Bedfont Bunting

Due to the weather we have only been able to get out for 3 ringing sessions at Bedfont Lakes so far this year – two at the main nature reserve (where we had several close sightings of a Bittern in flight!) and one at South Side the Sunday before last. This proved to be an exciting one for me as we caught the very first Reed bunting since I started last January; a lovely male! Not as smart as he will look come spring when his head and ‘mustache’ will darken to black, but still quite a looker!

Male Reed Bunting at Bedfont South Side

Male Reed Bunting at Bedfont South Side

IMG_4076 IMG_4077I am used to seeing these guys at Kempton Nature Reserve where they happily feed on millet from a feeder strategically placed in the reeds. You can often see 10 – 12 at at time especially in winter which is a real pleasure.

Reed Bunting at Kempton

Reed Bunting at Kempton

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However they are more of a rarity at Bedfont (I wonder why?) so this was a treat.

Another treat was this glorious Goldfinch! Also ringed at South Side. We often hear and see them around but rarely catch them in the mist nets, I think we have caught about 3 in the last year so this was lovely to see, especially one looking so smart! This was a male as you can see from the first photo the red mask extends back beyond the eye, where as in the females it generally stops. However this can be quite variable and there are other features to look for, though it’s not always clear cut as I have mentioned before in this post.

Male Goldfinch showing the red masking extending behind the eye

Male Goldfinch showing the red masking extending behind the eye

IMG_4079 IMG_4080I am very much looking forward to seeing what else 2015 brings! 🙂

Deceivers

After getting really interested in fungi for the first time last year my eyes were opened to the amazing variety of shapes, colours, sizes, and even scents of different species. Aside from providing vital ecosystems functions, many are also aesthetically beautiful to look at. But I am learning, unsurprisingly, that identification is not always straight forward! One genus, Laccaria, known fittingly as ‘Deceivers’, can be very variable in appearance as I discovered during a trip to Kingston Cemetery last month, inspired by this blog post by Alison Fure, who I have also to thank for confirming IDs!

Laccaria laccata, cap with central depression

Laccaria laccata, cap with central depression

Laccaria laccata, with orange-brown cap

Laccaria laccata, with orange-brown cap

Laccaria laccata

Laccaria laccata

Laccaria laccata, gills widely spaced, irregular and interspersed with shorter gills

Laccaria laccata – gills attached to the stem, widely spaced, irregular and interspersed with shorter gills

These deceivers Laccaria laccata were found together in the same area, showing variation between specimens particularly in cap colour which lightens with age.

Even more baffling was this specimen from Putney Heath, found at the entrance to one of several tunnels that appeared to be part of a badger set (hairs were also found on a fallen tree nearby). I settled on Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria amethystina but the cap has obviously become extremely twisted and furrowed.

Laccaria amethystina

Laccaria amethystina

It looks like a petticoat! 😉 although difficult to see, the gills are fairly widely spaced and irregular, similar to Laccaria laccata.  I’m pretty sure on the ID but as always open to any suggestions!

Other fungi found during my trip to Kingston cemetery….

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Snowy Waxcap, Hygrocybe virginea

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More Snowy Waxcaps

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Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria

Yellow Stainer, Agaricus xanthodermus

Yellow Stainer, Agaricus xanthodermus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Birds

The last ringing session of 2014 was at the South side of Bedfont Lakes and proved to be full of treats, for me the opportunity to ring 3 new species 🙂

We had been crossing our fingers for some redwing during the last session at this site however we were without luck. This session, however, we only had to wait a few minutes after putting the nets up before we caught not one but two! I apologise as I somehow did not manage to get a frontal shot of the redwings as I was too preoccupied with learning how to age these birds; we were lucky to get an adult and a juvenile (born 2014) which gave the opportunity for a nice comparison. Most notable are the white/cream markings on the tips of the tertial feathers and greater coverts which are much more distinct in the younger bird, seen on the left in these photos.

