Rebecca’s Wild Watch: Dec 2011 – Jan 2012
Wax caps! The delicious colours of these fragile and rare fungi glow in the grass – from palest yellow, orange to coral and dark red. They are so-called because they have a shiny appearance because of their glutinous surface layer. Each of the different colours has a different name if you are a waxcapologist. They have been described as the orchids of the world of fungi. The weather was so mild they were still thriving in December. They apparently like short-cropped grass where it is mossy and they won’t grow where there has been any fertiliser or ploughing so they are a good indicator of the soil beneath.
One day three roe deer – their fur dark against the dark vegetation, their presence only given away by their powder-puff tails – leaped a wall. Redwings squawked at me from a holly bush, their under-wings blushed, and then a tawny owl flew from a tree I walked beneath. It was about 11 0’clock in the morning. I’ve seen him several times since but at dusk. I haven’t seen many snipe yet on the moors this winter though I have seen some in boggy fields.
In the wet and windy Christmas week a flock of fieldfares settled near Grimspound. They are migrants from Scandinavia and are completely nomadic, showing no allegiance to place. Their colouring is dramatic with the blue-grey of their heads and lower backs, a bright chestnut colour along their wings and a striking eye-stripe that makes them look furious. They overwinter in this country and frequent open areas together with redwings and blackbirds. They find their food (including slugs, insects and earthworms) on the ground often locating it more by sound then sight. During that last week of 2011 even the high ground was water-logged and the bogs were gushing. Towards dusk, each flock settles down for the night, sometimes in a hedge or a plantation, but often in the marshes. If a tall hedge is selected, all alight to face in the same direction. They are very quick to take flight at the first sign of movement.
Robins are pairing up in our garden and, sometimes, I hear a blackbird pour forth a bit of a tune and then stop as if he realises he’s made a mistake. In the almost-dusk I even hear their clucking in sheltered places. The crow’s nest at the top of the lane has been hammered by the high winds but it hasn’t fallen apart and in the mornings and evening the crows are to be seen keeping watch from the top of some high tree nearby, surveying the kingdom they share with the buzzards with whom they incessantly quarrel.