10th April 2016
For the past few years the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists Society have put on a programme of wildlife workshops throughout the year. These workshops are run by local experts, often the county recorder for a particular group, and cover things like where to look for species, how to identify them and what literature/equipment you need to further your interest.
The first workshop of 2016 was held today at Wheatfen, looking at microfungi. Given the rather niche subject I was one of six participants. For the morning session we went through a presentation looking at the various different groups of microfungi, a name that like micro moths is used for convenience but doesn't have any particular taxonomic implications. Again like the moths there are a few large microfungi (such as King Alfred's Cakes), but they also include some particularly small groups like smuts, rusts and powdery mildews.
Having discussed the various groups, we headed out for a brief trip around Wheatfen to look for some microfungi to bring back. We found two rusts almost straightaway, one on Nipplewort and another on Lesser Celandine. Many of these are host-specific, which helps identification! We also found a range of small black growths on the stems of various plants, as well as some larger Woodwarts on Hazel branches.
Nipplewort Rust (Puccinia lapsanae)
Whilst walking around the reserve in the sunshine Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sung along the edge of the woodland. Three Brimstones and at least one Peacock butterfly flew along the rides. Whilst searching through a moss covered log I noticed a red velvet mite, but it disappeared deeper into the moss before I could get a good photo. Whilst looking at some leaf litter I noticed two large Craneflies mating. These can be tricky to ID, but the distinctive wing-pattern allowed me to identify these as Tipula vitatta.
As it was a sunny day we moved some chairs outside for lunch. We then headed back inside and had another short presentation before getting the microscopes out and having a look at some of the specimens that we had collected. The session also gave us a chance to have a look at a selection of reference books to see what we found most useful. We finished around four, having had a very informative day.
There are a number of other workshops planned, so if you fancy learning about a new group of species you may be interested in attending a workshop on solitary bees, flowering plants, lichens, seaweeds, grasshoppers or shieldbugs & ground beetles. For more details see here: http://www.nnns.org.uk/content/workshops