Threw back the curtains to be greeted with a snowy vista, which was a bit of a shock seeing as I didn't even know we were due snow today. Here's the view from an upstairs window looking out across the rear of the hotel and the bay beyond. Not too shabby, I've certainly endured worse (yes Tolworth Broadway, I'm talking to you...)
|Beeee-aaa-uuuutiful - this makes me happy!|
Anyway, I've only managed one day off work out of the last sixteen. Things seemed blissfully quiet, so I scurried away at 2pm for some "me time". I managed a whole thirty minutes before having to head back to show the plumbers around again. Pfffft. Luckily, during that half an hour, I successfully found something I've recently been looking for, a fungus that grows on the bark of birches. I only learnt of its existence a few weeks ago, though apparently it's dirt common. Even so, I doubt I'd have ever self-found this particular species. It's hardly a stunner!
|Bark of a Downy Birch twig|
Apologies for the rather crappy image, I should have tried this whilst still outdoors. Anyway, so this is what a Downy Birch twig looks like. This particular twig is about 15mm diameter. See the big, horizontal bands? They're called lenticel grooves. And the smaller, pale-rimmed ovoid bumps are lenticels. I think that's right? Lenticels are a feature of Betula (birches), find a twig/branch/trunk and have a look. In Britain we have Silver Birch, Downy Birch and their hybrid. There are also various non-native birches kicking around in nurseries/gardens and local councils sometimes use these in amenity plantings. A few may become established in time, if they haven't already. Surprisingly (to me), the only naturally occurring birch here on Skye is Downy Birch.
A close (10x handlens) inspection of these lenticels allowed me to find the target of my search, the hugely underwhelming Pseudovalsa lanciformis. It is barely worth scrolling down any further, but seeing as I went to the effort to locate some, you may as well at least glance at it
|Woo-hoo, yeehaw baby! (umm, yeah.....righty-ho.....)|
Note that these lenticels are somewhat distorted and have blackish circular holes in them. I know, I did warn you! What you're looking at are the remains of the fungal perithecia erupting through the lenticel. To quote direct from Ellis & Ellis
Pseudovalsa lanciformis (Fr.)Ces. & de Not.
Perithecia 0.5mm diameter, in groups of up to 10 immersed in dark brown to black stromata with narrow elongated discs appearing through transverse slits in bark. Common on attached twigs and small branches
So the 'holes' are the basal parts of the fungus packed into the lenticels. The fruiting bodies have fallen off/died, else I'd show you a pic of the spores. This year's fruiting bodies should be up in a few more weeks time, but honestly - don't hold your breath. They're just greyish/blackish blobs that protrude from the surface a tad. Pretty shite, if I'm honest. I'm glad to have encountered it, another fragment of natural history knowledge has been stored away, but it's never going to make sexy centrefold in the Mycologist Monthly, or whatever the equivalent may be. Ali managed a nice pic of the spores on his 1KSQ post, better than my efforts for sure. It's entirely thanks to Ali that I even heard about this fungus (cheers, chap!)
I managed to sneak away again after work, though it was almost dark by then. The Iceland Gull was present again, there are quite a few of them dotted around the Western Isles at the moment, very nice after my complete blank last winter.
Final image is of a really weird cloud, looks as though it's having a bit of a bad hair day!
Music time again. For no reason other than they've both just autoplayed on my YouTube channel, I give you tonight's offerings. As always, enjoy!