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Chris Connolly

Shaggy Ink Cap

Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

 

 

 

The Shaggy Ink Cap mushroom is a mushroom that was named for the early era process of producing ink by boiling the blackened mushrooms in water with cloves. As a cousin of the Common Ink Cap mushroom, the Shaggy Ink Cap mushroom has a white skin with tan colouring across its shaggy appearing outer flesh. During the early growth of this mushroom, the cap appears compressed into an oval shape like a closed umbrella. As the oval grows and spreads out, the mushroom begins to form an umbrella-shaped cap.   It is during the early growth stages while still oval or egg-shaped that the gills beneath the caps of the young mushooms are very white and tender textured. As the mushroom ages, the gills darken and become blackened with an inky colouring that actually begins to drip dark black fluid as it deteriorates. Also known as the Shaggy Inky Cap, Shaggy Mane, Inky Top, and Lawyer’s Wig mushroom, the Shaggy Ink Cap can be kept only a few hours before beginning to deteriorate, so it is best not to attempt to air dry this mushroom. It is important to use caution if this mushroom is to be eaten or if the persons selecting this mushroom are unsure of the variety of Ink Cap being considered. As a cousin to the Shaggy Ink Cap, the Common Ink Cap, Inky Cap, or Alcohol Ink Cap mushroom as this type is also referred, it is a mushroom that can be toxic if eaten with or after consuming alcohol. The Common Ink Cap has a smooth appearance without the noticeable shaggy looking outer covering. Knowing the concerns about the Common variety of the Ink Cap mushroom make it questionable as to whether it should be consumed and is generally not recommended as an edible mushroom, especially one to be served to guests.

Purple Jellydisc Fungus

Purple Jellydisc Fungus

 

 

 

When the Purple Jellydisc Fungus (Ascocoryne Sarcoides) first grows on a dead deciduous log, it appears as spherical lobes.   Later, it flattens into a saucer shape. As the fungi gather in clusters, they press against one another to form a rope-like mass, looking like a tiny person had spilled their small intestines onto the forest floor.  The image is enhanced when the fleshy surface of their bodies are moistened by dew or rain. It favors broadleaf trees—particularly the beech tree—in Britain, Ireland, continental Europe, and Australia. Despite its jelly-like appearance (it’s also called “purple jelly drops“), it does not have a distinctive odor or taste and is considered inedible.

Grey Reindeer Lichen

Grey Reindeer Lichen

 

 

 

Green and grey reindeer lichens are most easily separated by colour. Northern native people used reindeer lichen in medicinal teas to treat colds, arthritis, fevers and other problems. Reindeer lichens were also used as a poultice to relieve the ache of arthritic joints. Reindeer lichens have been taken to treat fever, jaundice constipation, convulsions, coughs, and tuberculosis. Grey reindeer lichen is one of the lichens most frequently grazed by caribou and reindeer. In northern Europe it was collected as fodder for livestock, in the belief that milk from the cows would be creamier and their flesh would be fatter and sweeter. Grey reindeer lichen is an excellent example of a plant that has adapted to surviving the severe conditions of the north. Reindeer lichens grow slowly, and mature clumps are often about 100 years old. These lichens generally produce a new branch each year, so that age of a clump can be estimated by counting back through the major branching’s along a stem. Unfortunately, after about 20 years the lower parts start to decompose and eventually you must make an arbitrary decision as to what is living and what is dead. This lichen was photographed in a (now cut down) wood in Prosperous, County Kildare.

The Sickener

The Sickener

 

 

 

The Sickener – as its name implies, is inedible, though not as dangerous as sometimes described in older mushroom guides. The symptoms are mainly gastrointestinal in nature: nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.  These symptoms typically begin half an hour to three hours after ingestion of the mushroom, and usually subside spontaneously, or shortly after the ingested material has been expelled from the intestinal tract.

Death’s Head Moth

Death's Head Moth

 

 

 

The Death’s Head Moth is a large hawk moth with a wingspan of 90–130 mm (about 3.5 to 5 inches). Being one of the largest moths to be found in Europe, it is easily distinguishable by the human skull-shaped pattern of markings on the back of its head. Because of these markings, it has featured in films such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Silence Of The Lambs & The Mothman Phrophecies. The moth also has numerous other unusual features. It has the ability to emit a loud mouse-like squeak if irritated. This sound is produced by expelling air from its proboscis. It often accompanies this sound with flashing its brightly marked abdomen in a further attempt to deter its predators. It is commonly observed raiding beehives for honey at night and is attacked by guard bees at the entrance, but the thick cuticle and resistance to venom allows it to enter the hive. It is able to move about in the hives unmolested because it mimics the scent of the bees. It rests during the day in trees or in the litter, holding the wings like a tent over the body.

