Today was our first Wild New Forest ‘Fungi Explorer’ walk, and after the chaotic weather associated with Storm Alex over the preceding three days it was a relief to wake to a lovely autumn morning. I arrived on site an hour early to check on a couple of target species, and soon saw a scatter of migrant birds including Redstart and Wheatear and heard a couple of Dartford Warblers.
This trio of New Forest ponies were also enjoying the morning sunshine
As I welcomed my five guests at the meeting point at 0930 hrs a bonus male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker suddenly dropped into a nearby Silver Birch, although it subsequently proved elusive and only provided brief glimpses; a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen shortly after, providing a nice comparison.
However, our focus today was fungi, and we recorded Giant Polypore and Common Earthball before we even left the car park! Soon after we were all enjoying the wonderful weirdness of rare Devil’s Fingers and Nail Fungus in the sunshine, as well as great views across White Moor and Longwater Lawn.
A nice example of the Devil's Fingers fungus
The variety and abundance of fungi stepped up as we entered an area of mature woodland dominated by Beech, Oak and Silver Birch, with highlights including some fine specimens of Beefsteak Fungus, newly emerged Chanterelles and Wood Hedgehogs, some really big Orange Oak Boletes, a rather slug-eaten Hen-of-the-Woods, several extensive clumps of Honey Fungus, a nice mix of brittlegills of various colours, and a small patch of vivid yellow Dog’s Vomit Slime Mould!
It's easy to see why it's called Beefsteak Fungus!
During a biscuit break in the sunshine we were fortunate to see a Common Buzzard swooping onto its prey in the adjacent bog, where Round-leaved Sundews were observed. The fine weather encouraged Woodlark and Firecrest into song, and Speckled Wood butterflies and Common Darter dragonflies were still on the wing. Shortly after, a noisy flock of at least six Common Crossbills alighted in a nearby conifer, allowing the group nice views of a bright red adult male.
The final part of the walk passed through Pondhead Inclosure, and my reconnaissance trip a few days ago paid dividends when we quickly located a newly emerged Stinkhorn (and a hatching ‘egg’) in the same area as a patch of luminous Yellow Stagshorn; another Stinkhorn soon after was smelt but not seen!
Newly emerged Stinkhorn, next to an older degraded specimen
Yellow Stagshorn fungus on a rotting conifer stump
Overall, we recorded about 45 identifiable fungi species during the morning, with a few more ‘little brown jobs’ left unidentified. Many thanks to my guests today for making it a memorable walk - they listed their highlights as Stinkhorn, Devil’s Fingers, Yellow Stagshorn and Beefsteak Fungus, as well as the Crossbills, so the more colourful species certainly won the day!
We're aiming to run more of these Fungi Explorer tours in the coming days, so follow our Facebook page or check the Guided Tours page of the website for details.