Those of a certain age may remember a TV programme , having (nearly) the same title as this posting, in which a panel of ‘experts’ were challenged to identify an object from a museum collection. It sometimes feels like I’m on the panel when a visitor asks questions about something they have seen on the Reserve. Fortunately, for the most part, I’m usually able to give a plausible (if not invariably correct) answer or direct them to somewhere or someone who can. I don’t pretend to be an oracle and mis-identifications are always possible. (Thanks to those who pointed out that the long-tailed tit’s nest of last week is almost certainly that of a wren)
For the most part these questions concern the animal or vegetable (fauna and flora) on the reserve, not too many people are concerned with the minerals, the extraction of which (sand and gravel) created what we have today. One such question, from a conservation volunteer the other day, concerned a plant/fungus that he’d seen. From the description given both Jim and I concluded that he’d been looking at the young, emergent stage of the Horsetail or Marestail. Just like these on the reserve…
Talking of strange organisms, I’m sure many of you will have spotted strange excrescences, often white or yellow though sometimes pink, on logs and tree trunks in the woods. One such caught our eyes the other day and we went back to investigate, and take a picture of this rather magnificent slime mould
Looking superficially like a fungal growth, I’d always bracketed them in with this group of organisms. I did, however, know that the lump you see is really a sort of super ‘love-in’ where millions ( billions?) of single-celled organisms had grouped together to form this fruiting body. They normally live thinly spread in the forest floor and at some signal migrate to one spot to swap DNA and reproduce via spores. Quite how this is organised or triggered is still a bit of a mystery and the things themselves are, I believe, no longer classified as fungi – probably more like amoeba, feeding on algae and bacteria in the soil. Also nearby was one of the resultant spore masses ….
Truly the more one sees the more mysterious are some of the things around us and just to round off this section I’ll include a picture of an outgrowth on the branches of a tree close to the small car-park near the entrance. I think they’re called ‘Witch’s Broom‘ and I believe they’re caused by insects or a virus – but perhaps someone out there knows better.
On a more prosaic level the warblers reported last week have been augmented by at least two garden warblers, one of which was bold enough to perch out on the side of a bush, giving reasonable views and a so-so image was possible at extreme range..
Although not a spectacular breeding site for wading birds we do get our fair share through the winter and it’s always nice to see some at this time of year. From the Tern Hide there were little ringed plover, redshank common sandpiper, lapwing and a snipe has been seen.
As well as many black-headed gulls, tufted duck and thirteen mute swan , Ibsley Water was hosting at least six common tern and little grebe nesting close by the Goosander Hide. At the Woodland Hide a lone brambling (doesn;t he know it’s time to go?) was still in evidence and we still have some magnificent siskin on display.