Friday, February 19, 2010

Ampthill Park

I managed to fit in some small mammal trapping this week. One of the 6 Sherman traps I set was in a promising position under some emergent vegetation on the water’s edge at Westminster Pond. The ideal would have been Water Shrew, but I was really pleased to find this Common Shrew in the trap later on in the day. It was on the very small side and so I initially identified it as Pygmy Shrew but, examining this photo, I wondered whether the tail and the colours of the flank might indicate that this was, actually, a Common Shrew. After consulting with Mick McCarrick and Richard Lawrence we decided that this was, indeed, the case. I did catch a Pygmy Shrew close to this location the following a Water Shrew would be nice in the future (Evidence of them has been found in this area when bait tubes were set here a few years ago by Mick as part of the Mammal Society's Water Shrew Survey).

I also caught this Wood Mouse in the hedgerow just north of the Field Pond - look at the length of that tail! It’s my 14th mammal species of the year so far.

In the copse above Ampthill Tunnel to the north-west of Westminster Pond, there were several clumps of Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes) - my 247th species of fungus for the Park. It is edible and particularly popular in Japanese dishes where one of the various names that it is known by is Inotake. Closer to home it is also known as Winter Fungus because of it’s ability to withstand very cold weather, even to the point of being frozen. Indeed, the cold weather stimulates its growth. The dark brown section at the base of the stem really does feel velvety - hence the name!

There are several species similar to Velvet Shank, but it’s easy to confirm this species by observing the spores which are white, rather than yellow. So, last night, I placed one of the larger caps on my British Moths book by Chris Manley, assuming that the black glossy part of the cover would show up any white spores well.

And here’s this morning’s result: Voila – Velvet Shank confirmed!

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