The wet birch woods on the reserve are fascinating places, with their mounds of beautiful deep green moss and trees, alive and dead, at all kinds of rakish angles.
There are hidden pools to trap the unwary, and some interesting plants and fungi. In one such wood, Neil and I looked and listened for willow tits as part of the Thursday Vols task for the day. We didn’t find any willow tits but we did find something very strange. It looked like a slightly large ping pong ball stuck on the trunk of one of the dead birch trees. Weirdly, it wobbled like a blancmange when gently touched.
Later I showed a photo to Mhairi who suggested it could be a slime mould, and further investigation confirmed that it was indeed a kind of slime mould, called a false puffball. A bit of research on line revealed that it is a very weird “thing” indeed, neither plant, fungus or animal but able to move towards a food source. It changes its shape too, if we had gone back a few hours later it would have looked quite different or could even have exploded in a mass of brown spores. How weird is that? I have learnt many things during my years as a Campfield volunteer, but the false puffball has to be one of the most extraordinary!
Fourteen years ago the Thursday Vols created glades in the birch wood on the edge of the moss at Campfield to provide sunny places for butterflies, dragonflies and other insects.
The tree trunks and brashings were stacked in log piles on the edge of the glade and over the years they rotted, providing homes and food for all kinds of creatures.
Today the stacks look quite different, plants grow over them, insects live in them, small birds find food there and they have become part of the ecosystem of the wood.
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