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Murphy's Notice Board 2014

Here are the articles from Murphy's Noticeboard for 2014.

Mushrooms and Toadstools in the Woods : November 2014

There is a real dearth of fungi (including mushrooms and toadstools) in the woods this year. This does not mean they have become extinct – far from it. The fungi ‘plants’ are growing out of sight eating up all the dead leaves and wood. Fungi ‘plants’ are quite different from ordinary plants. They consist of threads (called hypha and look a bit like roots) but resembling cotton wool when matted (called mycelium). Toadstools are equivalent to the fruits of ordinary plants, but having spores instead of seeds.

Fungi only ‘fruit’ and shed their spores when the conditions are right. Clearly the conditions in our woods are not quite right at the moment. This does not mean that the fungi will die out. The microscopic hypha can keep growing for years, and it just as well they can, otherwise all the dead leaves and wood would not rot down (and life would ultimately come to a stand-still). Actually some species seem only to ‘fruit’ at long intervals. Two specimens of the curious Strobilomyces floccopus (‘The Old Man of the Woods’) were found in Copse Wood in 1977, but have not been seen since. On the Fungus Foray last year the bright yellow Larch Bolete (Suillus grevillus) was found – guess where?- under the only Larch tree in the woods. That tree has been growing there for years (the only one) but this is the only time this toadstool has been recorded in our woods.

Hairy Sterium fungi

Hairy Sterium

The few fungi to be seen at the moment are growing on logs. Dead wood seems to provide less erratic conditions for fungi to produce spores. These are different species to those that grow on the ground, - many looking most un-toadstool like. The flat growth of the orange Hairy Sterium ((Stereum hirsutum) on the end of logs can resist frosts and desiccation. Another to look out for is Candle-snuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) sticking up like candle wicks. There are also a number of bracket species growing on wood. However there is some Sulphur-tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) around at the moment and this is a proper toadstool. It may look as though growing on the dead leaves, but close inspection will show that it is really growing on deadwood.

Candle-snuff Fungus

Candle-snuff Fungus

Colin Bowlt 18.11.14

Ivy : October 2014

On the northern side of Murphy’s Field, Ivy can be seen in flower at eye level. Ivy flowers in the autumn when most other plants have finished. The flowers have greenish petals that bend right back to form a ball, looking like a berry, with five yellow anthers on top. Being one of the few food sources at this time of year the flowers attract many insects. A Hornet was feeding here the other day. Notice how the leaves on the flowering stems are quite unlike the five- pointed leaves on the rest of the plant. I wonder if anyone knows why?

Hornets are frequently seen in and around the woods, usually intent on hunting insects to feed the brood in the nest. However, at the end of the summer, like the ordinary wasps, they turn their interest to sweet things like the nectar of the Ivy flowers.

CB October 2014

Nesting Terns at the Lido in 2014

This year the number of Terns nesting on the raft at the Lido increased to five pairs. The raft is at the far, northern, end of the water and has become difficult to see properly due to the increasing growth of willow scrub around the edge of the water. At least six young were counted. The birds were free from interference from Black-headed Gulls who have been a great nuisance to the breeding Terns on the gravel pits in the Colne Valley. Terns have been nesting on these gravel pits for many years but have only fairly recently started nesting at the Lido, perhaps to escape the attention of Black-headed Gulls. Prior to that, Terns would sometimes fly over from the gravel-pits to catch fish in the Lido and fly back to feed their young with them – quite a long way (but perhaps not as the Tern flies – and they must have thought it worthwhile).

Our Terns have now departed and are probably already in their wintering area off the west coast of Africa, but we look forward to their return next spring.

CB October 2014

Cannons Bridge : October 2014

(Murphy’s Field is adjacent to Cannons Bridge Farm House)

This is written for people reading the notice board, but may be of wider interest, Cannons Bridge Farm House is at the northern end of Bury Street.

To your left at the edge of the field runs a small stream called the Cannon Brook. It was dammed in 1811 to form a reservoir now known as the Lido. On reaching the corner of the field it goes under the road and down the far side to emerge opposite Cannons Bridge Farm. Originally the brook flowed above ground and was crossed by a bridge. Documentary reference to Cannons Bridge dates from the 14th century, and is shown on the first map of the area in 1750. The name Cannon seems to have been a family name appearing as early as c.1245.

If you look over the fence at the field’s edge you will notice a second stream. This is, or was, the canal feeder which was constructed in 1816 to carry water from the reservoir to the Grand Junction Canal.

Cannons Bridge Farm House (which you can just see over the wall) to your right, is an old timber framed building, largely dating from the 16th century, but almost certainly occupying an earlier site. On this side of the house is an old barn. It is in need of some sympathetic repairs and restoration.

Summer birds in the Ruislip Woods : July 2014

Cuckoos have decreased nationally over the last few years. One was heard calling (a male) at Bayhurst Wood on several occasions this spring, and on another at the Lido (but only once). What a shame this is. Does it mean that children will grow up never having heard this sound of Summer?

There have been migrant Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers and Whitethroats on Poor’s Field. (Poor’s Field is included with the woods in the designated Ruislip National Nature Reserve). These birds winter in Africa and have an arduous and hazardous journey back each year (including running the gauntlet of the shooters in the Mediterranean countries). This makes it all the more remarkable that there have again been several singing Reed Warblers at the northern end of the Lido (breeding has not been proved since they are extremely difficult to see). How do these birds make it safely back to England?

The big news is that the Terns are breeding again at the Lido (not officially part of the NNR). A pair nested here in 2011 (first time ever). They were seen prospecting the new tern raft early in the spring and went on to rear three youngsters. This year there are about four pairs breeding on the raft at the northern end if the Lido. Unfortunately the growth of the willows around the edge have made it extremely difficult to view the raft (and actually determine the exact number of nests). When they are catching food (small fish and sometimes insects) they can easily be seen at the more public end. They can usually be identified from the Black-headed Gulls by their more bouncy flight. Incidentally, these birds don’t have to face the Sahara and the shooters – they spend the winter of the West Coast of Africa.

CB 4.7.14

Spring Migrants to Ruislip : May 2014

The return of migrant birds to Ruislip has been rather slow this year. However, a Cuckoo has been calling around Bayhurst Wood for some time and was heard at the Lido car park on the 20th May.

The House Martins that nest under the eves in Reservoir Road are also back from Africa. House Martins have been decreasing and this is one of the few remaining colonies in the area.

Another exciting bird which has only recently started breeding at the Lido is the Common Tern (it is not that common). These have returned from wintering off West Africa and we hope they will breed once again on the rafts provided.

Woodcock are mysterious birds. They are very secretive and seldom seen unless flushed when they twist away amongst the trees. Some from northern Europe winter in Britain. Occasionally, as this year, they breed in the Ruislip Woods where they perform their curious display flight in the late evening. This is called “roding” when the bird, presumably the male, flies around just over the treetops uttering a sharp whistle interspersed with a croaking sound.

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