November Woods

View from Blacker Hall

I always go for the table by the French windows when we call for coffee, and in my case a date scone, at Blacker Hall Farm Shop cafe. The original of this sketch is 2.5 inches, 6 cm, across.

Newmillerdam woods

A few weeks ago we were commenting on how few goosanders we were seeing at Newmillerdam, but today there are twenty or thirty in loose groups scattered across the open water and the reedy narrow section.

 

Goldfinches

View from Charlotte's
View from Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, Whitley, on Monday.

We’ve recently started feeding the birds again after taking a break over the summer. This was partly to reseed the bare patch in the lawn trampled by the pheasants that had spent so long pacing about in tight circles below the feeders, pecking at the spilt sunflower hearts but also because two or three small mounds of earth had appeared at the edge of the lawn.

We thought that this might be a sign that brown rats were moving in but a neighbour has since told me that at that time there was a lot of mole activity in his garden, which is the most likely explanation as there were only piles of soil but no sign of any entrance holes.

Today the feeders were visited by coal tits, blue tits, great tits, nuthatch and greenfinch but outnumbering all of them were goldfinches. At one stage all eight perches on the feeders were occupied by them, with another ten on the ground below and six or seven waiting their turn in the branches of the crab apple.

Pigeon Food Pyramid

At breakfast time, a loose flock of wood pigeons flew over the house, followed later by a grey heron, which appeared to be struggling to clear our roof.

Top Predator

Calder & Hebble Navigation at the Strands, Horbury Bridge.

sparrowhawkThis evening down by the canal, a sparrowhawk perched briefly in a tree then flew off on its rounds. I suspect that a sparrowhawk killed the pigeon that we found on our back lawn a few days ago. It’s not going to be short of prey with so many wood pigeons about.

Lichens on Langsett Moor

Cladonia, Langsett

This cladonia lichen was growing in the shelter of the roots of a stump amongst a lush growth of polytrichum moss, by the path that leads up onto the moor at Langsett.

The ‘golf-tee’ shape of the fruiting bodies, with their dusting of flour-like powder is typical of Cladonia fimbriata, which is found on rotting wood, disturbed ground and crevices in walls, particularly amongst mosses.

The powder, known as soredia, is a way of dispersing the lichen as it flakes off the fruiting body. An individual soredium contains a few cells of algae and a few strands of the fungus that together make up the lichen.

Langsett moor

The gritstone alongside the track is mainly lichen-free but a few rocks near the edge of the plantation support some crustose lichen species.

‘Pores in a Ring’

lichen with black sporangia

This grey crustose lichen is dotted with black fruiting bodies. Where the gritstone has been chipped away, the fresher surface is stained red with iron. I’m guessing that the gritty crystals in the dark grey weathered surface around the lichens are quartz, so the surface would be acidic.

I think that this might be a species of Porpidia; the name means ‘pores in a ring’. The pores are the fruiting bodies – the apothecia – which have been described as ‘like wine gums with margins not the same colour as crust’, distinguishing them from other lichens which have fruiting bodies that resemble small ‘jam tarts with margins the same colour as crust’ (quoted from the FSC Guide to Lichens of Heaths and Moors).

Porpidia crustulata is very common on siliceous rocks, such as this millstone grit, but there are similar species, in fact I think that there might be two species in this photograph, as the larger lichen in the top left corner is different in colour and in the pattern of the pores.

Crottle

crottle on wall

crottle frondThere’s a lush growth of what looks to me like a Parmelia lichen, and I think this is the one known as Crottle, Parmelia saxtalis, a species which has been used to produce a reddish-brown dye.

Grey Crusty Lichen

grey lichen

grey lichenFinally, growing alongside the crottle but not as lushly is this plain grey crustose lichen. I can’t make out any apothecia on its surface, so no ‘wine gums’, ‘jam tarts’ or ‘golf tees’ to help me here.

I should have gone in closer with the macro setting.

Bonfire Moss

moss on wall top

Also on the top of the wall, this moss has white, wiry outgrowths and its reddish-brown sporangia have screwed up, curly stems.

In mosses the stems of the spore capsules are called seta. The bonfire moss, Funaria hygrometrica, is distinctive, with its abundant, swan-neck seta. The British Bryological Society field guide says that this is a common plant that beginners will soon learn to recognise, so I’m pleased to have made a start by identifying it.

Although it is characteristic of old bonfire sites, it will colonise any patch of bare, disturbed nutrient-rich soil. Perhaps here it has colonised a bare patch of the wall top which had initially been colonised by the crottle.

Yellow Brain

orange fungus

orange fungusThis small orange fungus was growing from a conifer stump near the cladonia lichen. I think that this is Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica, a common jelly fungus, which appears as knobbly outgrowths before it grows into a brain-like mass. The field guide tells me that it’s commonly found on gorse, hazel, birch, ash,

beech and other woody species.

Langsett in October

Langsett woods

binoculars
Original size of drawing: 1.8 inches, 4.5 cm across.

So good to be back at Langsett, walking around the reservoir, across the more and back up through the woods where larch and beech are now in their autumn colours.

 

Sparrow Nestbox

Photographed, then drawn (well, I admit it, traced!) and coloured in Clip Studio Paint, on my iPad Pro, using an Apple Pencil.

First visitor to our new sparrow nest box: a blue tit. It checks out hole number three first; no, that’s not quite right; then hole number two and it’s just about to investigate hole number one when a second blue tit appears, there’s a skirmish and off they fly.

It’s likely that, as this RSPB box was made specifically for sparrows, the blue tits will find the entrance hole a little too wide for their liking but the old box, single-holed variety, attracted blue tits one year, sparrows the next (and finally bumblebees), so we’ll have to wait until springtime to find out who finally takes possession.

Link

RSPB sparrow terrace nestbox

Autumn Trim

A cold front came in from the north during the night and today it’s noticeably cooler but mostly sunny.

golden hornetArmed with secateurs, long-handled loppers, a step-ladder and a pruning saw, I trim back the golden hornet crab apple to a more manageable shape. It’s mainly a case of cutting back the whip-like vertical shoots that have grown since I last cut it back a year ago but I put in a bit of extra effort and use a pruning saw on one branch that’s managed to get its twiggy offshoots beyond my reach during the past few years.

long-tailed titYes, it was a favourite look-out post for the resident blackbird, but it will soon find another perch. As I work at in the crown of a the tree, a long-tailed tit flits past my head and perches on a branch three feet in front of me. I don’t think it quite knows what to make of me.

Common Earthball

Earthball

Common EarthballScleroderma citrinum, has ‘a characteristic smell of old rubber’ according to Wildlife of Britain, the Definitive Visual Guide or strong odour ‘of gas or acetylene’ (Encyclopedia of Fungi, Michael Jordan). As I’ve mentioned before, this didn’t stop me from slicing the young ones, with firm white flesh, and frying them in a bit of butter when I was trying to survive on a very slender travelling scholarship on a student field trip to Iceland. To me, they tasted of mushroom, but I don’t recommend that you try them, as they’re variously described as inedible or even poisonous.

earthballThese were growing by the path in deciduous woodland at the top end of the Pleasure Grounds at Nostell Priory Park.

Link

National Trust, Nostell

Trees at Wath

lime branch

After so much practice drawing on the iPad, it’s a change to get back to pen and watercolour and to sit and draw this autumnal-looking Victorian hybrid lime tree in a garden in West Melton, Wath-upon-Dearne near Rotherham.

roofs

Hopefully the small degree of planning involved in the process of drawing on an iPad is prompting me to be more methodical in my approach to drawing in general while the experience of going back to a more tactile medium – back to pen on paper – might encourage me to be a bit more spontaneous in my iPad drawings.

trees

The original drawings are 2½ inches, 6 cm, across.

Common Darter

common darter

I realised that I stood a chance of photographing this male common darter, Sympetrum striolatum, because, as its name suggests, its hunting technique was to keep darting out from the corner of the herb bed then returning to sit in the same spot, soaking up the sun on the stonework.

Thinking that it would be too restless for me to get close to it, I went for my 40-150 mm zoom lens but, when it went on to settle by the pond, I could have got close enough to use the macro. The zoom couldn’t focus any closer than a couple of feet.

darterThe female common darter yellow, which gradually fades to dark olive.

When I cleared duckweed from the pond in the early summer, I came across perhaps a dozen dragonfly larvae which were about the right size to become darter dragonflies, each of which I coaxed back into the pond.

The highlight on its compound eye is hexagonal, as are the individual lenses that make it up.

It has yellow stripes running along the length of its black legs.

Potting Bench

Our greenhouse has a bit of a question-mark hanging over it because we’re keen to keep getting away in the springtime, which is just at the time when we should be getting things going in there.

Long Hot Summer

Last year while we were away, an earlier than expected scorching spell of weather withered the young tomato plants and they never really recovered, so it was a lot of work and watering for a few handfuls of not so brilliant tomatoes.

This spring we were away so much that we didn’t put any plants in at all but we were glad of that later when it turned out to be a record-breaking hot, dry summer. They would have struggled to survive in the searing temperatures that can build up in the greenhouse.

The drip irrigation system that I rigged up a few years ago for when we go away has never been as successful as hand-watering would have been.

Shuffling Sheds

Most mornings this summer it was too hot to enjoy sitting out on our southeast-facing patio, so hot that on occasion, when I sat down to put my gardening shoes on, I’d lay down my gloves on edge of patio because the paving slabs were uncomfortably hot to sit on.

We realise that we need a shady corner where we can sit out, so our plan is to dismantle the greenhouse, move the shed down there then construct a simple shelter in its place that we can use in either sun or rain.

The Modern Greenhouse

The Modern GreenhouseWhen bought our house thirty-five years ago, we were offered the greenhouse as well (at a price of course!), so it’s going to be a wrench to let it go.

What I can’t bring myself to part with just yet is my dad’s book on The Modern Greenhouse, as I’d like to browse through it to get a bit of insight of what his ambitions were during my school and student days when he got so into growing under glass in his cedar-framed greenhouse that he had a second, leant-to, greenhouse built against the high Victorian brick wall adjacent to it.

How up-to-date the book was in 1970, I’m not sure as my dad’s copy is the fourteenth edition of a book first published in 1938 and revised only once, in 1955.

My drawing of the potting bench (top) was made on my iPad in Adobe Draw, tracing from a photograph. I’d already reduced the photograph to pure black and white but I realised that I shouldn’t be too literal as I traced it, or it wouldn’t look like a pen and brush ink drawing, so I tried to be fairly free.