Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 23, 2011

Fungi and birds at Hanningfield Reservoir

In spite of my previous lamentations regarding the lack of fungi around this autmn and the continuing paucity of rain in the south east, the damp foggy weather we’ve been enjoying over recent days does seem as if it might be bringing things on a bit.  This at least seemed the case among the Essex Wildlife Trust woods that border Hanningfield Reservoir.  I managed to identify a dozen and that’s with overlooking many of the more obscure wee brown jobbies.  Troops of Clouded Agaric (Clitocybe nebularis) were scattered throughout, with their large,  ‘cloudy’ grey caps easily the most numerous of the mushrooms on view.  Less ubiquitously, there were occasional clumps of Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) crowding on rotting stumps, lilac-tinged Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda) down among the leaf litter and the curious little wisps of Candle Snuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) sprouting from a moss-covered log.

Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda). Copyright 2004 Ross Gardner

With a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees, these are fine autumn woods.  For their fungi and for the delight of their autumn/winter bird flocks.  Today’s visit yielded Treecreeper and twittering Goldcrest among the obligatory mixed tit flocks, and Siskin flitting among the tree tops in the company of the ever-present Chaffinches.  With the reservoir here being among the best in the region for winter birdwatching, attention may easily be drawn away from the woods towards the open water.  There were ducks aplenty, with a Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck by the many hundreds, and a good smattering of Shoveler, Gadwall and – a personal favourite of mine and the most elegant of ducks – Pintail.  The big surprise of the day, birdwise, however, was a single female Eider!  The Eider is a most maritime of birds and quite what it was doing on an inland reservoir a good 30km from the sea is anybody’s guess.  Perhaps it flew up the Crouch Estuary and got lost in the fog.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula). Ross Gardner

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