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Another day on the MoD Training Estate

Monday, April 23rd 2018

Today was all about finishing off the work carried out last Friday by Tony and I(an). Today I approached Stop Bridge Lane from the other end of Black Beck, all the while admiring the newly emergent Bluebell flowers along the bank side. 

Most of the time along Black Beck was spent getting to the nest boxes rather than actually carrying out any work. It took no time at all to sort out the couple of remaining issues before I was heading off towards Andrew Markham woods.

Nest box 9 of Andrew Markham woods was a little bit more challenging, having been severly damaged by Woodpeckers. The box in question has seen many successful broods in the past, so the decision was made to renovate rather than replace.

The new entrance board and protective plate may look a bit rustic, but they should do the trick; here's hoping that number 9 has yet more successful years ahead of it. 

Next I headed over to Primrose Gill to replace an old box on the steep slopes of the bank under the canopy of veteran Oak trees. 

I don't think I have ever seen Oak trees like these; many have branches that reach out for many meters, stabilised by the bank side and providing useful footing on the steep slopes of the gill.

Not long after the gill meets Dalton Beck I found the nest box I was looking for; many birds would turn their beaks up at a box frequented by wasps (and rightly so!).

I spent a while watching the Dippers in the beck and noticed a strange silvery orb attached to the root plate of a long uprooted tree. Upon closer inspection it appears to be the later, silver-crust stage of the White Slime Mould (Enteridium lycoperdon).

Once considered fungi, Slime Moulds are now classified in a completely different Kingdom. They begin life actively hunting for bacteria to eat, before mating to form large plasmodia that feed on micro-organisms such as fungi, moulds, yeasts, spores bacteria and inorganic particles. This plasmodium phase has the ability to enter a dormant state if conditions become too dry.

As the Slime Mould begins to exhaust it's food source it transitions to the next phase, creating fruiting bodies which in turn release spores and start the cycle over again.  

These pictures don't really do the it justice, my initial thought was that some one had forced polished metal into the root plate, which gives you the idea of just how shiney and bright it looked to the naked eye.

In the picture below you can see the beginnings of a split in the hard silvery casing; soon this split will widen and reveal the brown spore mass beneath. 

To cap it all off I saw two Buzzards flying overhead as I made my way up the bottom of the gill, finally getting a sense as to where it got the name Primrose Gill.


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