hanson hide ARC Pit.

The Bittern revealed itself once again, making a few short flights, 
 a short walkabout , then it was lost to view, hidden in the reed beds.
A couple of distant record shots were obtained only.
Very Distant Bittern.

There was plenty of wildfowl to be seen from here, I noted Teal, Shoveller, Pintail, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard,  Gadwall, Mallard and Wigeon, as well as Canada geese, and Mute swans
Cormorant, Black headed Gulls, Common Gulls, there were also Golden plover, Grey plover, Dunlin, Lapwing and three Greenshank.


A Marsh Harrier flushed the water birds on several occasions, causing panic.
On one of these forays, it located a dead Shoveller on the water line
which it attempted to drag off into the vegetation.

Marsh Harrier

I moved on to the reserve stopping briefly at the entrance farm house, for a view of the Tree sparrow colony that has taken up residence here, once again the birds were too far away for a decent shot, although did manage a couple of record shots of tree sparrows on the roof of the farm house,

Along the entrance track towards the car park, a male Kestrel
was seen, scanning the shingle ridges from its vantage spot.

A  quick look from the Visitor center revealed more Great White Egrets , accompanied by some Little Egrets.

I remember chasing around Kent  several years ago, hoping to catch a  glimpse of a Little Egret, now quite common and sometimes taken for granted, I wonder if this will happen with the Great White Egret.

A walk up the track towards Firth Hide revealed a Wheatear which stayed long enough for a  photograph.


I walked on up to Makepeace hide, several Black Necked Grebes had been previously reported, one of these was pointed out by a fellow bird watcher, but once again never came close for a photograph, just a record shot but you can make out some of the salient features .

Black necked grebe

Another Great white Egret was showing, hard to work out how many actual GWE there were, as they seemed to be moving around the various pools. A large number of Grey Herons also in the area.

Great White egret

Grey Heron

Decided to finish the day with a quick look at the power station, as  a Black Redstart is usually around, but no sign today, just a very tired looking Wheatear contemplating the flight across the channel.


I couldn't  resist a photograph of this Spitfire which was flying around the area, 

Supermarine Spitfire

 Always nice to see.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Stick & Goose !!!

On a  return visit to the reed-bed hide, in the hope of a decent kingfisher photograph, I found myself mesmerized by the sticks placed in front of the hide, last week I missed the kingfisher when I was distracted and looked the wrong way.

There's only so long that you can stare at a stick, and I am ashamed to say, that several hours later, I was still there gazing in hope, at the sticks.

After several hours you  convince yourself that the moment you leave the hide, will be the moment that the kingfisher decides to visit the hide, so you wait, and wait.

But not this time, it was a no show from the kingfisher.

The joy of bird watching, you do not always get to see the bird you hoped for, but something else usually comes along, and on this occasion I caught sight of a large raptor circling above the main lake being mobbed by some Rooks 

An Osprey, making its way back to Africa. It was quite high, but in the record shot below, you can just make out that it is a Osprey

The Greylag flock , still resident in front of the hide, provided more practice for those difficult flight shots.

Not a great variety of waterfowl, although I did notice,  there seemed to be more drake Teal  this time.

A few Mallards provided further practice for that elusive landing shot, that I am  trying to get,

A couple of  female Shoveller's in front of the hide, a boring shot, I definitely  prefer action shots of  waterfowl.

The shot  below is my favorite photograph of the day, a female Teal stretching its wings after landing at the pool.

When I finally managed to leave the hide, I went for a stroll around the Alder wood to stretch my legs, not much to see bird wise, 

Although,  there were still a few Ruddy darters taking in the last rays of autumn sunshine.

So the end of another nice day at the Reed-bed hide,
                no kingfisher photograph as yet,
 so, in those immortal words,           I'll be back !