Fungi in the wood

The woodlands behind my house are teeming with fungi at the moment. Woodlands, along with Grasslands are the best place to go looking for fungus.

Toadstools and mushrooms can sometimes last only a few days, they are just the fruit of the fungus that lives underground for many years.

Fungus live by using enzymes to breakdown plant and animal material for food.

They are a very important part of the eco-system

There are around 15,000 types of wild fungi in the UK and many are very difficult to identify without microscopic examination.

Here are a few I found in an hours walk around the wood.

Beefsteak fungus  is a bracket fungi,  it looks a bit like raw meat and, when cut it bleeds. this one looks more like its other common name Ox Tongue fungus. Often found on oak trees.

Fistulina hepatica Beefsteak Fungus

Beefsteak Fungus

Another bracket fungus is the Dyer’s Mazegill, found on Conifers. This one was growing inside a split on a fallen conifer. It has a yellow edge with a brownish central region.

Phaeolus Spadiceus

Dyer’s Mazegill

The Oak bracket, as its name suggests, grows on oak trees, but sometimes on beech, birch and alder trees. The fungus oozes with an amber coloured liquid. It can be found late summer through to early winter.

Oak Bracket

Oak Bracket

Turkey tail comes is many different colours from red, yellow, green, blue, brown, black and white. It mainly grows on dead hardwood, including fallen branches, tree stumps and standing dead trees.

Trametes versicolor Turkeytail

Trametes versicolor Turkeytail

Dead man’s fingers is often found on fallen Beech wood or stumps. It often in groups of 3 to 6 tufts that look like black rotten fingers.

Dead Mans Fingers

Dead Mans Fingers

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Importance of hedgerows

On the Breakfast news this morning there was an article about a group of people who were unhappy that their local council has plans to demolish a large hedgerow to enable a road to be widened in the lead up to some luxury houses.

One comment was that a compromise could be reached to save some of the hedgerow but that wasn’t being looked in to, which is such a shame.

I started to think about the hedgerows on my local patch and how much wildlife they support, from food and shelter for insects to birds and bats to small mammals. Safety and cover for larger mammals such as badgers and deers, as well as serving as wildlife corridors for many species.

There are 450,000 km of hedgerow in the UK which throughout the year change from luminous greens to rich autumn golds and reds, from places to build nests and feed on flowers in the Spring to places to shelter in the winter.

This time of year hedgerows become even more important due to the huge amount of food they produce.

Many of the berries and fruits are eaten by migratory birds such as Redwings and Waxwings, and resident birds such as Blackbirds and Bullfinches. My local badgers are very keen on Blackberries and Elderberries. The Roe deer and foxes also like to nibble on the autumn fruit.

Many insects such as butterflies, ladybirds, flies, beetles and wasps eat berries and in turn attract birds and other insects that feed on them.

 

As well as the many fruits produced by the hedgerows there are also nuts and seeds.

I spent a while this afternoon collecting Hazelnuts and looking at the different holes and teeth marks in the shells.

Lots of species eat Hazelnuts from Dormice (unfortunately not on my local patch), squirrels, rats, wood mice, voles, jays, woodpeckers and even deers.

I really think Hedgerows should be preserved as much as possible and I hope the hedgerow on the News will be saved.

 

 

 

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Kariega Safari

To round up the holiday we ended with a fantastic Safari at Kariega Game Reserve.

When we arrived at Kariega the excitement began straight away, we had to be escorted to our lodges as there was a Buffalo charging at the trucks as they passed. This was a female Buffalo who was protecting a calf.

Setting out on the evening Safari we started driving through the 10,000 ha reserve until we came across a herd of Blesbuck grazing. Both genders of the Blesbuck have horns with the females having slender horns as a way of protection from other animals such as cheetahs, leopards, lions, jackals, wild dogs, pythons and eagles.

About an hour in to the safari the guide had a call in that a female lion had been spotted hiding under a tree. On arrival the female lion was sitting in the shade resting, she barely even lifted her head when our safari jeep pulled up.

Around twenty minutes later the guide had another call saying two males had joined the female. Zolani, our guide explained that the two males were best mates and spend a lot of time together except when the female is in season.

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One of the most fascinating animals and stories of the safari, was that of Thani, the White Rhino. During 2012, three rhinos on the reserve were shot and had their faces butchered for their horns. One Rhino died of its injuries but two, Thandi and Themba survived with horrific injuries. Unfortunately Themba died shortly after.

Thandi went on to have skin grafts and miraculously not only survived but gave birth to a calf in 2015.

It was an absolute privilege to see Thandi and her 7 month old calf, Colin.

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One of my favourite animals to photograph was the giraffe. We came across one Giraffe who was chewing on a bone. Giraffes will occasionally chew on a bone, moving it around their mouth using their tongue, to release the phosphorous and calcium in the bone.  This behaviour is called osteophagy. The bones are not swallowed, only chewed then dropped back on the ground.

Giraffe

Giraffe eating bone

Giraffe eating bone

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Our first evenings safari ended with a picnic as the sun set. On the way back to the lodges we came across three Rhinos blocking the road, in the dark the Rhinos use the paths made by the jeeps to get around. We had to sit and wait while the Rhinos slowly walked passed.

Road block

Our aim the following morning was to find some elephants. We thought because of their size this would be easy, but having to find an animal in such a large area of sometimes dense trees and bushes ended up taking 2 hours.

It is hard to describe how amazing it was to see these animals.

Elephant eatingIMG_2065IMG_2037IMG_2033

This is the last blog from South Africa, I really enjoyed my time there and can’t wait to go back some day.

