I received an email yesterday from someone who gave me precise directions to an area in the New Forest where there are currently many Devil's Fingers fungi on show. This was a case of 'reaping what you sow', as the gent involved had asked for, and received, directions to some Bog Orchids from your's truly several years ago. But I digress...
I have a couple of days off work at the end of the week and am considering going to look for these exotic fungi. But hold on - I wouldn't be doing this if it was a rare bird and not a mushroom, would I? And why not? Well, I think I know the reason why, and that is people. If I do go to look for the 'fingers' I will most probably be the only other person there - possibly one or two others if I were present all day. If it were a rare bird then there would be a gaggle of green-clad middle-aged men already present when I arrived, a procession of others throughout the day and I would be uncomfortable.
Now, this use of the word 'uncomfortable'. Why would I feel that way? Well, standing with a number of other blokes (they usually are) decorated with binoculars, telescopes and tripods does stand out. If you are on a nature reserve it's expected, but most rare birds (or fungi for that matter) will appear where the public go and they do not expect to come across a re-enactment of 'Last of the Summer Wine' crossed with 'Autumnwatch'. There is a great deal of staring and pointing from those sans binoculars. I feel faintly absurd.
A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around Oxshott Woods looking for Starfish Fungus. There were lots of families on Sunday strolls, dog walkers and cyclists. Plus one middle-aged man, all alone, lurking in the undergrowth, furtively. Was he a sex pest? A dogger? A ne'er do well? No, it was me. But all of the looks that were coming my way suggested that I was. At one point a dog ran up to me barking. The dog's owner explained that 'he's barking because he finds it strange to see a man in the woods without another dog'.
I saw the fungi and got out of the woods as quickly as possible.