Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)

While I do love hunting for edible mushrooms, nothing is nicer than finding a fairy ring of Fly Agaric deep in the forest. For many years I harvested them but for the last few (including this year) I’ve preferred just taking photos. With the right preparation they’re edible and medicinal. However, I recommend that no one experiments with wild fungi unless they’ve had some expert training or supervision – death from poisonous fungi is horrific.

Now I just leave them for the pixies….

Young Roe Deer daylight trail cam

Here’s some daylight-ish trail cam footage of a couple of Roe deer behind the house. They’re nowhere near as wised up as Red Deer – they’re basically overgrown rabbits. Compared to Red Deer, Roe are very cute. Perhaps I’m being specist but I’d rather eat Red than Roe merely because of the latter’s cute factor.

Continuing from the infrared-aware observations, I don’t think Roe Deer can detect it, unless I just happened to pick a particularly dumb specimen….

Angry Adder

Angry Adder

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the wood pile…

Yesterday, shortly after my brother had picked up some wood from the pile he keeps outside my house and then left, I noticed a cat playing with a snake on the road. It was pawing it and as the snake lunged it would quickly withdraw its paw. I thought it was a smooth snake until getting closer. It turned out to be the most livid adder (Vipera berus) that I’ve ever encountered.

Despite being Europe’s only poisonous species they’re usually quite docile, but this one started hissing and arching its head at me from several metres away. The cat had enraged it so much that it had clearly become dangerous. As it was a mere few feet from my garden, where my Jack Russell and kids play, it could have had dire consequences. I was really tempted to kill it, something I don’t like doing as I usually don’t have a problem with snakes, but as I was dressed to go out on a motorbike ride and the engine was running, i couldn’t be bothered with skinning it and defleshing – without which the skin would go to waste.

So the snake’s still there, in the rocks someplace. Hopefully, this hot weather will change and it will hibernate and wake up in the spring in a better mood. Otherwise it’ll end up on my barbecue and around my wrist…

Red Deer Stag Rut Call

Every Autumn, the valley around my village livens up at night as all the giant Carpathian stags bellow out their presence and challenge the other males for dominance of the vast red deer herds. This recording is of a stag and his challengers literally outside my back window.
The sound of a stag in rut, and how it beats its antlers against trees, is often mistaken for sasquatch or bigfoot evidence.
There are no street lights where I live, nor neighbours, so there is zero light pollution. At night it is very very dark and, during a heavy rain storm like this one, the bellowing and banging of the stags is just plain eery. I love it. It is one of the times of the year I enjoy most living where I do. It is so utterly primal.
It’s a shame it was too dark for me to film (I need an IR camera desperately) but enjoy the audio anyway.
Put on some headphones and turn up the volume, then close your eyes and listen to the rain, the wind and these magnificent beasts.

Champignon mushrooms!

Champignon mushrooms!

Finally, we’re starting to see some edible fungi, although still not in any quantities worth mentioning. Winter is fast approaching, which means mushroom season – if there even is one this year – will be short.

We found a couple of rings of champignons (Agaricus bisporus), or the common button mushroom favoured as part of the English breakfast, but most of them were too small to harvest yet. Both rings centered on a big daddy mushroom, as pictured, and then had little baby ones growing a foot or more away. We’ve had plenty of storms and rain over the last week, now we just need some sun to induce fungal growth.

Edible Dormouse in Humane Trap

This is one of my resident Edible Dormice (Glis glis) from the attic. It’s the second one I’ve caught using a cage-type humane trap. They’re not very intelligent, unlike Pine Marten, so a simple piece of salami suffices and there’s no need to disguise the scent of the trap.
This little fellow will be going on a long drive where he’ll be released. They’re extremely cute but they’re very noisy and destructive – many people think their homes are haunted due to the sound of running feet these make above the ceiling. My house sounds like a race track some nights.

A couple of interesting things about Edible dormice – the Romans ate them roasted in honey as a delicacy, and they can regrow their tail like a reptile. They’re also the only member of the Glis genus… That was three things, wasn’t it?

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Last year we had a historic mushroom season. Edible and other fungii grew in unbelievable abundance from the beginning of summer until the start of winter. however, this year is not the same. There are virtually no mushrooms about and it has been forecasted that there won’t be. This is due to two factors – last year it rained all summer and also the fungii basically spored themselves out. it will take years for them to recover in number and strength.

This parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) stood alone where last year there were hundreds.

Young Wild Boar trailcam infrared

Young Wild Boar trailcam infrared

For a while the boar left the area as they follow the sweetcorn harvest but over the last week I’ve noticed their scat in the field behind the house. I set up the trailcam in a damp and muddy woodland gully which I know they pass through.

This young boar is calling out and looks particularly ugly. I have a photo of a scarily immense boar but only its head and shoulders. For some reason, the Redleaf HD1000 trailcam often gives ‘file errors’, completely black photos or doesn’t film. As a budget or entry trailcam it’s good to help learn the technique of using a trailcam but it’s not exactly reliable, nor are the pictures of decent quality.

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Edible Dormouse trail cam

Most people go to sleep to the sound of traffic and sirens; my family goes to sleep when at the house to the sounds of an entire menagerie of wild creatures a few feet above our heads. The attic is home to a multitude of beasties including quite a few nests of bees, hornets and various wasp species. The constant nocturnal crick-crick of theĀ  larvae of wood boring beetles as they gnaw away the beams, the scratching of the two different species of mice, and the whooshing of the bats. However, I set up a trail cam (a Redleaf RD1000) in order to film the most annoying and destructive resident, the Stone Marten (Martes foina), who has turned my entire attic floor into a giant latrine and who sounds like a man running around when its pursuing mice. The noise and mess it makes are incredible – they’re a common pest to attics out here. Unfortunately, since I’ve been using a new fan to cool off the bedroom, the Marten hasn’t visited, possibly because of the sound. I will get him eventually.

One pleasant surprise I found on the trailcam is an Edible Dormouse (Glis glis), a foot-long rodent which looks something between a squirrel and a chinchilla. Bizarrely, as a defence mechanism, like reptiles (as I’ve witnessed in the garden with slow worms and lizards) they can consciously lose part of their exquisitely bushy tail and regrow it. The locals call these critters plch.

Note – I’ve got much better and clearer IR video footage of the dormouse but I can’t edit it because my graphics card doesn’t support the new codec. Really need to get a new PC….