Our Patch: Fun-gi to Be With

By on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

our_patch_sj_jarmanThose who have previously read my column will know how passionate I am about encouraging our children to enjoy, respect and protect our wonderful natural resources.

Often this is a very easy and achievable task. Merely proffering wellies and a chance to get out and climb a tree or two usually ensures races to the front door.

fungi_3As the weather gets a bit nippier, and the summer migrants have long packed their bags and deserted us, and there are no dancing butterflies to observe, it can be a little trickier to engage those youngsters, particularly as the TV programmers, in their wisdom, have been broadcasting Christmas films since mid-November.

That said, there are ways and means to get them motivated, and this past week we have been hunting for the mythological!

Autumn is the time we get to see the fruit of fungi’s labour. These fruiting bodies are a marvel to behold, and it is well-known that fairies hold council on the rings that often occur at this time of year.

fungi_1The purple bracket fungus must surely be the seat of fairy royalty, or perhaps a staircase for them to climb higher up the trunk, and the velvet fungus is assuredly cropped to make a dashing outfit for a brownie or elf. (Did someone say Enid Blyton?)

Whilst in the woods, it would be wasting a journey not to be looking out for Bigfoot and/or other beasties lurking in the leaf-litter, and who knows where a Gruffalo may be hiding?

My niece and nephew joined my own (reluctant) children and we had a fabulous afternoon engaging with the wild spaces we are very lucky to call our own – alas, our count of mythological creatures was disastrously low.

fungi_2It’s been very mild so far this year, and as winter is approaching there has hardly been a frost.

Those of us who feed the birds have not yet been taxed by the influx, although there is certainly more birdie traffic just as the schoolchildren return home and they are building up their weight for their overnight roosts.

There are many flocks of Long-tailed Tits in Prescot, and they usually strip any remaining buddleia seeds just before we cut them back for the winter.

titsThey are often now seen coming to bird feeders, and whilst I’d love to say the photo of them was taken in my own garden, I’m afraid I took this all the way in Huyton, in my mum’s garden, as she has them daily, and I can therefore rely on getting a picture.

(A point about fat balls, or any bird food– please remove those little nets if they come in them, as birds can become entangled– see pic for how not to do it!)

These tiny birds (their tail is very long in comparison to the size of their body) are very gregarious, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a solo one. They always come in at least pairs, and for the size of them they make an absolute racket.

If you see a flock of small birds who bob about like their tail is too long, tweeting, beeping and generally failing to cooperate with any attempt to photograph them, then you probably found long-tailed tits.

If you do get the chance to get close, they are stunning. Black, white and pink, with red around their eyes, they are glamorous even within their own family of brightly coloured birds.

parakeetI have had a surprise this week in Whiston – near St Leo’s church on a fairly frosty morning, I heard the unmistakable call and silhouette of Ring-Necked parakeets.

These are naturalised birds, ie, non-natives who have made their home here, and although I had heard rumours they were about, this week was the first time I have seen them within our patch.

There are resident colonies at Pennington Flash in Leigh (well worth a visit), and also Sefton Park, but they are spreading, and there is a concern that they could out-compete our native species for food and nesting holes.

They are still stunning to look at, and judging by the way they interact with our intelligent birds such as Magpies, I imagine they will have a long and prosperous future here in Prescot.

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