Wildlife in October

Take a walk at Moors Valley during the full throes of autumn and you can admire the fascinating array of fungi on show.

A damp autumn brings on many wonderful mushrooms and toadstools. These are the fruiting bodies of the fungi that are present all year round under the soil or tree bark, made up of metres and metres of tiny filaments.

Fungi play an incredibly important role in breaking down organic material like dead leaves and animals and recycling it. They also form very intimate links with the roots of all plants. The fungi help the plants access nutrients and in return the fungus gets a place to grow.

The mushrooms and toadstools appear above ground to allow the fungi to spread their spores. They can be found all over Moors Valley; amongst the grass and path edges on rotting wood and healthy trees.

Different species of fungi can be incredibly difficult to tell apart. There are however a few species which are quite unmistakeable. One noticeable and well know species is the poisonous fly agaric with its distinctive red cap with white spots.

One that you may smell before you see, is the rather shocking stinkhorn. Follow your nose to seek out this species in the woodlands where it thrives. The rancid smell attracts flies which feed on the sticky black tip and carry off the fungus’s spores to a new location.

A rather more attractive species is the edible giant puff ball which can be found, if you are lucky. This species grows to an enormous size, possibly even larger than a standard football and eventually dies to yield its many spores when it is ruptured.

Why not join Rangers from the Forestry Commission on an organised fungi foray and get a more detailed look at some of the other species on show this month.

Other things to look out for:

  • Sloes start to stand prominent on the spiky branches of the blackthorn, as its tatty autumn leaves fall away.
  • The blackberries are over for another year, but hazel nuts and acorns are now ripening. To get to the nuts you will have to race the squirrels and jays, who hoard them for the winter by burying them in the ground. It is said that many oaks, particularly, are derived from such forgotten stashes. Look out for jays as you drive down the entrance road.