Our Patch: Half-Term Shenanigans

By on Tuesday, October 29, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanWhilst walking in Stadt Moers Park over half term, we were amazed at the changes there. Much of the scrubby bracken and nettles have been cut back, and at the moment it looks a little barren. There are plans to create a large meadow habitat, which should give new species a chance to colonise in the spring. We will be interested to see how this environment changes over the next few months.

dragonflyAn exciting new species for us was this very tame dragonfly, a male Common Darter, sunning itself. It is well-known as a late-flying species, one of the last to be seen on the wing, but it was a first for us. We’ve often seen dragonflies about, even in our own garden, but they’ve never been so cooperative as to allow identification and photographs before.

The children were delighted to see it, and were interested in the two sets of wings, which sparkled in the sunlight and were held rigidly perpendicular to its long body.  My son was particularly delighted when we told him that dragonflies have remained largely unchanged since prehistoric times, and dinosaurs may well have walked with the ancestors of this garnet-coloured insect – cue lots of stomping and roaring, and very little in the way of birdlife!

There was little further chance for nature viewing anyway this day, as the trees were beckoning, and my role soon became that of coat hook whilst the children climbed way beyond my comfort zone. One discovery they made whilst enjoying the canopy was the multitude of fungi, which are so abundant at the moment. They found some tiny white mushrooms on one dead tree, which I photographed, but unfortunately my lens was damp and didn’t work out.

fungi

phallaceae_fungus

Fairly deep within the woods, where coppicing had been undertaken, we discovered lots of very dark brown mushrooms; some on the trunks of trees but many more on the fallen branches and stumps left behind. As yet I’ve not been able to put a name to them, as they seem similar to about 20 different varieties.

The children’s favourite discovery, though, was the stinkhorn mushroom – I must admit they always make me grin too. Both their common and scientific names are apt: They are covered in slime, which has the revolting perfume of rotting flesh, and as for Phallaceae… I think you can work it out from the picture.

There were patches where bunches of two or three grew together and they were attracting a lot of attention from the insect life, who were unwittingly covering themselves and their digestives systems with the spores of the mushroom, ready to spread it somewhere else.

fungus_tree

The hard rain we have experienced has caused difficulties not only for us humans (I just cannot get outdoor shoes dried quickly enough), but for our wildlife too. The bounty available is only good if it can be readily accessed, gorged upon or stored for later.

Whilst large all-weather birds such as gulls and crows seem to take the rain in their stride, many smaller birds can barely be seen as they shelter from the worst of the weather.

The predatory birds too can rarely be seen, so I was amazed when I saw ‘our’ female sparrowhawk whizz though the gap between houses at the back of us during a shower. I can only guess she must have been very hungry to risk her precious feathers becoming waterlogged.

As I write, there are storms battering the south of the country, with some of that weather headed for us too, and it seems incongruous with our day in the sun earlier in the week, with dragonflies and butterflies all around us.

The wasp sheltering on the windowsill doesn’t know what to do with herself, and having outlived many of her nest mates, she sits biding her time; but I know what I must do – it’s time to stuff newspaper into the toes of wellies in the hope they’ll be dry for tomorrow.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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