Wednesday 31 October 2012

October in Little Linford Wood

Sneaking in "at the death" is somehow appropriate on Hallowe'en, as once again I nearly missed out on a monthly deadline. October's weekends have been full of other important tasks: habitat management work parties, birthday trip, visits by relatives, nature reserve open day and dragonfly society members' day. I've not known such a busy period in ages.

So, after more than half a century on the planet, it was most fortunate that I discovered that I possessed a spontaneity gene. Yesterday morning was sunny and bright, prompting a snap decision for me to take the afternoon off from work and head to Little Linford Wood.

Though chilly, out of the wind it was pleasant enough and as I drove up the track towards the wood, a Jay flew across my bows. In the car park, the ground was much muddier than of late, so boots were the order of the day.

A big change this month was the lack of insects. No butterflies, dragonflies, bees or wasps, and only one or two dipterans to be seen. As I walked the woodland rides, it was apparent that there was little in the way of bird song, too. Though at least this had the effect of making the few calls I heard stand out.

One tree I had been hoping to photograph was a Spindle, Euonymous europaeus, but the largest specimen I spotted was now virtually leafless. A few fruits still hung from its branches, but the most photogenic were quite high up. And I had only brought a standard lens, the better to record vistas, so in the end I gingerly gripped a twig and pulled it lower so that a fruit was in  camera range.

Pink and orange... we once had a bathroom with this colour scheme!
It was whilst I was snapping away one-handed that Lady Luck put in an appearance. A sharp call above my head alerted me to the presence of a bird. Hopping through the branches was a Marsh Tit, feeding upon the seeds from the Spindle fruit. Here was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be close to one of these shy birds and I was holding a camera in one hand and a twig in the other! Letting go of the twig wasn't really an option, as the resulting py-oing! would likely frighten the tit away. Similarly, using the camera viewfinder, manual focus or adjusting apertures was impossible, so I ended up firing blind on auto. Gah!

Those fruit don't stand a chance

There's no escape now

Success, a seed retrieved
The most impressive Autumn colours were from Bramble leaves, especially when the sunlight picked out a group of leaves in an otherwise shady ride.

At the northern edge of the wood, a Little Owl was taking the rays, perched on top of a ruined wall, but he was well out of range of a standard lens.

Through to the western side and the number of bare branches left no doubt that the year is turning inexorably toward Winter.

The rookery was deserted, the Rooks having left their Summer quarters and headed for communal roosts elsewhere.

Back in the centre of the wood, this Field Maple was rather resplendent in its golden hues, whilst the Oak on one side was still fairly green and leafy, yet the Ash on the other side was bare.

Speaking of Ash, this week brought horrendous news that the species is under threat in the UK from a fungal disease. However, I can report that this particular twig looked in fine fettle...

Under the canopy of other Ashes and Oaks were several other fungal colonies, "fairy rings" of a species of Funnel Cap...

And, fortunately, there was sufficient sunlight to illuminate the gills from below.

As ever, I left well alone, because without an absolutely positive ID, it's impossible to know if they're safe to eat.

And as there's still two more months of 2012 to report, poisoning isn't an option.


holdingmoments said...

Let's hope the Ash can keep safe there.

Martin said...

So a return visit this weekend will allow the November diary to be ticked early... Lovely fungal photo. It is fascinating to see how the land changes daily without any influence of man.

Thinking of the rookery, the trees near my apartment have become temporary home to a Starling roost in the past couple of weeks, with the cars and pavement littered with droppings. It is just like hail falling in the evenings and you can never quite run from the screeching.

Imperfect and Tense said...

I find this immensely frustrating. The one tree species that after years of practice I can reliably identify, and it's under threat. Bother!

Imperfect and Tense said...

I like your thinking, but whenever have I been THAT organised! Yeah, the old Starling roosts will be swelling in number. Do they do that pre-roosting amorphous amoeba flock thing (wish I could remember what the phenomenon's called)?

Tales of a Bank Vole said...

Hang on! Spindle Trees and Marsh Tits - where have I seen blog posts like that before?

Imperfect and Tense said...

I couldn't possibly begin to guess what your browsing history consists of. The Autumnwatch home page? Bank voles R us? Hotter Otters for the discerning Or the absolutely splendid

lyrical lady said...

We had our very own mini-murmuration this afternoon at HESC! Steph and I watched a couple of hundred starlings prepare for pre-roost (from the big window). What a sight :)))

Tales of a Bank Vole said...

All of the above of course - but I may drop Michaela's Infra-red Aquatic Mammals Monthly, I think I've had enough for one season!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Hang on a minute, is it or

Martin said...

The address probably makes little difference. Google adjusts depending on your region, so I am on at the moment. How French of you ;)

Imperfect and Tense said...

Martin, I never am! Really? Wow! Perhaps Our Lass will now believe I do have a little "je ne sais quoi"?

Funnily enough, there's an absolutely cracking French odo site called Aeshnature at