Lots of Diversity in a Small Space, 01-30-20

I got up around 7:00 am and was out the door by about 7:30 to go for a walk at the American River Bend Park.  It was sunny but cool at the river, about 46° when I got there.

Weather: Mostly sunny, a little haze
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 5 hours
Start Time: 8:00 am
End Time: 12:00 pm
Start Temperature: 46º F
End Temperature: 58º F
Miles Walked: 2

I was looking for fungi and wanted to get some closeup photos of the soredia on Oakmoss Lichen, but also saw and heard quite a few birds along the way.  There was a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks flying back and forth between a couple of trees.  I wonder if they were picking a nesting spot.  In the river, I saw Buffledheads and Common Goldeneye.  They’re both ducks in the genus Bucephala and I wonder if they ever interbreed.

There was also a female Common Merganser and a Snowy Egret nearby on the shore.  And when I stopped to get some photos and video of a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches, I was surprised to see a couple of White-Breasted Nuthatches and Northern Flickers who came down into the same area.  And them some Spotted Towhees started bathing in a puddle just up the trail. Stand still, and nature comes to you… sometimes.  

Part of my research today included turning over some larger logs to see who or what was living underneath them, and in doing so, I came across two different species of Darkling Beetles. Darklings, also called “Stink Bugs” (although technically they’re not bugs, they’re beetles) are what mealworms grown up to be. There are over 20,000 species (!) of them worldwide so properly identifying them can be a bit tricky. 

Darkling Beetle, Eleodes scabrosus

I usually base my IDs on some major identifiers like the shape and size of pronotum (between the head and the abdomen), the segments in the antennae, and the markings on the elytra (the wing covers).  Some are smooth and glossy, some have striped grooves, some had pits… Nature is so diverse.

I also found three different kinds of slime mold including White Spheroid, Lilac Physarum and Tan Bullet! The colors and shapes of these things always amaze me.

Lilac Physarum Slime Mold, Physarum globuliferum

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos

As I mentioned, I made a point of looking for the soredia on Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri. One specimen gave me views of the soredia AND apothecia, AND also had some Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona Candelaria growing on it. A three-fer!

The pale crumbly bits are the soredia, the disk shapes are the apothecia, and the yellow stuff is the Shrubby Sunburst lichen.

There were lots and lots of Inkcap mushrooms around, and quite a number of Blewits, too. I was happy to see some Red-Cracking Bolete mushrooms, also called Russian Reds, at the park.  I haven’t seen them there for almost a decade!  Boletes have tubes under the cap instead of gills, and some of them stain blue when you cut them.

Red-Cracking Bolete, Russian Red, Xerocomellus chrysenteron

My sister Melissa had postulated that we’re seeing more fungi this year because of the foggy mornings, and I think she’s really onto something there.  With the protracted drought, we didn’t have much fog over the past several years, whereas, this year we’re having a lot of fog.

I also found a really nice grouping of six Horsehair Mushroom, Gymnopus quercophilus, on a leaf.  This kind of mushroom can dry up into little pin-prick sized ‘shrooms when it’s hot outside, survive the summer, and then reappear as full-sized mushrooms in the next rainy season.  They LOVE leaf litter.

When I was getting some close ups of some Black Jelly Roll fungus, I could see a tiny pink creature crawling on it, so I switched from photo to video and got a little snippet of its movements.  It was a Pink Elongated Springtail, Podura sp. In the video you see it walking along, falling over, and then springing away.  

They move sooooo fast when they spring you can’t keep track of them.  Here’s a cool article on springtails and their “mysterious” collophore: https://entomologytoday.org/2015/08/27/the-collophore-helps-put-the-spring-in-springtails/

So, I ended up seeing a lot more than I was actually looking for, which always makes for a fun walk.  I was so involved with what I was seeing, too, that I lost track of time.  At one point, I wondered why I was so tired… until I looked at the time and realized I’d been walking for about 4 hours!  Time flies when you’re ‘shrooming.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anomodon Moss, Anomodon attenuates [low lying, soft, bushy moss]
  3. Audubon’s Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  4. Barometer Earthstar fungus, Astraeus hygrometricus
  5. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  6. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  7. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  8. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  9. Cavalier Mushroom, Melanoleuca melaleuca
  10. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  11. Common Ink Cap Mushroom, Coprinopsis atramentaria
  12. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  13. Crystal Brain Fungus, Granular Jelly Roll, Myxarium nucleatum
  14. Darkling Beetle, Eleodes scabrosus [pitted pronotum and elytra]
  15. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. [larvae]
  16. Deer Shield Mushroom, Pluteus cervinus
  17. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  18. Fairy Ring Mushroom, Scotch Bonnet, Marasmius oreades
  19. False Turkey Tail fungus, Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsutum
  20. Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum
  21. Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina
  22. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  23. Green Trichoderma MoldTrichoderma viride 
  24. Honey Fungus, Ringless Honey Fungus, Armarilla tabescens
  25. Horsehair Mushroom, Oak-leaf Pinwheel, Gymnopus quercophilus
  26. Horsehair Mushroom, Gymnopus androsaceus
  27. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  28. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  29. Live Oak Gall Wasp, 1st Generation, Callirhytis quercuspomiformis
  30. Miner’s Lettuce Claytonia perfoliate
  31. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  32. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
  33. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  34. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  35. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  36. Obscure Darkling Beetle, Eleodes obscura [striped grooves on elytra]
  37. Palomino Cup Fungus, Peziza repanda
  38. Pink Elongated Springtail, Podura sp.
  39. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  40. Pleated Marasmius, Red-Thread Mushroom, Marasmius plicatulus
  41. Pocket-Stalked Russula, Russula cerolens [white stipe and yellow-tan gills]
  42. Purple Core, Bluet, Blewit, Clitocybe nuda (Lepista nuda)
  43. Rain-Beetle, Pterostichus melanarius [black, shiny pronotum, grooved elytra]
  44. Red-Cracking Bolete, Russian Red, Xerocomellus chrysenteron
  45. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  46. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  47. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona Candelaria
  48. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) 
  49. Slime Mold, Lilac Physarum Slime Mold, Physarum globuliferum
  50. Slime Mold, Tan Bullet Slime Mold, Arcyria cinereal
  51. Slime Mold, White Spheroid Slime Mold, Physarum cinereum
  52. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  53. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  54. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha
  55. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  56. Trembling Crust Fungus, Merulius tremellosus [white or orange-tinted, forms brackets, a little bit of a tooth on the underside]
  57. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  58. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  59. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  60. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  61. White Jelly Fungus, Ductifera pululahuana
  62. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi
  63. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  64. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  65. Yellow Fieldcap, Bolbitius titubans
  66. ?? Nolenae mushroom [dark brown cap]
  67. ?? Tiny ballooning spider

Leading a Fungus Walk, 01-28-20

I was slated to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve to lead a fungus walk for their docents today, so I was out the door by 7:15 am. Friend and fellow naturalist Roxanne came to the preserve and invited the Certified California Naturalist class student, Susan, to join us.  Susan can use this walk as a kind of make-up for missing the Tuleyome field trip the class took on Saturday.

Weather: Cloudy to partly cloudy with a little bit of rain
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 5 hours
Start Time: 7:30 am
End Time: 11:30 pm
Start Temperature: 46º F
End Temperature: 49º F
Miles Walked: 2

Roxanne (2nd from right) assists the docents with identifying lichen on a stump along the trail.

I didn’t know many of the docents, but Rachael the volunteer coordinator was with us for most of the walk, as was Mary Lou, one of the ladies who also works on the Media Committee that I do and writes the blog for the organization.

There were about 10 people in the group, not including me, and everyone was very attentive and excited to learn. They had their notebooks and cellphone camera at the ready, and asked a lot of intelligent questions.  See? THIS is why I’d rather teach adults.  Hah!

