Magpie Nests and Jack-o-Lanterns, 01-21-20

My Birthday Week: Day Three. I got up around 6:00 and was out the door around 7:00 am when my friend and fellow-naturalist Roxanne came to pick me up so we could go to the Johnson-Springview Park in Rocklin.  We hadn’t been there since last summer when we had a very successful gall hunt there.  We wanted to see what kind of lichen and fungi it might have to show us.

After breakfast, we finally got to the park around 8:30 or 9:00 am. As we walked around, we were surprised that there wasn’t a lot of lichen on the mostly now-bare trees, and not a whole lot of fungus either.  There’s a mixed oak forest there, and the back half of the park abuts Antelope Creek, so we figured we’d see more than we did.  Oddly enough, most of the mushrooms were found in the manicured lawn area at the front of the park. 

We found several stands of Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms which are deep orange in color with their gills running down the stipe (stem of the ‘shroom).  Their gills glow green in the dark, and they’re very poisonous mushrooms so they kind of live up to their spooky Halloween name. 

Jack-o-Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olearius

We also found some Bird’s Nest Fungus, which I always find fascinating no matter how often I find them.  I think just the fact that fungus grows to look like a nest with eggs in it is fascinating to me.

Birds Nest Fungus, Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve. The little eggs are the “peridioles” and are filled with spores. Attached to each peridiole is a fine sticky thread called a “funicular cord”.The cords are coiled up inside a tiny “purse” on the back of the peridioles. When rain hits the nest, the peridioles are launched out and the cord is yanked out of its purse. The end of the cord is sticky and attaches to whatever the peridioles fly past (tree limbs, leaf litter, etc.)…and then the spores are released.

Two other finds of the day were seeing a pair of Yellow-Billed Magpies (which are endemic to the Central Valley of California; found here and nowhere else on earth) building their domed nest in the top of a tree.  As we looked around, we saw several other nests already near completion in nearby trees.  Once the domed roof is completed over the nest, of course, you can’t see anything inside of it, so the hatchlings are always obscured from view. Still, it’s fun and interesting to watch the birds work.

Magpie Nest Video: https://youtu.be/EEaMnYYwXXw
CLICK HERE for the full album of photos from today

The other odd thing we came across was a Mourning Cloak Butterfly.  Mourning Cloaks are interesting because they hatch out in the spring, go through a flight and mating period, estivate through the hot summer months – [estivation is kind of like hibernation, but occurs in the hot months instead of the cold months] — and then emerge for a second flight in the fall.  What was especially interesting about the one we found, which had tucked itself under a log, was that it looked like its entire body and most of the underside of its wing were covered in black long-haired mold. 

A live Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa, covered in what I think is Black Hair Mold, Phycomyces blakesleeanus.

When I first extracted the butterfly from the log, I thought it was probably dead, but then it started moving its feet and twitching, and opening and closing its wings, and we realized it was somehow still alive. (!)  The mold was so dark that it even obscured the butterfly’s eyes, so, at first I thought the eyes were gone and the thing was blind.

We took several photos of it from different angles  in the hopes of later being able to identify the kind of mold that was infesting it. Then it got enough strength pulled together to fly away up into the trees where we lost sight of it.  I was surprised it was able to fly at all.  Doing some research after I got home, I think the mold might have been something in the Phycomyces genus, maybe Phycomyces blakesleeanus, but I’m not sure.

California Angelwing Katydid, Microcentrum californicum [eggs]

Oh, and we also found some Katydid eggs today!  That was a cool find. Roxanne spotted them.

We walked for about 3 hours and then headed back to Sacramento.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus [heard]
  2. American Plantain, Plantago rugelii [large plantain with rounded leaves]
  3. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [signs]
  4. Birds Nest Fungus, Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve
  5. Black Hair Mold, Phycomyces blakesleeanus
  6. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  7. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  8. Blue Slime Mold, Badhamia utricularis
  9. California Angelwing Katydid, Microcentrum californicum [eggs]
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. Cavalier Mushroom, Melanoleuca melaleuca
  12. Ceramic Parchment Crust Fungus, Xylobolus frustulatus [brown with gold edges]
  13. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. [larvae]
  14. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
  15. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto [heard]
  16. Fairy Inkcap, Trooping Crumble Cap, Coprinellus disseminates [pale, almost white inkcap mushroom]
  17. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  18. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  19. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  20. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  21. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  22. Hair Ice Fungus, Exidiopsis effuse [not sure of this ID]
  23. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  24. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs on the tips of the lobes]
  25. Hypoxylon Canker, Biscogniauxia atropunctata  [pathogen, white, on oak tree]
  26. Irregular Spindle Gall Wasp, Andricus chrysolepidicola [on Blue Oak]
  27. Jack-o-Lantern Mushroom, Omphalotus olearius
  28. Lyell’s Bristle-Moss, Orthotrichum lyellii [semi long panicles, dark with green ends]
  29. Meadow Slug, Badhamia utricularis  [short, fat, stubby slug]
  30. Mica Cap, Coprinellus micaceus [a kind of ink cap, pale tan cap]
  31. Miner’s Lettuce Claytonia perfoliata
  32. Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
  33. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  34. Nematode, unidentified
  35. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  36. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona candelaria
  37. Split Porecrust, Schizopora paradoxa
  38. Splitgill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
  39. Spotted Trichia Slime Mold, Trichia botrytis
  40. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum sp.
  41. White Parachute Marasmius, Marasmiellus candidus
  42. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi 
  43. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  44. Yellow Fieldcap, Bolbitius titubans
  45. Yellow Orb Sac Fungus, Orbilia sp.
  46. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli
  47. ?? Fluffy fungus with gutation, Trichoderma sp.

Eagles, Eagles, Eagles, 01-19-20

My Birthday Week: Day One.  I was in the car for the majority of the day and took Esteban with me.  He did better on this trip; only whined a couple of times and tried to get into the front seat three times. But for most of the time, he was sitting politely in the middle of the back seat where he could see out of all of the windows, or sleeping on my old sweatshirt.

Start Time: 6:00 am
Start Temperature: 36º F
End Time: 11:30 pm
End Temperature:
46º F
Weather: Foggy in part, then mostly cloudy with intermittent sunshine
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time):
6.5 hours

I got up around 5:30 am and was out the door before 6 o’clock and heading out to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.  It was super driving-through-a-tunnel foggy in Sacramento and into Woodland, but once I got past Woodland, it was clear and sunny. So weird!  It was nice to see snow on Snow Mountain and parts of Goat Mountain.

I was hoping to see some Bald Eagles and wasn’t disappointed.  The first thing I saw, though, was a pair of Ravens poking at a couple of roadkills, an opossum and a raccoon on the road.  

Raccoon, Procyon lotor

Later, I saw two live raccoons on the road of the auto tour.  They were lumbering across the road behind a phalanx of cars. I think I’m the only person who saw them at the time.  And in another location, I saw an otter sitting alongside one of the march ponds, and then saw him “glassing” through the water a few seconds later. I didn’t get good photos of either the raccoons or the otter, but I was happy to see them.

At one point, I also saw a little dark brown mouse or vole jump-running across the grass on one of the levies.  It ducked down into a hole before I could get my camera focused on it.

I was surprised by the number of Ring-Necked Ducks I saw along the auto-tour route, and I even got to see a few Ruddy Ducks.  Those guys make me smile whenever I see them.  They’re so little; they look like toys.  The males aren’t in their breeding plumage yet, but when they get to that stage they’ll have neon-blue bills and ruddy-red feathers.

There were lots of Ring-Necked Pheasants out, too; mostly males.  I think they’d come into the preserve because there was hunting going on all around it and they make for big targets.

A male Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

The first Bald Eagle I saw was sitting in what I call the “eagle tree” along the auto route.  It was in a position, though, where I couldn’t get a clear photo through any of the car windows, so I opened the driver’s side door and raised my camera up over the car.  Before I could focus on the bird, though, it took off across the marsh.  Dang it!  I was so upset that I almost cried.  Nature made up for that near miss, though, by showing me about seven other eagles along the route, including an obliging juvenile who landed in a tree right by the car.

I was also able to track one with my camera as it flew from a marsh, across the road in front of me, and into another area where it landed on the ground. And as I was driving out of the preserve there two eagles sitting in one of the eucalyptus trees.  While I took photos, a third eagle flew in and they all started doing that fast screel-talk of their.  So cool!  So I was happy about that, too.

The other nice surprise was seeing a flock of American White Pelicans on one of the “islands” in the wetlands.  They were pretty far away, but because they’re such big birds, I was still able to get a few photos of them.  All in all, I saw over 40 different species, so that was a good day of birding.

