Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 21, 2012

Things passing, things coming

A very mild October afternoon on the marshlands of Essex and once again that sense of changing shifts is hard to ignore.  Not so much with fungi in mind this time, but more the mix of winter birds and the last of the season’s dragonflies providing their own juxtapositions.  Having said that there was a couple of fine looking mushrooms to be found, namely the scattered troops of Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) and an impressive cluster of Shaggy Pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) massed around the base of a willow trunk (although, not the shaggiest I’ve ever seen, but still the closest ID I could find).

Shaggy Pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) – probably! Ross Gardner 2012

The fine weather had brought Migrant Hawker onto the wing in quite some number, given the lateness of the season.  The first I saw of them was frankly making a nuisance of itself, disturbing a moth from settling among the hedgerow thorn and available for identification, or at least an ID clinching photograph.  But a minor nuisance only, the presence of such insects always being a pleasure.  Its common name is something of a misnomer in our present day, as the species is a common resident across much of southern England.  It was once known only as a migrant, but since the mid-20th century has expanded to attain its current status.  No doubt its wandering tendency still holds true somewhere within its range.  They lack the physical stature of some of its cohorts, namely the large Emperor Dragonfly and Southern Hawker, but are still more than able to carry the thrills of the dragonfly season well into the autumn.

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta). Copyright 2012 Ross Gardner

While the hawkers flicked their summer wings along the hedgerows inland, others were bringing the breath of the late-autumn and winter days to the coastal marshes nearby.  A couple of hundred Wigeon had gathered along the muddy, low-tide creek, along with a few dabbling Teal, and I had seen four Brent Geese fly past as I approached.  Flocks of these three can be huge on nearby mudflats, especially the Brents that can number five or since thousand strong on the Leigh Marshes a few miles away.  Redshank seemed scattered throughout and the far edge of the adjacent field was white with gulls.  Small gatherings really, along this backwater of the larger estuaries hereabouts, but which hinted at the much larger ones amassing elsewhere.  Exciting times are ahead.

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