Flushing woodcock in Dulwich ๐Ÿฆ†

On Saturday 12th November I led a fungi walk for London Wildlife Trust at Dulwich Wood in south-east London. I only managed one photo on the day because I was working and leading the group around, but it was a pretty good one nonetheless.

When doing a pre-walk check I accidentally flushed a woodcock from the vegetation off the main paths. I never like to do something like that but they are so difficult to see, camouflaged down there in the leaf litter. Itโ€™s good to know they are still able to use to woods as a stop off on passage. It also suggests they are using woods nearby which have no public access, because this is one that has hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, so ones free of ‘disturbance’ must be even better.

John Gerrard Keulemans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This isnโ€™t new in Dulwich. Local ornithologist Dave Clark once told me a story of a woodcock smashing through someoneโ€™s window and landing in their bedroom. Because woodcock migrate, often by night, they sometimes get it wrong. Their long bills and speed of flight also mean they will crack glass quite easily. The bird in question was scooped up and taken to a vet, from what I remember it survived and lived to fly another day.

There’s a really nice episode of the Golden Grenades podcast featuring woodcock that you can listen to here. It features Kerrie Gardner, a superstar writer, photographer and sculptor who is a friend of this blog!

On the fungi front, the mushrooms were very few and far between considering the time of year. There was a shaggy theme to what was there, in that two of the sightings were shaggy parasol and shaggy bracket. The most common species group were the bonnets (Mycena), along with small polypores like turkey tail and hairy curtain crust, which are all on decaying wood.

Some more phone pic bonnets on fallen oak wood

My sense is that the extreme heat and drought this summer, where temperatures reached 40C, has had a worse impact in smaller woodlands in places like London. More rural, larger woodlands are able to hold water and moisture more effectively, therefore being able to feed fungal communities far more easily. Those woodlands also have running water in the form of brooks, streams and woodlands that aid soil moisture. Londonโ€™s woods look far drier in November than those in West Sussex, even after torrential rain.

Itโ€™s also very mild, around 15-18 degrees on the 12th November, which shows just how far-reaching climate change already is. The milder weather may mean mushrooms fruit for longer though, with the colder temperatures held off until maybe January or February. Itโ€™s just so hard to predict these days.

ยฉ jonatan_antunez, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

One interesting thing that a couple of people on the walk discovered was a species that was new to me. On a scaffold board used for steps, a small blue polypore (example photo above) was peeking out. Having seen it elsewhere on social media in the last week, I can confirm it was blueing bracket. I’m back there soon so will aim to get some *actual* pictures next time.

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: Fungi | London

Poplar fieldcaps in Dulwich Park

As seen on 23rd October 2022

The title of this post sounds like a type of east London headwear. As you may have guessed, it’s actually about a mushroom in south London.

I led my first public fungi walk of the year with the Dulwich Society at Dulwich Park on 23rd October, despite the thunderstorms either side and torrential downpour intro.

My Dad taught me to play football in Dulwich Park and I was born in Dulwich Hospital. It has many happy memories for me. But no, I didn’t go to Dulwich College!

It’s a fantastic park that provides space and enjoyment to millions of people each year. It was also good for fungi on this occasion and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things we found. As a landscape it’s former farmland bequeathed to the local council for public enjoyment. Before being farmed privately it was likely wood pasture common land. The Dulwich Society have a FANTASTIC local history Twitter account which has a lot of relevant info.

Charlie and the shrooms

The most interesting find of the walk was a large group of fungi on the decaying stump of a poplar tree along one of the carriageways. From a distance I spotted what looked like litter sat on top of the stump. My colleague Charlie want to have a closer look and I soon followed with the group after she gave a confirmatory thumbs up. It was fungi, not rubbish.

I was baffled by these shrooms. The stump’s bark was peeling away and some honey fungus boot laces were present underneath the remaining wood. But the mushrooms didn’t have the features of any honey fungus I had seen. We did see some earlier in the walk, for comparison.

Honey fungus ‘boot laces’ reaching out from behind the remaining bark

All I could say to the group was that it was likely the mushrooms, whatever species they were, was breaking down what what remained of the poplar tree.

I did some research when I got home that evening but it took me a while to establish what the species was. It didn’t help that this mushrom, what turned out to be poplar fieldcap, has a couple of scientific names and several common names: Poplar Fieldcap, Poplar Mushroom, Pioppino, Velvet Pioppini, Piopparello.

Perhaps the variety of common names is because this is seen as a nice edible mushroom. That’s what you find with something like Boletus edulis which is known as cep (France), porcini (Italy), and penny bun (England). I think it’s known as king bolete in North America. Those mushrooms which are either highly desireable or undiserable (deathcap) are usually subject to common names in different languages.

Thanks to everyone who came to the walk, it was a lot of fun! Great to see so many people despite the very wet weather. After all, that is what the mushrooms want!

Thanks for reading.

Further reading: Fungi | London

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