American White Pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

I got back to the house around 1:00 pm.  Driving back to Sacramento from the refuge, it was sunny until I got to Woodland – then it was light fog and overcast.  Microclimates. So weird.

Species List:

  1. American Coot, Fulica americana
  2. American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis
  3. American Pipit, Anthus rubescens
  4. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
  5. American Wigeon, Anas Americana
  6. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  7. Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  8. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  9. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  10. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  11. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  12. Common Raven, Corvus corax
  13. Common Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum
  14. Gadwall duck, Mareca Strepera
  15. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  16. Greater White-Fronted Goose, Anser albifrons
  17. Green-Winged Teal, Anas carolinensis
  18. Hairy Woodpecker, Leuconotopicus villosus (long bill)
  19. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  20. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  21. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  22. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  23. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  24. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  25. Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk, Circus hudsonius
  26. Northern Pintail, Anas acuta
  27. Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata
  28. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  29. Raccoon, Procyon lotor
  30. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  31. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  32. Ring-Necked Duck, Aythya collaris
  33. Ring-Necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus
  34. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  35. Ross’s Goose, Chen rossii
  36. Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
  37. Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
  38. Snow Goose, Chen caerulescens
  39. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  40. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  41. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  42. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  43. Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
  44. Western Harvest Mouse, Reithrodontomys megalotis [ID not confirmed]
  45. Western Meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta
  46. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  47. White-Faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi

Trying out the Light box, 01-18-20

Roger Jones from the Bufferlands Regional San suggested I get a light box to help with some of my photo-taking. The box isolates the subject in a small space and illuminates it to bring out some of the detail.

I purchased one from Amazon.com by Puluz: a small,portable box that I can take out into the field if I want to, and ignite the LED strip with the same power pack I carry with me to augment my cellphone battery.

Today, I tried it out for the first time with some Honey Fungus I got from the backyard. I like the way the images turned out!

I think using a single subject, instead of a group, may set details out even more.

Lotsa Lichen at the River Bend Park, 01-17-20

I was up around 7:30 am and out the door around 8:00 to go to the American River Bend Park.  It was a chilly and foggy 39° when I got there, and the temperature went up to 46° when I left.  By then, the fog had lifted to a high overcast with moments of sunshine.  When the sun came out, the forest floor “steamed”; so cool looking.

Start Time: 8:30 am
Start Temperature: 39º F
End Time: 11:30 pm
End Temperature: 46º F
Weather: Very foggy, clearing to a high overcast
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 4 hours
Kilometers Walked: 2.5

When I first drove in, two young Black-Tailed deer bucks cross the road in front of me.  One was a spike and the other one had 2-points.  They jumped the line fence and went off into the woods, though, before I could get any decent photos of them.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I had gone to the park looking again for coral fungus and cauliflower fungus, but found neither one.    I did find several species of jelly fungus and some Bleeding Mycena mushrooms. I’d never intentionally made that species of mushroom “bleed” before, but I did that today and took some photos of the “blood”.  It’s a red exudate that comes out of the stipe(stem of the mushroom) when the stipe is broken. 

Bleeding Mycena, Mycena haematopus

And I came across a little pile of stuff in a hole in a downed log that had Hair Mold, Phycomyces sp., growing on it.  That mold is recognizable by the yellow heads on some of the fruiting stalks.  But I couldn’t tell what it was growing on.  It was a collection of reddish-brown masses that felt cold and rubbery to the touch.  I think it might have been something’s organs, but I’m not sure.

I also found some kind of mold growing on the old husk of a Buckeye chestnut.  I think it was a slime mold but it had already gone to spore, so I couldn’t tell what kind it was.  There were also a lot of the windfall chestnuts are sending out their taproots into the ground.  They’re bright pink, so they’re had to miss.

            There was a bachelor group of Wild Turkeys who were sort of doing their hierarchy battles, but they weren’t really into it.  Some would mock-chase others, and one grabbed his fellow by the neck and they wrestled for a few seconds – nothing like the protracted battles I’ve seen them do before.  Maybe it was too cold for them to do much of anything this morning…

Later, I came across a lone female turkey who was limping through the woods. It looked like she was having trouble bearing any weight on her right leg. I considered for a short second chasing after her and grabbing her and taking her to a wildlife refuge, but, seriously, can you see me running around the uneven ground of the forest?  And if I got a hold of her, it was almost a mile back to the car… with her pecking at me and trying to get down.  Not a good idea.  So, I sent an email to the rangers with photos of her after I got back home.

