8 Hyd 2013

The Candyfloss Fungus

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

As a result of a brilliant talk the previous Friday on Hedgehogs by Dawn from the Gower Bird Hospital we had 4 new volunteers joining us on a gloriously warm, but extremely humid late September day.  A big welcome to Anne, Barry, Joan and Hazel. So taking advantage of the weather the 12 of us set out to the Waxcap meadow in the Waun Las nature reserve.

Of course, as always happens on these walks there is always something interesting to see along the way. And the first stop was the car park itself, examining it to see what fungi had survived the surface scouring taken place.   Not a lot, really just a few of the little brown jobs that flourish everywhere.  Further on we admired the Bull Sculpture and Bruce issued an appeal for more wool to top up its insides – it makes very good nesting material.  And in the meadow behind we saw a flock of about three dozen Goldfinches.  They were almost certainly feeding on the seeds of the Thistle and other seed heads and once they had settled were actually quite well camoflaged.  And further on, just before the lake we came across some  white puffballs growing on a log.

Into Waun Las itself and an examination of the old farm buildings.  Quite a few swallow nests but the owl box was empty.  No pellets or other signs of occupancy.  Maybe the Barn Owl feathers that we found very early in the season is the reason why.

Very recently Bruce was given a map which indicated which areas of the Waun Las farm had been fertilised and this showed a clear cut off point between where we now find Waxcaps and the rest of the reserve. The use of Phosphates seems to be the deterrent for Waxcaps and even though this dates back to the 70’s the effects still seem to be with us.

The first discovery was a group of White Spindle Waxcaps.  Later on, as we spread out – the more eyes the better – we came across a few Buttercup waxcaps, rather more brown jobs which were various kind of dung fungi ,and just a few other waxcaps including the Lawyer’s Wig and the Egghead MottleGill.  Probably still rather early in the season, but another problem was the length of the grass which threatened to smother them.  A solution, heavy grazing – see later.

A rather surprising discovery was a recently dug Badger hole, right out in the open.  A very unusual place and the speculation was that this was either one started by an outcast Badger, or simply a ‘test’ hole.  Keith stuck his arm down to see if anyone was present, but no – and not surprising given the presence of undisturbed spider webs.  And a week later the same webs were still in place so clearly not being used.  However, this hole did prompt us to look further for a Badger set and Keith point out the Badger trails – grass flattened in one direction – and we followed them into the nearby copse looking for a set.  But apart from a scraping no further Badger holes.

By now we were well split up, and one group were delighted to discover the beautiful Ballerina Fungus and another which we have named the Candyfloss fungus.  As Michael told us later this pink patch is a Basidiomycete fungal disease of grasses growing on low nutrient soils. It is one of two species,  Limonomyces roseipellis and  L. culmigenus – he couldn’t be certain which one it was.

Ballerina Fungus and Candyfloss Fungus photo

The other group were just as delighted to see a Hobby flying overhead, thanks to Jan’s eagle eye.  This small, highly manoeuvarable  raptor feeds on Dragon Flies and small birds like Swallows.

So back to the restaurant for the usual chat outside in the warm September sun.  But two footnotes.  As Jan and Keith were leaving they spotted a Green Woodpecker flying over towards the Growing the Future plot.  And, on the following Monday, myself, Bruce and Huw the farmer headed back out to the Waxcap meadow to mark up an area to be grazed by sheep.  The next day about 20 sheep were moved in but, a little while later the rest of the sheep decided they wanted to join them and barged through the electric wire – their fleece obviously protecting them from any shocks. Huw is putting in another wire so with luck this area should be well grazed!

If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.

Thanks  to John and Susan for the photos. If any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please  send an email to Colin Miles  – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested.   If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs