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Spring in Abney

Lesser Celandine, Spanish Bluebells and Japaneese Knotweed, 20.4.2015

Lesser Celandine, Spanish Bluebells and Japaneese Knotweed, 20.4.2015

I know it is a little late, but the spring in Abney is up and buzzing. The early insects were really early after the very mild spring. In my garden, a stones throw from Abney, the slugs and snails have been up and about all winter so their numbers are going to be huge this year. There have been some bees and spiders about all winter, more than usual. Invertebrate numbers this year could be massive.

Osmia bicornis or rufa, Red Mason Bee, 20.4.2015

Osmia bicornis or rufa, Red Mason Bee, 20.4.2015

As the invertebrates have been around, the birds that eat them have also had a good winter. The breeding season is showing promise. Parakeets are definately going through their breeding rituals, and the dawn chorus is noisy with territorial holding well underway.

Flowers and Bracts of Handkerchief Tree, 20.4.2015

Flowers and Bracts of Handkerchief Tree, 20.4.2015

I have great hopes for this year.


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August, the month when the greens of the trees are usually getting a bit tired, a bit dusty. Not this year. The trees and undergrowth have benefited from rain in patches and sun between. No flooding, no drought,  perfect and most unusual. But when I was walking round yesterday I noticed that normal pattern of the wasp nests beginning to buzz again is happening. It does this time of year. Holes in the ground to underground hollows below the graves, or in old wood piles, are just perfect for their nests. They are not immediately visible from the paths, but caution when going into the foliage is needed and dogs should be dissuaded from forays off the paths. Here are a few photos of the August green and a wasp nest with 2 openings.

August leafage

Wasp nest opening 1

Wasp nest opening 2

Photos are also here on flickr.

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This is an orchid. And it grows in Abney. This year there there is a new plant that Tony Butler has pointed out to me, as well as the established plant. It is tiny and difficult to find, but this close up photo shows how beautiful it is.

Broad Leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine 2.8.2014

Photos of Abney flowers are here.

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It is not often that I look at a group of caps and know I haven’t seen it before, but I did with this. It is the first Leucocoprinus growth I’ve seen in Abney. It is by the chapel on a wood chip pile, a dense cluster of distinctive caps, and as they are often / usually found on woodchips that is no great surprise. They won’t last for long.

Leucocoprinus cepistipes 29.7.14

My notes are here.

The photos for the fungi and slimemolds for this year are here.

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This sounds a bit odd, but I have long had an interest in hoverflies. I like an insect that looks back as me and decides what it thinks of me, wondering if I am a threat or if it needs to escape,  and weighing me up in some indefinable insect way. Hoverflies do this. They stay stationary in the air in front of anyone and they check them out, looking them over. Abney has a range of hoverflies, some more retiring than others, and at the moment there is an outbreak of marmalade flies, especially near the front and along the main ride from the front to the chapel. They are easy to identify for anyone who doesn’t know the group. They have 2 bands of black on each abdominal segment, often with a lighter band between them.  This is the only hoverfly with this pattern. They sup from all sorts of flowers. Here’s a few.

marmalade hoverfly on Hypericum flower 9.7.2014

marmalade hoverfly on honeysuckle, 9.7.2014

marmalade hoverfly on rose, 9.7.2014

marmalade hoverfly on field bindweed, 9.7.2014

marmalade hoverfly on hogweed. 9.7.2014

The hoverflies found this year are here among the insects etc.

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I went last night to see a performance of Between the Lines, a monologue woven through with snatches of poetry of the time, written and performed by Simon de Deney. It was about the experience of fighting in France in the first world war. While sitting in the gentle rain on the war memorial, it brought the events to life in a totally new way for me. I would highly recommend it, even in the rain.

On the way out I dawdled a little and there were definitely 3 owls giving the same contact calls. At worst it has proved that there is one adult and 2 chicks still around, but I think it was 3 chicks. In the snatches I could see without binoculars they were moving round strongly and looked fine. This doesn’t mean that the fourth chick is not around any more, just that I couldn’t see it last night in the few minutes I spent peering into the rain filled dusk.