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Juvenile (left) and adult (right) redwing

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White/cream feather tips more distinct in the juvenile (left)

IMG_3754Here is a nice shot of a redwing on Hampton Common I took a few years a go to make up for the lack of frontal photo! Not a ‘close up’ but still shows how lovely these bird are.

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Redwing on Hampton Common 2011

Shortly afterwards we had another treat, a male and a female bullfinch – Mr and Mrs 😉

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Female bullfinch

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Male bullfinch

IMG_3760 IMG_3764After a couple of Robins by now we were joking that somehow the festive season must only be attracting birds with red markings – either that or it was my trainers bright red Santas hat reeling them in 😉 our suspisions were confirmed after this beast of a green woodpecker! One of my favourite birds and the study subject for my dissertation.

Green woodpecker

Green woodpecker

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And that was the end of my first year of bird ringing! It has been fantastic. I honestly feel privileged to have this experience and to work with such lovely and knowledgeable people. Looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings!

If you are interested in getting involved with bird ringing yourself then you can go to the BTO website to search for trainers in your area.

Golden Crested Birds and Mysterious Red Capped Mushrooms

As the warbler activity has died down at Bedfont Lakes – aside from our resident Cetti’s warbler, a few chiffchaffs (one a retrap that was ringed back in April so thought to be a resident rather than a wintering visitor) and a male blackcap, tit activity seems to have increased. This is a great opportunity for me to get familiar with ageing great tits and blue tits and of course the chance for an adorable long-tailed tit group photo that is sure to brighten up anyone’s day!

Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus

Two Sundays ago I was also delighted to have the opportunity to ring my first ever goldcrest!

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

Goldcrest, Regulus regulus

This individual was shortly followed by two more….

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Gorgeous! Considering the autumnal colours all around I thought the beautiful golden yellow crest of this tiny bird went nicely with the red, orange and brown hues of several species of fungi I discovered growing close by; my favourite of which being this lovely Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes

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Velvet Shank, Flammulina velutipes

IMG_3560 IMG_3564More of a mystery, however is this red capped mushroom growing in large numbers on woodchip, thought to be a Russula sp possibly beechwood sickener; the trouble is there are no beech trees around, however I think the spores are likely to have come in on the woodchip which may contain beech. I’m informed that the woodchip is made up of willow from the park itself but also from wood that is brought in from all over the borough, so who knows what could be in it! IMG_3538 IMG_3534IMG_3745IMG_3742IMG_3738Any suggestions would be welcome!

Another nice find was what I believe to be Turkeytail fungus Trametes versicolor

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Turkeytail fungus, Trametes versicolor

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Urban Fungal Adventures

I usually carry around various wildlife identification guides pretty much every where with me (as well as my binoculars!) as I’ve found that even in the most urban environment, you never know what you may come across! At the moment the two books that I don’t go anywhere without are my micro moth field guide (this is the perfect time of year for looking for leaf mines!) and a little collins mushroom guide I was gifted years ago. This year is the the first autumn I’ve actually got around to using the latter and finally delved in to the amazing world of fungi. I would just like to share a few recent  discoveries….

Originally I thought this to be the Purple Jelly Fungus, but on second examination I’m going with Jew’s Ear or Jelly Ear as some people know it, Auricularia auricula-judaeIt’s typically found on Elder – this was discovered (thanks to Maaike from Camley Street!) on a log, part of a habitat pile at Camley Street Natural Park. Honestly I’m not sure on the tree ID but I will take a closer look when I am there this week.

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Jew’s ear, Auricularia auricula-judae

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This next specimen was found in Epping Forest, Glistening Inkcap Coprinellus micaceusIt really does glisten!

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

Glistening Inkcap, Coprinellus micaceus

This next one was also found it Epping Forest, Hump-backed Polypore Pseudotrametes gibbosaThis is one of the many bracket fungi, the brackets on this species are humped at the point of attachment (hence the common name!) and the upperside has an interesting velvety lumpy surface.

