WE SPOTTED this Treecreeper climbing up the crab apple by the pond, meanwhile a Nuthatch had flown to take a sunflower heart from one of the bird feeders. Our delight at seeing these two infrequent visitors in our back garden at one soon turned to shocked horror as the Treecreeper hurtled like a missile towards the feeders then continued, hitting the patio window and instantly killing itself by, as far as I can tell, breaking its neck.

I didn’t want it to have died in vain so I picked it up to draw and also checked the internet and phoned the British Trust for Ornithology just in case someone might be studying the species and might have a use for a fresh casualty for analysis, but they didn’t know of any study at present, unless the bird had died of disease.

Length: 12.7 cm
Beak: 1.7 cm
Tail: 6 cm
Weight: 8 grams

Common Earthball

COMMON EARTHBALL fungus grows in woodland and heathland sometimes on its own but often ‘in small, trooping ± tufted groups’ as Stefan Buczacki explains in the new Collins Fungi Guide. ‘Trooping’ means that they’re growing close to each other but are physically separate, ‘tufted’ means that they grow from the same base.

He describes the fruiting bodies as covered in ‘coarse brown scales or low pyramidal warts’ and you can see from my drawing that the texture varies amongst this group.

The older one (top) has burst open at the apex, revealing the dark brown spores inside.

They were growing on the grassy verge of a track through the plantations at Newmillerdam. I photographed them, then drew from the photograph but I do hope I’ll be able to make time to draw on location before too long.

Buczacki describes the Common Earthball as ‘possibly poisonous’ but it really depends on how hungry you are. I ate young specimens when I was in Iceland living in a one-man tent at Lake Myvatn for 4 weeks on a stretched to the limit Minor Travelling award from the Royal College of Art. The flesh is whitish at first and I thought that it smelt of mushrooms.

Delicious fried in butter. But probably poisonous. You have been warned.