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Plettenberg bay

The area around Plettenberg bay is full of water based activities, from Whale watching to snorkelling with seals, kayaking to diving with sharks. As the weather was calm we decided to go out Whale watching again, this time with Ocean Blue Adventure.

After launching off Central Beach in Plettenberg we headed out in to the middle of the bay looking for whales.

It wasn’t long before we encountered 6 Southern Right Whales. The Southern Right Whales come to this area to mate and calf. The group we saw were rolling around, rubbing up against each other so could possibly have been 1 female and several males.

Southern Right Whales are very curious and at one stage, during the 1.5 hour boat trip, one of the whales swam up to our boat and nudged the boat before swimming along side and back off to join the group.

The guides on the boat were really good at explaining what the whales were doing and a little about the area and why the whales visit.

Behind the group of whales a couple of Humpback dolphins played in the surf. Humpback dolphins are South Africa’s most endangered dolphin  Their shallow water habitat is under threat from human activities particularly around built up area with lots of boat traffic.

The trip ended with an exciting James Bond style exit. Lining up the boat, pointing straight at the shore, the skipper revved the engine and drove the boat right up on to the sand, before a tractor came to pull the boat further up on to the beach.

Whale came and nudged the boat

V-shaped

V-shaped

Taking photos

SR Whale

SR Whale

Southern Right Whale just off shore

Southern Right Whale just off shore

6 whales rolling

Ocean blue

Whales on the surface

Humpback dolphin

Humpback dolphin

White-necked Raven

White-necked Raven

It is not necessary to go out on a boat to see the whales, we found a excellent cafe called Moby’s right on the beach where we spent the evenings watching the moon rise while a female whale with her few day old calf swam in the bay.

Full moon over Plettenberg bay

Full moon over Plettenberg bay

Whale watching until the moon came up

Whale watching until the moon came up

 

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Knysna wetlands and Coney Glen Beach

Not far from Tenqinua Treetops, where we were based for a few day, was Westford Bridge Wetlands, a great place for birds and wildlife.

The wetlands are South Africa’s third most important botanical and ecological area and it holds many species of birds and fish including the endangered Knysna Seahorse.

The Pied Kingfisher is largest bird capable of a true hover in still air. We saw quite a few of these birds together on the wires, because unlike our native Kingfishers in the UK, Pied Kingfishers are sociable, and form large roosts at night.

Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher

Kingfishers

Kingfishers

The Giant Kingfisher is also found in this area and is South Africa’s largest Kingfisher. It can live up to 14 years in the wild. The Giant Kingfisher is a diurnal bird, and both solitary and territorial.

Giant Kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher

Just as we were driving away from the wetlands a Cape Grey Mongoose ran out in the road in front of us, sat and scratched itself, before noticing the car and trotting back off in to the trees.

The Cape Grey Mongoose are solitary animals feeding on insects, small rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fruit and carrion. As its name suggests it is found around the Cape area of South Africa.

Cape Grey Mongoose

Cape Grey Mongoose

Feeding in the Wetlands are many African Spoonbills. They feed in shallow water on fish, molluscs, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and larvae. Spoonbills have large, flat bills and feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping their partly opened bill from side to side.

African Spoonbill

One of the other places nearby that we spent an afternoon at was Coney Glen Beach. Other than it being a stunningly beautiful place, while stood looking out to sea we spotted a Humpback whale. It was tail slapping, leaping out of the water and creating a huge amount of splashing.

Coney Glen Beach watching Humpback whale

Humpback whale

Humpback whale

 

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H3 – found her again

A quick break from my South African trip blogs to report that I have positively spotted my local Buzzard H3 again.

I’ve had times when I think I have seen her, but it’s been since October 2016 since I have managed to get her green ring in a photo.

Cropped close up H3

Cropped H3

Heavily cropped photos

I first spotted H3 in September 2013 but it took me until February 2015 to get close enough to her to read the numbers on the ring.

H3 copy

This is what I wrote on my blog February 2015

At the beginning of February I finally got a picture of the ring on the Buzzards leg that I had been trying to take for ages.
I emailed Euring with the details and I had some information back from BTO today.
H3 was ringed as a nestling on 22nd June 2013 at 16.30 at Hampton Estate, Seale in Surrey.
This means that my local Buzzard has travelled 72km from where it was born.

 

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Teniqua Treetops, Knysna

After spending a few days on the coast we moved to a totally different setting, Teniqua Treetops.

A group of canvas tree houses make up an eco friendly place to stay high up in indigenous forest on the foothills of the Outeniqua mountain range.

View out of our tree house

Driving through acres of farmland, forest and bush, passed burnt out houses, schools and cars, that had been destroyed in the recent wild fires, we didn’t really know what to expect.

View from tree house

View from Tree house, some of the land burnt in the wild fire

Luckily the fires had stopped before reaching the site and we spent three days discovering many birds and mammals that I’d never seen before.

The circular walk around the site allowed us to see numerous birds. Walking through open grass land, then down through dead wood and thorns following a trail, we were surrounded by the sound of birds I’d never heard before.

Some of the birds I still need to identify, so I would be really happy if anyone can help. I’ve also probably got a few wrong.

The much longer River walk meant scrambling over rocks, ducking under fallen tree trunks, down and up a steep gorge and walking along the Karatara River. It was definitely worth the walk to see the waterfalls and the cola coloured deep pools of water. The water is brown due to tannins from the surrounding plants.

Although we didn’t see many animals on the walk except scorpions, we did see many signs of bush pigs and a Vervet monkey down by the river.

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Scorpion

The whole site is an eco-friendly resort with rain water collected for drinking, river water for washing, and compost toilets.

It was brilliant and slightly weird to bath looking out over the forest.

Bath

 

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