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

Hump-backed Polypore, Pseudotrametes gibbosa

The next few specimens were found on Wanstead Flats – a new urban discovery for me, really looking forward to exploring this area further!

This Fly Agaric Amanita muscari  is the typical ‘toadstool’ depicted in fairytales. The white spots are actually remnants of the white veil enclosing the young fruitbody. No problem identifying this one!

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Fly Agaric, Amanita muscari

IMG_3394This is probably my favourite so far, Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera. I love the markings on the stem and cap, really nice! It’s the ‘snake-like’ pattern on the stem that pointed away from the similar Shaggy Parasol which has a white stem that bruises red-brown.

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Parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera

IMG_3400 IMG_3404And last but not least, also found on Wanstead Flats, is this impressively large puffball – I think the Membranous Puffball Vascellum pratense.

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Membranous puffball, Vascellum pratense

Complete with one hungry slug 😉 IMG_3413

Warblers of Bedfont Lakes

After a fantastic spring and summer of bird ringing at Bedfont Lakes most of the warblers (aside from the resident cetti’s warbler) have left for their long journey to their wintering grounds. Before they leave they have a fair bit of fattening up to do so this is the time when ringers start  noting the weight of these migratory birds and giving each individual a fat and a pectoral muscle score. This is a new learning experience for me and a few weeks back was a great opportunity for me as we caught over 102 birds at Bedfont Lakes South Side between 4 of us (and sadly I had to leave early that day!), including 36 blackcap and 25 whitethroat! This allowed me to compare individuals varying fat and pectoral muscle build up and get to grips with how they feel and look.

I thought this would be a nice time to look at some of the different species of warblers at Bedfont and some of the differences between the juvenile and adult birds. Starting with my favourite – the sedge warbler.

Juvenile sedge warbler

Juvenile sedge warbler

As far as I figure, generally juvenile sedges have more yellowish buff colouring especially on the underparts but from the photo above it is hard to tell if this is indeed a juvenile or an adult (I found it tricky!),  you would need to look closer at the feathers; new, fresh wing and tail feathers and ‘fluffy’ under tail coverts can sometimes be a giveaway, although not always obvious to me. With this species a good clue is the spotty ‘necklace’ most juveniles have – not so much in the one pictured above but you can see here in the one below a line of small dark spots going across the breast.

Juvenile sedge warbler with 'necklace'

Juvenile sedge warbler with ‘necklace’

Really these are beautiful birds, their creamy colouring and dark markings are just fantastic. Definitely have a soft spot for them!

Reed warblers seem to be the most common warbler ringed at the main sight (the Nature Reserve on the North side of the Park). Again new, fresh wing and tail feathers and ‘fluffy’ under tail coverts can indicate a juvenile bird but also in this species the juveniles are usually a more rufous or rusty colour, especially on the upper parts and rump as you can see in this next photo (juvenile on the left).

Juvenile vs adult reed warbler

Juvenile (left) and adult (right) reed warbler comparison

Another indication of age with this species is eye colour – the iris is a grey charcoal colour in their first year then changes to a more olive brown as you can see in this adult bird.

Adult reed warbler

Adult reed warbler

I haven’t managed to get a good photo showing the iris of a juvinile reed warbler but i did get this adorable one of a very newly fledged bird, how cute?! He hasn’t even grown his tail feathers yet!

Juvenile reed warbler

Reed warbler fledgling

Only a little bit more developed is this rather fluffy juvenile cetti’s warbler…. This year was the first record of cetti’s breeding at this site!

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Juvenile cetti’s warbler

Again the juveniles in this species have a darker grey iris as opposed to the brown iris of the adults.