Fox Moth Caterpillar

Fox Moth Caterpillar

 

 

 

 

 

The Fox Moth is one of Ireland’s largest moths with a wingspan of 60 to 70mm (2.5 – 3 inches). It is found in most parts of the country and can be seen in May to early July. The male Fox Moths are a reddish brown colour (resembling that of a fox) with two, thin yellow stripes running straight across each forewing. Female Fox Moths are paler and more greyish in colour. The male flies by day and night, while the female only flies at night. The Fox Moth Caterpillar can be a little tricky to identify as they change colour as they grow. The younger caterpillars are black with thin orange bands along their length. The older caterpillars are a reddish-brown colour and covered in long grey hairs, known as setae. Although many species depend on camouflage as a form of protection against predators, the hair acts as a defence against birds and predatory insects such as parasitoid wasps, which find it difficult to penetrate beyond the hairs to lay eggs beneath the caterpillar’s skin. The Caterpillars eat a remarkably wide range of plants i.e.: Brambles, Strawberries, Raspberries, Alfalfa, Clovers, Blackthorn, Potentillas, Heathers and Roses. They live communally, protecting themselves with a web and hibernating through the winter. These dark hairy caterpillars can often be mistaken for the dreaded, but unrelated, Processionary Caterpillars, which have severely irritant hairs (similar to the Stinging Nettle or Poison Ivy). The caterpillars of the Fox Moth can be picked up and handled, although if you have sensitive skin you might find that they will give you a rash. The caterpillar won’t be too impressed either and will form a coil in self-defence. They can be found in grassland habitats including moorland, damp meadows, sand dunes and open woodland.

 

Buff Ermine Moth

Buff Ermine Moth

 

 

 

The Buff Ermine Moth (34- 42 mm wingspan) is a hairy moth with a variable pastel, yellow to cream colour. The eggs are deposited in large groups in summer. They hatch quickly; the caterpillars eat a lot and grow fast. Young larvae of the Buff Ermine moth often live together in large groups, but they split up once they get older. The larvae are extremely mobile and capable of covering large distances quickly and when threatened, they will either freeze or run away. In autumn, cocoons are woven in which the pupation takes place. The cocoons can be found among leaf litter and other plant debris during winter. The caterpillar of the Buff Ermine Moth will eat almost everything from small garden plants to shrubs and birch trees. Even though the first Buff Ermines appear in April and the last are seen by the end of August, most fly about from mid-June to mid-July. This moth only flies during the night. Should you find one resting during the day, you can easily take some photos as it hardly ever moves and never flies off. This is probably due to the fact that both adult and larva are foul tasting and even slightly poisonous for birds. Adult moths do not eat and they are very common throughout Ireland, the UK and the continent.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

 

 

 

The Elephant Hawk Moth can be found throughout Britain and Ireland. The adults are seen from May to July and the caterpillars from July to September. It has a typically wing span of 50–70 mm (2.0–2.8 inches). It is spectacularly coloured, shimmer with green and red when in motion. Humans are not very good at seeing in the dark but many animals are active at night and can see what we can’t see. One champion among them is the Elephant Hawk Moth. It flies around in the middle of the night in search of flowers such as Honeysuckles and Petunias and drinks their nectar, hovering in front of them like a hummingbird. The adults have been shown to be capable of making colour discriminations at night-time levels of illumination. The adult moths are eaten by some species of bats.

Small Heath Butterfly

Small Heath Butterfly

 

 

 

Despite its name, the Small Heath Butterfly is not confined to heathland and can be found in a wide variety of habitats. This charming little butterfly always settles with its wings closed, where the eyespot on the underside of the forewing is usually visible, acting as a decoy to any predator. The forewings are tucked behind the hind wings when roosting for long periods, or in dull weather. Males set up territories where they can be found perching, although they also spend time patrolling in search of a mate. When a male encounters another, the pair fly a few meters up into the air before separating. Females will also zigzag over the vegetation in search of a mate. Mating may happen at any time of day and a mating pair may remain coupled from as little as 10 minutes up to 5 hours. Mated females tend to avoid male territories, flying over sparse grassland where they lay their eggs. Both sexes feed on a variety of nectar sources.

Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue Butterfly (33 Images Stacked)

This Common Blue Butterfly was photographed in August (2014) in a disused limestone quarry in Kilkenny. The quarry, which is surrounded by 11 acres of wild meadow, has not been used in over 60 years. These meadows are populated by a host of wild flowers and are a haven for butterflies. The ‘Common Blue’ butterfly is the most common of the Blues found in Ireland. It has a wingspan of 29 – 35mm and it is tightly tied to dense stands of its food plants i.e., the Bird’s Foot Trefoil and the Common Restharrow. The male is a very attractive shiny blue, whereas the female is mainly brown with her underside being very decorative, with orange crescents and black spots. It is active in sunshine but during dull weather it rests on grass stems with its wings closed. The males fly around their host plants in order to find females. The caterpillars secrete nutrient-containing substances that attract ants and in turn, the ants protect the caterpillars from predators.