A restless night. A tawny owlke-wicking somewhere in the garden in the small hours. A stifled-sneeze-induced splitting headache mid-morning. Time for a walk down Burlees Lane to clear my head.
It's at this point that my natural history journal loses its U-certificate rating. Look what I found in the woods:
The aptly named stinkhorn (with the equally apt Linnean classification Phallus impudicus): a fungus which, when it spores, emits a smell similar to rotting flesh. The smell attracts flies (as shown), which then fly away, bearing fungal spores to new locations.
My hero, Charles Darwin, was fascinated by plant dispersal mechanisms. I'm sure the stinkhorn fungus's spore-dispersal trick would have delighted him.
I've just noticed that the Buddleia in our garden is absolutely covered in these:
According to Wikipedia, Auricularia auricula-judae, the Jew's ear fungus, grows especially well on elder. Both its common and scientific names are said to derive from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name Judas's ear eventually became Jew's ear. But I always take folk etymology with a pinch of salt.
A hot, slightly humid day, so I decided to seek some breeze on the Moor Walk.
The harebells are in bloom at the top of the lane. My favourite flowers: so delicate and subtle, yet always managing to survive and get noticed amongst the competing long grasses.
I had just got on to the moor when a weasel leapt out of the heather ten yards in front of me, scampered down the track, and leapt back into the heather. I had my camera in hand and ready to fire, but it was just too quick for me. As always, I was surprised at just how small weasels are: about the size of a large mouse, as contrasted with the squirrel-sized stoat. It was also surprisingly colourful: a glorious chestnut red.
Nothing much doing on the moor: too warm and still. No sign of the sought-for breeze. On the way down, I spotted some mushrooms. As ever, they were growing in old cow poo. I wonder if the mushroom spores are ingested by the cattle and pass through them, or whether they simply land on the cow pats.
Coming down from the moor, I heard a strange bird call from a garden willow at the side of the Lucky Field. I eventually spotted it flitting about, but it was too far away to make out any details. A willow warbler, I guessed, which seemed appropriate. I took a photo to see if I could discern more details at home. Later research, including listening to bird calls on the RSPB website, revealed that it was actually a chiffchaff: a bird so similar to the willow warbler that it took Gilbert White to work out they are two separate species.
Finally, on the Nook track, I gathered a few tufted vetch seed pods to sew in the garden at the base of our proto-hedgerow. I don't care if they're weeds. I like them!