Thursday, 7 January 2016

Foggy Pulpit Hill

It was a foggy, drippy sort of a day yesterday as I walked through the woods on the top of Pulpit Hill. I had plenty of time though, so walked slowly, checking behind logs and off the main path, and turned up all sorts of great little treasures.
The fog made the hill fort feel even more atmospheric than usual
Damp days like that make all the spider webs stand out, showing the great variety in their designs. They're such great feats of engineering for tiny little creatures and look so pretty sparkling in the gloom. It also means you can see them so don't accidentally walk through them!

Orb web

Sheet web suspended horizontally between two tree trunks
There are still a few nice fungi around, but my favourite was one which I believe is called a hare's ear, due to its shape. It's similar to the 'cups' (palomino cup or layered cup) but it has a rolled in slit down one side and is distinctly elongated at the other end. I only found one, sitting in the leaf litter in the middle of the hill fort.

Hare's ear

Hare's ear
As I was crawling around on my hands and knees in the leaves, I found several tiny orange toadstools (that I would almost certainly have missed if I was just walking past them). They were all attached to fallen twigs and had curved stipes with white fibres on them and a white downy base. I believe these are fantastically named scurfy twiglets.

Scurfy twiglet
About 10 days ago I noticed some peeling oysterlings just starting to grow on a fallen log. I had a look at them today and was amazed how much they had grown and matured. If you look closely you can just see the broken branch poking out of the fungi today, which just shows how much they've increased in size.
Baby peeling oysterlings

10 days later they've grown huge and are curled up at the edges
There were lots of variable oysterlings on fallen twigs. From the top they look like plain white blobs growing out of twigs and small branches, but then you turn them over and they are really very beautiful. They're very common, but always worth picking up and turning over.
Variable oysterlings
The moss is starting to really flourish in all this damp weather. You have to look closely but the structure of the leaves and their capsules are really quite beautiful and very varied.
Bank haircap, with very distinctive brown capsules

Common tamarisk moss - looks almost like miniature ferns

Hart's-tongue thyme-moss

Rough stalked feather moss covered in wine red capsules
I found a hart's-tongue fern growing in the woods. They don't look like the traditional ferns, as the fronds are undivided, making them look (a bit) like a tongue. A hart is a traditional name for a deer, so somebody must have thought they looked like a deer's tongue (not that I've ever seen one!)

Hart's-tongue fern

Spores in rows underneath the frond
A few of the other treasures from my walk ....

Some lovely lichen - looked like it was growing fingers!

An oak apple on an oak leaf - caused by a reaction to chemicals released by
the larva of a gall wasp

Slime mould - looked like bright yellow eggs
So it may have been foggy, muddy and damp and it may be the middle of January, but there is still loads of interesting stuff out there just waiting to be discovered.

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