7 Nov 2012

UFO's discovered on The Wrekin!

A walk via the Badger Path to the top of Shropshire's most prominent hill often brings surprises. Things you didn't expect to see when you set out.

Once at the top I checked out the wear and tear on the summit where we'd rebuilt the top - you can see some of the protective layer is popping through the surface around the Toposcope and probably needs some attention.

Having then squeezed my way through the Needles Eye I took the path that runs along the eastern flank of the hill and there they were... UFO's!

I couldn't believe it but there was no mistaking it, and so many too! There was no-one else around to share this amazing discovery - not many people use, or even know about, this path so I was the only one to see them but don't worry I have photographic evidence and the best news is you'll all see this before the media gets hold of it (wooo... am I going to make some money with these pics or what?!).

Can you see them - the UFO's?

There are loads of them but most are quite small I'm afraid but if you look closely, very closely you'll see them... you might need to get a little closer to the screen... they all keep perfectly still and stand on one leg (some I noticed don't have a leg at all and sit straight on the ground). I haven't worked out yet how they move, they either hop or perhaps just glide - I'm not sure.

Can you see them now?


OK - I'll zoom in...

There they are... UFO's - Unidentified Fungus Oddities. They're really weird. There's hundreds of them and I counted 7 different forms; different colours, shapes and sizes.

Some of them troop down the hill in a line and are sort of funnel-shaped - we could call them Trooping Funnels

Others snuggle together to keep warm

Then there are some gorgeous looking ones like these

Where's Les ever when you need him?

Paul Watts

1 Nov 2012

November Nature Notes 2012 - Pete Lambert

The gloom of the public convenience was hardly inviting, very few public loos are such palaces that you rush inside to admire the fixtures and fittings, but at the end of a wet wander, necessity required a visit. The pale energy saving bulb flickered into life and revealed a denizen of this damp space, fully stretched out, halfway up the wall above the urinal, leopard striped and possibly hungry.  A slug! Yeuck!  Moments later I exited , I can wait I concluded and with care but speed headed home. 

That slug was very large and those mottles and stripes quite distinctive, quite unlike the ones that ravage our lettuce or rasp away at the paper in the shed. It turned out that out of over 29 species of native slug, from four families, that we had encountered the Limax maximus, one of the largest, keeled, lung breathing slugs in the world! It’s close relative Limax cinereoniger is the largest, also found in the UK. The slug is also known as the Leopard slug. Slugs can be identified using a range of features, their colour, the colour and consistency of their slime, whether the slime is from the body or foot, how they contract when threatened and if they possess an internal shell or an external shell. The Large Black slug, Arion ater, which is characteristically stout and rounded  when contracted, can also be a rich orange colour.  Some slugs have a distinctive lung opening on the right side behind the head called the pneumostome. The Leopard slug likes to feed on decaying plant material and is an aggressive predator of other slugs and snails. Not all slugs are garden pests, even the Large Black slug has a very limited impact on living plants. I had not expected the world of slugs to be quite so interesting, my I should panic less and I might learn more.

By the time I write the swallows have gone and the hues of autumn are in near full flush. Regular sightings have been made of our local aquatic bird life, whether the kingfishers of the canal and our little local river the Weir Brook, the cormorants of the Perry or the grey/yellow flit of the wagtails working the bankside. Sadly another member of the red-haired badger clan that lives near the by-pass has been felled by a passing vehicle. Elsewhere a hot debate has opened up again in regard to the relationship between bovine TB, cattle and badgers. A limited trial of vaccination of badgers is being run in the north of the County , a limited badger cull is in the offing and energy is being expended on measures such as biosecurity for farms. No easy answers in this deeply difficult problem.

Too far away to be certain but so distinctive .  A slim body, long tail, agile and moving rapidly with pouncing loops. Stoats and weasels are all members of the Mustelid family which includes Otter, Pine marten, Ferret and Mink. The family are all carnivores, characteristic long, sinuous bodies and short legs. Judging by size my mustelid was too small to be a polecat or ferret, though could have been a youngster, but not small enough to be a weasel, which grows up to 20cm[8in] maximum. I could not determine whether the tail was tipped with black or plain. Weasels have no tip colour. Possibly a stoat , if so this fierce predator does hunt by day or night using a very sensitive sense of smell to track it’s prey. It is the stoat that in northern parts will turn partially or fully white to then be called ermine.  Stoats can move up to 20 mph as they move through their hunting territory. A few years ago I had seen a weasel type mammal cross the road in front of me near Nesscliffe, I do hope one day it might slow and let me have a proper look!

I replenished the bird table at the weekend in readiness for the winter, I wonder who will fly in this year?

Happy Wildlife Spotting, Pete Lambert