When I was walking along the riverside part of the trail, I noticed several male Common Mergansers in the water swimming in circles and posturing for a female… but the female was trying to rest. She ignored the males for a while, but when they got closer to her, she opened her mouth and “yelled” at them with a loud squawk.  

I tried looking closer at more of the lichens and differentiating between them, but it’s still proving to be a little difficult for me because I’m learning piecemeal.  I’ve been reading up on them through books, but now I think I’ve confused myself even more. Hah! I need to find a good lichen class close by, I think, in order to get a better hand on things.

Here’s a good start online for lichen IDs.

 Today, I think I’ve found specimens of American Starburst Lichen, Imshaugia placorodia, Common Button Lichen, Buellia stillingiana, Green Starburst Lichen Parmeliopsis ambigua, Starry Rosette Lichen, Physcia stellaris, and Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena, but I’m not entirely sure.  It’s confusing, but it’s also kind of fun. I like the effort of learning new stuff.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Starburst Lichen, Imshaugia placorodia [darker green, green apothecia]
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  5. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  6. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  7. Bleeding Mycena, Mycena haematopus
  8. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  9. California Buckeye Chestnut, Aesculus californica
  10. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  11. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsute [chrysalis]
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Clustered Bonnet, Oak-Stump Bonnet, Mycena inclinata
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Button Lichen, Buellia stillingiana  [white with black peppery dots, on trees]
  16. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
  17. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  18. Fairy Ring Mushroom, Scotch Bonnet, Marasmius oreades
  19. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  20. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  21. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  22. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  23. Gray Veiled Amanita, Amanita porphyria
  24. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  25. Green Starburst Lichen Parmeliopsis ambigua
  26. Hair Mold, Phycomyces nitens
  27. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  28. Horsehair Mushroom, Gymnopus androsaceus
  29. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  30. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  31. Mallard duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  32. Many-Headed Slime Mold, Physarum leucopus
  33. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  34. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
  35. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  36. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  37. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  38. Palomino Cup Fungus, Peziza repanda
  39. Pinwheel Mushroom, Marasmius capillaris
  40. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  41. Powdery Goldspeck, Candelariella efflorescens  [yellow lichen, powdery texture]
  42. Purple Core, Bluet, Blewit, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda)
  43. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  44. Rosy Saucer Lichen, Ochrolechia trochophore
  45. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona Candelaria [yellow, folios lichen]
  46. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  47. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  48. Starry Rosette Lichen, Physcia stellaris [gray, with brown apothecia]
  49. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  50. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  51. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  52. Whitewash Lichen, Phlyctis argena [Light grat/white, crustose lichen]
  53. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  54. Yellow Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris
  55. ?? Orange moss/lichen on tree

Birding Then Fungus Hunting, 01-14-20

I got to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve right around 7:30 am, and as I was walking in, I met Rich Howard, the gentleman who was going to lead a birding walk for us.  He’s a very personable man with tons of birding knowledge, and is able to share what he knows in a very giving way.  (He’s not a “know it all” snob kind of guy.)

Start Time: 7:30 am
Start Temperature: 40º F
End Time: 12:30 pm
End Temperature: 46º F
Weather: Mostly cloudy, occasional sunshine
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 6 hours
Kilometers Walked: 3

While I was walking over to where Rich was setting up his birding scope, another gentleman named Eric came up to me and asked if I was Mary Hanson.  I told him, yes, and he said he wanted to do a macro photography thing for the preserve’s blog on lichen but he didn’t know much about them, and he wondered if I’d be willing to join him and help him with identification.  I told him sure, and gave him my calling card so he could contact me later. 

My fellow naturalist and friend, Roxanne Moger, joined us and the rest of the small group, which also included Rachael Cowan the volunteer coordinator at the preserve, and we started walking.  Within the first few steps we saw almost 15 bird species, including a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, some Yellow-Billed Magpies, Mourning Doves, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Turkey Vultures.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, female

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

I tried getting some photos through the birding scope, but found it difficult to do because everything was “backwards”. And it seemed like my camera had the same reach as the scope did, so, after a few tries at different locations, I decided it wasn’t worth the extra effort.

