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Archive for July, 2012

Yesterday there was a patch of Yellow Stainers where today they are none. Woops! Seeing there is no sign even of stems or the base of stems, it looks very much as if someone has picked them for dinner. I hope you are OK, whoever you are! Yellow Stainers, Agaricus xanthodermus, are not listed as edible as about a third of the people who eat them have diarrhea and projectile vomiting. I know of a couple of people who have ended up in the Homerton Hospital on a drip to rehydrate them after eating these. While it is possible that they would be amongst the lucky few who can eat them without ill effects, they are not worth chancing, and certainly not something to serve to anyone else.

It may be worth mentioning here that Abney is contaminated ground, the coffins have lead linings and the bodies are embalmed with arsenic and mercury. Many fungi concentrate toxins and heavy metals in their caps. This gets the nasties out of the main body of the fungus into the disposable caps, where they can rot away once the spores have been shed, and it hopefully deters the caps from being eaten.

A Yellow Stainer is white, with a ring on the stem. It has pink gills that mature to brown. And the base turns yellow when bruised. Much of the time the cap also turns slightly yellow if scratched slightly (not if damaged by rain or if too old), so it is not necessary to pick each cap to try this out. The yellow appears and fades, so lack of yellow after a while, is no indication of safety. For those with a good sense of smell they also have an odd chemical smell that isn’t overcome by cooking. The strength of the smell varies, (and some, like me, find it hard to pick up on).

Link to photos of Fungi and Slime molds 2012.

Link to species notes.

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There was a film crew in Abney at the beginning of last week, by the Church Street entrance. The man in charge of the set was aware of the parent birds flying overhead into the roof tops outside Abney, to hunt. It is easier to hunt there. There are fewer obstacles to getting a good straight line to the prey, less opportunity for the small birds to duck behind a tree etc. All the time the crew were there a series of flights back with captured small birds in their claws.

Now the sparrowhawks seem to have gone. I thought I heard the young birds this morning, but I could have been wrong, there was so much noise from young parakeets. The sparrowhawk nest is certainly quiet.

Abney was also quiet this morning. From 8am to almost 8.45am I didn’t see another soul.

Link to Photos of Abney Park Cemetery July 2012.

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This spell of warm weather seems to have encouraged the hatching of some tiny spiders. As part of their dispersal they have been parachuting across pathways in Abney Park, that is they spin a length of silk to catch the breeze, using it for transport to waft across pathways. The silk strands are left behind sometimes, and in the early morning, when few people have walked along so clearing the smaller paths, they have silk strands across them. Webs are also appearing, sometimes with tiny spiders in the middle of them. Where no spider can be seen it is probably sitting under a leaf near the web, with one if its feet checking for vibrations in a silk strand attached to the web, feeling for the signs of something caught. The size of these spiders is so small they can only just have hatched, yet there they are, building webs of considerable complexity by instinct.

Link to Photos of Butterflies and Insects etc. Abney Park Cemetery.

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In the warm conditions, where a shaft of sun strikes throughy the dappled shade and hits a flower of cow parsley, there is an aerial display of some skill round about. Hover flies are known in America as Flower Flies, which I apt as they do love hanging around flowers even when not feeding. In Britain there are about 270 species. They tend to mimic the colours of wasps so gain protection from looking fearsome, which they are not. They have no sting. They do hover and zoom off suddenly at great speed. Wonderful control! They will even look over still people to see what they can make of them.

I have a few photos from 2 brief sessions of loitering in the sun. The identification has come from a site… http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artmay07/cd-hoverflies.html

Link to phots of insects and butterflies in Abney Park Cemetery.

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Yesterday was the day of the arrival in Stoke Newington of the Olympic Torch. The preceding parade was pure carnival, noisy and exuberant, colourful and fantastic. The people who came to see the parade and the torch were not necessarily regular visitors to the area, and some of them found their way into Abney Park for the first time, and they were amazed. I am in there so often that I forget just how wonderful the cemetery is. It is a fragment of green woodland right in the middle of the urban scrawl. It has never been cultivated or built on. It has remnant populations of moths that were there when the whole of the country was mainly wild wood. It has become a mixture of native and introduced foreign species, as well as cultivated varieties planted on graves since Victorian times. It is the middle of an urban environment so has the slightly warming effect overwinter, so shelters birds through the harshest months, allowing for the populations to spread out again in the spring. Have a look at this googlemap image below. It is a thriving environment that is quite unique. And it is right here.

