A huge amount of activity goes on as the sun heads for the horizon. This evening I noticed flocks of jackdaws circling. Quite a few of them were carrying nuts in their beaks. They made dramatic silhouettes against the late, pale afternoon sky.
Crows were feasting on sweet chestnuts.
The swans were stretching their wings.
And the seagulls were catching the rays of the setting sun on the undersides of their wings as they looped over the ponds.
There is something wonderful about the papery quality of pressed leaves. Some become almost transparent. They retain their colour as long as they're not left in direct sunlight. A great reminder of how colourful the world is when you're in the depths of January and feel like the world will stay brown and grey forever. They smell great, a bit like a barn full of newly cut hay.
The best time to pick and press leaves is in early spring before they've had holes eaten
After heavy rain is a great time to look for mushrooms and fungi. The variety is astonishing. But it's really hard to identify all but the obvious ones. Here is a jelly fungus a Yellow Staghorn, this is fairly easy to identify and is relatively common.
But here is a selection of other varieties that I'm still working my way through the excellent Roger Phillips Mushroom guide trying to identify. Might take a while.
We went to the RSPB nature reserve at Rye Meads today. It was autumnal and blustery. We hoped to see one or two exciting creatures to add to our nature library but everything was hiding - apart from quite large groups of school children who were wearing shouty, green, fluorescent health and safety vests... I'm certain they saw even less than we did.
The ground crunches underfoot right now with all the seeds and nuts which are falling from the trees. The deer in the park are making short work of all the conkers. The jays and squirrels are after the acorns.
Heavy rain last week helped a lot of mushrooms appear. Here is the dramatic Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) a real classic. Deadly poisonous so don't even think of picking it. Actually don't pick any mushrooms. I've found it is virtually impossible to correctly identify them, despite having spent a lot of money on guide books.
Just when you feel the air has changed and autumn is approaching it's great to still find colourful insects about. Yesterday in Home Park I found a Clouded Yellow butterfly, the first one I've ever seen in England. I had to do a lot of chasing in order to take a reasonable photo.
Today I spotted the dramatically bright (and hairy) Grey Dagger Moth caterpillar eating Acer leaves.
I know autumn is coming when the parasol mushrooms appear in the park. It is as if someone has thrown giant flatbreads into the grass. They are unmistakably tall and large, some about a foot across. The patterns on the tops are fantastic, all unique in their freshly-baked way.
I enjoy the first pockets of autumn colour as they appear on the trees. One oak in the park was dropping bright leaves into the pond. They looked like golden boats as they swirled about.
The red oak tree always produces a great variety of leaf colours, some almost purple.
I found a chilled small copper butterfly, which was great because he was too cold to fly off. When it's hot they are almost impossible to photograph, the move all the time. The light was not good for photos today, so a lot of my pictures came out blurred (I hate the phrase camera shake, it makes me feel very old). I did consider going back to take some more of this chap, I'm sure he won't have managed to get far.
Now is the time for cobwebs and Crane flies. Go out early on a bright morning and look at the sunlight turning the dew on the cobwebs into rainbow colours.
I was amazed to find so many active insects in the grass despite the morning chill. Crane flies (Daddy-long-legs) were out in their hundreds. They are around for a brief time, living for only two weeks, then die.
Autumn is coming. I'm looking forward to the first thick fog.
Hello. Posts have been a bit sporadic lately - flu hasn't helped this week. Spike (Andrea) and I are in the process of overhauling of our website and blog but will try to continue to talk to my loyal followers as we do it.
We had a stand at Wimbledon Common Autumn open day last Sunday. It was a bit of a disaster. We managed to assemble the gazebo on the mud and get our table up with all our stuff on it just as the wind started to pick up. Spike went off to get a much needed coffee. I kept pushing gazebo poles back into sockets as they popped out. Spike's delicately placed hop decorations started thrashing about and the sides of the tent started to balloon. I took the sides off in an effort to stop the whole thing ending up on the log pile behind us.
About 10 minutes later and before the event had even opened a massive gust of wind buckled the orange stand next to us and started throwing all our books onto the mud. We tried to weight everything down but we had to dismantle the tent as the poles kept coming unplugged and waving about. Then it started to rain. We sold two Spotter guides at a knock down price. We made £3.
But the stand did look nice, had to show you that.
If you are sharp-eyed enough to find an owl pellet it's worth taking the time to prize open the furry mass and see what is inside. Quite often there are beetle wing cases. But if you're very lucky you might find the tiny jaw bone of a mouse like this one, which is only 15mm long.
This time of year is great for looking at spiders. They're all over the place, spinning webs and getting large and fat on flies. If you can watch one building a web it really is fascinating. Or, if you have a magnifying glass you can take a really good look. They are remarkable creatures.
A very handsome caterpillar which feeds on Birch leaves in the summer. I'm going to keep an eye out for the actual sawfly which is apparently quite large and has yellow antennae and a white stripe across it's abdomen. They're not particularly common though so I may have trouble.
I found this splendid beetle in the grass. It was quite large, about 2cm long, and its shiny body had a warm coppery sheen. My indispensable Collins guide to Insects tells me that it is a Calosoma inquisitor (I think). And they like to live in oak woods where they
The wonderful bright Burnet Moths are out on the thistles now. They are great to watch as they let you get really close without flying away. This looks like a six spot variety, rather than a five. But they are hard to tell apart as sometimes the spots are stuck together.
And I found, just lying in the grass, a collection of egg cases from some insect. They had fallen off the underside of a leaf but were still stuck to each other. So regular and beautiful. If you look closely at the top left ones you can see they have an iridescent interior.
I love moths, there are so many and their variety is astonishing. They have entertainingly eccentric names, for example the Sandy Carpet, the Glaucous Shears or the Cream-spot Tiger. There were a pair of striking Swallow-tailed moths on the front door this morning. Apparently they are very common throughout the UK from June to August. This species particularly likes ivy.