Saturday, 8 October 2016

Birds and a Fungus

One of the signs that human activity, mostly in the way of visitors, has decreased with the changing season is that eagles are beginning to fly over Ormsaigbeg again. We've always thought that sightings increase as the winter wears on, with a maximum around January and February. This sea eagle pair came across this morning, flying very low and chasing each other as they headed along the shore in the direction of Mingary, and there are reports of good sightings on the north coast around Swordle.

Our local buzzards have been very subdued over the summer although they did manage to raise one chick. Their problem is the abundance of both hooded crows and ravens, both of which, along with the gulls, enjoy harassing them. At present there's only one buzzard in evidence.

We see far fewer small birds at the feeders in fine weather, and this may be why, for the first time in many months, we had a visit today from a greenfinch. Greenfinches have had a torrid time with disease, so this one was a very welcome sight. For a few moments we thought we had a new subspecies, one with a red beak, until we realised that the redness came from the peanut skins.

Can anyone help by identifying these? They are growing on an exposed, southeast-facing hillside in short, sheep-cropped grass with no nearby trees or bushes.

It looks and feels like a fungus of some sort, but I've never seen anything like it before.


  1. Hi, Think the fungi is called yellow clavaria,not 100% but is my best guess.

  2. Ha, if only I could (identify the fungus). I have no expertise, am just an amateur with a similar curiosity, much given to staring at fungi and books on fungi and then giving up, more bewildered than ever. So, I don't suppose I can tell you anything you haven't already found out for yourself.

    However, I'll blunder on (hoping someone who does know about such things will put me right on things I've got wrong - though I do take comfort from the fact that experts frequently disagree on nomenclature and classification).

    Yes, I'm sure it's fungi, one of the clavarioid fungi (of which there are more than 1200 species) - commonly known as club fungus or coral fungus. Checking through books, I first wondered if this might be one of the ramaria (approx 200 species), not that common and more usually in woodland, though can be on open grass. But these are branched from the base. I think your photo shows single club shapes (even though some go antler-like at the top, which makes one wonder about yellow club fungus (clavulinopsis helvola, approx 5cms in height, found on open grass/moss). Golden Spindles (clavulinopsis fusiformis),less common looks a bit similar but can go up to 2-3 times that height. I see there are 67 species of clavulinopsis, probably needing microscope studies of spores to tell apart. At which point I give up.

    Now, someone tell me I've got this all wrong.

    RB, I o Wight.

  3. Thank you both very much indeed for the identifications, something which I was quite incapable of doing myself being totally intimidated by the huge variety of fungi. At the same time, I do like to know what something is!

    One comment, RB: the branches in the photo are very short, perhaps 20mm, unlike the pictures Google found when I checked the two species you suggested. Jon

  4. That is short (and that's me fooled by your ace camera-work, as ever). I'd still put good money (but, like you, not more than 20p) on it being something within the large family suggested... Clavaria fumosa is not dissimilar (short spindles growing in grass) and can be anything from 1.5 to 14 cms high, but, as the name suggests, rather more smoky grey-pink in appearance than the yellow in your photo. RB.

  5. Blogger isn't good for commenting but yours got through first time, RB. One point: the hillside where the fungus is growing is both cropped very short by sheep and very exposed to gales. Many of the other plants are small, as if they're dwarf varieties. Jon

  6. Go back in a few days... ...I think you'll be surprised! I suspect you have an old buried stump or stump there, probably oak and your fungus is Armillaria mellea (Honey Fungus) at a very juvenile stage and slightly grazed by slugs. It's actually quite a rare fungus in Scotland as the other species of Armillaria are encountered far more often. Nev

  7. Many thanks for the comment, Nev. Interesting to read that it's quite rare.
    I will certainly go back and have another look - and take a picture or two both of the fungus and the site. Jon