 

With all this going on there was a Dog’s Trust stall by the front entrance offering chipping of dogs (for identification) and advice on training.

This morning, though, all is back to normal. At 8am there were very few people in there and it was like going back in time. It could have been like this since Queen Victoria was on the throne. Where the wood chips were laid over the mud the ruts could almost have been made by carriages. Link to photos of Abney Park Cemetery July 2012.

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I had this down as Coprinellus cordispora, but something kept nagging me about it. It has now regrown and an intensive examination of caps in a better condition then before has led me to the very similar Coprinus patouillardii. It is a tiny cap, up to 1.7cms across. The very young caps are pale tan brown, and the pale brown stays in the center of the cap on the veil cells, which pile up there. The rest of the cap becomes grey. It is a fleeting cap lasting less then a day, possibly only hours in some conditions, but it is worth a look.

Link to species notes.

Link to photos of Fungi and Slime molds 2012.

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A bit of a cheat this, but it is a species that I have found in Abney before and now found in my garden, a stones throw from the cemetery. In Abney it grows on old bits of soggy chipboard, so I was a bit surprised to find it on wet hemp rope, but I shouldn’t have been. It is in the books as a classic place for it to grow. As there is not a lot of hemp in Abney I have added it into my notes on the species.

Link to species notes.

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The sparrowhawks have a new nest site this year, and have raised maybe 4 chicks to the stage where they are feathered and bulky about the nest, testing wings and looking around at what is going on. I tried to get photos in sunny conditions, and this morning in the dull, about to rain gloominess, and found marginally better results in the gloom as the shadows made them difficult to see. Dismal results though. Seeing they are the best I have got…. here they are.

Link to photos of birds in Abney Park Cemetery.

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There is a section of Abney Park Cemetery, between the main boundary path by General Booth’s grave to the Church Street fence, that provides a unique environment within the cemetery. It is sunny and relatively unshaded, leading to a profusion of grasses growing. This has led to the butterflies, whose caterpillars feed on grass, living in this area. There are 5 butterflies, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, and 3 Skippers, (Small, Large and Essex). All of them are dependant on grass. Others also frequent the Buddleia and would breed there given half a chance; Red admirals, Green-veined White, Small and Large Whites, Peacock and Painted Lady. Red Admiral caterpillars live on nettles, as do Peacock caterpillars. Painted Lady caterpillars are less specific but also use nettles. There is a nettle patch in this small area. The Whites are less specific but do love Brassiceae (cabbage family) and Crucifers, (mustard family). There are fewer plants in this patch to suit them, but elsewhere in Abney they may yet be catered for. But there is a real need for this grass and nettle patch.

Managing this grass to encourage the butterflies is one tiny step that can contribute to the well being of the butterfly community. It may be a bit late to look at this for the current year, but next year should be a different. Plans are hopefully going to make this a more valued area.

Butterflies are having real trouble this year with the continued rain. All the species in Abney are down in numbers and are late in emerging as adults, but that is a general picture over the country. The rain is also affecting many other insects. This will have a knock on effect on the food supply for the bird population. Only the plants are lush and managing.

I have only just begun to identify the grasses, and I am sure that others are doing this far better than I can, (I am spending most of my time still on the fungi), but those I have identified are in a group linked to below.

Link to photos of Insects and Butterflies

Link to Grasses

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There was a small, aerial dance happening in Abney this morning. Suspended on a thin strand of mucus, 2 slugs were approaching each other. The larger slug was maybe 70 cms down (left photo), the smaller one was only 30 cms or so down from a branch in a sheltered area, well back from the path. What surprised me was that it all took place in almost slow motion and that the 2 slugs were aware of each other, and occasionally both would look to see where the other one was, reaching out with their eye stalks towards each other. It was almost tender at times.

They will have met on the ground and made their way to the branch. They will eventually mate suspended, entwined, before lowering themselves back down to the ground. and it all happens on a hairlike strand of mucus. It usually happens at night.

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