Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Mr Toad out and about at night video

A little surprise last night when I went out to the bin - Mr or Mrs Toad out and about wandering around. I have seen two toads at night in the past week - but still no toad spawn! This handsome chappie stood and looked at me for a while, didn't seem bothered at all and then wandered off in search of something more interesting!

Common Toad - Local Neighbourhood
Side view of common toad
Aerial view above common toad

Monday, 9 March 2015

Wood carving in the Woods.....

Yesterday was my first day at Spooniverstiy of Grange - a small wood working group run by Tony Saunders of Ynot Coppice and reserve manager of Cumbria Wildlife Trust Reserve Brown Robin

The weather was better than forecast and the sun shone through the trees. I had a brilliant day learning the basics about how to work with wood and begin a wood carving project......

I didn't take a great deal of pics today as I was too busy concentrating on what I was meant to be doing. To begin with, Pete who is a reserves manager for Cumbria Wildlife Trust taught me some basics, while Tony was leading a birding walk. We found a nice piece of hazel and this was split using a froe. Pete started this off for me and I basically tapped the froe with the wooden mallet. I have to admit I was a bit scared of all these manly tools - not being a natural with screwdrivers and drills! After the wood was split, I was handed a very scary looking draw knife and shown by Pete how to sit at the shave horse. However, once I got going I became less scared and really enjoyed working away on the wood, listening to the birds singing away in the trees.

The shave horse
The froe
My first wood carving project is a Scandinavian butter paddle, which in theory is a nice simple design to start with! Initially I removed the pith on the inside of my split piece of wood and the bark from the outer, using the draw knife with my block of wood secured on the shave horse. I then drew a rough shape of what I wanted my butter paddle to look like and with the saw cut in some notches to work towards. Pete explained about the grain of the wood and drew some arrows on my piece to help me work the wood in the best direction until I got a feel for it. Before I got going with the knife, I removed a bit more off my piece with the draw knife as my block of wood was still quite chunky!

The outline of my butter paddle
Working with the draw knife on the shave horse
Now it was time for some instruction on cutting techniques from Tony. He started me off on a pencil and showed me a few different and safe methods such as holding the wood into my chest. After practising for a little while I then started on my piece. I worked with gloves on and also tried the kevlar gloves that Tony had bought for another student Beth who likes to remove chunks of her fingers! As I got more confident I eventually took my gloves off and sat and whittled the day away!

My butter paddle - nearly finished
I didn't quite get my project finished but I wrapped it up and put it in the fridge to keep the wood green until next time. What a brilliant day in the woods in a beautiful spot and a great way to relax and forget about the real world!

Spooniversity workshop
Brown Robin Woods

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Spring is here! Frog Spawn, Tadpoles, Froggies and Toads

It's that time of year again to go out looking for frog spawn. It's March and so I decided to head to my favourite spot in Whinlatter Forest to see if there was any spawn in the pools where I find it every year.....and yes there was some! I think frogs are brill and if you have a chance get out and have a look for some spawn and its a great thing for kids to watch tadpoles grow, develop and metamorphose....

Frog Spawn - Whinlatter Forest
Close up of frog spawn
Frog spawn - Whinlatter Forest
Over the past few years I have kept an eye on the spawn and tadpoles to see the changes as they develop but I haven't managed to see any froglets in that particular spot. So I am hoping this year if I visit more regularly that I might get to see them this year.

Young tadpoles not yet fully formed
Tadpoles - Whinlatter Forest
Tadpoles and Pond Snail - Clint's Quarry
And the tadpoles got bigger and bigger and fortunately the ponds did not dry up. I also haven't got any photos of tadpoles starting to grow legs - so I will have to look out for that this year.
Large tadpoles - Whinlatter Forest
Large Tadpoles - Whinlatter Forest
I have however been lucky enough to see froglets elsewhere. I have seen froglets in the grounds at work - lots of little tiny ones hopping about all over the place and then also these two little ones - one out at Cumbria Wildlife Trusts Reserve at Bowness-on-Solway and also down in Ennerdale Forest - a local and favourite place to visit.

Froglet - Bowness on Solway
Froglet - Ennerdale Forest
Then I have also seen a variety of frogs and toads of which I have put some pictures below for interest, in Scotland, France and even Costa Rica! I have also seen toads in the grounds a t work and I had a great encounter with one on the grass and he was quite happy to pose for the camera. I was also lucky enough to see a toad on the same day I saw the frog spawn - a true sign spring is on the way!!

