Another Wet Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, it takes more than a torrential downpour to keep me from my weekly visit to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery and so it was that I found ourselves standing under a tree during a deluge. I took the obligatory photo of ‘my’ swamp cypress, and I also managed this splendid shot of a fox as he headed into the undergrowth. Wildlife Photographer of the Year awaits me, I’m sure.

But then it let up a little and so on we (my long-suffering husband and I ) slogged. I noticed lots of blackbirds about, for the first time in a while – some blackbirds spend their summers in other parts of Europe and only overwinter in the UK, and some blackbirds pop in from Scandinavia. At one point a few years ago, when everyone was grounded due to the bad weather, there were no less than eight blackbirds in my back garden, all getting along swimmingly provided I kept the food coming. You wouldn’t see that when the territories are established in the spring.

There was no kestrel in the kestrel tree this week, and I assume that, like all sensible birds, s/he was under cover somewhere, hoping for the worst to pass. But nothing stops the crows, and there was a little gang of them looking shifty by Harwood’s path. They were turning over the leaves very methodically, and I wondered if someone had scattered something for them. But they flew off as we approached, and although I had a good look, I was none the wiser.

I have become fascinated by what I think of as the stumperies in the cemetery – the remains of trees which have been cut down and which are now being gradually eroded by fungi or covered with ivy. There is one close to where the wreathes are left following cremations which has been planted up with succulents and what appears to be a smiley face, though whence this came I have no idea.

Some are sprouting a few annual ‘weeds’ on the top, but I wonder if all those stems at the side might actually sprout when spring comes, I shall have to keep an eye on it.

This one is forming a very nice base for some ivy.

This one is becoming a whole mini-ecosystem, with moss and lichen and turkey-tail fungus.

And while the fungus seems to be eating this stump to pieces, there are also some tell tale holes which could be beetle larvae, but could equally well be caused by the thump of green woodpecker beaks as they drill for ants.

So far, so unspectacular. But then, I spotted what appeared to be a doorknob growing under one of the fir trees off Withington Road (a very muddy and underused path), and here is my highlight of the week.

This is, I believe, an earthstar, and I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s Geastrum triplex, the Collared Earthstar. What I love most about this enigmatic fungus is that I probably only noticed it because it’s pouring with rain – when raindrops hit the ‘ball’ in the middle, spores are sent flying out through the hole in the top. When it’s dry, the ‘petals’ of the earthstar curl up and protect the fruiting body, making sure that the spores aren’t released when conditions aren’t ideal. How I love spotting something that I’ve never seen before! It puts a spring in my step like nothing else.

And so we make our damp, muddy way back to the entrance, where I spot two crows sitting on top of the cedar of lebanon. What are they up to? Well, they appear to be bashing their way into the barrel-shaped pine cones, though whether they are after the pine nuts or the little insects that are attempting to have a peaceful hibernation I have no idea. I am full of admiration for these intelligent resourceful birds. Never underestimate a crow.

6 thoughts on “Another Wet Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    Those cedar cones exude a very sticky resin. I wonder (for the first time, because of what you’ve noticed) how crows and any other critters which tackle the cones avoid/manage the resin?

  2. SilverTiger

    Crows are perhaps my favourite birds because they are so intelligent. And so are those other clever corvids, the magpies. I watched a pair of these outwit a cat and steal his dinner!


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