Frogs, Fungus and Fat-balls

NATURE NOTES AT THE END OF JANUARY 2012

Winter still has not really had much of an effect on this little corner of Cornwall, it has been exceptionally mild and pretty wet too. I missed taking a photo of a row of early daffodils blooming against the backdrop of the Ginster’s Christmas tree outside their Pasty factory in Callington  (I didn’t have my camera with me and the next time I passed it was after 12th night)  But I have a shot of our first daffs to bloom – not an early variety but they were blooming by Wednesday of last week (25th Jan) and the snowdrops that line the bottom of the Cornish hedge these grow on were also blooming well.   The first snowdrops however had been those in the new wood, where these (see photo) were out before the end of December. In between I have noticed the usual spring blossoms, the camellias are already putting on a great show and primroses peeking out amongst the grass,  however there are also roses still in bloom in both the front and back gardens.

I couldn’t resist these two examples of fungi – amazingly attractive, one bracket fungus and some toadstools, which I believe to be a honey fungus but must check it out as it was close to one of our apple trees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The frogs have returned to the water-feature (a run of very small shallow ponds going down through the new wood, fed by spring-water that runs into the main pond near the house) I tried to capture these on camera but the vibration of walking, even ever-so carefully, sends them scooting under the leaf-litter debris in the bottom of the pools. The frogs that inhabit here vary in shade and markings, from the usual green and gold, brown and gold to a dark liver red colour.  Their great clumps of frog-spawn, are, however, quite visible and, as they protrude above the shallow water, are also vulnerable to frost if we get one.

In the main pond (which also holds numerous shubunkin type goldfish, ranging from dark brown, through speckled to gold – none of which we have see at all since late November) the newts have reappeared.  I have tried to capture these on camera but being under-water means I always get a ‘light refraction’ shadow – so they are not that clear. If anyone out there can tell me how to take these photos in a clear way (using a simple old digital camera) please do!  Our newts range in shade from a dark olive green to a basic brown, through a russet red to a pale pinkish colour.  As the water warms up I expect to see more of them as they start their mating behaviour – where a female will  be followed around the bottom of the shallow shelf on the pond by a number of suitors.

My father has a new bird-feeder, it looks like a log with holes cut in the sides and you fill it with ‘fat-balls’ which are, much as their name suggests, balls of fat with seeds and grain in them. This has attracted two varieties of woodpecker, the green woodpecker and the greater spotted woodpecker,  to the garden where we can see them from the kitchen window (we often hear them in the area). They have been accompanied by the long-tailed tits, which usually fly in a group of about a dozen and flitter round the trees where the feeders are, feed briefly but then swiftly move on, however the fat-ball log seems to keep them here much longer.

Lastly a picture quiz: What is it? I took this photograph in very late December in our garden. A click on the picture will enlarge it for you. Can you identify the plant these fell from? Answers in the comment please – I’ll give the correct answer next week!

Clue 1: These came off a tree.

Clue 2: This tree belongs on the other side of the world – native of Australia.

Clue 3 This tree has silvery green leaves, round on young stems and elongated and pointed on older.

FIRST PERSON TO POST CORRECT ANSWER IN COMMENTS  WINs AN E-COPY OF  Divining The Line

And if you want to know more about the novels by Ann Foweraker ‘Divining the Line’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ and ‘Some Kind Of Synchrony’ just click HERE to be able to the first 3 chapters in pdf FREE !  Answer and Winner?? – See the comments!

SEE ‘Old Bottle – New Treasures’ post for February Picture Quiz!

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What’s not to Lichen?

Yeah. I know – it depends on how you say it – more of which below.
So it was Christine that started me off on this particular blog by sending me a rather nice photo of a lichen, with fruiting bodies, growing on her fence. Here it is:-
Now, somehow, I know not how, she had guessed I’d know something about these plants, though she didn’t know that I really like them and have done since learning about them at A level. Talking of which, it was my A level Botany lecturer that insisted the pronunciation of the word lichen should be ‘liken’ (I have vague memories of her saying that the ‘ch’ was the hard ‘k’ sound because the origin of the work was Greek – as in the word Character) and indeed she was right, though I note the OED also accepts the soft ch sound that many people use. Not that it should be a problem – except when it comes to poetry and there the difference can change a rhyme sequence if the reader is not of the same persuasion in pronunciation as the writer *speaking from experience*.

So back to the lichens, as the leaves fall the lichens become more noticeable, and here in Cornwall we are blessed with many of these wonderful plants. Where I came from we were lucky to see even a close-growing leafy (foliose) lichen, most were the tight colour-patches (crustose) type.
One in particular appears as yellow patches often on stones and walls, (xanthoria) is one of the most tolerant of polluted air and was the main one to be found in the South East of England where I grew up. Lichens derive most of their nutrients from the atmosphere, as they do not have roots, and so most need unpolluted air to thrive.

Photos: Stone Wall showing two different types of Crustose lichen – the grey/white and the yellow.
And one Leprose (powdery) type of lichen (the green coloured one)

So imagine my delight when I came to live in Cornwall where these plants flourish, with not only the crustose and the foliose type but also the branching, bush-like fruticose group of lichens. Lichens are generally slow growing, but these trees were only planted 25 years ago and even the newer wood has the beginnings of lichen invasion.

Photos, Trees showing fruticose and foliose types of lichen. Do click on these images to see them better!

Tree – showing crustose (grey and flecked black) lichen.

I keep just saying ‘these plants’ but of course Lichens are not just any plant, they are actually two plants in a symbiotic relationship, an algae and a fungi , living together to make the most of the resources available and of each others skills in accessing them. The pairing of algae and fungi vary and create the differing types and forms with their strengths and weaknesses.

It is part of what makes Lichens successful in that they are found from the edge of the sea to the highest mountain top and from humid jungles to frozen tundra.
The little branching ones (the fruticose) used to be collected and dried for making model-railway trees and shrubs at one time. Some lichens have been used historically for dying and has even been used a food stuff in very hard times.
Lesson over, but I hope I have piqued your interest in these plants if you’d never considered them before – there is an awful lot more to know if you want to seek it out.

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New Goats!!

The last of the new goats arrived today, a kid called Nougat, she joins our other five new British Boer Goats, all brown and white blotches and floppy ears. Jasmine, Splash, Snowflake, Tallulah and Blazey.Some of the new Boer goats

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