Tuesday morning, I rose, bleary-eyed thanks to my local Tawny Owl screeching its little feathery socks off seemingly all night. I arrived at Bulbourne Meadow at about 9:20am and set up under the willow, opposite the perch. What I hadn’t realised, in my haste on Monday afternoon, was that that stretch of the river is in shade until about 11:40am…. I ploughed on, hoping for some luck. 4 or 5 fly pasts, including a pair together but only two touchdowns, not on my perch but on the concrete surround of the inlet pipe from the canal, which was actually closer to me. The second time, having waited patiently for 1 hour and 40 long minutes, I managed 4 frames before a walker disturbed the bird and the opportunity was gone. I stuck it out another half an hour before I decided I couldn’t tolerate my numb bum any longer. I returned in the afternoon for another hour but there was far more disturbance and although I could hear the Kingfishers around the area, they didn’t even fly past this time.
I can’t complain. In fact, after chatting with a very experienced birder friend, it appears I managed to photograph one of this year’s young. It was the fine white tip to the bill which initially made me wonder about the age of this bird. My friend then pointed out that the tops of the feet are slightly darker than you’d expect on a mature adult and the red base to the bill covers a smaller area than you’d expect. When I filmed the adult pair courting/nesting back in March, I never dreamt I’d actually get a good look at one of the young they produced. I guess that over the next few weeks the resident adult pair will encourage this first year bird to move on and find her own territory, hopefully not too far away.
Below is the stretch of the river Bulbourne which I staked out from Bulbourne Meadow. Across the river is Bulbourne Moor and beyond the fence, behind the bench, is Harding’s Moor.
Although my new perch wasn’t tempting to the Kingfishers, a Grey Wagtail had a go. Shame about it being in deep shade but best laid plans and all that...
On Monday, I’d returned to the spot from which I’d photographed Bulbourne Meadow in February. This time the trees are in leaf and the shadows dense. (Both photographs together here)
Monday afternoon, having set up my ever-so-promising new Kingfisher perch, I headed up to Dellfield to photograph the Oak. The sun was shining, the air was still...and....a tractor was scything its way through the hay. It’s strange. On some level, I had obviously thought that the approach of Autumn could be halted if only the meadow remained wild and uncut. In that instance, the seasons changed and I was confronted with the unyielding nature of time. Summer has passed.
I stayed for a while, watching the meadow slowly succumb to the scythe. It was oddly poignant, having spent so many hours considering the life and interactions of that parcel of land. From the mycorrhizal fungi deep within the earth, sustaining the Oak; to the rampant worms enriching the soil; the emergence of that magnificent carpet of Cowslips....the Dandelions and wild flowers; the orchids; the Tortoise beetles; the hours spent chasing little moths and butterflies around until they settled; the Kestrel family fledging and feeding over the meadow; the Barn Owls hunting for Field Voles scurrying through the long grasses; and finally, last week, the Hornet catching and eating the Crane Fly out there in the meadow. All of it over for another year. But, of course, the cycle will begin again and for now the land rests, seeds bed down and the cut hay goes on to sustain Box Moor’s cattle through the winter.
Dellfield's Annual Hay Cut
By the time I left, 6+ Red Kites were following the tractor, diving down to pick off small mammals which had been exposed or fallen prey to the process
Finally, the Oak is determined to feed me. This week, a new edible fungus has sprouted from another old wound in the trunk. First it was Chicken, now it’s Beefsteak (Fistulina hepatica). In fact, it looks like the tree is sticking its tongue out at me (go on, tell me that doesn't look like a tongue?!). The upper surface of the fungus is rough and red (see upper right insert in photograph below), the lower surface is creamy-white and densely packed with tiny little pores (lower right insert). From these pores, which are the openings of tiny tubules, the spores are released. “The genus name is a diminutive of the Latin word fistula and means "small tube", whilst the species name hepatica means "liver-like", referring to the consistency of the flesh” (Wikipedia). What is more, apparently, when cut, “it bleeds a dull red juice” making it look all the more like meat. Tempted...?!
Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)