At one point, we could see two hawks circling over a tree where there was a known hawk nest that had been used for several season.  One of the hawks was a Red-Tailed Hawk, but the other hawk was more difficult to ID because it kept moving and was so far away. Rachel thought it might have been a Rough-Legged Hawk, Buteo lagopus, that migrate through this area in the winter, but she wasn’t certain.  If it WAS a Rough-Legged Hawk, that would have been a first for me.

The walk took us down the main path and then out toward river (where it’s very hard for me to walk because the rocky surface is so uneven). As knowledgeable and interesting as Rich was, I kept get distracted by the deer and lichen and fungi around us, and once we got to the river side, I bowed out (along with Rachael, her new volunteer and Roxanne).

Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus, male, red-shafted

Roxanne and I then spent another 4 hours walking through the preserve looking at and photographing stuff.  I’ve been reading up a bit on lichen and wanted to see if I could locate and get pictures of some of the features I’d read about.  Not much luck in that regard, but we did find some interesting fungi and slime molds. 

While I was photographing some Red Thread Marasmius mushrooms, a group of 2nd graders and their docent came up and the docent asked me what I was doing.  I told her that Roxanne and I were doing the preliminary pass-through walk in anticipation of a fungus walk I’ll be doing with the docents next week. 
The woman said, “Oh, the one with Mary Hanson?” 
And I said, “That’s me!”  Hah! 

She then asked if I would talk a little bit about fungi to the second graders. (Eeew, gum-chewing ferrets!)  So I plucked up one of the little red mushrooms I was photographing and walked it over to the kids.  It’s hard for me to “dumb things down” for children, so I tried using analogies along with the “big words” to help them along.

Me with the 2nd graders. This photo is by Roxanne Moger.

I told them about the big tree-like structure of mycelium under the ground to which all fungi were connected, and told them that mushrooms, like the one I was holding, were like the apples on that tree. They were the fruit that held the “seeds”, the spores. Then I showed them some of the identifying features of the Marasmius: the red cap, the red stipe, the pale cream-colored gills where the spores were.  Some of the kids listened, some were distracted by shiny things, some were totally disengaged, and one said, “We saw bigger mushrooms over there.”  And I guess that’s pretty much par for 2nd graders… which is why I prefer teaching adults.

When the group had moved on, Roxanne and I continued to look for stuff, and we came across the first Pure Core Bluet, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda), I’d seen so far this year. They’re a medium-size mushroom that is all lavender in color, including the cap, gills and stipe. Roxanne had never seen one before, so that was a cool first for her. 

Purple Core, Bluet, Blewit, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda)

We also found what I think was a Bishop’s Cap, Coprinellus micaceus.  I’ll need to do more research to be sure, though.  It had a bell-shaped cap like an Ink Cap mushroom, but the surface was dry and kind of tan in color, and the stipe was heavier and more solid.

Roxanne had brought along a metal ruler, so we used that in some of the pix to get a better sense of scale in them. We also found a medium-sized mushroom with a bright yellow cap, thick stipe and sort of yellow-tan colored gills which Roxanne inadvertently unearthed when she stepped on part of it. Her step brought some of the rest of the mushroom to the surface; otherwise, we would have completely missed it.  It was “dry” and kind of heavy so I was thinking maybe it was a gilled bolete (Phylloporus), but I couldn’t find anything that really matched it in my field guides. Then I thought maybe it was a kind of Cortinarius, but it wasn’t at all slimy like those mushrooms are, so for the moment, I wasn’t sure what it was. A little more research and I think I found it: Yellow Knight, Man on Horseback, Tricholoma equestre.

Yellow Knight, Man on Horseback, Tricholoma equestre

As we were leaving the preserve, we came across another birder with his camera on a monopod, and we started talking about what we’d seen today.  He asked if we’d seen the Vermilion Flycatcher in Natomas, and we told him we hadn’t.  So, he told us it was in Tanzanite Community Park and he even got out his cellphone and showed us on Google Maps about where in the park it would probably be.  We thought that was so nice of him!  Neither of us had been to that park yet, so we’re looking forward to going there soon.

He also suggested we go to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to see the waterfowl going after the scraps of salmon and steelhead in the water. So, we’ll probably check those out over the next few weeks.