Another common warbler species at bedfont are blackcaps. I mentioned in previous posts (this one and this one) that the juveniles have a duller brown cap, as opposed to the chestnut in the adult females and black in the adult males. The juveniles are are generally more brown and fluffy compared to the adults and have fluffy undertail coverts that are a light brown (or ‘mocha’ as I call it!) colour as opposed to grey in the adults.

Juvenile blackcap undertail coverts

Juvenile blackcap undertail coverts

Blackcap fledgling

Juvenile blackcap

Adult female blackcap

Adult female blackcap

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Upperparts of adult female blackcap

In the last 10 months I have been ringing at Bedfont I haven’t seen many willow warblers but I know the juveniles generally have more yellow underparts and generally brighter yellow colouring all round. This juvenile is a good example, and stunning in in the sunlight!

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

Juvenile willow warbler

In my experience ringing at Bedfont other warblers that seem to be fairly common are chiffchaffs and whitethroats, the latter only at South Side. Along with willow warblers, other warblers not as common are garden warblers and lesser whitethroats. In fact I think I’ve only seen a handful of adults. In any case, it was a treat as they are both beautiful, smart looking birds – not at all ‘grey and dull’!

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Lesser whitethroat

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Garden warbler

It’s been an amazing spring and summer and now I am looking forward to see what new learning experiences autumn and winter bring!

Gypsy Moth – Friend or Foe? Moths of Kings Cross

After being frustrated by dead end internet searches looking for descriptions or photos that might-just-a-little-bit look like the tiny mostly brown moth I had in the pot in front of me, I finally decided it was time to properly delve in to the world of micro moths and went ahead and purchased this book. Btu3FEhCEAICuWrIt was definitely worth it. The introduction in itself is a great read and that’s before you get in to the delightfully extensive descriptions of flight periods, larval food plants, conservation status, similar species etc. I also really like the ‘at a glance’ guide to the different families of micro moths, very useful for a novice like me. A bargain at £21!

I’ve only had it a few days but it came in handy last night when I set up a moth trap demonstration at the London Wildlife Trusts Camley Street Natural Park, a small nature reserve in the heart of King Cross (I’m currently in the second month of an internship here). Admittedly a few ‘small brown jobs’ did evade me, mostly due to lack of time as we had to pack up in time for the last tube home. But at this point each successful micro moth ID is a triumph for me 😉

The biggest challenge was a Cydia splendanasimilar to a couple of other Cydia species but distinguishable with the help of a borrowed hand lens (I really must carry mine around more often!). This lovely Epiblema foenella and Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla were more discernible (apologises for badly lit photos).

Epiblema foenella

Epiblema foenella

Beautiful Plume

Beautiful Plume

In the two hours the trap was out we also saw an abundance of Light Brown Apple moths and a few Crambid moths that looked good for Crambus perlella but I didn’t get a chance to examine them more closely. Macro moths included a Brimstone

Brimstone Moth

Brimstone Moth

a Setaceous Hebrew Character

Setaceous Hebrew Character

a couple of Tree-lichen Beauties

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Tree-lichen Beauty

and this controversial Gyspsy Moth that took a liking to Marco, another LWT intern.

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Gypsy Moth

Cute right? (the moth 😉 ). Well, although the English form that became extinct in the early 1900’s was fairly inoffensive feeding mainly on bog-myrtle and creeping willow, the populations that have established in a few locations in Southern England are thought to have been accidentally introduced from mainland Europe where the caterpillar has a ferocious appetite and is a major defoliant of a wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs. Although it is suggested that these populations are unlikely to cause serve defoliation in the UK considering our climate, because of it’s potential pest status it was subjected to an eradication campaign led by Defra after it was first discovered in Northeast London 1995 and any sightings should be reported to them.

It’s difficult to look at this large attractive moth and think of it as a menace or even a small threat -to me it is just another species adding to the biodiversity of Camley Street. But of course there is a bigger picture to think of and I will report this sighting – not sure if anything will come of it but if strange men turn up dressed head to toe in fumigation gear in the next few days I will be in trouble 😉