Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Wed 20 Oct 2004
Snow on the hills overnight. A fine day promised, but storms are on the way for tomorrow.
Just one day earlier than I saw the first snow on the hills last year, though in both cases there may have been some that I missed. Undeterred by the advancing season, the Yarrow is still flowering profusely, both the white form and this pale mauve variety.
Was in search of more fungi before the frost hits the lowlands. I'm afraid we're back to mostly unidentified fungi after Saturday's bonanza.
This orange Hygrocybe can only be the Meadow Waxcap Hygrocybe pratensis var pratensis, but there are problems with this. The cap seemed slightly wet or viscid even a day after picking, by which time "dry" species have invariably dried out. Also it seems very small for H pratensis although of course these are young specimens. Finally the cap was not pruinose or granular, as H pratensis normally is when young. It was growing in thick moss and lichen on a rock at soil level, about 1-2 m above the high tide line, in a generally grassy area. H laeta ruled out by the stem being dry a day after picking and stem > 4 mm thick in places. [2010 note: this looks nothing like H pratensis! I think it's H reidii]
Into the woods now, and here's a group of young Coprinus-like mushrooms in moss and leaf-litter under Hazel. Gills free, cap sticky, stem less so. Gills, stem, stem flesh and cap flesh all white or very pale beige. Possible fragments of ring/veil on stem just below where cap reaches down to, but no veil remains on the caps of even the youngest. No smell. Skin of cap peels completely. On storage does not deliquesce but gills turn grey near cap margin. Stem has scattered hairs or pin-like projections, cap does not. Cap colour is pale grey-brown, hard to decide in keys whether to call it grey or brown. Top/centre of cap is darker grey-brown. It gave a few spores which looked black or very dark grey-black, but could be dark brown or dark purple, not enough to tell.
Still in deep woodland shade, this fungus on a birch twig looked interesting but it may be just a young Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus). It has tubes at about 3 to the millimetre which agrees with that species, although young specimens are supposed to be white and subglobose, which this isn't. Very rubbery, smells like the underside of a damp carpet, cap skin peels off, cap flesh paler, pinkish-brown. On the right is something a lot smaller still, and not easy to photograph. I think it's a Mycena species, it was growing on the bark of a Grey Willow. The stem was colourless and translucent, thickened towards the top, and the gills widely spaced.
This red jelly fungus was on the same tree as the Mycena. Although it has something like the conventional mushroom shape, everything is jelly. No gills. The cap is covered in very small hairs that are only visible through a microscope and then only on the part of the cap that's edge-on to the eye so that the hairs show up against the white background. The stem doesn't have the hairs. I think it's probably Ascocoryne sarcoides. It could be A cylichnium but that seems to have a more concave cap.
Continuing with strange fungi, the black and white dancers in the macabre spectacle on the left are the Candle-snuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon. They are on Gorse, as is the slightly more conventional mushroom on the right, known as Flammulina velutipes. The cap is very sticky, and the lower half of the stem is black and hairy. The branch it's on is probably dead wood; the end had been sawn off some time ago to keep the path clear.
Another one growing directly on Gorse wood, this time on a fallen twig buried in the ground. No idea what it is. Spores mid-brown. Smell like mouldy cocoa.
The final fungus for the day is the pink encrusting Stereum rugosum on Hazel. Thanks to Howard Fox for suggesting this id.
Also on Hazel was this Magpie Moth caterpillar. There must have been a large number on this particular bush, as many of its leaves were full of holes, but only a few of them had the culprit on the underside. A typical leaf had about 20 holes ranging from about 3 to 10 mm diameter. Assuming that it's at most one caterpillar per leaf, they seem to eat a hole of limited size and then start again with a new hole on the same leaf rather than carry on working at the original hole. Possibly they've developed this strategy so that the leaf won't fall apart and drop them to the floor. Or it could be that it's one hole per caterpillar and that birds had picked off almost all of them.
The only other caterpillar I saw was a Drinker, shown on the right. Both Magpie and Drinker caterpillars were common in early summer and were shown on this site. They pupate around June and emerge as moths, and what we're seeing now are the offspring of those moths, which will soon hibernate, and, if all goes well, re-appear in spring to complete the cycle.
Rose hips add to the autumnal atmosphere of the woods. The red ones are the Northern Downy Rose, and the black ones are the Burnet Rose, whose leaves can be seen in the top left of the picture (a Hazel leaf occupies most of the lower half)
Also fruiting in its own way is the Beaked Tasselweed, which grows in a brackish pool that I always visit when I walk home along the shore. Most Sea Aster stems have died right back by now, but I noticed a total of three, in well separated locations, which were in full flower and leaf; here is one of them.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer