Good Pix of Birds Nest Fungus, Bad Pix of an Osprey

I got up around 7:00 am and headed out to the American River Bend Park for my walk.  It was foggy most of the time I was there, but as I was heading back to the car – after a 3 ½ hour walk! – the sun started to punch through the clouds.

With all the rain we ad over the week, I was hoping for a good “fungus” walk, and the park didn’t disappoint.  There were mushrooms (in a variety of sizes and colors), and jelly fungus, crust fungus and polypores, some slime molds… and I even a fungus I’d never seen before: birds-nest fungus!  I’ve seen photos of them, but never actually saw any “live” ones before.  They’re fairly tiny, and easily overlooked.  I was heading through the grass toward some big ‘shrooms, when I looked down at all the sticks on the ground (so I wouldn’t trip on them), and there were the birds-nests, right by my feet!  The fungi are cup-shaped structures with little “egg-like” peridioles filled with spores.  When it rains, rain drops bounce the “eggs” out of the cup.  The “eggs” lands nearby, releases its spores and develop into new “nests”.  Of the ones I found, most of them had already lost their “eggs”, but I did find a few that still had some.  Kewl! I also found some spherical white slime mold that looked like tiny buttons; it was also all over the grass.  I couldn’t find a site that could properly identify it, though.  (There are something like 5 million kinds of slime mold, and scientists have only identified about 5% of them.)

As I was taking some fungus shots one of the rangers came up to me and asked, “Where’s your little dog?”  Hah!  He knew I normally bring Sergeant Margie with me to the park.  I told him I’d left the dog home this morning because it was cold and foggy and wet, and I didn’t want him to catch a cold.  The ranger chuckled.  Then he asked, “Have you seen of the wild turkeys around here?”  I told him, no, and remarked, “That’s really unusual isn’t it?”  He said, yes, and said that yesterday they had a group out there to do a bird count of the park, and found only ONE turkey!  He has no idea where they went, but the park is over 400 acres so they could really be anywhere, I guess, and just eluding us humans… Maybe they got caught in a flooded area of the park and can’t get out yet…

I got some other bird photos, though… including some of an osprey.  The photos didn’t turn out very well because the bird was in a tree across the river and my telephoto can’t reach that far.  I could see black wings and a white head, and at first thought to myself: “No way!  Is that an eagle?”  But they aren’t generally seen around here, so then I figured it must be an osprey.  Huge bird, even at a distance.  When I got the picture homes and looked at them more closely, I could see that the bird had a large fish in its talons!  I need a bigger telephoto lens!

On my way back to the car I came across some mule deer and got some shot of them, too.  So it was a good photo outing!

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.