As you may know (viewers of Autumnwatch especially) October is the month of the deer rut. Last year I spent hours strolling around Ashridge forest trying to get ‘that’ shot of 2 fallow deer stags clashing antlers in a battle for the ladies. I failed.
So this year it was going to be harder, I wasn’t even based in Hertfordshire anymore so that meant trips home to and a tighter time budget to try and achieve my long-standing goal.
After a great lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London by Mark Carwardine (off kakapo rape fame - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9T1vfsHYiKY ) I headed home for the comforts of my own bed, mothers cooking and seeing the family. Of course this was the main reason to return home but the call of the Deer rut was too tempting.
I awoke Saturday morning tearing myself out of my warm bed to drive over to Ashridge. Pulling up in my usual muddy lay by, I kitted up and wandered hopefully in to the woods…silence. This was not right, last year the woods echoed with the sound of belching stags. I strolled to the usual stands and still nothing I had a brief glimpse of some hinds strutting into the bracken and that was all.
The closest I got for a few hours was this…
However, I was still hopeful thinking it was just a break in proceedings. I was wrong. Although a few fallow were around they were hard to track down in the dense woods blending in perfectly.
I soon began to lose hope until I stumbled upon a real gem I had never seen before.
An Amethyst Deceiver. I had never seen such a mushroom and didn’t know there was one this colour. I quickly began snapping away (liking the fact it didn’t move, I could get as close as I liked and it performed well unlike the deer).
While concentrating on the mushroom I heard a crack of twigs thinking another human had discovered me, I was wrong. For once it wasn’t me tracking the deer but an inquisitive ‘pricklet’.
I soon began to give up hope of the deer beginning to perform as the day drew on so decided to relocate in search of more mushrooms.
I headed over to Symondshyde Great Woods, a seemingly abandoned nature reserve where my friend had found some interesting shrooms.
I met him on the path and we headed in search of the classic Fly Agaric, at the back of the reserve on a quite overgrown footpath we found 2 classic examples.
The woods were full of mushrooms covering the floor ranging from midget mushrooms to massive bracket funguses on the trees.
Puffballs were poking through the leaf litter
The next day spurred on by our mushroom success me and my friend decided to head to Balls Wood the newly acquired reserve by HMWT (http://www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/NatureReserves/Flagship/ballswood).
The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Heading past a few ponds we noticed a late dragonfly darting about.
After much attempted perches on my head it decided the log I had positioned myself by was more attractive after all. It must have not liked the scent of my ‘Head and Shoulders’ flavoured hair.
After leaving the dragon to do it’s stuff in the last bit of warmth of the year we stumbled upon our first mushrooms of the day.
Some delightful Stinkhorns. They smelt interesting to say the least and I heard the jelly ‘bulb’ they grow out of can be taken as an aphrodisiac, I’m all for trying new things but think I’ll give that a miss.
After crawling about in the leaf litter photographing the stinkhorns I almost crawled right over this beast who wasn’t best impressed.
After leaving the hornet buzzing around I discovered some more Amethyst Deceivers
A few more puffballs…
And a Blusher
A good weekend back in Hertfordshire showing it still has stuff to offer after being spoilt a bit in Kent but more to come on that later ;)