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WNF Brockenhurst Discovery Walks - 16-19 Oct 2020

Russ writes:

Over the last few days we've taken our first guests on our Brockenhurst Discovery Walk, with one scheduled and two private groups each containing four or five guests. The route has been permitted by Forestry England and comprises a nice mix of grazed lawns, ancient woodland, conifer plantation, forest streams and open heath, and provides a great introduction to New Forest landscapes and wildlife.

Crossbills and Lesser Redpolls are very conspicuous in the New Forest at the moment, and both species were regularly seen and heard on the route, as was a vocal pair of Ravens and a couple of Buzzards. A Firecrest was heard and then seen briefly, and three species of deer were observed (Red, Fallow and Roe, all viewed at distance from the main tracks).

This smart male Common Crossbill was one of several seen on the route

There were plenty of nice fungi on show, including a surprise find of the rare Devil's Fingers emerging from beneath a rotten stump in an area of woodland, and a few Mosaic Puffballs in an area of open grassland.

Mosaic Puffballs

Several Parasols were seen, including this fine specimen next to a giant Canadian Redwood tree (with a Stinkhorn and the tiny Conifercone Cap fungus found nearby).

Parasol mushroom, with a huge Canadian Redwood looming overhead

A trio of interesting and 'thought-provoking' fungi species were also found on the route: the first is one of the unusual black jelly fungi, probably Exidia plana, that resembles a brain in appearance and is sometimes called Black Witches' Butter as it was thought to offer protection from witches when thrown into fire! The second is Ergot, a small fungus that parasitises rye and other grasses and has been used to make the hallucinogenic drug LSD - Ergot can also enter the food chain in rye bread and may cause severe poisoning and even death, with some of the symptoms in the past being attributed to witchcraft! And finally, the familiar Magic Mushroom or Liberty Cap, currently much sought after by rather incongruous-looking teenagers around some of the New Forest villages!

This unusual brain-like fungus is probably Exidia plana, aka Black Witches' Butter

Ergot, which is parasitic on grasses, sedges and rushes

The familiar Magic Mushroom (as with all the fungi we encounter, these were left in situ!)

Last but not least, we also found at least two species of colourful and mysterious slime moulds, including the yellow Dog's Vomit Slime Mould and this appropriately named Salmon-coloured Slime Mould, which was actually the highlight for one of our guests!

Salmon-coloured Slime Mould

We will be using this route again for our Halloween Wildlife Walk on Saturday 31 Oct (which is already fully booked), but we're opening up an additional Brockenhurst Discovery Walk on this route on the afternoon of Sunday 01 Nov. Further details and booking information here:

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