Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sphagnum (bog moss) spore capsules

I don't often find spore capsules on bog moss Sphagnum species but they are well worth looking out for because they have a remarkable way of discharging their spores. 

They look like chestnut brown spheres, that swell and darken as they age.

When they mature you can see the lid. At this stage they remind me of tiny ginger jars. Gas pressure builds up inside as they age, and when the wall begins to dry out it shrinks. Eventually the pressure within  becomes so great that the capsule explodes, blowing the lid off and sending a column of spores into the air.

You can watch a video of this explosive 'air gun' mechanism  by clicking here

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Salmon and sea trout

The salmon and sea trout spawning season is over for another year, but while it lasted there were some spectacular opportunities to view of these fish trying (unsuccessfully) to leap Spurleswood beck waterfall at Blackling Hole in Hamsterley forest. After prolonged heavy rainfall, when the beck is in spate, the water falling into the deep pool creates upwelling conditions that the fish exploit when they try to make the jump.

Buzzards and Kestrels

 When I first came to Durham 45 years ago, it would have been a rare pleasure to watch a buzzard soaring overhead. I could only be sure of seeing them if I crossed the Pennines into Cumbria or travelled into Wales. Now, I see them here almost every day. No less that eight circling overhead at once when I was walking near Wolsingham in Weardale last week. Maybe easy access to road kill, and the plentiful rabbit supply locally, are factors that have led to an increase in numbers?

While buzzards bred successfully and became established here, kestrels seemed to go into decline over the last couple of decades, although they seem to have done much better lately. 

I photographed this young bird hunting along the sea cliffs at Dawdon near Seaham, on the Durham coast. It must have hovered a dozen times without stooping on prey and it didn't make a successful kill while I watched. Perhaps still perfecting its hunting kills. They seem to expend a lot of energy for small, infrequent rewards.