After lunch, I finally got back to the house around 2:00 pm. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  4. Bishop’s Cap, Coprinellus micaceus
  5. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  8. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  9. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  10. California Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Coffeeberry, California Buckthorn, Frangula californica
  14. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  15. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  16. Common Funnel, Infundibulicybe gibba
  17. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
  18. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  19. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  22. Fairy Ring Mushroom, Scotch Bonnet, Marasmius oreades 
  23. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum complicatum
  24. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  25. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
  26. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  27. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  28. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  29. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  30. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  31. Honey Fungus, Ringless Honey Fungus, Armarilla tabescens
  32. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  33. Many-headed Slime Mold, Physarum leucopus
  34. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  35. Mushroom with gills connecting to stipe; dimple in cap, Arrhenia epichysium
  36. Nemadtode, unidentified
  37. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
  38. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  39. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  40. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  41. Pleated Marasmius, Red-Thread Mushroom, Marasmius plicatulus
  42. Purple Core, Bluet, Blewit, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda)
  43. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  44. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  45. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  46. Rough-Legged Hawk, Buteo lagopus [ID not certain]
  47. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  48. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona Candelaria
  49. Slime Mold, Trichia sp. [early white stage; each head on a stalk]
  50. Split Porecrust, Schizopora paradoxa
  51. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  52. Toothed Crust Fungus, Basidioradulum radula
  53. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  54. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  55. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  56. Western Gull, Larus occidentalis [spot on bill, pink legs, orange circle around eye]
  57. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  58. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  59. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  60. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  61. Yellow Knight, Man on Horseback, Tricholoma equestre [large, heavy, yellow mushroom]
  62. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

A Mushroom Mosey at Kenny Ranch, 01-11-20

I got up a little after 5:00 am today and got myself ready to head out with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne a little after 6:00.    Roxanne and I were going to the Mushroom Mosey in Grass Valley (about an hour east of Sacramento). 

The Mushroom Mosey was taking place at Kenny Ranch which is adjacent to the Twin Cities Church at 11726 Rough and Ready Hwy, Grass Valley, California 95945 (at an elevation of about 2000 feet) and was being hosted by the California Native Plant Society and the Bear Yuba Land Trust.  The trails are open t the public for free, so they’re available year round.

We got to the location about 8:30 but then had to wait for everyone else to show up and get two different waivers signed. There were maybe 20 people in the group including our guides Daniel Nicholsen and Shane Hanofee. 

Start Time: 9:00 am
Start Temperature: 43º F
End Time: 12:00 pm
End Temperature: 48º F
Weather: Foggy and mostly cloudy
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 8 hours
Miles Walked: 2

It was a chilly 43° when we arrived, and the foothill fog was dragging its belly across the hills, so it was very wet and felt colder than it really was. As the mosey went on, though, the fog lifted and it got up to about 48°.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.
Video of the Golden Mushroom, Floccularia luteovirens: https://youtu.be/sbFCNboLfGQ
Video of the Puffball puffing: https://youtu.be/eHgsJA4p600

The place presents a mix of habitats in a small space including mixed conifer and oak forests, some chaparral, and riparian areas.  Lots of heritage Incense Cedars, Gray Pine and Black Oak trees there, along with manzanita, alders, invasive French Broom, and wild plum.  This time of year is supposed to good for mushroom hunting, and in the spring, it’s supposed to be a great wildflower spot.

Overview of the “Mosey”, the Positives:  Some of us were given loupes (tiny powerful magnifying glasses that you have to hold up to your eye to use) but I was satisfied with the macro attachment on my cell phone. 

One of the hikers using a loupe to get a closer look at the Garlic Mushroom.

Shane and Daniel said the cellphones couldn’t see enough detail to do any real scientific identification work, but mine works well for my own purposes.  Several people saw me using it and were so impressed by how easily and well it worked that they asked me about it and took photos of the attachment so they could buy their own. 

One of my favorite things from the walk is that it showed me new places to look for things.  It never occurred to me to look at the plum trees or French broom for galls; or to look at the tiny tips of a cedar tree for mushrooms. Those were called “Earth Tongues”.

“…Saprobic fungus with small, brightly colored fruit bodies produced on Incense Cedar and Yellow Cedar needles. Easily recognizable by the habitat, in combination with the gelatinous texture, and convex to round ‘heads’ and short to nearly indistinct stipe…” 

Earth Tongues, Gelatinodiscus flavidus [photo taken with my cellphone]

I learned that fungi can have about 36,000 sexes. Split Gill, for example, has more than 23,000 different sexes or “sex types”.  “More combinations of genes help protect against potential threats like droughts or parasites.”