While we waited for everyone to show up, we were treated to the sight of a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks building a nest right at the head of the main trail.  Dad brought twigs to the nest and mom arranged them the way she wanted them, then they both flew off to look for more materials. The tree is in a place that will be relatively visible should the birds choose to use that one to actually nest in.  [[Red-Shouldered Hawks sometimes build more than one nest and then choose the one they’ll use for the season.]] The location of this nest means we might get some great family shots and photos of the chicks when they’re born.

Here you can see one of the hawks flying off as the other sits in the nest they’re building.
Here’s a short video of the hawk in the nest.

Before we even left the sidewalk and headed for the trails, I was able to point out, with my laser pointer, some different crust fungi for them on an obliging tree, and also show them the Oyster Mushrooms Roxanne had spotted high up on another branch.  Then I walked them over to another tree where I’d been (non-scientifically) monitoring the progress of a netted tooth fungus around its base and trunk. This let me show them how to use their cellphones to get close-up shots of things so their children’s groups could see structures more clearly.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos. (When I’m leading a walk, I don’t take as many photos as I normally do, so this album is pretty abbreviated.)

As we went along, the docents shared thoughts about what they were looking for in teaching opportunities for the children’s groups they might be leading.  That helped me to look for things like that and to tailor some of my comments about how they might explore more with the kids.

One of the best teaching tools, of course, is to simply pick up downed sticks from the leaf-litter and look at what’s on them. On one stick we found Black Jelly Roll fungus, several kinds of lichen and Crystal Brain Fungus, Myxarium nucleatum, which I’ve seen in books before but never saw in person, so that was an exciting first for me.

Crystal Brain is a kind of jelly fungus that’s translucent (white to clear) and the spore-making mechanism inside each lobe of the fugus shows up as a white speck that can sometimes feel hard because it may also include bits of mineral.  It supposed to be pretty common, but I’ve never seen one in the field before.  It’s also sometimes still frequently referred to the genus Exidia, which is the genus for Black Jelly Roll fungus which has a similar shape to Crystal Brain but is pure black. 

Researching more, I found that I may have been mis-identifying another species of jelly fungus, Exidia thuretiana, commonly called White Brain, as Black Jelly Roll that hadn’t colored up yet. But White Brain is usually found in Europe and Asia, so I’m still not sure. There’s also White Jelly Fungus, Ductifera pululahuana, that’s found here, so that might be it… The learning continues.

Looking at sticks and stumps in the woods can open doors to educational opportunities and onsite learning for all ages.

On another log we found Black Jelly Roll fungus among several different kind of colorful lichen. The docents described it as a “garden”.  Another stick showed us Witches Butter jelly fungus and little White Oysterling mushrooms. And at the big downed tree near the Nature Center we found Oak-loving Gymnopus mushrooms and three different kinds of slimemold. 

I told the docents that if they learned nothing else from the walk they learned that they needed to stop and really look at what was around them.  There’s more to see than they ever realized. And, “the more you see, the more you see.”

During the walk we also had the opportunity to distinguish between the relevance of common names versus scientific names. Rachael kept referring to the Yellow Field Caps as Sunny mushrooms – which was fine. Common names can very a lot; no harm done. But scientists use the Latin taxonomic names to specify exact species.  So “Sunny mushrooms” and “Yellow Field Cap” can be used interchangeably for the same species: Agaricus campestris.

When talking about the genus and species names, though, there can still be some confusion for those of us who are still learning about all of this stuff.  For example, I found one large ‘shroom which I was sure was a Blewit (based mostly on the very pale purple tinge around the edge of the cap) but when the docents keyed it out through iNaturalist it came up as a “Brownit”, Clitocybe brunneocephala. To my eye, though, the gills of the mushroom weren’t rightand there was still that pale purple tint to deal with.  I was still pretty certain I’d identified it correctly, so when I went home, I loaded it into iNaturalist as “Blewit, Clitocybe nuda”… and got a supporting confirmation right away.

A Blewit or a “Brownit”? I’m saying Blewit, Clitocybe nuda

Sometimes, those who load observations up into iNaturaist can get real battles over an ID.  Whenever someone suggests my ID is incorrect, I double check what they’re referring to, to what I saw. If I feel their ID is more accurate, I’ll change it, but that hasn’t happened too often.

At one point, I had to stop and turn my focus to the deer along the side of the trail.  In one field was a doe with her two yearlings, and across from them was a bachelor group of bucks: spikes, 3-pointers and 4-pointers, and one who was just getting his nubs. 

So, as we all took photos of them, I was able to tell the group about the structure of the antlers, the pedicles, and the rut in general. Some of the big boys were sitting down, so all you could see were their antlers, while others were standing, browsing, and rubbing their scent on the surrounding trees. Two of them sparred, but it was just for a few seconds. With no ripe females around, they just weren’t into it.

Rachael and a couple of docents left around the 2-hour mark, but the rest of them stayed on and got treated to views of Destroying Angel and Jack-o-Lantern mushrooms, Dryad’s saddles and other fungi. 

Jack-o-Lantern Mushrooms, Omphalotus olearius. They’re highly poisonous and their gills glow green in the dark.

At one point, the docents asked me how I came by the knowledge I had, and I tried to stress to them that I’m not an “expert”; as a naturalist, I’m a “generalist”. And although I might seem to have a lot of information to them, I’ve only been accumulating it since I took the naturalist class in 2015 and then wrote my books and developed the naturalist class for Tuleyome. Taking that class in 2015 reignited my curiosity and love of nature. I learn something new every day.

As we were heading back toward the nature center it started to rain a little bit, so the group broke as some raced back to get out of the wet and Roxanne and I kept our slow pace up the trail.  The rain was soft and brief and actually kind of nice.  We ended up walking for about 3 ½ hours (a little over 2 miles altogether).

I was worried, before the walk, that we might not see a lot of stuff to keep the docents interested, but all in all I think we ended up seeing and identifying about 60 different species.

When I went into the office to log my volunteer hours, Rachael was there and she gave me a  card and a little lapel pin as a thank you.  The card read:

“…Thank you so much for guiding the EYNC docents on a fungus/slimemold adventure today!  I so enjoy any time with you on the trail – I always learn so much. Our docents really enjoyed today’s learning opportunity with you, and they really appreciate access to your mushroom primer. Thank you so much for your generosity! With gratitude, Rachael…”

I thought that was so nice of her.  Mary Lou also mentioned that she’ll try to do a write up on the walk for the Effie Yeaw blog.  That was nice to hear, too. 

