Sunday, 12 April 2015

A rather "barren" foraging time for me this summer!

A Thrush? No, a baby Robin!
On the 7th April I wrote a blog entitled “Ancient & modern, massive & tiny” in which I made a comment about wild strawberries - “later in the year it can produce its tiny strawberry fruits, which taste so deliciously sweet”. A couple of days later I received an E-mail from a reader of my Blog, which said:

Dear Peter
Sorry to be a spoilsport but the plant in the picture illustrating the elegant piece of writing is Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) not Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). You can tell this because the petals of the flower do not overlap - in the true Wild Strawberry they do. Barren Strawberry, true to its name, produces only a small dry fruit - nothing edible.
Best wishes,
Mike Lock.

Obviously, Ray Mears I am not! Foraging for a “wild” picnic in the countryside with me could be a wonderful new way to diet!!

This started me thinking about how many things are misidentified in the countryside and wondering how many observations are sent in as records that are actually not quite correct.

There are common ones such as spotting a Yellow Wagtail in January – almost certainly a Grey wagtail, (which does have lots of yellow on it) as Yellow wagtails do not over-winter here. Tree sparrows and House sparrows are muddled up, as are Willow tit and Marsh tit. Baby Robins that have no redbreast to start with, are often recorded as baby thrushes. These are just a few mistakes from the bird world.

I do find it refreshing that often so called “experts” also quite often get things wrong – even if only momentarily!
Here are a few:

The late, great Sir Peter Scott was sea-watching one day with an enthusiastic and adoring crowd of admirers. As he scanned the horizon, he confidently called out ''Hobby chasing a Swift''. As the 'birds' moved closer, it transpired that the 'Hobby' was in fact a Swallow and the 'Swift' a bumblebee!

A Shrike had been recorded in the Norfolk Brecks and several birders were gathered at the point where the bird had last been seen. Suddenly a shout of ''Got it! Third gorse bush from the left to the right of the second pylon!'' One co-observer calmly replied ''Erm, where exactly is it in relation to the faded cheese and onion crisp packet?''

Another good one is the story about a group of “twitchers” who had gathered on the Isles of Scilly to 'tick' a tired Nighthawk (a kind of North American nightjar) which had settled down in a grass field. After quite a long time taking photographs and discussing the rarity, it was suggested that they might all be able to move a little closer. Slowly, the assembled group moved silently forward, only to discover that they had all been watching a cowpat!

So, thank you to Mike Lock for pointing out my mistaken strawberry plant – this is how we all learn – from each other. I am absolutely sure however, that it will not be long before I blunder again on something else! (Please correct me if I do!).

I often say that if one could spend the whole of one’s life studying an individual species or niche habitat such an old tree, we would still not know half of what there is to discover. Multiply that across the whole countryside and it becomes a big, fascinating subject!

Anyone want to come with me to forage a few wild mushrooms for supper?


1 comment:

  1. Wild mushrooms for supper? Err, no thanks; just in case!