NATURE NOTES: Winter visitors are eagerly awaited, while City Commons’ guided walks made some fascinating discoveries
Winter birds, including redwing and fieldfare, are expected to start arriving on the green spaces in and around Farthing Downs, Coulsdon.
These visitors fly in the north and east to overwinter in southern England, where the weather is milder and food is easier to find.
Hawthorn, holly and yew are among the trees that provide an important food source for these birds, which are commonly found across the open downland and woodlands of the Coulsdon Commons.
Goldfinches, linnets and long-tailed tits have already been spotted on Farthing Downs in large flocks.
Flocking helps keep birds safe from predators, as a large group of birds has a much better chance of spotting predators than a single one.
In addition, staying in a flock means it’s harder for a predator to identify a single target and a group of birds can also confuse or overwhelm a predator through mobbing.
Crows are the best example of this, and you will often see birds of prey like buzzards and kestrels being chased away if they skirt too near to a flock.
City Commons manage large tracts of open space around Coulsdon, Riddlesdown and Kenley. Last month, the rangers held three guided fungi forays in search of fungi on Riddlesdown, Coulsdon Common and Farthing Downs.
Led by Jane McLaughlin, attendees were shown some of the many species of autumn fungi that have just emerged thanks to the wet, warm conditions over the last few weeks.
Having many eyes to hunt for mushrooms, jellies and moulds (all types of fungi) proved successful and around 40 different types of fungi were seen at each site in just a couple of hours.
Some notable fungi that were seen included the amethyst deceiver, saffron drop bonnet and pleated inkcap.
All three walks were booked out fast but for those who could not attend there is still plenty of time to discover fungi for yourself. Many fungal groups, such as waxcaps, appear as late as November.
Observing and identifying fungi is not as daunting as it would first seem and there are plenty of good guides, websites and courses for a complete beginner or budding “mycologist”.
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