The Peak District and an unexpected rare plant, 22 - 25 October 2020

Belinda and I spent a most enjoyable 3 night stay in the Peak District this last weekend to celebrate her birthday. Staying in the small village of Over Haddon perched above Lathkilldale gave us walking on our doorstep which was ideal. 

On the Thursday we got up mega early at home and were in Derbyshire and walking by 09.15! Our walk was over Baslow Edge from Curbar and back via Birchen Edge. A nice piece of upland oak woodland gave me a couple of new fungi - Hoof Fungus on a birch trunk and at the base of the same tree Tawny Grisette. A lunch stop close to the Robin Hood Inn revealed Slimy Waxcap in the grass and plenty of Redwings and Fieldfares. Earlier, while navigating a tricky bit at the south end of Baslow Edge we disturbed a Merlin which literally whizzed right past my ear. I felt it before I saw it!

Friday saw us walking the length of Lathkilldale from our doorstep in Over Haddon. No fewer than 8 Dippers were seen including a male in song and displaying despite it being October plus 2-3 Grey Wagtails. A single Raven flew over at the Cales Dale junction and a couple of Nuthatches were rather vocal. In the upper part of the dale I then made the discovery of the weekend - a prominent blue/purple flower right beside the path. I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but could it be? Flowering in October? I was proved right, it was the rare Jacob's Ladder, a limestone specialist but one that should flower in June/July! Also in flower in the dale were Meadow Cranesbill and Monkeyflower.

Saturday was inclement but we did manage a walk from Over Haddon in the morning, the highlight being c400 Fieldfares and c50 Redwings in a single flock. We spent the wet afternoon in Buxton where feral Muscovy Ducks were obvious in the Pavillion Gardens. A Tawny Owl was calling in Over Haddon that night.

On Sunday we managed a nice walk in Cressbrook Dale and Tansley Dale before the drive home. A Sparrowhawk was the only sighting of note. 

                                                                                                                                           Hoof Fungus
                                                                                                                                     Tawny Grisette
                                                                                                                                   Slimy Waxcap

                                                                                                                                      Jacob's Ladder
                                                                                                                                   Meadow Cranesbill
                                                                                       photographing Jacob's Ladder, upper Lathkilldale

Wonderful Whitlingham, 20 October 2020

Whitlingham CP really comes into its own at this time of the year and the autumn colours there are superb. This afternoon trip, before the weather closes in, was specifically to see Yellow Shield fungi which James Emerson had kindly given me directions to. In the end I not only saw those but also found some of my own nearby and also saw plenty of others of interest. 

I bumped into Anne Crotty and her husband while in the picnic meadow area and she happened to mention a coral fungus that grows under leylandii near Whitlingham Farm Share. I hot-footed it there (I needed the walk too) and quickly found my first coral fungus - Green-staining Coral Fungus under said leylandii by the track.

Those 2 scarcities weren't the only fungus I saw - Grey Knight, Earpick Fungus, Purple Brittlegill, Shaggy Scalycap, Lilac Fibrecap, Horse Mushroom, Ugly Milkcap, Glistening Inkcap, Hare's Ear, Honey Fungus, Scurfy Twiglet, Purplepore Bracket and Purple Jellydisc were also found. 

An impromptu meet with Jus by the carpark for a catch up resulted in scope views of 2 Goldeneye and the resident dodgy Barnacle Goose whilst coffee and a scone went down well at the cafe just before they closed!

                                                                                                                                         Yellow Shield

                                                                                                                  Green-staining Coral Fungus
                                                                                                                                           Grey Knight
                                                                                                                                              Hare's Ear
                                                                                                                                           Honey Fungus
                                                                                                                                   Horse Mushroom
                                                                                                                                         Lilac Fibrecap
                                                                                                                                      Purple Jellydisc
                                                                                                                                Purplepore Bracket
                                                                                                                                        Scurfy Twiglet
                                                                                                                                     Shaggy Scalycap

                                                                                                                                     Purple Brittlegill

Brecks Botany, 19 October 2020

With some precise directions I headed off for a quick half day excursion to Icklingham in the Brecks. As a bonus I was able to see Common Calamint in lovely condition by the church before I set off on a walk for my main quarry - White Horehound. The walk was gorgeous and with several fly-over Crossbills and Redwings I arrived at the spot in fine fettle. And my target was very easily found. Although late in the season a few plants still had some flowers on so all was good. 

