On the Wildside: Pressmennan has variety of nature

The eggs of a Caddis Fly on the surface of hazel leaves.
The eggs of a Caddis Fly on the surface of hazel leaves.

Pressmennan Wood near Stenton, Dunbar was the venue for the September meeting of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

The Woodland Trust manage the 210 acres of wooded valley on both sides of a loch where there is a mixture of ancient, gnarled old Oaks set amongst a broad range of other native deciduous trees and planted exotic conifers.

We chose the path along the loch side, where, in glorious sunshine we could admire the Little Grebes, a group of four were swimming around and diving in search of small fish near the trees on the far bank, they were quite unconcerned about our presence and must be well used to visitors watching them, there may have been six individuals on the loch.

A number of relaxed Mallards in their dull, eclipse, summer plumage lazed around, either apparently sleeping on the low boughs of the surrounding trees or just sitting still on the water.

Moorhens were much more active and amongst them all darted some blue Damselflies.

The birds in the trees and bushes were keeping a low profile as is often the case at this time of year. The calls of Buzzards, Jays and Bullfinches were loud and clear but other than the scolding calls of Wrens few other birds were encountered.

Much of the quite steep banks under the trees are moist and heavily shaded and here there is an abundance of large, luxuriant ferns, Lady Ferns, Male Ferns and Buckler Ferns all competing for space.

On the ground amongst them a good selection of mosses and liverworts. Where the banks were a little drier great clumps and mats of Wood Rush, with its shiny evergreen leaves often excluded all other plants. Honeysuckle scrambled over the ground and up trees and a number of Holly bushes were growing wild.

In the loch is an extensive area dominated by Bur-reed were a few spikey flowers still remained.

Fungi were fruiting in profusion but their identification was well beyond our abilities. We saw Boletus which have tiny pores on their underside. Amongst those with gills were Milkcaps, they are species of Lactarius and bleed a milk like substance when damaged, Brown Rollrims and an assortment of Agarics. Glue Crusts were found on Hazel where they were sticking dead twigs onto stronger branches to stop them falling to the ground and the familiar Jelly Ear was abundant on dead Elderberry branches.

The identification of little clumps of some jelly on both the upper and lowers surfaces of Hazel had us foxed. Inside was either little specks of white or brownish-white elongated “things” which did not seem to move. Further research when we returned home indicated that this was the eggs of Caddis Flies. At the appropriate time and when the weather is moist little larvae will emerge from the jelly and descend down into the loch where they will live inside a little case made from tiny stones and fragments of dead plants until mature. A big brown caterpillar on a branch will in time turn into an Angle Shades Moth.

A nice place for an easy stroll to enjoy all sorts of nature.