At this time of year, autumn colours are always a race between frosty nights and high wind. Well, the frosty nights have come and the colours deepened, but now many leaves have blown off in the wind, so walking has become a childhood pleasure, through drifted piles of green, yellow, pink, red, plum and brown, to match the November fireworks.
Some insects are still active. Ivy flowers provide a valuable food source in November and a late wasp was seen on these (above). A common darter was spotted on a stone wall (right). Under a rough web, on a fallen leaf, a 3mm bright green spider lurked – Nigma walckenaeri (below).
It is always a surprise to visitors that cattle graze the meadows along the Cam, even in the middle of the city. Over the last few weeks, they have mostly been housed for the winter, no longer depositing their dung pats across the water meadows. However, under the pats it is far from dead! The larvae of dung beetles and dung flies survive over-winter as chrysalises, to emerge as adults in the spring. Fungi break down the dung, worms and plants invade it, rain and frost contribute to decay and soon the nutrients are returned to the soil.
There are still lots of other fungi around. In Paradise Local Nature Reserve, a huge willow tree was felled about three years ago, after it became dangerously decayed in the middle. The logs were piled beside the path and now host various bracket and other fungi. Altogether, I found 15-20 different species in the wood, including oyster mushrooms.
Olwen Williams, 11 November 2016