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Monday, 31 December 2012

Olive Oysterling

Monday Mushroom #48

There are not so many mushrooms around at this time of year, but there are at least a few mushrooms for every season.
Panellus serotinus - Olive Oysterling

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Northwest Yell

Scenic Sundays #43

The exposed west coast of north Yell. Nobody lives here anymore.

This is the site of a prehistoric fort - the stones on the left are part of a gateway, while the fort itself would have stood on the rocky pinnacle on the right - a very few courses of masonry remain.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Jackdaw Post

Wildlife Wednesday #48     &      Fencepost of the Week #56

A jackdaw keeping a beedy eye on the strange man with the camera...

Corvus monedula - Jackdaw

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Plane Trees

Tree-fetish Tuesday #39

 London plane trees in winter - last leaves falling in Novemeber...

...then only the spiky seed-balls remain.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Shaggy Parasol

Monday Mushroom #47

Macrolepiota procera - the parasol is already a pretty shaggy mushroom, so it is easier to tell parasols and shaggy parasols apart by the patterning on their stems rather than by how shaggy their caps are (Parasols have a reticulated pattern on the stem which is absent from shaggy parasols.)

Macrolepiota rhacodes - Shaggy Parasol

Macrolepiota rhacodes - Shaggy Parasol

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Caminito Del Rey

Scenic Sundays #42

The Caminito Del Rey is an impressive gorge walk in Andalusia. It was closed to the public about ten years ago after a number of fatal falls, but work is underway to restore it.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Shoddy Oak Post

Fencepost of the Week #55

It is surprisingly rare to find instances where a farmer has simply chopped up a tree branch and used it for fencing - much more common are recyled timbers such as railway sleepers, dismantled piers, and second hand telegraph poles. I am sure that a good, solid chunk of oak like this will last longer than a regular fencepost, but it must be much heavier and more awkward to work with.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Mole Cricket

Wildlife Wednesday #47

I've blogged about molecrickets before ...sort of. True to their name they are adapted to spending a great deal of time tunneling, but can occasionally be seen on the surface - particularly during the breeding season (spring)

Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa - Mole Cricket
On fine spring evenings the males sit in the mouth of wierd Y shaped burrows (two enterances leading to a single tunnel. The males set up at the point where the two entrances join together. There they sit and sing - a piercing, sussuration with strange acoustic properties that makes it very hard to locate the source of the sound. (they cease when you start getting close.)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Backlit Pine Plantation

Tree-fetish Tuesday #38

A surprising little pine plantation really high up in the hot, arid limestone mountains of Andalusia.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Red-Belted Pine Bracket

Monday Mushroom #45

Here's a pretty pine tree fungus from Mallorca - it also grows in the UK, but is quite rare over here.

Fomitopsis pinicola - Red-Belted Pine Bracket

Fomitopsis pinicola - Red-Belted Pine Bracket

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Friday, 14 December 2012

Poppy on the Posts

Fencepost of the Week #54

As far as I know, this never happened, but it could have! Farewell Poppy - most affectionate and much loved pet.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Leaf-bound Coasters

Just for a change, here is a craft project... or maybe a bit of materials research:

 In June 2010 I made some coasters by applying big leaves to the surface of old CDs. I was very pleased with the results - the thick, waxy leaves produced a lovely surface - somewhat remeniscent of leather binding, but without all the executions and flaying - and the leaf venation has a charm all its own.
Freshly made coaster - June 2010

...aaaanyway, I would have blogged about it at the time, but I wasn't sure that the materials I had used would stand the test of time. That was two and a half years ago, and I am still using the three coasters I made every day. My morning coffee is sitting on one of them right now!

Over time, the leaf texture has become more papery, and less waxy. The surface is now quite brittle, but still tough enough to be fit for purpose.

The same coasters today - notice the fungal stain just by my thumb which has not changed since coaster was made 30 months ago.
So here's how I made them, as near as I can remember:

- first find some big, waxy leaves - I chose a big-leaved rhododendron (Rhododendron suoilenhense, R. sinogrande or similar) In fact, I found the leaves first and then thought up something to do with them - they are lovely.

- Select some fallen leaves that are beginning to brown, but are still waxy and flexible, and take them home.

- Cut out sections of leaf large enough to cover your CD's with a generous margin for error. You might want to consider how the pattern of leaf veins will fit onto the CD.

- shave the main veins off of the underside of the leaf with a sharp knife or scalpel - you are aiming for an even thickness to your leaf.

- I left my leaves overnight sandwiched between heavy books to flatten and dry out a little. Leaving them for several days, perhaps a week, might be a good idea - there is a danger that if the leaf shrinks too much once stuck to the CD that it will crack or pull away from the surface.

- We will be using an adhesive to stick the leaves onto the CDs. I used black acrylic paint, but I would have used PVA glue instead if I'd had any - and will use that next time.

- Prepare the cds by sanding the side you intend to stick the leaves to. The leaves are going to shrink as they dry and will try to pull away from the CD, so the bond has to be as strong as possible.

- Apply a generous coating of adhesive to the underside of the leaves.

- Set the CDs firmly on top of the leaves and once more leave overnight with heavy books or similar on top to press them flat.

- Trim the edges - initially with scissors, but you can get a very neat finish by sanding down the leaf overhang to the CD's edge.

...and that's all I can remember! I did consider coating the leaf with beeswax - which might have kept the leaves waxy for longer, again that is something I will experiment with next time.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Figwort Weevil

Wildife Wednesdays #46

Here are some slightly blurry shots from the lifecycle of a figwort weevil - Cionus scrophulariae:

The young don't look like arthropods at all - they appear soft and very slimy, like tiny slugs or misplaced flatworms.

Their pupal cases are a mockery of the figwort buds which they have despoiled to grow so very quickly. Note that this figwort shoot is also being throttled by bindweed.

Here is the finished product - using its funny, curved proboscis to defoliate the very same plant whose buds have been so thoroughly ruined.

Here is the result of all that hard work. Time to find a new figwort plant...

Getting together to make a new generation of figwort eaters!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Monday, 10 December 2012

Wood Woolyfoot

Monday Mushroom #44

Collybia peronata - Wood Woolyfoot
Here is a wood woolyfoot doing its thing. They sometimes grow in nice little clusters, but this one is all alone - in fact it is the only wood woolyfoot I saw this year.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Yet another ammonite. There are no fossil records for any part of an ammonite other than their curly shells (and a small, mysterious clamshell-shaped bodypart occasionally found in association with them.) 
So, what they looked like is a legitimate subject for conjecture - their closest living relatives are squid (not nautili) and this is a pretty conservative guess as to what they might have looked like. I might try an alternative design next time - one with more face armour.

Glen Lean - Rock & Stream

Scenic Sundays #40

Glean Lean is a beautiful river valley, though rarely appreciated due to a lack of footpaths.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Fencepost Landscape I

This landscape painting was inspired by re-imagining this fencepost photo as a range of limestone crags.

It's a bit messy and undisciplined, which led to me doing the ammonite landscape as a reaction - which is itself a bit too tight and staid. I'm aiming for the middle-ground with my next piece.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Wildlife Wednesday #45

Psammodromus algirius - Large Psammodromus
A lovely large lizard - engagingly inquizitive and perspicacious.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Monday, 3 December 2012

Amethyst Triumvirate

Monday Mushroom #43

I covered amethyst deceivers quite recently on this blog, but this pretty little triumvirate of forest worthies really caught my eye.

Laccaria amethysta - Amethyst Deceiver

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Ammonite Landscape

First really involved painting I've done in quite a while. Ammonites make for great places to live... if they're big enough.