This morning was spent ranging between Woodlands and Lyndhurst, with no specific targets but a view to keeping an eye on some occupied Raven and Woodlark territories. The first hour in overcast conditions was very quiet, but as the sun emerged and the breeze picked up a burst of aerial activity included a couple of singing Woodlarks, Goshawk, Peregrine and, most satisfyingly, a Raven seen arrowing into a recently discovered nest site.
However, it was less charismatic but equally fascinating fauna that stole the show today. First up, a handsome Common Toad found under a fallen shard from a Beech tree, accompanied by a colourful reddish-pink slime mould on the underside of the shard, called Carnival Candy or Arcyria denudata.
A disgorged pellet, probably from a Tawny Owl, was found in an area of ancient Beech trees that also held a singing male Hawfinch - the pellet contained bones and fur from a small mammal, but also the spiky fragments of a Minotaur Beetle thorax (a type of dung beetle that is active early in the year).
The sunshine saw temperatures rise to more than 10oC by late morning, precipitating a mass emergence of Southern Wood Ants from their nests, at a distance looking like freshly erupting lava on the flanks of twiggy volcanoes.
More surprising was the sight of several thousand Southern Wood Ants concentrated along a 75 m-long section of gravel track, focussed on two faint tyre tracks. As yet, I’m not sure about the reason for this aggregation, but presumably the ants were attracted to something on the track itself as they didn’t seem to be moving with any real purpose or in any particular direction.
Finally, although fungi are not very obvious at this time of year, I was pleased to find this new cluster of Glistening Inkcaps on the walk home.