Jelly ear Auricularia auricula-judae

This common gelatinous fungus, often found on the dead branches of Elder, can be found at all times of the year. The top of each fungus is often smooth, but after recent frosts these have become folded and wrinkled. They are usually soft and rubbery in texture. but when very dry they can become hard and brittle. Long ago they were collected and used in the treatment of sore throats.

Jelly Ear, Oxbind Coppice, 23 January 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Hazel catkins

In some sheltered places Common Hazel trees can now be seen in flower, showing that spring is just around the corner. The yellow pendulous male catkins are conspicuous and are often present in high numbers. The small delicate red female flowers have to be searched for as tiny red tassels protruding from buds, often on the same twigs as the make catkins. When the yellow pollen is blown onto the female flowers, fertilisation will occur, resulting in Hazel nuts in the autumn, so loved by squirrels, mice, and some birds.

Male Hazel catkins and female flower, Blackstone, 24 January 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Female flowers on Hazel bush, Blackstone, 24 January 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall

Waxwings in Wyre!

It was great to record 4 Waxwings feeding on Rowan in Bliss Gate Road recently. These were spotted by Nicola Winnall who managed to get these shots. Between feeds they sat high up in the hedge. They’ve come into the country from Scandinavia to where they will return to breed.

Waxwings, Bliss Gate, 4 January 2017

Waxwing, Bliss Gate, 4 January 2017

Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)

This persistent perennial may be found flowering between December and March. Unlike its near relative Butterbur, leaves are present during flowering, and persist throughout the winter. Winter Heliotrope, with its fragrant vanilla scent, is an introduced plant from North Africa, and it may be found on waste ground, along hedgerows, as well as on roadside verges as seen here.

Winter Heliotrope, Alton, Callow Hill 26 December 2016

Winter Heliotrope, Alton, Callow Hill, 26 December 2016

Spindle berries (Euonymus europaeus)

This is a good time to look out for the berries of Spindle which occur infrequently in the Wyre area. In some hedgerows the pink fruits contrast in colour with red haws when they grow alongside. A close view will reveal the Spindles’s seeds in bright orange sheaths.

Spindle berries in the hedgerow, Ribbesford, 5 December 2016, ©Rosemary Winnall

December Moth, Poecilocampa populi

The December Moth flies between late October to early January. The adults come to light and can sometimes be seen in the morning on house walls when lights have been left on overnight. The female lays her eggs on the twigs of broad-leaved trees. The overwintering eggs hatch in April when the caterpillars feed on the buds and new young leaves.

December Moth, Button Bridge, 7 December 2016 ©Jon Cartwright

Buff Tip moth caterpillars (Phalera bucephala)

Buff Tip moth eggs are laid in batches on various deciduous tree species. The caterpillars feed gregariously in the summer and often defoliate whole branches. The ones shown here are feeding on Hornbeam.

Buff Tip moth caterpillars on Hornbeam, Bliss Gate, 6 September 2016 ©Rosemary Winnall