Fungi Walk 11 November 2017
If you happened to be told that there is a “Disco” in Gillfield Wood you may start thinking that youngsters are having a party in our local wood; or if you hear that there is a “Woolly-foot” in the wood you may be thinking Yeti or some such creature. But don’t worry, these are just the unusual names given to two species of fungi that grow in our lovely ancient woodland. In actual fact, to date, nearly three hundred different species of fungi have been recorded in and around the edges of our wood.
One of the best times to see fungi is, as you probably know, in the autumn, so Friends of Gillfield Wood arranged for fungi expert Steve Clements to come along last November and lead another of his Fungi Walks through our wood. On this occasion Steve particularly wanted to demonstrate to the group the variety and numbers of fungi that can actually be found in a very small area of woodland with some close-to-the- ground searching. So, on the floor of the wood, he marked out a circle, ten metres in diameter, and challenged the group to find as many different species of fungi within the area marked.
The first fungi to be recorded was the statuesque Trooping Funnel, twenty in total, standing in a ring for all to see quite clearly. The more mature specimens had that distinctive large funnel shaped cap with strong decurrent gills underneath. An encouraging start and, after these had been studied in detail, great care then needed to be taken so as not to step on any as the search for more fungi really got underway.
Within seconds there were cries of excitement as different species were discovered. These varied in colour, shape, size and type. Steve’s attention and help in identification were in great demand. Tiny Bonnets and Brittlestems (yes, their stems are brittle) were found poking up through the leaf litter, together with a special Snowy Waxcap that has the fabulous Latin name Hygrocybe virginea. And then on fallen small twigs, Pink Crusts and Brown Crusts caught the eye, plus that “Disco”, which was a mass of tiny bright yellow discs, rubbery and saucer-shaped. Known as the Lemon Disco it is associated, as so many fungi are, with the dead wood of deciduous trees.
A cluster of tiny white Oysterlings were then spotted on a Larch twig and nearby, a jelly fungi with the fantastic name of Crystal Brain was found. These two species were closely inspected through a hand lens to fully appreciate their construction. The Crystal Brain has minute crystals within a jelly surround, quite amazing to see when magnified. Several more species of fungi were identified and Steve was on hand at all times to answer questions and pass on his wealth of knowledge whilst explaining the life of the fungi and pointing out their differences for identification purposes.
Within a short space of time the study of two ten metre circles had been completed and the total number of species found was twenty nine; an impressive return considering that, at any other time, one might have walked past the two areas without a second glance.
Moving through the wood the group then came across a clump of Sulphur Tuft fungi, yellow in colour, on a mossy stump and, in the same area, Bracket fungi on logs; these included Blushing Bracket, that blushes red when bruised underneath, and Common Mazegill, that has maze-like gills. We all wished they were that easy to identify! Steve did point out that smelling specimens and sometimes tasting them (not eating them!) may help in identifying some fungi. Photographing them can also help, this was why the walk was advertised as “Click, Don’t Pick”.
Our final stop was just outside the wood; it was here we wanted to look at and identify some grassland species of fungi. Unfortunately the grass had grown a bit too long so only a few good specimens were showing. At least we did find examples of Meadow, Scarlet and Pink Waxcaps for the group to study and compare. The Pink Waxcap is unmistakable; rosy-pink in colour with a conical shaped cap and if you see it at the right time the cap, with irregular edges, will have expanded outwards to form a type of skirt which lends to this fungi’s other name, the Ballerina Waxcap.
Everyone agreed this was another great session with Steve and yes, in case you are wondering, we did come across that “Woolly-foot” during our wanderings. Not huge, just six centimetres high, with dome shaped cap and yellowish gills but it did have those distinctive long woolly hairs at the base of its stem. A Wood Woolly-foot; another good find, another species recorded for the wood, and it did create a good deal of interest.
If you would like to join the group on the next Fungi Walk please keep your eyes on the group’s diary and website. A spring event is being arranged for the morning of Saturday March 10th, so please come along you will be made most welcome.
Mammal Trapping Sunday October 15th 2017
One of the many events organised by the Friends of Gillfield Wood this year was the ever popular live Mammal Trapping event. This took place on Sunday October 15th, a fine bright morning. Val Clinging of the Sorby Natural History Society once again led this event and oversaw the setting and opening of the traps.
Val is a good friend of the group and enthusiastically shares her knowledge of small mammals so that it makes for a fascinating morning for all ages. On this occasion twenty six people attended, sixteen adults and ten children, a brilliant turnout. The previous evening, a total of twenty traps had been set in two different locations within Gillfield Wood. These traps are specially designed metal Longworth traps into which bedding and food are placed so any small mammal caught has warmth and nourishment to last them overnight and, when caught, these mammals are quite safe within the compartment. The entrance to the trap has a thin trip wire which when triggered, closes the flap door behind the mammal. As each prepared trap is carefully placed on the floor of the wood, in specially chosen sites, it is covered with fallen twigs and leaves.
That morning, once in the wood, everyone gathered around Val with great excitement and anticipation as each trap was inspected. When the door of the trap is found to be closed it does not always mean that the trap has caught a mammal, one of the woodland slugs may have slithered in to get to the food and triggered the sensitive wiring. Usually, however, the weight of the trap when in the hand does indicate that there is more than a slug inside!
So if the trap is closed and “heavy” the technique is then to get the small mammal from out of the trap and into a plastic bag and then into a small clear plastic box for inspection. It sounds easy but great care is needed to ease the small mammal, with bedding, out of the trap and into the plastic bag for all to see; mice are very lively and can sometimes escape. Of the twenty traps placed in the wood, eleven of the traps had successfully caught mammals, an excellent result. Five of the traps each contained a Wood Mouse and six contained Bank Vole. Everyone was thrilled to get close up views of these tiny creatures as they gradually settled inside the inspection boxes and it was not long before the children were identifying the mammals and pointing out the differences between Wood Mouse and Bank Vole, the latter having tiny ears, shorter tail and darker fur.
When each mammal had been identified and observed with interest, it was released into a suitable piece of undergrowth, again to much excitement. It was at this time you could clearly see the speed at which Wood Mice are capable of moving through the ground vegetation; lightning quick, bounding over tiny obstacles and their long tail, large ears, light brown fur were clearly noted. The Bank Voles in comparison were far more cautious; clearly using their noses, sniffing the ground as they moved slowly away.
Without doubt an excellent time was had by one and all and already another mammal trapping event is being arranged with Val for next October. If you would like to attend please keep your eye on the group’s event calendar in the Totley Independent or keep looking on the FOGW website.
A Song for the Wood
On Sunday 7th May (2017), Sally Goldsmith with the help of a number of children and parents composed a song for the wood during a family workshop in Gillfield Wood and Totley Library. Click here for Sally's account of the day's events including a couple of photos and of course the text of the song itself. You can also listen to the music by clicking on the link there.