Last week, I flagged up some of the harbingers of spring which I had experienced and at the weekend another, more unexpected one, came to my attention.
Lying in bed on Sunday morning I heard a sound I hadn’t heard since around the same time last year.
At first light, the unmistakable rat-a-tat of a local cock chaffinch tapping on the perspex window above the front door, drifted up the stairs.
Unbelievably, this is the fourth year he has demonstrated this extremely antisocial behaviour.
He sees his reflection in the window and thinks it is a rival male who requires removal from his patch. Most wild garden birds only live two or three years as there is such a high predation rate, but this chap looks to be doing well and is around five.
Chaffinches can live to around 10, but rarely do so. It looks like I’ll have to get out the white paper again to stick to the inside of the window to kill his reflection before he kills himself.
A few weeks ago, a member of a local hillwalking club popped in to see me with a picture taken of a mystery fungus he’d taken on an outing at Ladhope Golf Course near Galashiels.
In mid-winter, there’s not a lot of fungi around and this bright yellow one caught his eye, growing on the stem of a whin bush. It was gelatinous in nature and made up of shiny irregular folds. I’m no expert in this hugely diverse and complicated field, but this one I was fairly confident about. It goes by the name of yellow brain fungus, or to give it its Sunday name, Tremella mesenterica, and is fairly widespread throughout the Borders. In some books it is described as inedible, but this is because it is bland and flavourless, not poisonous. The Chinese have been known to use it to add texture to soup.
Chemically, however, it is much more valuable and the species is known to produce polysaccharides that are of interest to the medical field, because of their biological activity; several patents have been filed in China pertaining to the use of these compounds for cancer prevention or immune system enhancement.
It just goes to show that even a slimy piece of fungus resembling a lump of brain tissue is not without interest.