Sunday, 28 January 2018

Life and Death on a Hill

Managed another couple of hours out on the hills before scurrying back to work again, my quest to attain 334 (or 337) species this month draws to a close, but I still have my work cut out. No more spare time during daylight hours until February, currently I'm on 315 species with a small backlog of stuff (mosses, mainly) in pots. It's gonna be tight...very tight indeed!

The weather forecast was for torrential rains and wind all day today, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the forecast had changed overnight to moderate breezes and no rain until mid-afternoon. Right, back to it, I headed up the hill and to the highest point of the square to see what I could find.

It's a sad time of year, in one respect. Spring is just around the corner yet the old, weak or diseased animals often just can't survive the remainder of the lean months, even though the worst is over. Today I found this once fine fella, crumpled in an undignified heap at the foot of a slope. It may have been blown over by the winds, it may have quietly headed off to die out of sight from the rest of the flock. We'll never know, but without fail old sheep succumb at this time of year. 

Ex- woolly maggot
The carcass is situated right at the very edge of the open hillside, beneath the trees that mark the outer boundary of Uig Wood. I'm not sure scavenging Ravens will feel particularly secure feeding that close to cover, hence this carcass could be here for a long time yet. The eyes have gone and something has managed to pull out a small length of what looks like stomach lining through a hole, other than that it seems intact. Could be rich hunting grounds for blowflies and the various beetles associated with dead animals once the weather warms up a bit.

I've been looking at the birches up here in search of Pseudovalsa lanciformisa fungus that is supposedly ubiquitous on birch twigs. No luck for me so far, but I did manage to find another fungus of interest

Exidia repanda - a birch specialist
I recognised it as an Exidia, but had to wait until back indoors to discover which one. Happily, it's a new one for me and quite a decent find too. Exidia repanda (aka Birch Butter or Birch Jelly) is, in a British context, almost exclusively found in the Scottish Highlands. Fort William northwards, plus a smattering of sites in northern England down towards the Midlands. There's a nice webpage that explains a bit about it here and the NBN distribution map can be viewed by clicking here.  As can be seen, I found it growing on a slender birch twig, which happened to be laying on the ground. Precisely the habitat as mentioned in the link. 

Finally for today, Hazel catkins are very much in evidence at the top of Uig Wood. Still no sign of any poxy Hazel Gloves Lichen Fungus (thanks, Steve!), despite the presence of Glue Crust Fungus with which it is apparently associated. I'll find it one day!

And so the cycle of life, death and rebirth continues.
It struck me that I've been a bit remiss with the ol' songs of late. So, for no particular reason other than I haven't played it for a while, here are The Toadies with Possum Kingdom. Love this track!!!


And here you go, in keeping with the hairy mammals theme *ahem*... have a bonus track on me. No worries, you'd do the same for me, I'm sure   :) 



7 comments:

  1. Same thing with the swans for me, the old and unwell really don't do very well at this time of year.

    I'm getting to that age too so I'm happy to think that I've just about made it through another winter!

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    1. Good thing that Portland doesn't really have winters, just wet and windy season or dry and windy season! Hence you can remain the eternal Peter Pan of Portland, lucky bugger ya! :)

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  2. Also on birch twigs at the proximal end a nice hyphomycete hangs out - Trimmatostroma betulina (see E&E). Any patch of black, especially coming through the bark, is bound to be good (and in E&E!) At end of lunch today I am on 313 ...

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  3. Love that Primus video. Did you shake out the beetles from gorse with a sweep net yet?

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    1. Good fungi tips, thanks. And no I haven't bashed any gorse yet. Exapion ulicis is ubiquitous down south, but seemingly absent up here. Seems bizarre not to see it at every shake of the gorse! 313 huh? I need to pull my finger out!

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  4. I spotted your deliberate mistake. Do I win a prize?

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    1. Oh. Oh yes. Hazel Gloves is a fungus, not a lichen. Darnit. Yes you win a prize - you get to lead me to that patch of Hazel Gloves you photographed! Well spotted, Steve. Cheers!

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