An article Discovery magazine tried to explain it:

“…The “sexes” don’t really involve physical differences either, as we might think of when the word “sex” comes to mind. The variations are all in the genome, at two separate loci, or locations, each of which has two alleles, or alternate forms. The loci are called A and B and the alleles are termed “alpha” and “beta.” That makes four possible sexes, but there’s another twist. Every A-alpha/beta and B-alpha/beta can have many different variants, called specificities. It amounts to more than 339 specificities for A and 64 for B. Putting those two together yields thousands of possible unique sexes.

The fungus can mate with any specificity as long as it’s different somewhere on both A and B. So, two prospective mates could both have the same A-beta and B-alpha, but have different A-alphas and B-betas and they’d be fine to hook up. If they shared A-alpha and A-beta, though, their pheromones wouldn’t be compatible, meaning that they couldn’t carry out the reproductive process. That leaves a ton of options for mating, though, and essentially means that anyone a fungus meets is fair game for sexy time…”

We also learned that the whole taxonomy system for mushrooms and other fungi has been turned on its head over the last decade, so a lot of the field guide are now out of date.  They’ll give you a good starting point for an ID, but aren’t the end all and be all.  Some of the smaller mushrooms, too, can only be sorted out on the microscopic level, which is why mycology is a difficult discipline.  Shane and Daniel said they’ve logged about 1200 species between them in the region, but there were several small specimens they saw today that they felt hadn’t been added to their database yet, so they collected those.

We were shown how to catch the scent of some of the mushrooms (by crushing the cap or stipe) and how to differentiate some by how they stain.  We got to see the Bleach-Scented Mycina, Mycena leptocephali, and the Garlic Mushroom, Mycetinis scorodoniu.  Both of them looked very similar to me, but the smells were very distinct. That will be something I’ll be checking more from now on.

And I also got to see several species we don’t see in Sacramento because the habitats and elevations are different here.  I saw my first Apricot Jelly Fungus which looked like a horn-shaped gummy bear, Rock Tripe which kind of looked like sheets of brown slime covered with black warts, Lung Lichen which looked like sheets of lung tissue from a smoker’s lung, and Bladder Plum Galls.  

Those galls were weird. I’d never seen one before, and would have passed it by completely if our guides hadn’t pointed it out. It’s a Bladder Plum Gall caused by a fungus called Taphrina pruni, on a wild plum tree. The fungus causes the tree to “abort” the fruit (plum) and replace it with this sac-like gall which the fungus then fills with its spores. The galls feel kind of flexible and rubbery at this stage. There were several on the tree we saw.

What’s doubly cool is: this is we were seeing these galls in the winter; shriveled and about an inch long. In the spring/summer, when the galls are new, they’re bright green and about 3 inches long. ((So, now I need to get back out there in the galls season!))

We also found a few very nice specimens of Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve. The nests in this species have a cap over them at first, hiding the little “eggs” inside. Once they pop their lids, though, the eggs — which carry the spores — are visible. Each egg is attached to a tether.

“…[This] cord, which is called a funiculus in Mycologese, is the egg’s mechanism for attaching itself to sticks, leaves, and other plant debris. When a raindrop falls into the nest, the eggs are projected out of the cup. As this happens, the cord is stretched to its limit–then breaks away from the nest, remaining attached to the egg. Where the cord was attached to the nest, it becomes frayed, since it was torn away. The little frayed ends are adhesive, and when they come into contact with, for example, a leaf, they attach themselves. This stops the flight of the egg, which then swings back and attaches itself to the leaf as well…”

Overview of the “Mosey”, the Negatives:  The group was a large one, as I noted, but none of the guides paid attention to how the group expanded and contracted along the trail. Rather than having someone at the front and someone at the rear of the group, making sure everyone was accounted for and everyone was able to see and hear with the guide in the front was talking about, all of the guides stayed at the front of the group.  That meant that if you stopped to get a photo of the first species you were shown, you then had to rush to rejoin the group and missed what was being said about the second specimen.  It was VERY frustrating. 

The guides were so far ahead of this tail end of the group, that we slow-walkers were cheated out of the interpretive talks and the ability to photograph and learn about what specimens were found. Not good.

