Meet Stumpy

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I first met Stumpy in early February 2020 – nicknamed Stumpy because of the damage to its left leg, which now ends in a stump, no claw.

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Almost two years and several sightings later, this charming little Pied wagtail is still going strong. In fact, it’s a friendly little thing and quite fearless: if I stand completely still, it will walk past within inches of my feet.

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These particular photos of Stumpy were taken a couple of weeks apart, the first on 22 December last year and the second, just a couple of weeks ago, on 6 January.

Tricksy snails

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Snails are much more difficult to identify than you might imagine, especially when you don’t – as I didn’t – examine all the relevant parts of the shell that help with identification. The opening of the shell, for example, often holds key features. In this particular case, I was happy just to watch this tiny creature going about its daily life.

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Beaded with dew

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Here’s another recent surprise find, a Common green shieldbug (Palomena prasina) covered in early morning dewdrops. Obviously, it’s not green: these bugs overwinter as adults, changing their colouring from green to dark brown before the winter weather really sets in, usually around November. The British bugs website says these shieldbugs usually hibernate – perhaps this little beastie was caught out by the previously milder-than-usual temperatures.

220118 green shieldbug

Number 76

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I really enjoy the excitement of beginning each new year’s patch bird list, walking miles (I’ve clocked up my first hundred today), checking out locations I’ve come to know much more intimately during the last two years of enforced restrictions on movement (one of the few positives of this pandemic has been learning my local area more thoroughly), finding the less common birds that often elude me. And the latter includes this stunning Common gull (Larus canus), number 76 on my 2022 list.

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It was on the lakeside boardwalk at Cosmeston Lakes, feeding with the Black-headed gulls on seed that had been sprinkled by an earlier passer-by. My approach caused the birds to move back to the water, but not far away. I took a few photos, then sprinkled some seed of my own to encourage the birds back to the boardwalk, which worked a treat.

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Winter caterpillars

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These were a surprise on a chilly and very foggy early morning walk earlier this week.

I suppose I should have realised that some caterpillars overwinter as larvae but I was still amazed to find all but one of these four sitting in plain sight, fully exposed to the weather, covered in dew drops. I’m reliably informed these are the larvae of the Angle shades moth (Phlogophora meticulosa).

Shooting stars

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This was a first for me, an amazing cluster of fungi within inches of the Common bird’s nest fungi I blogged about yesterday. Variously named ‘Shooting star’, ‘Shotgun’, Artillery’ and ‘Cannonball’ fungus, Sphaerobolus stellatus gets its name from the way it shoots out its spores, apparently with a popping sound that you can actually hear and at a force that sends them flying up to 6 metres.

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I haven’t been able to find a lot of information about this fungus except for the Wikipedia entry on the genus Sphaerobolus, which looks reliable and includes some of the more technical details of its eruptive system, if you’re interested in the nitty gritty. I’m planning to return when it’s drier for another look and to get better photos.

Common bird’s nests

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I had planned a long walk along a local beach but unforecast hail and almost constant showers sent me stomping homeward sooner than expected, a little disappointed at not seeing many waterfowl. And then a splash of yellow on the ground caught my eye, a blob of Witch’s butter (Tremella mesenterica) on a small fallen branch. But, even better than the butter, my eye was drawn to this fabulous cluster of Common bird’s nest fungi (Crucibulum laeve), a species that’s more common than you might think but very easily overlooked because of its small size.

I’ve blogged about these fungi before (Bird’s-nests with eggs!, August 2017) – click on the link to see better photos, taken in dry weather, when the details of the nests and their eggs can be more clearly seen. And check out tomorrow’s post for some even more amazing fungi, lurking right next to these bird’s nests.

A fleeting Scaup

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Catching up with December’s bird visitors again today, this time with a Greater scaup that spent a few days before Christmas at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. Sadly, it didn’t hang around for us local patch birders to add it to our 2022 bird list. This handsome bird, pictured below with a male and female Tufted duck, is probably a first-winter male, which is why it doesn’t yet have the fully light grey back seen in adult males.

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