Sunday, 7 December 2014

Another trip to Ards

A prolonged period of heavy rain suggested that a final trip to Ards for 2014 would be productive, so we went along to see what was around. It was suggested that we try an area that we hadn't visited before (Ards is huge!), so we chose a direction at random and set forth. The first part of the loop passed through an area that had fairly recently been disturbed due to clear-felling of Spruce (yay!), so that was rather unproductive, but we soon arrived at a high area that was undisturbed ancient Oak and Beech, with Birch at the fringes. It is clear that this area is not one that is visited by mushroom hunters, since we found a good number of very large Ceps (Boletus edulis) that had been left to decay:

Cep - Boletus edulis
And another specimen:

Cep - Boletus edulis

In the more well-trodden areas of the forest, these would have been gathered long before they reached this stage. Sadly, they were just too far gone to accompany our dinner that evening. I'd say there was possibly a kilo of Cep in those two.

Nearby we also found quite a few specimens of the Fly Agaric, Amanita muscaria:

A very fresh Amanita muscaria
The books always say that these are associated exclusively with Birch, and there was plenty of Birch in this area, but I have found specimens where no Birch has existed for decades. Perhaps they can survive on very old buried roots, etc., since it is well known that other Amanita species can be found in the middle of ploughed fields or meadows and indicate the previous existence of woodland at those locations.

A definite Birch associate is the Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus):

Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus)
The upper surface of these is brown, with a white porous underside that produces the spores. But this bizarre specimen has an extra fruit-body growing upside-down on its top surface. Most odd. Odd shapes like this are usually caused by the substrate (in this case dead Birch) being moved, but this tree was still upright in situ. Maybe it got damaged in an early part of its development, and this could effectively be scar tissue.

Another area had been cleared some time ago and was a mixture of young Birch with heath. There was plenty of Greater Woodrush still around, so we thought we might as well try for the extremely rare leaf-miner Cerodontha silvatica, and it was found almost immediately. This is the third location in all of Ireland and the first Donegal record since 2005:

Cerodontha silvatica
There was a very small area almost covered with this Saxifrage of some kind. I'll have to go back next summer when it's in flower to find out what species it is.
Saxifrage 'x'
I spotted this minute (3-4 mm.) leaf-hopper on Hazel as I was checking for leaf-mines:

It's probably Edwardsiana rosae, but these cannot be done to species without a specimen under a microscope.

There were plenty of galls of Hartigola annulipes on fallen Beech leaves:

Hartigola annulipes on Beech

This is the first time I have noticed that they seem to create 'green islands' in the same way as Ectoedemia micromoths do on Oak. I can't see a definite benefit from the chlorophyll, since the midges feed on the interior of the gall. Maybe it's an accidental by-product of their gall creation process.

Towards the end of the walk we found a few specimens of this spindle-shaped fungus growing under Beech:

Macrotyphula fistulosa var. fistulosa
There are quite a few records from Northern Ireland, but this appears to be a first Irish record. About 8 cm. tall. New to my species list.