It rained all day today, never stopping as I walked around Tatton Park. It was still worth carrying the little camera in my pocket for this chance picture of pooled water on the grass, with trees, lake and grey sky in the background.
The scene was actually a bit duller than the picture looks, due to clever camera and adjustment with Paint Shop Pro.
One of the benefits of a small town such as Knutsford is that it you can relatively easily walk out into the countryside. Here we came across hundreds of geese in a grassy field, all feeding away.
The greylag geese in the foreground were somewhat outnumbered by the Canada geese in the background. According to the RSPB, these birds are probably resident, although there are migrant populations up in Scotland. These large birds have characteristic pink legs, orange bill and interestingly patterned plumage.
There are lots of gulls on Knutsford’s Moor at the moment, almost all black-headed gulls, as on the featured image. Then there is a single larger gull, which stands out from the rest, does its own thing, and is treated with some suspicion by them. It is not one of the gang.
WordPress stats give the top 5 most viewed posts in 2020. This appears to be a strange selection, until you realise that mostly these will be hits from search engines, of subjects not widely covered on the web.
The ‘most liked’ top 5 covers likes over the lifetime of this blog. What most surprised me was the top one, a recent post on psychology and astrology models – which is somewhat peripheral to the main thrusts of this blog.
Towards sundown in winter Tatton Park becomes a place of magic, with wonderful images of sky, silhouettes of trees and the lakes. The recent snow and ice on the lake gave an added bonus this New Year’s Eve.
I couldn’t decide which of two similar images to include, so here they are both.
Winter finally arrives in Knutsford, with a few cold days and snow. A cloudy afternoon sky briefly lights up to give a Brueghel-like image of people, dogs and snowman scattered around, before a background of lime tree silhouettes.
A couple of minutes later, the chance brightness had gone.
Looking back to March, just before transatlantic air travel became pretty impossible, we were lucky enough to get to Brazos Bend State Park. It was a delight to reacquaint with the subtle colour variations of the little blue heron.
This heron is medium-sized, much smaller than the great blue, and more blue.
The central section of Southport’s pier offers photogenic opportunities, such as this one set against a bright late afternoon December sky. Clumps of marram grass and reflections in foreground puddles complete the picture.
The view in the opposite direction (northwards) can also be of interest. Here the low sun catches the normally unremarkable buildings of Lytham St Annes on the Fylde coast, 5 miles away as the crow flies (or 34 miles by road, skirting around the Ribble estuary).
This view from Southport Pier has a great feeling of space. Reflections on the shallow surface water supplement the effect of the clouds themselves. No wonder this is one of my favourite places, especially towards sundown.
Heavy cloud can give good photo opportunities, when there are gaps. Here the pools of water on the beach at Southport, that gap in the cloud, and the low late afternoon December sun combine to stunning effect.
Following their previous encounter, the grey heron and the mute swan stayed around awhile at the same distance from each other, each studiously ignoring the other. This was from a vantage point further around the lake.
The twigs around provide quite a pleasing foreground.
It’s easy to ignore lichen, those vaguely mossy patches on twigs, branches, stones, walls,… Yet lit up by a low November sun they prove to be rather attractive.
Now don’t they look like some sort of vegetation? Certainly the following looks rather akin to a moss.
But they are not. Moss is a plant; lichen is not. Lichen is actually type of fungus, but one that can only exist in symbiotic relationship with algae or cyanobacteria. The algae/cynobacteria provide the lichen with photosynthetic energy, while the lichen provides a protective environment.
According to Wiki, there are over 20,000 species of lichen, covering 6-8% of the surface of the earth. How easily we ignore such an incredibly successful life form.
Branches are mostly bare now at Anderton Country Park, although the younger and more sheltered oaks and beeches still sport plenty of brown and yellow. But here in a Hawthorn hedge is a mass of colour, which on closer inspection turns out to be not haws, but some sort of Malus / Crab Apple, embedded in the hedge. A wonderful sight on a sunny day!
I seem to have come across a few black fungi recently, so tried to identify them.
This one was in grassland on a cliff in Devon in the summer, 1-2 inches across. I’m not sure about this, but it could be indigo pinkgill.
This one was on a dead birch log in the autumn in Cheshire, a few centimetres across, part of a group of varying sizes. I think this is King Alfred’s Cake fungus, so named because it looks like burnt cake. Surprisingly, it can be used as tinder.
The final one is a much larger bracket fungus (6-8 inches) in Derbyshire in the autumn, on a dead beech stump. A common name is willow bracket, but it is found on other broad leaved trees. This is another fungus that was used for kindling.
For less than a minute this grey heron and mute swan faced off on Shakerley Mere. They were perhaps in each other’s way. I managed to pull compact camera out of pocket and take this before the confrontation ended, the heron backing off. The heron seemed to be hissing at the swan, but I couldn’t capture that moment.
The limpid water gave rather good reflections of the individual birds.
This damp autumn has seen many fungi in Britain. These shaggy ink cap mushrooms were at Shakerley Mere, Cheshire.
These are said to be edible for just a few hours after picking, they rapidly turn black (hence ‘ink cap’) and decompose. According to Wikipedia they “can sometimes be confused with the magpie ink cap which is poisonous”. The usual rule applies – don’t eat wild fungi unless you know what you are doing.
Compare also the recently posted similar but prettier glistening inkcap – same family, obviously.