Wednesday 27 January 2021

The Ice Fields of Kilnhill


Another cold January morning up here in The Lake District, but Bassenthwaite, surrounded by snow capped peaks, looks marvellous. An eldritch feel to the shoreline, with mosses threatening to engulf the young saplings, Hairy Curtain Crust Fungus, Stereum hirsutum, colonising the sawn wood, and a pair of Mallards, Anas platyrhynchos, out on the lake. The lake itself, is beginning to freeze, with ice extending about a metre from the bank. The temperature is hovering around the 0oC mark, but the morning sun is providing a little warmth.

Going east, into the farmlands, gives us an opportunity to see a bit of the local bird life. Common friends like Wood Pigeons, Columba palumbus, and Carrion Crows, Corvus corone, are our constant companions, whilst a Mistle Thrush, Turdus viscivorus, observes our progress from an overhead wire. Higher still, a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, quarters the sky. Meanwhile, back on the ground, the flooded fields have become ice rinks and Jack the Navigator Hound goes through his routine for Dancing On Ice, which is somewhat worrying as he's only got little legs and I'm not sure how thick the ice is. Luckily, it's thick enough to support the weight of a Jack Russell!

Into a flooded woodland now, somewhat reminiscent of the Florida Everglades, but without the heat. A lovely bank of snowdrops greet our arrival. There are five different UK species, plus subspecies and hybrids. There is an excellent guide to identifying them here. Up in the trees, outcroppings of an Ascomycete fungus, probably Witch's Broom of the Taphrina genus, adorn the branches. This is the same genus that causes some leaves and catkins to curl and are part of the wonderful world of fungi, without which, nature as we know it would not be nature. Incidentally, there is a fantastic book by Merlin Sheldrake called Entangled Life, which I'm reading at the moment, which is a real eye opener.

And now we emerge out onto the road into the village of Kilnhill, with the snowy fells behind us. Back in the summer, you may remember that we counted 43 different plants and 22 different insects in a stretch of hedgerow like this (see Fell Walking For Wimps 1 - Slate Fell). Nothing in flower today and no insects but it's a good time to look for last year's bird nests and if you look inside, you can see this year's Spring growth taking advantage of the nutrient rich nest floor and the shelter that the nest provides. Nothing is wasted in nature, even this crevice between the branches provides a cosy nook for this Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum.

Back to the car now for a reviving cup of hot soup which our Intrepid Local Guide has been lugging around in her backpack all morning for some reason best know to herself. Personally, I'd have left it in the car.

News From The Old Cornmill

Minibeasts are a bit thin on the ground in the UK during the winter months, so I was delighted beyond reason when this Ground Spider (Gnaphosidae family) turned up in my bathroom this morning.

And finally... some important news: there is far too much going on to fit into one little blog post, so now you can join me throughout the week at the Old Cornmill by subscribing to updates from my brand new web site: Steve's Nature Plus

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