The walk had yielded loads of fungi too so on the return walk I examined many of them and also explored a nearby beech wood. Coprinellis impatiens was a great find under the beech together with Chanterelle, Porcellain Fungus and probable Coprinopsis stercorea. The grassland had many many Parasols, Common Rustgill, Egghead Mottlegill (on dung), Fools Funnel, Soft Puffball, Mosaic Puffball and Macrolepiota konradii. A huge Chicken of the Woods was spotted from the track on the way back too. 

Nearing the end of the walk back a flock of c20 Mistle Thrushes and about the same number of Fieldfares was something I'd not seen before.

                                                                                                                            Common Calamint
                                                                                                                                    White Horehound
                                                                                                                           Coprinellis impatiens
                                                                                                                              Macrolepiota konradii
                                                                                                                                  Egghead Mottlegill
                                                                                                                                            Fools Funnel
                                                                                                                                          Common Rustgill
                                                                                                                   probable Coprinopsis stercorea
                                                                                                                         Chicken of the Woods

A fungus foray in Tyrrel's Wood, 18 October 2020

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours immersing myself in the dark autumn wonderfulness of Tyrrel's Wood on Sunday. Despite the dog walkers it's a place it's easy to lose people in, and also to lose yourself sometimes!

Fungus was my main focus and I found a few new ones for me - Blackening Brittlegill, Lemon Disco, Yellow Stainer and Crystal Brain. Into the bargain there were plenty of other fruiting bodies about too - Wood Blewit, Stump Puffball, Sulphur Knight, good numbers of both False Deathcap and Shaggy Parassol, Blushing Bracket, Birch Polypore, Common Inkcap, Glistening Inkcap, Clouded Agaric, Honey Fungus, Ochre Brittlegill and Oyster Mushroom. 2 slime moulds were also found - Wolf's Milk and Ceratiomyxa fruiticulosa. As ever I am indebted to various members of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group for id assistance! 

A Nuthatch was calling in the centre of the wood providing the only bit of avian noteworthyness.

                                                                                                                               Blackening Brittlegill
                                                                                                                                         Lemon Disco
                                                                                                                                         Yellow Stainer
                                                                                                                                   Crystal Brain
                                                                                                                                       False Deathcap
                                                                                                                                         Wood Blewit
                                                                                                                                   Sulphur Knight
                                                                                                         Ceratiomyxa fruiticulosa slime mould
                                                                                                                            Wolf's Milk slime mould

A true mega - Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey, 17 October 2020

They don't come a great deal rarer - the first UK record since 1980 and the first twitchable one since 1963! It's already being called Norfolk's 'Bird of the Century'

I was still in bed when the news broke but was up like a shot and hastily making excuses as I left Belinda laying there! Deciding to cut through the city as it was reasonably early was a good call and I was up at the coast in double quick time. It was parking mayhem in the Greenway at the western end of Stiffkey village but I kept driving down towards the carpark and luckily managed to find a bit of verge to sling to car up onto. I was greeted with the sight of masses of birders just starting out across the saltmarsh. The bird had flown out to an area near the wooden bridge ealier and been lost to view. Until that moment the tide had been too high to walk out and look for it but now it had receded and it was 'game on'. After much sploshing and dyke-skipping I reached the clump of sueda it had chosen. Luckily it was on the far side of a big creek so there was no danger of flushing. Within about 10 minutes it flicked up on the top of the bushes only to flop down again a second later fanning it's tail as it did so. Brief but Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin was in the bag! Making a long walk almost back to the carpark and out again I gained access to see the other side of the sueda clump and this was the side the bird preferred. Over the next couple of hours it showed intermitently and at times really nicely before returning to the depths of the vegetation, presumably to feed. It looked slightly bedraggled but was active enough, regularly flying short distances and cocking it's white-tipped rufous tail. It was a grey eastern bird of the race 'syriaca' a bird I am familiar with from several trips to SE Europe and the Middle East.

Apart from the bird itself it was a great occasion and crowds like of which have not been seen in Norfolk for many a long year.

On the way home I popped in to Whitlingham CP to see some fungi - in particular the bizarre White Saddle which I'd been given directions to. Also there I paid a visit to the regular clump of Wrinkled Peach and also saw a few Death Caps nearby.

                                                                                                                       Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
                                                                                                              Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin twitch

                                                                                                                                    White Saddle

                                                                                                                                     Wrinkled Peach