July 21, 2021

September 2011 in Thetford Forest

I remember the surprise with which I was faced when I visited Thetford Forest for the first time. It was way before I kept any record of my observations, but this made such an impression on me that I remembered anyway.
As someone who enjoys collecting mushrooms, having this forest nearby was very tempting, and after our return from the summer holidays we decided to go here. I wasn't expecting to find much this time around, particularly given that in Russia there wasn't that much this year, although the stuff I found was exceptionally high quality.
We arrived at the railway station and just went to the first place we decided on a map. It was an attractive beech grove, and we thought this would be a likely area to find at least something. We sat down to rest near to the entrance to the grove, next to a track that led somewhere to the north.
As soon as I began moving around on that tiny clearing I encountered several penny buns off the bat. I wasn't surprised by this point, even though I should have been, because the area in which it happened was about 10x10 meters. But it did encourage me, and we traversed into the wider birch grove, moving parallel to the road which we had arrived on.
I then found a massive penny bun. And then another. And then others in very rapid succession. The others with me were also finding huge amounts, very quickly. And our bag was filling up fast. And it was a really large bag at that.
Then, I found a massive and interesting looking bolete, with an olive-brown cap, red underside, and red stem. The one I assume now is known as Neoboletus erythropus. I knew it as Boletus erythropus back then. These are interesting, because if eaten raw you are guaranteed an unpleasant time. But if fried or boiled, they are delicious. And I had never encountered any mushroom of this species even half as big as this one was.
The grove ended at a patch of grass, and started again further on. In this area we found several chestnut boletes, something which surprised me as I never encountered these anywhere before, followed in rapid succession by another swarm of penny buns. We had found a giant amount of these fungi, and we had barely even gone into the forest at this stage.
Sure enough, once we returned to the track and went parallel to it in the narrow birch strip, I discovered the true meaning of a 'mushroom swarm'. Mostly penny buns, but also bay boletes. We followed this strip of wood to the end, where another track ended it, and then returned on the other side.
By the time we came out onto the road from where we came we were carrying enormous and very heavy bags of boletes, but we didn't want to leave just yet, particularly me, who hadn't seen so much mushrooms like this ever before.
We followed the road to an interesting-looking birch grove, which was rather damp and had a lot of sphagnum in it. As soon as we got in we found an enormous amount of birch boletes. And they were all of the leccinum variicolor variety. Quite a lot of penny buns as well, just all over the place.
When we returned home, we decided to count how much we had found. We had brought in 4 heavy bags completely loaded with mushrooms with us. We just decided to count the penny buns. There were 126 of them in our bags.
For such a huge amount of fungi, we ate them all relatively quickly.
This part of the forest is seriously incredible. In 2012, also around September, I found what I believe is the UK's first leccinum percandidum mushroom. Reminiscent of an orange birch bolete, except completely white all over, and which bruised red, then blue-black to the touch. I also found a boletus fragrans in the same area.

Posted on July 21, 2021 09:43 by gberloff gberloff | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 2018- Rescuing white-tailed eagles on the Volga river

In August of the same year in which I had successfully tracked down a golden oriole and long-eared owls and taken pictures of them, I was invited to participate in a very interesting trip in one of Russia's strict nature reserves.
The Volga-Kama nature reserve is the area with the highest breeding density of white-tailed eagles in Europe. Indeed, I observed 2 nests in this reserve, the distance between which was less than 300 meters. It was one of those nests which needed such a trip.
On the way here we stopped at an eastern imperial eagle nest, but found it deserted. Another ornithologist shared why it was deserted. A tractor broke down near the nest, and the eagles couldn't handle the attempted repairs, which were taking place right near the nest without moving the tractor, for over a week. It was a real shame.
We then had to arrive in the main reserve by boat as the area is quite swampy, and shortly afterwards set out to try and find a young eagle that was fitted with a satellite tag, which fell out of its nest, and its tag stopped working. We scoured the area all around the area where it was last seen, but we couldn't find any trace of it. We thought it was dead.
After making sure that we had looked properly here, we returned and took a boat ride around the islands of the reserve, and saw many more white-tailed eagles along the way, which also included an exceptionally prolonged and close encounter with one of these massive birds, which flew right past out boat. This to this day remains one of my best birdwatching experiences of all time.
Much later, I think it was spring the next year, I was contacted by one of the people who had been with me. They informed me that the eagle had been found. The satellite transmitter wasn't broken, but lost charge, and after it had spent some time in the sun, the transmitter started working again. It was located in a very small nature reserve, nearly 100km away. A very surprising ending to such a trip!

Posted on July 21, 2021 09:26 by gberloff gberloff | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 2018- Golden Orioles

The golden oriole is the bird which took the most effort for me to find. And even a pair living right next to me in Russia didn't help at all.
I first became aware of it when at around 4 in the morning I was awoken by the male calling right outside my window. I was unable to see it because it was perched on the other side of the apple tree, and then a neighbour flushed it, causing it to fly west, but I could still hear its calls. I followed them. When cycling around on my bike shortly after and hearing its calls coming from nearby, I looked back to see a yellow-black bird fly quickly across the road from mixed forest into broad-leaved woodland. This was right on the edge of the village where I stayed in.
I kept returning to the same spot multiple times, and saw it in flight at one point after a thunderstorm. I saw it fly quickly from a lone birch tree into the same broad-leaved grove, where it continued to call in its rather shrill cat-like scream. I couldn't see it from the road. That particular grove has some of the tallest grass I've seen, and seemed perfect for the pair to live inside there. However, I was only ever able to see the male. I don't think I saw the female at any point.
On the 5th July was my first sighting, heaving its song right outside my window. Ten days later, I was still looking for it, everyday, without a trace of a sighting. One time I had seen where it flew to and was trying to get a view of that lone tree, when a tremendous downpour put an end to those plans.
It used the entire area of our village, but mainly was in the forests just outside, particularly in that broad-leaved grove.
One evening I was sure I would manage to take a picture after I saw where the calls were coming from. My camera lost charge at that point.
So when, the next day, on the 22nd July, I woke up to hear its cat-like scream somewhere on the outskirts of the image at around 5 in the morning, I simply left the house. Previously I had talked to someone who managed to take a picture of them on a smartphone from their house and found out that these birds may be using favourite perch spots rather than just haphazardly sitting anywhere.
But I wasn't thinking about that. I was just following the calls and screams. Eventually I was standing outside the village and looking at a birch tree in someone's garden. The calls were coming from that tree. I zoomed in, and thought there was a magpie. I had nearly turned away to look elsewhere, when something about that 'magpie' caught my interest.
It didn't take me long to realise that this was the golden oriole I had been looking for! I was stunned, and just kept taking pictures as it, completely oblivious to my presence, continued calling, until it suddenly flew off into the village.
A few days later, the last I ever heard of it was its beautiful song, coming from the direction of that birch.

Posted on July 21, 2021 09:12 by gberloff gberloff | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment