Monday, 21 November 2011

Bletted chequers

An earlier post referred to the lovely colour of Wild Service Tree leaves this autumn, but did not illustrate this. So it behoves me to show some photos. It's easy to identify this species, it's easy to identify this species because the leaves are a distinctive red, like these.....

.... will become when they fall. More representative leaves are a dark red, and carpeted the ground around this tree which is a good shape from not being crowded. The specimen at Bough Beech is tall and thin, having grown in competition with its neighbours

Wild Service Trees were cultivated for their fruits, known as checkers, which were picked and hung up to await the first frosts. Until then, they are unpalatable but the frost opens them up and softens the flesh and so become "bletted", giving an interesting if gritty texture.

The flavour has been compared to almonds or sultanas (see Richard Mabey's Flora Britannica for a full description) but I found them to be more akin to over-ripe pears.

As well as their use as fruits, they were also used to flavour alcohol (probably not beer) and this may explain the frequent use of The Chequers as a pub name. This may be so, as the trees are sometimes found in pub gardens, but it seems more likely that the name refers to the game, encouraging thoughts of the entertainment to be found within.

The weekend continued the run of fine Autumn days after the overnight mist burned off. The sky was blue and the sun shone, although in shaded places the dew remained.
Fungi have started to appear, very late and in smaller numbers than would be expected.

More butterflies were seen, and flies and ladybirds continue to bask in the unexpected warmth.

Some oak trees are still fully green, while late flowers remain, covered in dew, like Watercress and Celery-leaved Buttercup in a rich cattle mire.

But signs of change are clear elsewhere, with mistletoe green against the bare branches of limes.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A grassy Knole

Knole Park is a good place to spend time in Autumn, with the leaves turning and blowing around, and with the herd of Fallow Deer posturing and belching in the rut.

Much of the posturing is done by the bucks in the prone position, guarding their little scrape of bare earth which seems mostly to be used to dirty up their nether regions (you come to this blog for informed scientific facts, don't you?)

Does are very aware of the bucks' agitation, and some flirt while others keep a cool distance.

Appropriately I saw Yellow Stag's Horn fungus, as well as Candle Snuff.

Closer to home (or rather closer to work) I was pleased to see what I thought was Cauliflower Fungus which is edible and good, but then discovered that it would be expected on pine trees, not an old ash, so care will be taken before harvesting.
The warm weather continues to bring out late insects, including a whole hedgerow of ladybirds, among which was an unusual fly, which if it is mesembrina meridiana (per the I-spy Insects book) is not generally found in East Kent.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sand and shingle

When in Thanet, it's impolite not to check the esplanade at Palm Bay for Mediterranean Gulls, and sho' nuff one was there, although without the now-customary green ring it looked a little under-dressed. A green-ringed Med has been on the lawn there for many winters, but now it has presumably been superceded by the next generation.

This one was surprisingly confiding although not as showy as the main attraction........

The stunningly handsome Eastern Black Redstart, which preened and cavorted for a constant stream of twitchers.

That's my kind of twitch...... roll up, stroll a hundred yards from the car, obviously different bird tarting around, showing itself off to its many admirers. Here I am, on the sand, catching insects...... then up on the cliff....... oi I'm up here....... perch on the railings........ back to the sand, to chase off a pipit. What a star. Hopefully it'll stay around.

While at Foreness, I took my usual stroll around, and although waders were mostly scarce there were Purple Sandpipers in heir usual place on the waterworks wall, and a normal Black Redstart reminded me what the species usually looks like in Britain. Also an Eider splashed down offshore.

In the balmy November breeze a Red Admiral fluttered around, and a Swallow flew past, still well fed by the late insects.

Alexanders is well advanced in places, and advantage was taken...... an early asparagus for the plate. The flower heads are a good addition to salads, too.

On the sand was a voodoo head, left over from hallowe'en perhaps.

Sunday was a sunny day, and a walk along the sea wall from Deal was rewarding. Various detritus on the strand-line caught the eye, after a few days of easterlies, although identification was often imprecise. Is this a sponge, leucosolenia perhaps? Is that bryozoa?
There were plenty of birds around, with a grebe fishing just off.
Skylarks fluted about, and a single Lapland Bunting was briefly seen before it flew off. Three Ringed Plovers were on the shingle, and flock of Sanderling flew south and then one flew back north. Or was it a Grey Phalarope (which looks almost identical in the books)? A better man than I said it was.

A sprinkle of snowflakes heralded the arrival of a dozen Snow Buntings, which proceeded to browse on Yellow-horned Poppies. Beautiful birds.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Kicking up the leaves

It's the time for kicking up the leaves (or at least it was last weekend, before the wind and rain took their toll). Lovely colours due to the Indian summer, with Field Maple noticeably bright, and Wild Service Trees brightly red if you can find them.

The fun-named Jumping Down near Elham was a painter's pallette of red, gold and green. Very few fungi to be found, so I'm starving, but these two nestling in the grass could be found by careful searching.

Talking of trees as we were, the Woodland Trust has launched an appeal to plant trees for the Queen's jubillee, and has released an online version of the equivalent venture for George V in the 1930s.

There were some firs planted at Otty Bottom in Kingsdown (not a very appropriate choice of species, what?):

and I found a copper beech in Postling churchyard. Given that it's over 75 years old, it's not very big.

On the bird front, I had good views of a Pallas's Warbler in the garden last week, just before one was seen down the road.

And this morning it was good to feel a nip in the air and to see divers, auks and duck flying low over the sea. Seawatching for the winter now.

And finally folks, can anyone explain why this sign is lying to me. There is no danger, and it's not barbed wire.