Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Midwinter Miscellany

Silver Birch in Byfield Pocket park
    I visited Byfield Pocket Park this morning, crunching my way through the snow and not feeling optimistic about seeing any notable wildlife on such a bleak day. The trees stood out against a brilliant blue sky, giving a false impression of the conditions. A Marsh Tit, Parus palustris caught my attention with its pitchu-pitchu call; a close relative, the Coal Tit Parus ater was also present but otherwise things were rather quiet. A Cotoneaster, which only a few days ago had borne many berries, has now been stripped clean, probably by various species of thrush.

Several of the tree trunks in the area are stained with what at first looks like an orange-coloured lichen, but in fact is an alga, Trentepohlia aurea. It seems to be getting commoner, as I cannot recall seeing it beyond about ten years back. Around here it is usually on the bark of Ash trees but it is often found elsewhere.

In these conditions hungry birds seem to get a little less cautious, taking risks they would normally avoid, and I nearly trod on a pheasant as it rummaged single-mindedly through the undergrowth. It blasted into the air and whirred away cackling frantically. I'm not sure which of us was the more startled!
The alga, Trentepohlia aurea, in Byfield Pocket Park

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