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Pantilius tunicatus
find out more... Pantilius tunicatus Copyright: Peter Harvey

Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more

Thu 28th February 2013 21:19 by Peter Pearson
Spring is just around the corner, fingers crossed.
There were a couple of signs today, our first pine ladybird was observed, we usually have a few hibernate in a euonymous shrub in a warm corner of the garden. It was out sunning itself on the leaves, however it appeared very much smaller than usual, would this be due to the cold wet summer last year I wonder.
Another sign, the actions of the local magpies, they were breaking twigs off our neighbours sycamore and taking them off.
Mon 11th February 2013 12:22 by Graham Smith
The Maritime Lichen Xanthoria parietina is well named as it festoons the stems of the Shrubby Seablite Sueda vera that grows almost along the high tide edge at Bradwell, surviving the constant mist of sea spray blown across it by the breeze - and even the occasional inundation during storm tides. It provides a welcome touch of colour on even the drabbest winter days. As for Cushion Bracket, it has recently begun to attack some of the more aged (50-60 year old) Blackthorn bushes at Stow Maries Halt EWT Reserve. It will probably kill them in the end, as it has done the old Greengage trees in the grounds of Linnet's Cottage at Bradwell. A shame, as they are a very old variety with a taste like bliss, rich in natural sugars, especially when warmed by the sun. Two other bracket fungi that are very common at the moment are Turkey Tail Trametes versicolor, which is weakly parasitic, and Bitter Oysterling Panellus stipticus, which is entirely saprophytic, the one photographed at Mill Green, the other at Thrift Wood, Bicnacre.

Trametes versicoloor Copyright: Graham Smith

Panellus stipticus Copyright: Graham Smith

April may be "the cruelest" month according to the poet, whose name escapes me, but I would plump for February myself. The weather is often chill and dull - earth and sky often merging beneath a grey shroud - and the mind, starved of colour, longs for a spring that never seems to be getting any nearer! It's being so cheerful that keeps me going! Still, there are a few signs to give me hope; these Hazel catkins shedding their pollen on the breeze for instance, and the first wild Primroses of the year at Mill Green.

Hazel catkins Copyright: Graham Smith

Primula vulgaris Copyright: Graham Smith

However, just in case I begin to sound too cheerful I would like to report the first success of the Tidy Minded Brigade seen so far in 2013. They have just mowed the Primroses on Battlesbridge Railway Station - bless them! I'm sure it looks much better without all that colour.............

Thu 7th February 2013 19:28 by Peter Pearson
Elders, Lichens, Blackthorns and Cushions
On 02/02/2013 it was decided to take a stroll around the Wrabness Nature Reserve. While the garden was quite pleasant in the shelter of the fences, it was a different story on the Stour estuary where there was a very cold, extremely lazy wind, going straight through you.
There was little about, four species of bird being noted, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock and Blue Tit, then only one of each, darting from cover to cover to avoid the elements.
However this gave us time to look around the bushes as we passed.
Particularly noted were the Elders (Sambucus nigra), these were completely covered with Golden Shield or Common Orange, also known as Maritime, Lichen (Xanthoria parietina). Throughout the reserve entire bushes were completely covered with the lichen, turning them into bright golden, scaly, beacons in the bleak winter landscape. The bonus is, this lichen indicates a clean atmosphere, but the downside it requires moisture; it’s had plenty of that recently.
Common Orange Lichen on Elder Copyright: Peter Pearson
Another find was the below pictured fungus, which I believe is the Cushion Bracket (Phellinus pomaceus) growing on Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), prunus apparently being it’s preferred host.
Cushion Bracket on Blackthorn Copyright: Peter Pearson
Cushion Bracket  (Phellinus pomaceus) Copyright: Peter Pearson
On the way home we called in at The Walls, Mistley, where again the keen wind had the birds keeping a very low profile, little out in the open. The gulls and swans were however much in evidence, waiting for visitors to feed them. The below immature Black-Headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) was pictured using the wind to soar along the shore, using only its tail to guide itself.
Black-headed Gull Copyright: Peter Pearson


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