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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

The RPA Nature blog with Jenny Bourne.

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Green shoots, cold cold wet and fungus

Date posted: Thursday 12th January 2017

Green shoots, cold cold wet and fungus

Green shoots beginning to push up from the soil and now this single clump of snowdrops is a harbinger of spring to come.. I originally put in several different snowdrop varieties but so far only this one has made a re-appearance! Unbelievably vile day today – cold, relentless rain and snow forecast, with Heathrow cancelling flights this afternoon, although so far it’s only the sound of rain that drumming on the roof above me!

Disconsolate pigeons hunched down in the courtyard and earlier a raucous cacophony of our sparrow mob, vyeing with the blue and great tits for the feeders..though the sparrows keep mostly to the seeds. In the past few days of extreme low temperatures the tits have been flocking to the fatball feeders. Once you start feeding birds it’s recommended that you keep it up throughout the year, using the fatballs etc in the winter and before the breeding season. ‘My’ robin is usually at my shoulder as soon as I’m at the shed, ready to pounce on the special robin feed I put down, but seems to take a mixture of suet and seeds.. often with feathers plumped up as an extra insulating strategy.

Before Christmas I noticed this strange coloured pale blue fungus growing out of the pile of old wood and canes at the back of my plot.. Google tells me it’s probably this: ‘Stropharia caerulea is one of very few blue-green fungi. (In most instances the caps are much nearer to green than to blue, but when young and fresh they are very beautiful and quite startling.) The caps, initially bell-shaped, flatten and turn paler from the centre. White scales near the cap rim help to identify this unusual fungus.’ Also fairly poisonous so won’t be scrambling it into my breakfast eggs..!

I’m following Alys Fowler’s recommendations to keep gardens fairly untidy over the winter as many insects and other wildlife use the stalks and plant debris to over-winter in, and early bees can forage on the flowers of plants such as groundsel and lamium. Then everything can be tidied up in readiness for planting in the spring. An experienced older plotholder advises breaking up the soil into large clods and leaving over winter for the frost to break up. We’ve certainly had some heavy frost these past 3 weeks, turning the parks into winter wonderlands in the week after Christmas and last week: