Thursday, 20 February 2014

Wet, wet, wet.

I set out today in bright, warm sunshine, only to get caught in a shower and arrive home very bedraggled.

I could say that I had witnessed amazing sights on the walk; I could say that I took some stunning photographs - but in both cases I would be telling porkies.

The alga, Trentepohlia abietina on bark.
Byfield Pocket Park, 20 February, 2014

Trudging through Byfield's Pocket Park I was struck by the number of tree trunks with orange staining. Despite looking very-lichen like, the organism responsible is an alga, Trentepohlia abietina.
Although very widespread few records appear on biological databases as no-one seems to submit their findings.


Coral-spot on an Elder branch.
Byfield Pocket Park, 20 February, 2014

Only a few metres away was another distinctive, orange, lichen-like organism. Again it wasn't a lichen but in this case was a fungus, Nectria cinnabarina. Commonly called the Coral-spot Fungus, it is typically found on dead bark, but will penetrate living wood to cause dieback and, in the worst cases, the death of the tree.

Oilseed rape at the edge of Byfield
Pocket Park. 20 February, 2014

A splash of bright yellow in the distance looked encouraging but, as I approached, it became obvious that it was an oilseed rape plant that had escaped the attentions of the harvester.

If you all turn to page 2 in your copy of William Kirk's book, "Insects on Cabbages and Oilseed Rape" you will see that the plant is basically a turnip; more precisely it is Brassica napus var. oleifera. As a crop a rigorous regime of spraying is generally followed lest the plants are attacked by a wide range of organisms. Odd plants like the one I found generally escape spraying and are therefore of considerable interest.

The sky was darkening in a threatening manner and the first raindrops began to fall so I turned homewards. I paused to examine a Belemnite fossil in a sandstone wall.

Belemnite in a wall, Church Street,  Byfield.
20 February, 2014

The fossil was unremarkable; dozens, if not hundreds, of these ancient squid relatives were to be seen along the wall. What was rather more surprising was a spider I saw nearby.

It was a female Zygiella x-notata, guarding her clutch of eggs. To find this creature on an exposed wall in February was, to my mind, quite extraordinary; wet though I was, my walk had been worthwhile after all.

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