• DWT Botany Group

Waldridge Wanderings - November 2020

The Blog has been rather quiet of late but with the amount of daylight fading and lockdown on us again I thought I’d do some entries of my daily wanderings around Waldridge Fell, near Chester-le-Street.

So here is the first for November.

3rd November - Walking around I see there are a few plants still in flower today, many of them being white-flowered which of course brightens any dull day.

Ox-eye Daisy

White Dead-Nettle



Large Bindweed

Upright Hedge-Parsley

Wild Carrot

Also, a covey of 5 Grey Partridge were lurking in the mist.

9th - Several Shaggy Inkcap (Coprinus comatus) have popped up in the last few days, the first here this year. Birch Woodwart (Hypoxylon multiforme) is a fungus that grows on dead birch wood and are hard, black growths that look like warts. There is a lot of Birch on the fell so not surprisngly a lot of this fungus as well. I was going to look for more fungi today but got distracted when a flock of 20 Crossbill flew over uttering their 'jip-jip-jip' call but they didn't land. A small flock of Lesser Redpoll did land. IA little later, by chance I looked at some willow scrub and thought I saw something but failed to see it again. A bit of hard scrutinising later I managed to locate 3 roosting Long-eared Owls. They were so well hidden my camera could not focus on them and as I did not want to disturb and flush them, I left them in peace.

Back home the garden feeders were all devoid of birds, the reason being this cock Sparrowhawk sitting on next doors roof waiting patiently.

Shaggy Inkcap

Birch Woodwart

Lesser Redpolls

Male Sparrow-hawk on next-doors roof

10th - Nearby and closer than Chester-le-Street town is Chester Moor, a small village straddling the A167. Small it may be, but it has a boxing club, football club, 2 pubs and an Indian restaurant, all closed at the moment of course. Behind the pub of the same name is a small local nature reserve. Badly planned and managed it is nevertheless worth popping into, which I usually do at least once a week. At the rear there is a decent view over the Wear valley and you can see the odd unusual bird flying through now and again. The bird list for this reserve is a very good 85 species and includes Little Egret, Hawfinch, Merlin, Peregrine and Ring-necked Parakeet! Today I added no. 86 when a Red Kite spend 20 minutes circling overhead.

The Red Kite at Chester Moor

It's still autumn, with still many winter thrushes arriving with a few Fieldfare and many Redwing flying over, some dropping into the hawthorns to feed before continuing west.

Back at Waldridge the Shaggy Inkcaps are now just a pile of black mush, Comments on our Facebook page say they are edible and though they look awful, they taste delicious! They have to be fresh though, before they deliquesce [become liquid, typically during decomposition.... I had to look it up]. Looking at what remained it's difficult to imagine but the has culinary notes for species and for this its says 'The Shaggy Inkcap is a good 'second division' edible species although lacking somewhat in flavour compared with Ceps, Morels or Chanterelles. It can be used to make soups or sauces to be served with meat dishes, or simply cut into strips and fried. The most important thing is to make absolutely sure that the fruitbodies you use are young and fresh, because as they age these fungi deliquesce and become an inedible sticky mess. Shaggy Inkcaps are an ideal 'breakfast mushroom', gathered when young and fresh and then cooked and eaten right away. It is important to consume these mushrooms within an hour or two of gathering them, as they deteriorate very quickly even if kept in a refrigerator.' I've just confirmed they deliquesce quickly.

In the same area is the largest patch of Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis) I have ever come across. It's a common plant on cultivated land like fields and gardens but this patch decided a patch of grassland that was churned up with vehicles parking off road will do nicely. I have it in my garden not much more that 1cm tall where these are considerably taller. In the photo the blue specks are the flowers that remained closed in the damp weather, they only seem to open when its quite sunny. The hairy, 'Ace-of-Spades' or heart-shaped seed pods can be seen. Its quite a sticky plant as the white hairs are all glandular.

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