Ducks in a row

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For the past couple of months it’s been wonderful to have both a female Scaup and a Ring-necked duck over-wintering in my local area. They spend most of their time amongst flocks of Tufted ducks in Cardiff Bay, either behind the Ice Rink or in the wetlands reserve, though they also venture occasionally to Cosmeston Lakes. Much of the time they can be found together, as if they’re aware that they’re the outsiders in the flock, though they can sometimes be found in separate locations. I was lucky during Thursday’s walk to see them both in a smattering of sunshine and together – in fact, I managed to get all my ducks in a row!

210116 ducks in a row

Winter rusts

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It may be the middle of winter – and chilly with it – but rust fungi can still be found, thriving on those plants that survive these cold temperatures. I’ve found these three in the past week, and I’m sure there must be more around. The good thing about rust fungi is that they generally only infect one species of plant so they’re easier than most fungi to identify – and that’s got to be good thing!

210115 Melampsora euphorbiae

Melampsora euphorbiae on Petty spurge (Euphorbia peplus)

210115 Puccinia lagenophorae

Puccinia lagenophorae on Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

210115 Puccinia smyrnii

Puccinia smyrnii on Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

Log diving

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It was grey and gloomy, the frost had knocked over the wildflowers I was hoping to find, and the birds were quiet in the trees, so where should I turn for wildlife? A spot of log diving was called for and, sure enough, the under-log dwellers didn’t disappoint. I found millipedes, which are probably one of the Polydesmus species but I can’t be sure …

210113 millipede polydesmus sp

And several Common shiny woodlice (Oniscus asellus) …

210113 Common shiny woodlouse

And also a Common striped woodlouse (Philoscia muscorum), not a species I’d noticed before, and this one was a bit shy about being photographed … but it had a very impressive rear end!

Ash key fungi

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These two fungi, found on Ash keys, were last week’s record of the week at my local biodiversity records centre, SEWBReC – not my record, that of another local recorder – but seeing this on Twitter last Friday reminded me to check the next Ash trees I saw. That opportunity came on Sunday’s walk and I found the fungi on just the second tree I passed by.

210112 ash key fungi (1)

The two fungi are Diaporthe samaricola (the small black dots on the seed part of the key, on the left below) and Neosetophoma samarorum (the much smaller, black speckles on the wing part of the key, on the right in my photo). Both fungi are under-recorded in my area, so I’ll now be checking all the Ash keys I find.

210112 ash key fungi (2)

Hungry Marsh tits

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On my Christmas Day walk I wanted to spread some good cheer to my fellow creatures so, with humans being off limits, I went bearing seed to the small hungry birds in Cosmeston’s Cogan Wood. And I was delighted, and more than a little amazed, when the first bird to appear, before I’d even spread the seed about, was one of the resident Marsh tits, which came and sat in the bramble bush just a foot from my hand, waiting impatiently for me to back off. So, I was able to get probably my best photos yet of this charming little bird.

210111 marsh tit (1)

And, though I missed seeing a Marsh tit on my first visit to Cosmeston for 2021, I did see one on my second, and, once again, it was the first bird I saw when I got to one of their regular feeding spots. In fact, this tit was poking around for seed at the bottom of the tree stump, and then perched up on the bushes until I had sprinkled the stump top with seed. What a little star!

210111 marsh tit (2)

Incredible Ivy

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I’m not sure I can subscribe to the ancient concept that wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around my head would stop me getting drunk but the leaves are certainly amazing and incredibly diverse in shape, form and colour. Juvenile leaves have between 3 and 5 lobes, while mature leaves have no lobes and can be shaped both like ovals and hearts.

And then there are the flowers, in bloom from September through to November and a source of food for more than 50 insect species, and the subsequent berries, ripe from November to January – or, until the berry-loving winter thrushes, finches, woodpigeons and other hungry birds gobble them all up. What an incredible plant ivy is!

Freezing

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We’ve been experiencing sub-zero overnight temperatures over the past week or so and, some days, when the cloud or fog is particularly thick and dense, the daytime temperatures have also been very low. Still, I was surprised to see, on Thursday’s walk, when freezing fog had rolled in off the Bristol Channel, that the west lake at Cosmeston had partly frozen over. The birds looked a little confused by the conditions as well.

210109 freezing

Yellow brain fungi

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Yellow is such a cheery colour, and the sight of these bright yellow fungi during a walk on a particularly grey, gloomy day certainly brought a smile to my face.

Although there are two very similar-looking, yellow, jelly-like fungi, I’m 99% sure these are Yellow brain fungi (Tremella mesenterica) because they are parasitic on the Peniophora species of crust fungi (rather than the Stereum hirsutum fungi, on which the other yellow fungi Tremella aurantia are parasitic), and you can, hopefully, just make out the Peniophora fungi (the lilac-grey crust on the wood) in the photo immediately below.

210108 yellow brain fungi (3)

I explained more about these two fungi in my blog Golden ears and Yellow brains, February 2017.

Round Robin

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By ‘Round Robin’, I mean a Robin (bird) that looks round because it’s fluffed up all its feathers to increase trapped air to keep itself warm, as opposed to round-robin, a tournament where each contestant competes with every other contestant (rather than a knockout competition, where contestants get eliminated in stages, in, for example, a series of quarter- and semi-finals). And then I wondered if the two robins were somehow related but it turns out they’re not. According to Wikipedia, in round-robin the competition the word robin is a corruption of the French term ruban, which means ribbon, though, if you’re a word nut like me, you might like to check out The Phrase Finder website, which has even more interesting information about the origin of the term.

210107 round robin