Posts Tagged ‘Silpha atrata’

‘Moor’ missing Hen Harriers?

January 2, 2015

A glorious day out on the moors, my first of 2015 …. bitter winds blowing from the west but that just adds to the experience and if common sense prevails it makes little difference if you’ve dressed as they say in Yorkshire, ‘like an onion’ (that is to say, with lots of layers).

Sphagnum sp. poss. fimbriatum

Sphagnum sp. poss. fimbriatum

There is still that wonderful feeling of space and of open skies, although in my opinion the views from the platform are no longer as pleasantly panoramic as they used to be.  Despite Thorne Moors being around 4700 acres, or 1900 hectares in today’s currency there is now a clear boundary which previously was not so drastically demarcated but rather a steady realisation.

Disappointingly no magnificent male Hen Harrier, so I made do happily enough with a distant Marsh Harrier seen from the viewing platform as it quartered the reedbeds to the south of Will Pitts.  The other species which is indicative of winter is Whooper Swan and a family party were seen from Bank Top ‘festive feasting’ on farmland just off the reserve.

Piptoporus betulinus , Birch Polypore or 'Razorstrop Fungus'.

Piptoporus betulinus , Birch Polypore or ‘Razorstrop Fungus’.

The ‘moor’ interesting observations were made out of the wind, good numbers of Carabus granulatus overwintering under salix bark along with similarly good numbers of the snail eating Silpha atrata.  But what was fascinating to find were two smooth newt efts.  The smallest you have to wonder about the chances of it surviving through the winter, particularly if it is a long cold season.  The larger of the two shown below is about the same size as one found on 20 October last year under an abandoned plastic piling remnant.

Lissotriton vulgaris

Lissotriton vulgaris

Are there fewer Hen Harriers about in their traditional lowland wintering areas?  What impact the 2013 failure to breed and just three pairs in 2014 bred in England?  Please pass details of any sightings to us via so the data can be used to monitor change.

For regular updates on what’s about on the Moors visit Thorne Moors Birding Blog 2015, and Hatfield Moors Birding Blog.

In case our recent recruits are not aware of the issues around the decline of the Hen Harrier, then a good source of information can be found via Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Standing up for Nature, Mark Avery’s excellent ‘campaigning’ blog.  Avery also created an online petition “Ban driven grouse shooting” any reader not having signed it already might consider doing so?

A few nature notes: a reminder of why we campaign?

December 20, 2014

Out in the open, the wind chill factor made it a bracing early morning yesterday.  But the sky was clear and the sun shone in intervals so in sheltered areas it made for enjoyable field work.  The recent spells of damp and warmth had contributed to quite a bit of recent fungal growth.

Auricularia auricula-judae

141219 A a-j hrk 30718

The image below illustrates well how the species came to get ‘ear’ as part of its vernacular name.  That above shows the gelatinous nature of the species and also how its form changes through the growing season.

131219 A a-j (ear) hrk 30719 - Copy

Now this one is the ‘homework’ ….

141219 Bracket hrk 30713

141219 Bracket (top) hrk 30712

The two images above show a bracket species still being determined (suggestions welcome to, the species was plentiful on willow and numbered a few specimens to a row.  The third image shows the bracket being used as a porch to someone’s home?

141219 Bracket hole hrk 30716

Exidia glandulosa (below) recorded from the same area in October 2012 is another ‘jelly fungus’ or to use its vernacular name, ‘Witches Butter’ s and which in contrast to A. auricula-judae is black and can be found in the same type of habitat.   A. auricula-judae is generally found on Elder but can also be found on other tree species.  Witches Butter is found on dead deciduous trees or dead limbs of living trees as above.  Click on the image and zoom in to see the detail.

120604 E glandulosa hrk 949 - Copy
Xylaria hypoxylon was another species abundant amidst moss covered rotting stumps.  Again, it is another species with a delightful vernacular name, that of “Candle Snuff” and it is not hard to see wherethe name was derived from?

Another older record from October 2012 in the same general area was that I tentatively identified as Geastrum triplex (below), an excellent find from my perspective because I do not consider myself a mycologist but they are quite stunning specimens, my notes showed that I located four in various stages of growth.

121019 tbc Geastrum triplex IMEn hrk 214

Again in the same area, October 2012 was Daldinia concentrica (below), another species with a few delightful vernacular names such as King Alfred’s Cakes and Cramp Balls.

121019 D concentrica IE hrk 200

Whilst investigating dead wood for hibernating invetebrates, a gathering of perhaps ten maybe a dozen Silpha atrata were discovered well into the sodden rotting fibres of a willow limb laid where it had fallen and which was gathering a covering of moss where it touched the ground.  This snail eater is regularly encountered on and around the Thorne and Hatfield Moors peatlands and associated habitats.

Nothing special in terms of the data but the outdoor session recharged batteries and acted as a reminder why we campaign for the continued conservation of important sites like Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.  The area where this array of fungi were located is not part of the mass manicured NNR, because it is in private ownership it is not managed for the benefit of the public but the ‘wildlife’.  That is not to say that people are excluded, but they are not the priority.  We are privileged, generally, to be able to discover and observe, to record our findings in the hope that the various statutory agencies will ensure continued protection against inappropriate developments which may have the potential to impact (significantly or otherwise) upon the integrity of Natura 2000 sites and SSSIs.

If any reader is able to offer suggestions for the ‘brown’ bracket illustrated above, then please do drop us a line via


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Mark Avery

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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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