BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘ecology’

#365daysifbiking Unshed

February 4th – I’ve always been puzzled why it might be that some deciduous trees don’t shed their dead leaves in autumn; the summer growth dies and goes brown, but doesn’t drop.

Someone asked the same question on social media over the weekend, so I thought I’d look into it.

The characteristic is called marcescence, and is exhibited mainly by oak, beech and hornbeam in the UK. It’s not clear what the evolutionary purpose of this curious feature is; it could be to shelter leaf buds from browsing animals like deer, and indeed, some oaks are only marcescent on lower boughs. Another theory says that the leaves attached to the beaches have their goodness absorbed back into the tree over winter, which is more efficient than them dropping and relying on conversion from leaf litter.

So I’m not really much wiser, but at least it has a name – and this marcescant oak was showing it’s dead leaves well beside the cycleway in Telford as I passed this morning, making me smile.

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#365daysofbiking Stars on earth:

October 25th – The Darlaston earthstar fungus colony continues to fascinate me. These relatively rare, alien looking fungi are growing under a thicket on an anonymous, ordinary industrial estate near where I work.

Every day, a new star opens. 

I wasn’t sure what bud or genesis they had, but today I found out that they start as a very well camouflaged ‘ball’, which splits into the ‘petals’ of the star.

They really are strange, fascinating things.

#365daysofbiking Little gems:

October 21st – One of the best things about Cannock Chase in autumn is the fungi, and today there was a huge selection.

I never found the one thing I wanted to see – orange peel fungus – but I saw lots of great other types from polypores to boleta.

It’s always worth stopping and looking at that unusual flash of colour in Autumn.

#365daysofbiking Springing up like… Mushrooms?

September 7th – Up on the old rail line, I noticed that with the damp weather, fungi was now coming through after a very thin summer.

I’m glad to see this as the mycology fascinates me; most folk don’t realise that generally toadstools and mushrooms are merely the blooms of larger underground organisms, and the colours, textures and shapes fascinate me.

I looks like this spot will be a good place to find fungi this autumn.

#365daysofbiking Canal dreams

August 28th – Back to work and still grey, but feeling better. On the canal at Darlaston the greenery is still uplifting, and we may get an Indian summer after all. Perhaps.

The water lilies are still showing well too, which is always a lovely thing to see. Still can’t quite get over the fact that we have them here.

July 29th – There have been mercifully few grass fires around our area in this tinder-dry hot spell, which has surprised me. Kids and discarded cigarettes, not to mention the awful disposable barbecue fad, seem to be causing a rash of fires elsewhere as they sadly usually do; but near Brownhills we have so far been impacted only lightly it seems.

One such fire was here on the heath between the dam and bypass at Chasewater; an apparently large fire when reported, it seems that quite a small area has been affected.

Whilst this is a pain, unnecessary and a scourge, it’s not the end of the world: The heath will quickly recover and for a time, smaller species should enjoy a boom, and it’ll soon there will be little sign the fire happened.

Better it hadn’t happened at all, but still…

November 20th – I know very little about great crested grebes, but there seemed to be rather a lot of them on Chasewater as I passed through. Difficult to photograph for their habit of diving just as you get them in shot, they are gradually transitioning into winter plumage and losing their distinctive brown flashes on their heads. They dive and pursue fish underwater, and I wonder if their recent apparent profusion at Chasewater indicates improving fish populations there following the dry years when the lake was drained.

Lovely birds, fascinating to watch.

May 6th – Spinning home from work down the Goscote Valley cycleway, I noticed new additions to the palette of flowers this year – primroses and forget-me-nots. Not remarkable flowers in themselves, but new arrivals in this location, which can only be a good thing.

Great to see nature thriving along the old rail line like this.

March 24th – Compression of the neck… herons are more and more common now. Barely a towpath ride goes by without seeing one, and on longer rides like last week, I’ll see five or six, which must be a symbol of how clean the waters are now and how the fish population must by bountiful, too. 

This proud bird was on the towpath in Pleck, just by the wall of Rollingmill Street Cemetery, pretty much the industrial heart of Walsall. Wary of me but not skittish, by dismounting the bike and taking things gently I got close enough for some decent pictures, I think.

I adore herons.

November 18th – Not all change is for the worse. Here at James Bridge, on the Walsall-Darlaston border, the road between the two crosses a river: the Tame, in it’s nascent stages. At Besot, a mile or so away, it’s in confluence with the Ford Brook, and becomes the major watercourse of Sandwell and North Birmingham.

This river used – even here – especially here – to be nothing but a foul conduit for industrial effluent; but the industry that discharged into it has either gone, or been forced to clean up it’s act, and the river now runs relatively clear.

Today, mallards drifted in the strong flow, basking in the hazy but warm morning sun. This was unthinkable even a decade ago.

I never thought I’d see this waterway clean.