Slug eating a mushroom

I’m still on a mushroom kick after reading Entangled Life. One of the bonuses of working at home now is being able to go out mushroom hunting at lunchtime to take photos! I usually go down into the bush but these ones were right next to the house growing out of some hay mulch. I took a few photos when they first sprouted. I’d planned to take some more the next day as they grew but when I returned there was a slug with it’s mouth wrapped around the entire cap! An hour later the slug was gone, all that was left of the mushroom was a bare stalk.

This is when the mushroom after it first sprouted. It’s tiny, probably only a cm or two tall

After a day of growing they were about 5cm tall, the cap had expanded and turned a deeper red colour with regularly spaced white nodules around the rim. I returned an hour later to take a photo and found this!

Slug chowing down on a tasty looking mushroom
Slug eating a mushroom. It was taking it slow, not much apparent movement but an hour later the slug and entire mushroom cap were gone

This is all that was left.

A shriveled stalk is all that was left. Another of the same type of mushroom is in the foreground, unfortunately out of focus

I took the slug photos with my SLR and 70-300 zoom lens. They are not as clear as I’d hoped, I’ve got some extension tubes on order to hopefully step up my macro photography game. The other photos are taken with my phone.

Slimy Purple Mushrooms

Cortinarius archeri

I’ve been reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake and it inspired me to go out looking for mushrooms. It’s good timing as we’re in autumn and have recently had a lot of rain, great mushroom conditions!

During a short explore in the bush close to home I came across these large striking purple mushrooms. There were 3 of them, 2 quite large with caps approximately 10cm across, a 3rd was smaller and growing under the shelter of one of the larger ones. The caps were wet and slimy and deep purple in colour. They were growing in the ground pushing up through the covering of leaves and sheoak needles. Next to them was a small hole that looked like it had been dug by a foraging animal.

The slimy purple Cortinarius archeri. Found sprouting from the ground in the bush near home.
Caps were about 10cm across, my toes for scale

Some Google image searching pointed to it being a common Australian native, Cortinarius archeri. Cortinarius archeri has been found along the east coast from southern Queensland all the way through to southern Victoria. It’s also been found throughout Tasmania, South Australia surrounding Adelaide and in Western Australia from Perth down the south West coast to Albany. Peak season is April to July.

I sometimes upload sightings like this to the Atlas of Living Australia. I’ve not done it for a while, when I went to post there was a message saying they are transitioning to use iNaturalist to upload observations. OK. I signed up and posted, it made a suggestion that the photos were of Cortinarius archeri, quite impressive. Then within a few hours 2 community members had also suggested it was Cortinarius archeri. Nice.

Hoping to find and post some more fungi over the next few months!

[update] – I returned the next day and one of the large mushrooms had been knocked over, the day after that they were all gone! The base of the stalks were broken off at ground level. Looks like something had eaten them or taken them away

Source and more info

Blue Banded Bee

Finally spotted one! I’ve been looking for a Blue Banded Bee since learning they are the likely creature behind the numerous holes and burrows found in sandstone in the area. These photos were taken over two days, the first day there was just one bee, the 2nd day there was a pair. They don’t stay still for long, it was hard to get focus and take the shot in time. I would have liked to get some better photos but this is all I could manage. I’m extra impressed now with the bright and clear photo’s others have taken that can be found in the links.

A Blue Banded Bee feeding on nectar in the garden. 4 stripes mean this is a girl, boys have 5
A Blue Banded Bee about to go for in for a feed. It’s long tongue with protective sheath is visible partially folded back towards it’s body. It uses this to suck nectar from the flowers

There are a number of species of Blue Banded bee found around the world. I’m pretty sure this one is Amegilla cingulata or the Common Blue Banded Bee which is a native of Australia. It’s found all over the country except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. They are solitary bees that build their nests in mud and soft sandstone, they’re also known to burrow into the mortar of old buildings.

Two bees visible here! The one in the foreground had latched onto a leaf stalk with it’s mandibles and was just sitting there for a short while. A quick rest perhaps? Others have taken photos of them doing the same thing so likely a common behavior

The Common Blue Banded Bee is 8mm – 13mm long with a furry red brown thorax and blue and black stripes on it’s abdomen. Males have 5 stripes, females 4. The have a long tongue protected by a brown sheath that looks like a spike. They use this to pierce flower petals then feed on the sweet nectar. They live around 40 days, baby bees remain in their eggs over winter but several generations can hatch over the warmer months.

Ruined stone huts in the bush

A few months ago the RFS did a controlled burn in bushland on Middle Harbour River behind East Lindfield. Not long afterwards while running the trails I happened to glance up the hill into the recently burnt bush and saw what looked like man made stone walls about 20 metres from the trail. I went up to have a look and it turned out to be the ruins of several stone huts! I’ve passed by that place countless times but never knew what was hiding so close. It was only after the fire had burnt away the scrub that it became visible from the main track.

One of the stone huts. This one is in the best condition of the lot, the entrance is visible and the entire perimeter is still present.

The huts are in a bad state with only the bottom half meter or so of the sandstone walls remaining. Some are in better condition than others with fireplaces still visible. There’s also a scattering of rubbish and other debris around.

The walls are almost completely collapsed on this one. The fireplace is still visible
Not much left of this hut. It’s on a clearing bounded by a stone retaining wall on one side, all that’s left is one corner and some twisted and broken scraps of corrugated iron

There’s a few artefacts scattered around the site too, mostly broken bottles and pots. There’s writing visible on one of the (unfortunately broken) bottles reading “Laurel Kerosene” There is an entry on the MAAS site that depicts exactly the same bottle! There’s a lot of background on it, they were manufactured by Mobil’s predecessor company, Vacuum Oil between 1920 and 1940.

One of the many broken bottles on site. This is an old “Laurel Kerosene” bottle. They were manufactured between 1920 and 1940
A broken steel kettle

I took a number of other photos of the huts and some of the retaining walls built around them. Check them out here

I’m really keen to learn the history of these places. I contacted my collaborator John, he’d heard of them before and knew of their location. He even had an old hand drawn map that marked the location of the huts and had them labelled as “The Ambassadors”

John’s hand drawn map. The ruins are labelled as “The Ambassadors”

The NSW Spatial Map Viewer shows that the area of the ruins is just outside Garigal National Park and is divided up into properties and lots complete with address points.

The red flags are the location of the ruins. Yellow arrows show the start of the two tracks that can be used to access them.

There are two ways to get to the ruins. The most direct way is a trail that runs from an abandoned bowling green at the end of Wellington road right through the middle of the ruins. It then continues down to two creeks track on Middle Harbour River. This track is very rough and looks seldom used but it’s so close to civilisation the ruins must be known to locals and others.

Carved steps on the trail to the ruins. There is a rough trail that starts from an abandoned bowling green that goes right through the ruins

The other way is to descend on Manuwi track at the end of Wellington Rd, East Lindfield. When it hits two creeks track turn left and walk for around 250m. There is a turnoff to the left to access the ruins at the trails highest point as it passes around the curve in the river.

The Manuwi track trail-head at the end of Wellington Rd. It’s less direct than the rough trail but easier going.

I feel like there’s a lot more to be written about the ruins but this is all I know so far. I’m still looking around, John is rechecking his sources too for any more information so I hope to have some updates soon. If you know anything about these huts I’d love to hear from you!

Sources and more info