At one point, one of the guides threw away the specimen before the rest of the group even got a chance to see it.  He was done talking about it, and that was that. Ridiculous. I felt like I was cheated out of half of the information I should have been getting. 

The pace was also waaaaay too fast for me. It wasn’t a “mosey”, it was a “power walk”.  The ground was slippery with wet clay mud, slippery leaves and rocks that rolled under your feet, and I really struggled to keep up — which meant I wasn’t able to really appreciate the landscape around me. I had to keep watching where I was stepping.

By the end of the walk, I was about a half mile behind the guides – and not one of them came back to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. I also don’t think the guides ever did head-counts at ANY point of the walk, so there would be no way for them to tell if they lost people. To me, that’s inexcusable – and dangerous for the participants. Yes, you sign the waivers when you come it, but that doesn’t the excuse the trip leaders to IGNORE basic safety principles in the field.

That last stretch was a slippery uphill road, and by the time I got to it I was so sore and exhausted I just couldn’t make it any further.  Roxanne was with me, but it’s not like she could carry me up the hill.  Luckily, a woman named Rae Anne was near us.  She’s a teacher at a school near the church and went on the trails often, so she knew where everything was and how to get there.  She could see that I was struggling and even though she didn’t know me from Eve, she offered to (literally) run up the hill, get her car, and drive it down to where I was. She then taxied Roxanne and I up to the parking lot where we started. I was sooooooooooo grateful. I think I said Thank You about six times. Hah!

We’d “only” walked for about 3 hours, but the pace was too fast and the terrain was a little too rugged for me (at that speed).  It wore me out.

This is me waiting along the ditch trail for a ride to the top of a steep hill that was the last leg of the hike. By the end of the walk, I was about a half mile behind the guides – and not one of them came back to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. I thank Good Samaritan, Rae Anne, for coming to my rescue. Roxanne and I could have figured out something, I’m sure, but we shouldn’t have been put into that position in the first place.

All in all, although I liked seeing a new place and finding some new-to-species, I was very disappointed by how the outing was handled.  Once we were back at the parking lot, Roxanne and I didn’t stay for the trash pick-up detail and instead headed back to Sacramento. 

The location is easy to get to and the trail is relatively easy to walk (I’d actually call it “moderate” for me, really, not “easy”but it’s probably easy for most people), and the place holds a lot of promise.  I’d very much like to go back there…but if I do, it won’t be with a group and it will be at my own pace.

Species List:

  1. Acuminate Ink Cap, Coprinopsis atramentaria var. acuminate [scant veil, bell-shaped cap]
  2. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  3. Apricot Jelly Fungus, Guepinia helvelloides
  4. Bicolored Bracket Gloeoporus dichrous
  5. Birds Nest Fungus, Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve
  6. Black-Footed Polypore, Polyporus badius [The Bad-Ass Polypore]
  7. Bladder Plum Gall fungus, Taphrina pruni
  8. Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali  [dark, very small mushroom]
  9. Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare
  10. California Barberry, Mahonia pinnata [spiny leaves]
  11. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  12. California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica
  13. Conifer Mazegill, Gloeophyllum sepiarium
  14. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  15. Earth Tongues, Gelatinodiscus flavidus
  16. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum Ostrea
  17. French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
  18. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  19. Funeral Bell Galerina, Galerina marginata
  20. Garlic Mushroom, Mycetinis scorodonius [pale, very small mushroom], before 2005 was listed as Marasmius scorodonius
  21. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  22. Giraffe’s Spots Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  23. Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata
  24. Golden Mushroom, Floccularia luteovirens  [video; stained red]
  25. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  26. Honey Fungus, Shaggy Cap Honey Fungus, Armillaria sinapina
  27. Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  28. Jelly Spot Jelly Fungus, Dacrymyces chrysospermus
  29. Lung Lichen, Lobaria anthraspis
  30. Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  31. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  32. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  33. Poison Pie Mushroom, Hebeloma crustuliniforme 
  34. Rock Tripe, Umbilicaria phaea
  35. Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea
  36. Sierra Plum, Prunus subcordata
  37. Smokey Bracket Fungus, Bjerkandera adusta 
  38. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens [White lichen on rock with black apotheca]
  39. Split Gill Fungus, Schizophyllum commune
  40. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  41. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  42. White Cup Fungus, Calyptella capula [no gills]
  43. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  44. White Russula, Russula brevipes

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist