Friday, September 30, 2016

Early autumn fungi

This has been one of the best early autumns for toadstools hereabouts for quite a few years. Here's the tally so far - some of which I've yet to identify and some of which I'm still not sure about

I think these are probably the grey spotted amanita, Amanita excelsa, growing under a beech tree in Wolsingham, Weardale

From the pinkish hue, this looks like the blusher Amanita rubescens. Amongst ants' nests under hawthorns in Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland.

Three Russula species, all at Wolsingham in Weardale. Slugs seem very partial to these. I think the red one, growing under pines, is probably the bloody brittlegill Russula sanguinaria. The mauve one, growing under a beech, could be the fragile brittlegill Russula fragilis.

Shaggy parasols Chlorophyllum rhacodes under ash trees in a pasture at Wolsingham, Weardale

Saffron milkcap Lactarius deliciosus.
Edge of a Scots pine plantation, Wolsingham, Weardale.
Thanks to miked at iSpot for ID

Beefsteak fungus Fistulina hepatica on an old sweet chestnut in Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland

Chicken-of-the-woods Laetiporus sulphureus on old sweet chestnut, Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland

I think this one, which must have been magnificent when it was in its prime, is giant polypore Meripileus giganteus. On dead ash, Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland

Dune brittlestem Psathyrella ammophila growing amongst marram grass in dunes at Budle bay, Northumberland coast

Ergot Claviceps purpurea, in grassland near Durham city

Giant polypore Meripileus giganteus, Auckland park, Bishop Auckland

Parasol Macrolepiota procera. Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland

Southern bracket Ganoderma australe on rotting beech, Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland.

Indigo pinkgill Entoloma chalybaeum. In turf on old quarry spoil heaps, Frosterley, Weardale

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sexton beetles

Thursday's Guardian Country Diary is about this sexton beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides that crossed our path when we were walking near Blanchland in Northumberland.

Burying beetles are attracted from a long distance downwind by the smell of decaying corpses of small birds and mammals. 

They've been the subject of intense study because their behaviour is extraordinary, on several counts.

If a single male arrives at the corpse first he will begin excavating soil under it until it is buried, while emitting his own pheromone that will attract a female to join in with the enterprise.

If two males find the corpse first they will co-operate with its burial, then emit their pheromones and then become aggressive and fight over a female when she arrives.

The victorious couple will them mate, lay eggs in a crypt under the body and guard their brood against all-comers for the first two weeks of their life.

Sexton beetles also carry small ticks that do them no harm but simply hitch a ride between corpses, where they to feed on the decaying carrion and its maggots. You can see a couple on the side of the head of this individual.

The digging power of these beetles is astonishing. The front pair of legs are shorter and dig under the dead animal while the hind pair are longer and push the soil backwards. I have seen one completely disappear below soft woodland soil in about ten seconds.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


These fine specimens of parasol mushroom Macrolepiota procera are currently at their best in Auckland Park, Bishop Auckland. A common species, but one of the most elegant.