For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Saturday 25 September 2010

Amazon Lilly

The Amazon Lilly, Eucharis amazonica is the only flowering house plant that I grow.
Isn't it a beauty?

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Ladybird, Scymus frontalis

This ladybird came indoors with my washing from the washing line.  Click to enlarge the picture.
It looks like Scymus frontalis, which occurs in south and central England flying from May to July, according to "Insects of Britain and Western Europe" by Michael Chinery.  So clearly, this one is flying late in the year.  It was a warm day today and sunny. 
It is smaller than the more common ladybirds.  Pretty isn't it - at least to another Scymus frontalis.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Fungi in a Sussex wood

The forests are alive with fungi just now and a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing as to which are safe to eat?  Please do NOT use this blog for suggestions as to what is or is not safe to eat.  Get proper guide books.  Some easily misidentified fungi are deadly.
A mix of deciduous and coniferous trees like this wood this evening provides a rich habitat for fungi.
The Fly Agaric is poisonous and is hallucinogenic.
I am not yet sure what this is and may return for a second look, armed with mirror and torch to inspect the gills without disturbance to the fungus.  Collectors for commercial gain are having a deleterious effect on the fungi in our woodlands.
Isn't this a beauty?  It might be the Grey Spotted Amanita, which is edible but of poor quality, or it might be the Panther Cap, which is very poisonous and will kill you.
Here is another.
"The Sickener" fungus, Russula emetica, is not one that you would choose to cook.  It is poisonous.  It is common and usually red.  But don't be fooled; it is very variable in colour.
Above might be an Amethyst Deceiver.  To confirm, I need to go back with torch and mirror!  Kicking them over to check the colour of the gills is eco-vandalism.
These might be Sulphur Tufts, which would upset your stomach but perhaps not kill you.  I don't know what the brown ones are at this stage.
It is time to dust off the fungi identification books and get out there. 
Click here to find a Ramblers' walk in woodland at this time of year, when the woods are bursting with Fungal fun....or potential death!

Monday 13 September 2010

The Boer War, remembered

Please click on the above picture to read about the walk that I lead recently.

Friday 10 September 2010

Pagham Harbour walk; Section 3:The Northern Harbour and farmland.

For continuity, please read sections 1 and 2 below in sequence, before this entry.  In those sections you can see how much we enjoyed wading through the sea - thanks to catching a Spring tide at its highest point.
We reached the Ferry pool of this nature reserve, where I was thrilled to see an Avocet, center picture above, with Lapwings and different ducks.  According to the RSPB, c.800 pairs of Avocets breed in the UK and over 3,000 birds can be present in winter.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.  By this stage, Richard also was getting quite enthused, or was that Irish humour and charm?
Above and below are juvenile Shelducks.  They were perhaps 300m away, shot with an optical and digital zoom - hence the graininess of the pictures.
Above, a young shelduck pretending to be a goose.
We then went north, along the harbour to Sidlesham Quay and beyond.
Above could be a Widgeon.  An estimated 416,000 overwinter in Britain.
Oh look!  A whinchat, about to move on to Iberia perhaps, before crossing both the Mediterranean sea and the Sahara desert.

Finally, we spotted Oyster catchers, just after a flock of Curlews had flown overhead from a meadow, disturbed by our presence on the harbour side of the hedge.
Having squelched and slid our way along the harbour's edge, it was a little daunting to encounter this weir-like section.
Richard, whose boots were already full of (now warmed) seawater, stalwartly offered to find a path through this mini-raging-torrent.
What a player!  Fearlessly splashing forth.
Richard now offered assistance to Liz, who was comfortably sporting Richard's dry socks... but not for long!
Having got through the tidal stream without mishap, the sun came out.  You can see just how dry this path was becoming.  Richard started to overheat with all the excitement and the sun and all that and had to strip off.
We got onto a dryish grassy path, where Richard amazed us all by engaging in conversation with a twitcher.....just as if he was an experienced twitcher himself!  Most impressive!
He established that just along the path, where our planned route was to go, a Wryneck had been seen.  There are only 5 pairs breeding in the UK, plus an average of 280 sightings a year of migrants over the last 10 years.
It was a tough decision, but having been delayed by spring tides, bird watching, mud and torrents, we took a shortcut on field paths back to the RSPB center.  On the way we saw a kestrel, buzzard and sparrow hawk.  Not bad for a Ramblers' walk.
See also for more birds from 2014

Thursday 9 September 2010

Pagham Harbour walk; Section 2:The southern Harbour.