Common Frog - Scotland
Common Toad - Grounds at work

Mr Toad showing me how big and strong he is!
I do quite like frogs and in Costa Rica I visited a frog 'farm' where they had a variety of colourful species to see. You wandered around in the dark with a guide and they would shine the torch on the frog for you to see - it was a brilliant way to spend a rainy afternoon!

Costa Rican frog - cool dude!
French Frog!

And to finish off here is the toad I spotted a couple of nights ago. I have yet to find some toad spawn so I will keep looking and hopefully add it to my blog. I am also going to keep watching the frog spawn and keep up some posts of it developing this year. 

Mr Toad out at night
Common Toad

Funky Fungi

I thought it was about time some fungi got a mention on my blog. I often see fungi when I am out and about and for a long time I didn't really give fungi the attention its deserves. But its like anything in nature - once you scratch the surface you want to know more! Fungi is often found in woodlands in abundance, but fungi doesn't just grow on trees and wood - it can be found in other habitats as well for example open grassland. And the other amazing fact about fungi is that there is an awful lot more going on than what we can see! We see on the surface is only a small part of the wonderful world of fungi that lies beneath the surface. But more about this later.......here is some fungi I have found on trees to start.

Horse hoof fungus - Finglandrigg wood
Horse hoof fungus is quite a common fungus particularly on birch trees and even standing dead birch trees. It really does look like a horses hoof, so quite an easy one to remember. King Alfred's Cake is quite a common fungus found on trees and can actually be used as tinder for lighting fires.

King Alfred's Cake - Local Neighbourhood
Other fungi that can be found on trees are the polypores and bracket type fungus. There are many different species but if you remember the polypore bit and bracket then it's a start!

Birch Polypore - Near Lords Seat, Cumbria
Blushing Bracket Fungus - Dubbs Moss Nature Reserve
Now for some fungus I have found on woodland floors. The elf cup is a cute little round fungus that can be found at this time of year. It is easy to find in a woodland due to the bright red colour. Also an easy to find fungus and quite well known is the fly agaric.

Elf Cup Fungus - Dubbs Moss Nature Reserve
Fly Agaric - Loch Morlich, Scotland
Amongst the red fungi I have found is the scarlet wax cap. This is quite a small fungus and on the underside the deep gills can be clearly seen.

Scarlet Wax Cap - Eycott Hill Nature Reserve
In the autumn of last year I found a very interesting puffball at RSPB Campfield Marsh. I thought maybe it was a giant puffball but I put a photo on iSpot to check the observation and someone who knows a lot more about fungi than me suggested this is a Mosaic Puffball. Puffballs are great to find and they come in all different shapes and sizes! Also below are what are probably the common puffballl.

Mosaic Puffball - RSPB Campfield Marsh
Mosaic Puffball Fungus - RSPB Campfield Marsh

Common Puffball - Local Neighbourhood
Other interesting fungi finds are what I think might be the slippery jack, which does look pretty slippery or is that just rain! The slippery jack normally has a floppy ring that covers the spores at the top of the stem. This can't be seen in this photo and I can't remember if it was there- so next time I find one I will have a closer look. The wood blewit is another common species and can often be found in groups in broadleaved woodland. The shaggy ink cap is the other common fungi that I find quite a lot of in small groups. It really does go quite inky after a while.

Slippery Jack
Wood Blewit - Local Neighbourhood

Shaggy Inkcap - Local Neighbourhood
Below are some groups of little fungi which I found on dead wood. I don't have an identification for either of these groups of fungi but they were both quite close together and I enjoyed spending time photographing them.

Now for some orange fungi! I think the first pic below is of some orange peel fungus and then velvet shank, which is a first for me. I found this recently on some dead wood and loved the bright colours of it.
Orange Peel Fungus - Local Neighbourhood

Velvet Shank - Local Neighbourhood
Velvet Shank -Local Neighbourhood
Then finally a purple fungus! This was quite a bit clump of jelly ear fungus which I found recently and again is quite common.
Jelly Ear Fungus - Local Neighbourhood
Jew's Ear Fungus - Local Neighbourhood
So that is just a small collection of fungi that I have found and made me realise that there is a huge variety of fungal species to be found. It is a great subject to start identifying as you have time to photograph and study fungus so that you can then identify it. And this is just a start, there is a whole world of fungus out there and not only is there the fungus we can see but also there is a massive network of mycorrhizal fungus that is underground. But that is another story!.......