Barrel Jellyfish

This day last year was one of the quiet days between some really rough weather.  Huge waves had been shoving all kinds of things up to the tops of the beaches.

This lump of whitish jelly should have been swimming about in the ocean, instead, it was lying here upside-down and dead.  The barrel jellyfish is the largest of these creatures to inhabit British seas.  It can reach a diameter of 90cm (3 feet) and weigh up to 35 kg (80 pounds), though 90% of that is water.

Like many 'giants' of the sea, they feed on plankton.  Like other jellyfish, they do have a sting, but it is so weak as to be harmless to humans.

More information here


A bittern at last

In January 1981 I walked through the Teifi Marshes in west Wales and watched a bittern Botaurus stellaris flying over the reeds, looking like a sheet of brown cardboard drifting in the wind. It was my first visit to the place, and the first bittern I had seen.

In the years since, I've seen few bitterns, always at other places, always at a distance.  

For the last few winters, bitterns have been regular visitors to the Teifi Marshes, and people have taken wonderful photos of them (or maybe it's the same bittern returning each winter).  During each of the last three winters we have visited the marshes several times, and not seen one at all.

Today, Lady Luck was on our side.  The bittern appeared in front of the reedbed, not far from the hide.  It was visible, on and off, from about 8:30am (according to people who were in the hide that early), until we saw it fly off to feed at around 3pm.  I was there from 11am, and I'm still (it's now 10pm) trying to thaw out - the water was frozen and the air temperature only a degree or two above freezing.

But, at last, I have a few photos. 


When gorse is in flower

When gorse is in flower, kissing is in season.

There is an awful lot of gorse in flower at the moment.  It does flower year round, but for most of the year that means odd blooms here and there, with the main flowering period for common/European gorse in May.  I don't remember seeing as much in flower in January as is out there at the moment.  At Stackpole today, it was like spring - clear, blue skies, sunny, light wind, and lots of gorse flowers!

Photo will have to wait until the computer agrees to talk to the camera:(


Yellow Brain Fungus

It was a cold, grey and drizzly start to the year, but in amongst the dull woodland branches was this burst of colour.  Only an inch or so across, it was like a beacon.

Yellow brain fungus is found across Europe, the fruiting body visible as this peculiar jelly mass only after rain.  Otherwise it dries out to almost nothing and is hard to see.

There are two virtually identical species, each of which is actually parasitic on another fungus. This one, I think, is Tremella mesenterica and that pinky brown covering of the bark is Peniophora, the fungus it is parasitising. 

The other species, Tremella aurantia, parasitises Hairy stereum Stereum hirsutum.

Both are edible, but are hardly worthwhile

More information



Indian Red Admiral

It's that time of year for spending spare evenings and bad weather days going through the year's photos.  If you're going to be able to find them easily in the future, they need to have titles and labels/keywords, and perhaps a caption too.  It's also a time for chucking out the ones that aren't all that good - often easier to do some time after the original event.

I was looking at photos of red admiral butterflies, and noted some that looked a bit different.  I knew the ones I had photographed on Madeira were Indian red admirals, and now I realised that those from Tenerife were also Indians - I hadn't noticed that at the time.  The Tenerife pictures were not good enough to be more than reminder that I had seen them.  This is one from Madeira.

Strange that the Indian Red Admiral should be found in India and other parts of Asia, and then in the Macaronesian Islands of the Atlantic with nothing in between.  Surely they must have been introduced here by humans.