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The last chocolate….

A grey squirrel took such pleasure in finding and eating the last chocolate found in a discarded wrapper I couldn’t resist a few photos..

Grey squirrel approaching the bin and checking it is safe for a raid.

Emerging with a chocolate wrapper.

Wrestling with getting at the inside of the packaging.

Finding a left over chocolate in a corner and munching happily.

A quick wash and brush up then off to find something else. All in about 3 minutes.

Photos are in the flickr album for April – and it is beautiful in Abney this April.



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As this is a tricky thing to get right I sent it off to Kew to double check. Dr. Brian Spooner has has a look and agrees with the identification, but adds the variety – making it Dactylospora stygia var. stygia. It is now held in the Kew database with the number K(M) 190721. It is the 18th official time it has been found in the UK. I think this is not maybe because of it being so rare, as it is just so hard to see.

The Dactylospora stygia is the blackish pile of disc shaped growths and the isolated discs.

Link to notes on flickr.

Link to previous post on the species.

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Last Sunday, around lunch time, was the most scared I have ever been while in Abney Park. I was concentrating on the log remains of an ash tree when a massive crash and a thud happened to the north of me; then after a couple of minutes another smaller similar noise. It wasn’t enough to have been a tree, I think it wasn’t enough to have been a tree, but a branch easily could sound like that. As the second crash hit I was on my way to the side gate.

I spoke to a couple of groups of people on my way out and advised them that branches had begun falling….. and they were unconcerned. They said they would be gone soon, or wouldn’t stay long, just a short walk round. Quite honestly – I don’t think they believed me – or they didn’t understand how heavy a branch is or how unpredictable this tree falling process is.

Abney was closed soon after this.

Abney is still closed as I write. The health and safety guys know Abney can be locked and therefore it is a problem that can be set aside so the fallen trees that can’t be locked away or are obstructing the highway etc can be dealt with first. Quite right too! The office manager, John, thinks about 15 to 20 trees are down, some across paths, and a couple of the beloved and valuable veteran trees are among them. I don’t know which ones.

This is where the health and safety rules come into their own. A fallen tree on the ground is not really dangerous. The tree it damaged on its way down could be. The tree that falls onto another tree and rests there until a slight shift in the conditions cause it to finish its downwards progress is also dangerous. They need checking.

Sycamore damage a couple of minutes walk from Abney Park

Just up the road a sycamore has come down. It was a healthy tree, recently checked, and it came down overnight as the winds were at their worst. This is not ever really foreseeable.

It makes it all the more ridiculous that the Wilmer Place building adjacent to Abney is going to be built within falling distance of the line of trees inside the Abney boundary. These trees will die, if from the disturbance of the build or from old age and weather. If they fall before or after they die they could fall on the new building, which will start a couple of meters from the present fence, around where the grass stops. It is daft to even think of building this close to the trees.

Wilmer place, south end of the boundary.

Wilmer Place, north end of the boundary


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Fungus on Ash log.

The storm that went through last night and this morning may well have brought down some trees in Abney Park. The resultant wood is ripe for fungus recycling. I asked Russell Miller about the wood should the ash disease (Chalara dieback of ash – Chalara fraxinea) hit Abney, and the wood will stay in Abney and wood piles be created. Bad news for ash trees but an intesting change for fungi.

There is an ash tree sectioned into logs at the moment producing a range of fungi. The photos are all in the flickr set of Fungi and Slimemolds 2013, with more information in my notes (accessed via the pages where fungus is listed alphabetically). The arrival of new wood piles is not always such a bad thing.

Bisporella citrina, Lemon Disco

Coprinellus micaceus, Glistening Ink Cap

Crepidotus mollis, Daldinia concentrica (King Alfred’s Cakes) and Coprinellus disseminatus (Glistening Ink Cap) 27.10.2013

Mycena speira, Bark Bommet Mycena

Scutellinia scutellata, Eyelash Fungus

Trametes versicolor, Turkeytail

Mycena olida 27.10.2013

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