It was the weak sunlight filtering through the almost-leafless overhead branches that drew my eyes to these fungi, their droplets of oozing liquid glinting as the light fell on them.
These are Alder brackets, Inonotus radiatus, a common species which, as you might expect from the name, is most often found on dead and dying Alder trees, though it does also grow on other species of hardwood trees.
According to the First Nature website, ‘Inonotus, the genus name of the Alder Bracket fungus, comes from ino– a prefix meaning fibrous, and ot which means an ear; the ending –us merely turns it into the form of a Latinised noun. The specific name radiatus comes from the Latin radi– meaning a ray, spoke or plate, and it is probably a reference to the radial wrinkles that are often evident on the upper surfaces of mature Alder Brackets.’
As you can see from my last photograph, these particular brackets were also home to several tiny larvae, perhaps of fungus gnats, though I can’t be sure of that.
Tuesday’s walk brought two encounters with birds of prey. First a Buzzard drifted overhead and, not long afterwards, I clocked a Kestrel hovering close by. It always amazes me that these birds have such incredible eyesight that they can spot lunch on the ground from high in the sky.
Looking for leafmines has had all sorts of spin-off benefits this year, as I’ve learned to recognise more tree species and encountered creatures I’ve never seen before. This little creature is a prime example: it has been confirmed as the Barkfly species Valenzuela flavidus.
Perhaps due to their tiny size (this one’s c.3mm), Barkflies are much under-recorded – I’d never even heard of them – but, as the Barkfly Recording Scheme website notes ‘The lack of recording ensures that even casual recorders of the group have a good chance of making significant finds. Wherever you live you are likely to turn up species previously unrecorded in the area and may even find species new to Britain.’ Seven new species of Barkfly have been discovered in just the past 10 years. So, that’s another insect group to keep a look out for.
This must be the strangest thing I’ve found when out leafmining: part of a Grey squirrel’s tail. There was no sign of the rest of the squirrel and the tail was lying right next to a busy road, so I’m guessing the creature narrowly escaped death by car but is now looking much less bushy!
I found these mines on Lime leaves a few weeks ago but they will still be visible on the yellowing leaves, just not occupied any more. The tiny white tick shape is distinctive, making it easy to identify these as the mines of the little brown and yellow moth Bucculatrix thoracella.
After the ‘tick’ has been formed, the moth larvae graze beneath the leaves, creating small bare areas known as feeding windows. When they moult, the larvae retreat to cocoons – one of the leafmining experts calls them ‘cocoonets’ (shown below), but their final cocoons can be found either in the leaf litter below the tree or on the Lime’s trunk. I’ve yet to find one of those.
During Friday’s search for more leafmines, I ventured along roads I hadn’t walked before, and I’m so glad I did as I found a new plant – well, an abundance of new plants really, growing all along the roadside verge in front of Cardiff’s main Royal Mail delivery centre. This is Gallant-soldier (Galinsoga parviflora).
I’ve read several variations of its history in Britain: here’s what is written in Flora Britannica:
Gallant-soldier … was brought to Kew Gardens from Peru in 1793, bearing a name that commemorated the Spanish botanist Don Mariano Martinez de Galinsoga. The plant itself was rather less imperious, being a thin, lax and greenish-flowered daisy with weedy habits. In the early 1860s it escaped from Kew and became widely established in gutters, gardens and waste places around Richmond … Galinsoga was corrupted to ‘Gallant soldier’.
Since their escape from Kew, these soldiers have marched far and wide, though they haven’t yet reached all parts of the British Isles, and there are not a lot of Welsh records. You can see a map of their whereabouts on the NBN Atlas website.
If you think this Grey heron looks grumpy, you’re right. According to the lovely woman who pointed it out to me, her dog had disturbed the bird when it rushed into the brook and, having flown up into the tree above, the heron stood glowering at the three annoying animals below.
The one in which we look at yellow stick-like fungi, poking up out of the ground, or wood.
Club fungi can be difficult to identify positively so I can’t be completely sure of my names here, though I have had some help from an expert. So, this first fungus, found in local deciduous woodland, is probably Handsome club (Clavulinopsis laeticolor).
This next club fungus looks superficially similar to the last but this one had sprouted in mossy grassland, meaning it is likely Yellow club (Clavulinopsis helvola).
And this third yellow stick-like fungus is paler, almost translucent and jelly-like, and was flourishing on decaying wood. I’m fairly sure this is Small stagshorn (Calocera cornea).