Wednesday, 30 October 2013

29th October - An Autumn Walk, An Impromptu Trip to the Vets and An Evening Sitting Starstruck!

Yesterday started well, had a scary blip in the middle and ended on a superb note.

My Auntie had come to stay because it was half term for her, and we headed out for a walk, to enjoy the bright and sunny autumnal weather. We drove to Victory wood, which is one of our favourite dog walking places now. Not only is there plenty of space for Bracken to have a good run around - there are also fabulous views, stretching miles.

We made our way swiftly past the sheep, with Bracken safely on the lead (being a collie cross and not wanting him to try herding sheep for the first time) and made our way to the entrance of Ellenden wood. It had a doggy gate too, to save our pup trying to jump the style and inevitably hurting himself. There were a few trees down, illustrating the effects of, the ever so hyped up, St Jude's Storm. The wood has a lovely little stream running through it, which alongside the orange, ochre and yellow fallen leaves made for a wonderful woodland scene.

The blue sky peeping through the green leaves reminded us of the glorious weather!

We hopped over the stream and tried to make our way in the direction of where we thought the other entrance was... we weren't lost - just exploring!

There were a few fungi to be seen. Whilst admiring - Bracken thought it would make a tasty snack and ran off with a small chunk of one... we hoped and hoped he would spit it out - or it would be a harmless one!

Possibly an old dry specimen of Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystina)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

We found a well trodden path through lovely beech tree woodland.

What seemed like an orange spiders web inside this hollow

We eventually found the bridleway which led us back to a point we recognised. We made our way up to the highest point of the walk and down the other side. Glancing back, it seemed like we hadn't walked that far, but after 2 hours of navigating through woodland with no paths we certainly felt like we'd walked miles.

We arrived back at the car - all bundled in and looked forward to a nice cup of coffee and some lunch.

Lunch was put on hold. Bracken appeared to be in some discomfort when we got home. He was pawing at his ears and face, and trying with all his might to scratch an invisible itch. After attempting to see what was causing the problem his muzzle and eyes started swelling. We immediately called the vets and they urged us to get him to them straight away. What had been a lovely day so far, quickly turned into a nightmare. Bracken dislikes the vets, but it was necessary. The vet thought he had probably been stung or bitten by something, rather than ingested a nasty, as that would have resulted in vomiting. We were relieved that his earlier possible fungi eating wasn't the cause. He was prescribed steroids for a couple of days and human piriton - obviously in the correct dose. You should never give pets human tablets unless a vet has prescribed them.

Anyway we got him home and the puffiness quickly went down and he had a snooze for the rest of the afternoon.

On a different and more exciting note... in the evening we took ourselves down to one of the schools in Canterbury, where the local rspb group were hosting a talk by the One and only Mike Dilger!

We were early (for once) and had a browse of the small photographic exhibition and other bits on show. Mum and I then found ourselves seats in the front row because mum had forgotten her glasses! Mike got a little held up due to traffic, but he greeted us with a cheery wave when he arrived.

In the first half he talked about how he got into nature, wildlife and consequently his path to TV fame. After the break he read some extracts from his new book 'My Garden and Other Animals' and answered any questions people had. He was enthusiastic, very funny and a joy to listen to! During the break we got a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Mum persuaded me to go and get a copy of his book  and have a chat. Now I'm not one to get excited about celebrities of the film and television world, but when it comes to wildlife TV presenters, it's another story all together! Not that I have ever spoken to a wildlife TV presenter before. Even Mike talked about being starstruck when sat next to David Attenborough - but then who wouldn't be! Anyway I chatted to him for a few minutes and I told him I save moths from the pub kitchen (relates to the title of one of the chapters of his book) and that I volunteer etc and he signed a lovely message in my book :)

I also gave Mike my blog address just in case he got time to look at it, so HI! if you are reading this Mike!!

I have started reading Mike's book and am already hooked. After 1 chapter I would already recommend it! Very down to earth and humorous!

Right I have gone on for long enough. Hope all my blogging friends are well and you enjoyed my post!!

Friday, 25 October 2013

1st blogaversary

I realise that wishing myself a happy blogaversary is a little bit lame but I feel that my blog turning 1 year old today is something to be celebrated! I so enjoy taking photos and sharing the best of them with all you lovely people who read my blog. I also immensely appreciate the kind comments that you leave, so thanks to you all :)

Anyway this post seems to be quite long - apologies!

2 and a half weeks ago we embraced a warm, autumnal, still morning and took Bracken down to Seasalter beach for a walk. Before, when we have taken him there, the tide has been too far out, meaning swimming hasn't been possible. While walking along the top of the beach he found a shoe, which he decided to carry for most of the time. Goodness knows why someone left one shoe, which was in fairly good condition, lying on the beach. Anyway here are some of the photos from the walk.

There has been an influx of Brent geese. They always arrive at this time of year.

Brent geese

Brent geese and gulls

Bar-tailed godwits, a turnstone and a gull
Making a splash...

...and some funny faces

...and some more funny faces and poses!


Volunteering on 7th October was delightfully warm. Our task was to strip the old reserve sign stickers from the boards and put new ones up. Once we had replaced all 4 signs, we had lunch and then went for a walk with our cameras and scopes. I saw my first bearded tits, there were still hundreds of waders - bar tailed godwits, golden plovers, lapwings etc.  Talking of bearded tits - if you haven't read Rory McGrath's autobiography which is named after these intriguing birds, then you should. I highly recommend it.

The lighting was nice and a rather handsome drake mallard posed for a close up.

