Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fungi of Alderney

What most people want to know about any fungus is “Can I eat it?” . There is small group of poisonous fungi, of which only a few species will be fatal, and a larger group of edible fungi, some more delicious than others. Another group is “inedible” but is not poisonous.There is no easy test to discover the fungus is toxic or not.
There are around 300 different species of fungi in Alderney. Their majority are doing no harm as they decompose and recycle organic matter, and many are very beautiful in appearance.

Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare) ,22p.
This fungi  has a sulphurous yellow cap and stem, but look underneath and the gills are a dull grey colour. It grows in clumps on dead tree stumps, and is rather toxic, though not deadly. Apparently, it tastes extremely bitter, which will hopefully put you off.

Orange Peel Fungus, Aleuria aurantia (27p),
This fungi belongs to a group called the”cup fungi”. Little orange saucer-shaped fruits  wood are found on damp, bare ground, such as little-used paths. The spores are released form the upper surface. It is not poisonous, but rather small, although it can occur in large numbers, and is used by some as a garnish, to add colour to a dish.

Shinning Ink Cap, Coprinus micaceus (36p),
A small golden-brown mushroom, often with glistening flecks on the cap. The gills beneath are dark purple-black, and the whole fungus eventually turns this colour as it rots away. It grows in clumps on dead wood, and is edible, but rather small, and tends to disintegrate in the pan.

Giant Puffball, Langermannia gigantea (40p).
This fungi is large white puff-ball can grow up to 80 cm in diameter. It occours mostly in grassland, sometimes hidden under nettles or brambles. It is quite common in Alderney, and is very good to eat, as long as it is still firm and  white inside. Slice it like a loaf of bread and fry.

Parasol, Macrolepiota procera (45p)
A tall cream to pale brown mushroom with a thick ring on the stem, and a flaky cap.It also grows in grassland, often near the coast, and on the cliffs in Alderney. The cap is excellent eating, the stem is a little coarse, but can be used in stock.

Candle Snuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon (65p)
Black, cylindrical, anti-shaped fruit bodies with white tips, again growing on deadwood. This one belongs to the inedible group- it is almost as hard as wood. It can be found all the year round, and is very common.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Herons of The Reef

On February  9, 2007, Vanuatu Post released the fauna stamp, features Herons of the reef. It was interestingly seen in two different colour phases in Vanuatu – the white form has pure white plumage and yellow/brown/olive face, bill and legs. The dark form is slate-grey to brownish-black with a thin white stripe on the throat. The white form is the more rare version of the two types.
The stamp issued are one miniature sheet consist of 5 single stamps depicts their lives and the First Day Cover depicts their habitat in the background picture.
They inhabit rocky coasts and reefs but are also found around sea cliffs, mangroves and mud flats. They are found alone or in pairs and are strongly territorial in defending their foraging areas. Stalking gracefully through the shallows, they feed mainly at the intertidal zone (sometimes at night) and take small crabs, crustaceans, and small fish as well as frogs, lizards and insects. Canopy feeding, (where a heron’s wings form a parasol to provide shade and assist fishing) is common in herons but not in this species.
The nesting season is usually February to July and the adults nest in coastal trees as well as in bushes on the rocky shore and on the ground. The nest is made of sticks and twigs and often becomes bulky over a number of years. two or three pale blue eggs are laid and the chicks are sparsely covered with down. Fledging takes around 5-6 weeks.
The heron grows in length to around 50cm and is widespread throughout the Pacific but is found mainly on the western seaboard from Japan to Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reef Shells of Vanuatu

Vanuatu Post has focused on twelve hard-shell specimens in this issue, to highlight the importance of shells in the marine environment, and in particular those that inhabit the reefs and shallow coastal waters of the archipelago.
Molluscs belong to the phylum Mollusca which is divided into six classes – Amphineura (chitons), Monoplacophora (gastroverms or limpet-like shells), Scaphopoda (tusk shells), Gastropoda (limpets, whelks etc), Bivalvia (cockles, mussels, clams etc) and Cephalopoda (squid, nautilus etc)
Feeding is generally by taking in microscopic vegetable or animal particles that are suspended in water or lying on or just below the sea floor. The warm, clear waters of Vanuatu are ideal for the shells illustrated to thrive, and the coral reefs provide an environment, which has plenty of food.
The shells are colourful through pigmentation at the mantle secretion stage and can vary greatly. Those found in tropical waters tend to be more colourful than those in colder waters. Distribution is controlled by elements of climate, temperature, currents and water depth.The reef shells of Vanuatu are both beautiful and fascinating.
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