Friday, 9 October 2015

Oct 9th Ken Hill Wood and Dersingham Bog

Ken Hill Wood
I'm over in West Norfolk with my parents today. Dad wanted to take me to somewhere we have never been before. Ken Hill Wood is just outside the town of Snettisham and not far from the famous RSPB reserve where thousands of waders feed and display over the mudflats of The Wash, but that is for another day (hopefully). Today, we were just having a short walk around part of it and to see what we could find.

View of The Wash from Ken Hill Wood
Pink-footed Geese flying to Snettisham
Dad acting his age
Sweet Chestnut leaves
Grey Squirrel
A grey squirrel was busy storing chestnuts for the winter months. A pair of jays were equally busy nearby. Both these species can store thousands of nuts throughout October and are very active at the moment. They have good memories and can remember where most of the nuts they have hidden, but now and then, they occasionally forget one or two, in which grows into a new tree. Squirrels and jays are considered as the gardeners of the forest, even if they didn't mean to.

Blue Tit searching for food in the bark of a Beech tree

There was a lot of bird noise as we made our way along the woodland path. We were surrounded by what sounded like hundreds of birds in every tree. Most of them were long-tailed tits creating the din with their 'tsee-see-see-see' calls, but they were joined by blue and great tits and a nuthatch. In the video below, you can hear the cauldron of bird sound for yourself. If you listen carefully, you can also hear the mewing of a buzzard.

Upright Coral
With so many birds above us, it was hard to ignore. But there was a more subtle, more secret world just by our feet on the forest floor. Toadstools and other fungi were peeking through the leaf litter, but you could easily walk by them without noticing that they were there. Of course, I am no expert so I can't really tell you what they are. However, there was one unusual fungal structure that caught my eye that I just had to look up. They looked like mini corals from a reef, quite similar to the yellow stagshorn I found at Catton Park a few weeks ago, but forming large cone-shaped colonies. They were more ochre than bright yellow as well. I think these are upright corals, but I could be wrong. They were very beautiful in any case.

Just one of many toadstool that were growing under the Beech trees
Bonnet fungi
Fly Agaric
After lunch, we made a short ride to Dersingham Bog. Fungi were everywhere here too. A lot of them were fly agarics, probably the easiest toadstool to identify even to a complete novice like me. The bright red caps with white scales on a white stalk is a regular feature in illustrations in children's fairy tale books as they are often believed to be a favourite place for a fairy to sit on. No fairies today, but these toadstools are still enchanting to look at, just don't eat one though as they are poisonous.

Another Fly Agaric
And another
No idea
Something else growing from the grass
View of Dersingham Bog
The boardwalk over the bog
The best part of this place is the boardwalk over the bog. The soil of this bog is quite acidic and are poor conditions for most plants to grow. Plants have to be hardy and adaptive to survive here. This landscape is dominated by sphagnum moss and lichen and among them are tiny patches of more specialized plant species. There are wild cranberries growing here, though not enough to make cranberry jam for a turkey. The berries are reasonably noticeable once you get your eye in. But look even carefully and you will find a tiny carnivorous plants.

The bog
Bog Asphodel past its best (I think)
Wild Cranberry
Some kind of bonnet fungi
Hidden amongst all the moss, lichen and cranberries are tiny red pad-shaped leaves covered in hairs tipped with blobs of dew. These are sundews and those blobs on the hairs are deadly traps for any small insect that is unfortunate to land or crawl on them. As the soil is poor in nutrients, the sundew extracts them from their prey. It sounds like a horrible way to go, but when the prey is mostly mosquitos and midges, I would say that the sundew is doing us a favour. Sundews are pretty and deadly, my perfect kind of plant.

While looking at this brilliant habitat and its amazing plants, calling stonechats averted our eyes towards them. These birds were quite the attention seekers, hopping onto the tallest branches of the small bare branched bushes or on top of a stump where we could locate them with ease. As we were leaving via a long set of tiring steps leading up a slope, we took a rest on a bench at the top. The spruce trees adjacent to the bench was swarmed with coal, blue, great and long-tailed tits, all searching the branches and bark of the trees insects together. A great scene to send us off on our way home from this lovely part of Norfolk.
Male Stonechat
Female Stonechat

1 comment:

  1. Love the sundews - I'm very jealous. I found a coral fungus this week too. Amazing to think something like that can just pop up in a wood, isn't it. Your squirrel photo is wonderful too!