We returned to the truck and headed back. As we drove back along the narrow road, something, possibly a peregrine or some other bird of prey, caused most of the resting birds to fly. The golden plovers, lapwings and godwits, swirled and swooped. A good tactic to avoid which ever predator spooked them. The cormorants, avocets and redshanks stayed put, not wanting to lose their spot on the island in the middle of the East flood. A few sparrows dispersed from the brambles close to the road. 

The following week, our task was coppicing. Just some of the smaller trunks which could be felled with bow saws. An important woodland management technique to let light into the wood and allow certain species of flower and plant to thrive.

There was also a fair amount of fungi around...

Green elfcup (Chlorociboria aeruginascens)

Closer to home, I found this growing out of a notch in a fallen ash tree.

These small fungi had tiny little bobbles all over them. They were really quite sweet, as far as fungi go!

During an early evening walk we noticed this sun-bow. An interesting and beautiful phenomena.

We also heard and saw in the distance, 5 fieldfares. Just passing through. Hopefully the bunch which usually feast on the left over apples in the nearby orchard will make an appearance soon!

Walking along the footpath through one of the fields, a mixed flock of small birds flew up. No bins, just managed to get the photo below but they are too silhouetted for my ID skills.

Another evening dog walk after a heavy downpour meant huge puddles. Or is it a lake?! Bracken enjoyed splashing about in it anyway!

On Wednesday (23/10) I went out dormouse surveying again with Kevin (the warden I usually volunteer with) and we checked the 50 nest boxes in one of the local Kent Wildlife Trust owned woods. Last time we checked them we found several vacated dormouse nests and 2 of which contained dormice.
Once again 2 boxes (different boxes from the last survey) had dormice inside. At this time of year during the chilly days they enter into a state of torpor, whereby lowering their body temperature and therefore using less energy. They still feed at night, high up in the tree tops, trying to gain as much weight as they can before the winter arrives and they have to hibernate.
We were lucky enough to find a nest with two torpid dormice snuggled up inside! They were absolutely adorable! We held them and at first they didn't even stir. We popped one down on the woodland floor for a few seconds so I could get a natural looking photo. I then asked Kevin to take a geeky 'look I'm holding a tiny little dormouse' photo of me. We checked to see if the dormice were male or female, weighed them and put them back in their intricately woven nest and let them get back to their deep slumber. I do hope they survive their hibernation!
The other box was home to one male who was more active. Kevin showed me how to handle this lively individual too. One day maybe I'll train to get my dormouse handling license! You have to go on several handling courses and go out surveying with a license holder a number of times before you can get a license. They are a protected species so it is illegal to handle them unaccompanied if you don't possess a license.


Me holding one of the gorgeous torpid dormice!

Jew's ear or jelly ear (Auricularia auricula-judae)

Woodland dappled in autumn light

aptly named dryad's saddle

A better example of green elfcup

That is all for now. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Lets keep our fingers crossed that the weather which has been forecast for this weekend isn't as dire as the warnings suggest! Thank you all for reading!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Fun guy seen at Sevenoaks NR

On Saturday 5th October I made a return trip to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve with my mum we met my Auntie there. We ate our picnic then donned our walking boots and went out for a stroll around the lakes which we didn't cover last time. Snipe bog lake is the best name for a lake I have come across! We didn't see any snipe though.

I thought I would try and photograph each different type of fungus that we came across. I only had my long lens with me which meant that it was difficult to get a quick shutter speed as well as a lot of the subject in focus. This meant I had to up the ISO quite a bit so the quality of the images aren't that great, but hopefully you get the idea of the variety of fungi we saw. Some I have managed to identify (possibly wrongly) and as I have been a bit pushed for time recently, most are unidentified.

Any expert fungi identifiers out there (or even non-expert) - Please do comment below if I have made any mistakes or if you know what any of my photos are of! Thank you in advance :)

The first type of fungi we encountered was coral spot - however my photo didn't turn out great so haven't included it. I think we probably saw about 20 different species in the space of a couple of hours. Not bad.

Burnt Polypore

Sulphur tuft?


Parasola auricoma

Drab bonnet?


We stopped at one of the hides for a little coffee flask break and enjoyed watching this lovely male and female mallard paddling around this lake, covered in seed and leaf litter. The only acceptable type of litter. We also watch some huge fish, a few hawkers and just sat and listened to the rustle of autumnal leaves and coots squawking and making odd noises.

We carried on our lake-side partially wooded walk and came across more interesting fungi and a lovely tufty caterpillar.

Same specimen as photo above... Lilac bonnet?

Dusky Puffball

Parasola auricoma and drab bonnets?

Ruby tiger moth caterpillar

Candle snuff fungus

White dapperling??

Physarum album
We came to another hide - one which we knew a kingfisher had been seen from just earlier. We sat. We waited. Not a king to be seen. We watched a few teal sifting through the green-looking water, and large numbers of Canada geese flying to an adjacent field.

Female Teal

Further on we saw great crested grebes and their stripey-headed chicks that were nearly fully grown.

Water mint

An impressive specimen with birch seeds on top for a finishing touch

Various forms of bracket fungi... again if you have any ideas what they are please let me know :)

We also saw a lovely vocal little robin, plenty of lapwings, some tufties and also a number or cormorants.

I had work at the pub that evening and finished about midnight. By the time I had got to sleep it was 1ish. I then had to be up at 6.15 to head out water vole trapping with Chloe, Row and Pete. It was a beautiful dewy morning which resulted in jewelled spiders webs everywhere. In comparison to our trapping session at Elmley, it wasn't great. Only 2 water voles in 50 traps. This just shows how much help these little critters need our help.

Anyway to end this post here are the couple of early morning misty photos I took.

Thanks for reading :) I hope you are all well and have had a great weekend despite the rain. We managed to get out for dog walks in between showers which was lucky.

The next post will show Bracken's new found love for the sea!