Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en sunshine

I have no idea whether it was warmer today or on the 29th, which was the last time that I braved the cold. It was impossible to judge because I was wearing so many layers that I looked like a bright pink toffee-apple, on a blue-grey stick, all woolly jumpers and ski jacket with a couple of skinny denim-clad legs sticking out of the bottom. Not a pretty sight, but I was warm.

The first thing that I noticed was that Quadron had done a brilliant job of managing the leaf situation. The leaves had colonized the pathways and, although very pretty, they were somewhat slippy and made it difficult to see where some of the paths actually went. The tidy-up job left enough leaves to look thoroughly autumnal, but removed any potential hazards. Most of the leaves in that area are from the plane tree family (platanaceae) and offer a glorious autumn colour display.

A tree stump just at the start of the winding path that leads from the Greenland Dock underpass (a former lock) has a large family of fungi growing out of it. My parents, who are great edible toadstool collectors, would be able to identify it on the instant but all I can say with certainty is that you wouldn't want to collect it for a fry-up. Wide dark brown saucers with a layer of film coating them hid, on closer inspection, a revoltingly slimy soup which was attracting insect life.

I saw one or two others visitors, but not many had braved the cold. Most of the other walkers had dogs with them and there was only one woman with a pushchair and a single jogger. Even the birds were somewhat lacking. The pigeons were out in force but apart from them I saw nothing more than a few sparrows, a robin and some blackbirds. Even the ducks and coots were hiding out, with only a handful lending their presence to the day on the Downtown Pond.

Quadron, TRUE, or a combination of both have been busy in all areas of the parks, and I noticed that a new track had been cleared where the Globe Pond stream meets the footpath that circles behind Globe Pond.

At the Downtown Pond there were some deep blue-black berries (possibly Aronia melanocarpa?) and a few bravely-surviving blue zephyr flowers but the main plant to take hold at the moment is the moss, which is rampant. The moss has the most marvellous bright green shades, brilliant in the sunshine, carpeting great areas. The other thing that I noticed everywhere, perhaps only because other distractions are now missing, were the lichens on various tree branches.

Most of the berries are going over, although some brave rose hips and others are still contributing their colours to the autumnal kaleidoscope. Some of the plants appear to be coming into winter bud, and I was lucky enough to notice some white pearl-like globes which may be U.S. imports called snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus). Let me know if they are something else, but that is the only description of leaf and fruit that appears to fit.

If I hadn't climbed the small rise beyond the butterfly sanctuary I wouldn't have had many photographs to show for my outing. I only had the macro lens with me, and I hadn't found much to point it at, but surveying the world from the rise I realized that the ivy hedge on the path climbed over a wall which was now, due to TRUE's clearences, visible and accessable. I went to have a look and found that it was absolutely covered with wasps and some flies. The flowers of the Ivy (Hedera helix) are spherical with tiny flowers radiating out on stalks, of which there will be more photographs in the next few days.

Wasps are not my favourite insects because although they are lovely to look at I've been stung a few times and BOY it hurts. Sticking my lens into close proximity, with my head only a few inches behind seemed like a mad thing to do, but in the end I scarcely noticed the buzzing and flying. The wasps were fully focused on the ivy flowers, moving between them with absolutely no interest in macro lenses with strange women on the end. There was a sharp breeze so getting the insects in focus was a challenge but I got one or two shots which weren't too bad.

It was a marvellous outing. The colours continue to be gorgeous. I'll post more photographs from today over the next few days.

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