Beauty in the detail

With the irksome exam period now a fading memory, and lectures yet to recommence into full swing, it has been pleasant to get out and about a bit more around the superb Cornish countryside. Whilst birding has been the focus of many a trip to my local reservoir patch or nearby estuary, I have also been endeavouring to cast my eyes closer afoot and focus on the smaller and often overlooked details that catch my eye.

From mosses to moths, elfcups to umbellifers – I have been trying to expand my general knowledge of the species’ groups I have often neglected in my enthusiasm over birding. It has been fun to try out a bit of plant ID and learn more about fungi and even chiropteran cave-dwellers too…bats! In addition to the satisfaction gained from identifying the species I come across, focussing down to the macro scale often leads to the uncovering of patterns, textures, details and colours that are both remarkable and beautiful. Having a macro lens at hand often helps to capture these miniature masterpieces too. I thought I’d post a few images from my exploits over the last week, although expect to see some dedicated moss- and macro-focussed blogs soon!

moss sporophytes – the male part of mosses that produces the spores. The outlines of these particular stems with the water droplets looked lovely an abstract when viewed through my macro lens
the crisp, hollow skeletons of umbellifers stand delicate and erect in hedgerows and coastal scrub over the winter months. Their stems are act as lodgings for a range of invertebrates escaping the keen eyes of predators, such as earwigsand spider species
although a common enough fungi in damp woodland, these superb Scarlet Elfcups were new for me – a surprising find whilst walking into uni along the nearby College Reservoir.

Whilst this bracket fungus might looked a little bland an uninteresting from above, peering beneath the ‘lid’ reveals an intricate pattern of gills that creates a maze of patterns and textures

The weather has been classically Cornish at times: damp, mild and humid. Whilst it can be a little dreary to be out, the drizzly conditions can laden plants, flowers and trees in a sparkling suit of water droplets, such as this gorse flower (spring is on its way…?)
One of my favourite plants at the moment is the eloquently-named ‘Traveller’s Joy’, or Clematis vitalba. This vigorous shrub drapes over hedgerows and small trees along lanes and woodland edges, its frosty-white seeds giving the appearance of christmas tinsel! It really is a lovely-looking plant, even when viewed close-up as above
A sycamore seed key – backlighting reveals a netted map of veins in a pattern not unlike palmate leaves
Last weekend I joined the Cornwall Bat Group on one of their winter hibernation surveys, visiting a number of disused mines in search of winter bat roosts. We came across 23 bats in total, including the bizarrely-adorned horseshoe bats such as this greater horseshoe bat
the mild air within the cave systems is the perfect slumbering spot for a range of other species too…many mine passages were home to hibernating moths like this herald, an abundance of Cave Spiders and even hoverflies too

For a month or more now, I have been dabbling in a bit of bryology – spurred on by the efforts of my Mum and fellow naturalist Calum Urquhart. “What on earth is bryology?” you may ask, and it’s a valid point! Bryophytes include mosses and liverworts, and are essentially non-vascular plants without the xylem and phloem transport systems.

Last Saturday, Calum and I joined some Cornish members of the British Bryological Society in a survey of some woodland habitat in east Cornwall. We recorded a bewildering total of 67 bryophyte species, which comprises more latin than you can stomach in a week, but it was great fun. You can read a more complete record of our trip on Calum’s blog here (hover the images above for specie’s names)


So, next time you’re out for a walk or simply pottering in the garden, why not take a closer look at the unassuming green shrubs and smaller inhabitants that you’d otherwise overlook – it can be surprising what surprises await when you start venturing into the macro world


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