Please read section 1, (the previous blog entry below) before this section 2.
From the beach we set off against the rising tide, still hoping for dry feet.
It didn't look too good.  But the sea was warm; there was no sign of ice.
In for a penny, in for a pound.  Once your boots are full of sea water, who cares any more.
"Keep to the dry bits Gloria!" advised Richard.
At Church Norton we reached dry land and set up the telescope to see the birds on the islands.
The new display boards are attractively bordered in carved wood and highly informative. Well done WSCC.  Click on the picture to expand.
On the middle distance shingle bank were Redshanks.

Whilst out in the far distance were cormorants at one end of the island,
and black-backed gulls at the other end.  Bognor town is the backdrop to this shot.

I had hoped to have lunch in the bird-hide at Church Norton, but all access paths were in deep water.

We had our picnic in the graveyard, where Richard found a pair of dry socks in his rucksack, and in a quite extraordinary act of chivalry and gallantry, offered them to Liz; thus saving her from potentially debilitating foot-rot by the end of the day.
After lunch we continued around the harbour and spotted this grebe.
The path was really soft under foot and because our boots were full of (by now warmed) seawater our feet were also getting softened beautifully; except Liz, who had dry socks.
The farmland on the left is 2 meters or more below the sea level on the right.  You could have been in The Netherlands.  Look how sad the group is to be on terra firma after leaving the sea-bathing section of the walk. (There is more to come in section 3.)
Mr and Mrs Mallard.
Little Egrets in flight.
There was a large flock of small birds; perhaps a hundred or more.
They were difficult to identify in the field.
As they flew away, I got a shot of the birds in flight.  Click to expand.
They are juvenile Goldfinches, which have yet to develop their red heads.  This flock of 100 or more birds was impressive.

We were now approaching Ferry pool, where I shall start Section 3. of this walk.
Here is a trailer.... an Avocet.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Pagham Harbour walk; Section 1:Turnstones and gulls on Selsea Beach

Left to right are Liz, Richard and Gloria, who turned up for the Pagham harbour walk, which I lead on this day.  The weather forecast was light rain and drizzle, which was fine.  Our only complaint was too much sun in the late afternoon.  After a bus ride from the RSPB center we started from Selsey lifeboat station... in light rain.
The walk was so eventful that it will be blogged in sections.
A Black-headed gull in winter plumage, which might have come from Scandinavia.  The UK population jumps from 200,000 to 3,000,000 in winter.  The oldest ringed bird survived over 32 years.
A Lesser Black-backed gull.
Another gulping a fish.
These Turnstones were delightful.  Click here to see the RSPB page on Turnstones and you can understand that in the rain they looked a bit like golden plovers.  They are present for most of the year. Birds from Northern Europe pass through in July and August and again spring. Canadian and Greenland birds arrive in August and September and remain until April and May. Non-breeding birds may stay through the summer. 

 This bird was midway between summer and winter plumage.

Aren't they pretty!

A distant male Wheatear perched on a bench on the promenade.

Click on any picture to expand it.
The walk was all very civilised up to now.

A serene walk.

A dry walk on a shingle beach.
This was the highest tide that I had ever seen here in Pagham harbour.  And there is a path there somewhere around the harbour perimeter... under the water!
For what happens next.... please wait for section 2 of this fun-packed walk!

Meanwhile, here is a trailer.

Why is it that my recent walks have been so much fun?  And so much water?
 Janis Dyer made the following comment; Think it was a Spring Tide as new moon Wednesday. My late father was in the Thames River Police and talked about tides to me.Spring tides happen just after every full and new moon, when the sun, moon and earth are in line. That's when lunar and solar tides line up and reinforce each other, making a bigger total tide, thats why you may all have had to have a paddle!!!!!!!

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