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  3. Bleach-Scented Mycena, Mycena leptocephali 
  4. Blue Slime Mold, Badhamia utricularis
  5. Brown Jelly Fungus, Jelly Leaf, Tremella foliacea
  6. California Black Walnut, Juglans californica
  7. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  8. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis [heard]
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  11. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos [flying overhead]
  12. Common Pin Mold, Mucor mucedo
  13. Common Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
  14. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii [on the wing between trees]
  15. Crystal Brain Fungus, Granular Jelly Roll, Myxarium nucleatum
  16. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  17. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  18. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  19. Dryad’s Saddle, Hawk’s Wing, Polyporus squamosus
  20. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  21. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  22. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  23. Fairy Inkcap, Trooping Crumble Cap, Coprinellus disseminates
  24. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  25. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum ostrea
  26. False Turkey Tail, Stereum Crust Fungus, Stereum complicatum
  27. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  28. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  29. Great Egret, Ardea alba [flying overhead]
  30. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  31. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  32. Horsehair Mushroom, Gymnopus androsaceus
  33. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  34. Jack-o-Lantern Mushroom, Western Jack-o-Lantern, Omphalotus olivascens
  35. Many-Headed Slime Mold, Physarum leucopus
  36. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  37. Mower’s Mushroom, Haymaker Mushroom, Panaeolus foenisecii
  38. Mule Fat, Baccharis salicifolia
  39. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium
  40. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  41. Oak-loving Gymnopus, Gymnopus dryophilus
  42. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  43. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  44. Pleated Ink Cap, Parasol Ink Cap, Parasola plicatilis
  45. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  46. Purple Core, Bluet, Blewit, Clitocybe nuda
  47. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  48. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia [as we drove in]
  49. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  50. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen Polycauliona Candelaria
  51. Snowy Oysterlings, Cheimonophyllum candidissimum
  52. Spotted Trichia Slime Mold, Trichia botrytis
  53. Strap Lichen, Ramalina sp., possibly Ramalina farinacea
  54. Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria elegans
  55. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  56. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  57. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  58. White Jelly Fungus, Ductifera pululahuana [not sure of this ID]
  59. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi
  60. Witches Butter, Tremella mesenterica
  61. Yellow Field Mushrooms, Agaricus campestris
  62. Yellow-Staining Milk Cap, Lactarius xanthogalactus [a kind of Russula]

A Second Trip to Kenny Ranch, 01-22-20

My Birthday Week: Day Four. Happy birthday to me!  I got up around 6:30 this morning, got the dog fed and pottied, and then headed out with my friend Roxanne to Kenny Ranch in Grass Valley.  We had been there earlier in the month to go on the Mushroom Mosey, but the pace of that was too fast for me. I wanted to explore more and see what else we could find on our own.

Start Time: 7:30 am
Start Temperature: 41º F
End Time: 4:30 pm
End Temperature: 59º F
Weather: Partly cloudy with sunshine in the afternoon
Total Hours in the field (includes travel time): 9 hours
Miles Walked: 2.6

After stopping for breakfast, we got to Kenny Ranch around 9:00 am and took our time, looking at everything. I’d brought my cane along, and was glad I did.  Not only did it help me maneuver and support me where the ground was particularly uneven, we were also able to use it to overturn rocks and fallen logs to see what might be hiding underneath them. 

We found quite a few of the Rosy Short-Head Millipede (also called Cherry Millipedes), Brachycybe rosea, in varying degrees of color.  They rosy-up as they age, so we were seeing little white young ones up to bright pink adults. The babies feed on fungus.

Millipede, Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea. Presumably males and lots of offspring.

There’s a super interesting 56-page report on another Brachycybe species called “Natural History of the Social Millipede” by Victoria Louise Wong that cites how the males care for the eggs.  “Males exclusively cared for eggs, but care of juveniles was not observed. In one case, the clutches of two males became combined and they were later cared for by only one of the males.”   Most of the report is mind-meltingly technical, but I was still able to glean a lot of interesting information from it.

These little guys, for example, use a chemical defense mechanism.  Adults carry “isomers of the alkaloid deoxybuzonamine” in all but the first 4 segments of their bodies and the chemical is used to repel ants – a major predator of the millipedes.  Babies have the ports for the chemical secretion, but don’t have the chemical itself, so they need their dads to encircle and defend them when they’re young. So, a lot of the adult ones we saw might presumably have been the males.  [[There is also a B. californica species, too, but I haven’t been able to find any information on it.]]

As I was going through the photos of the millipedes, I noticed I’d also captured part of the plasmodium of Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica. I was so focused on the millipedes at the time that I didn’t even notice the slime mold until I got home.

In the bottom half of this photo you can see the bright yellow-orange tendrils of the plasmodium of Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos.

We checked out the old Tongue Galls on the alder trees at the beginning of the trail, and noticed that the male catkins on the trees were just starting to come out and color up. They were actually quite gorgeous: chartreuse  green with brilliant pink cross-hatching on them.

Male catkins of the White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia, tree.

There were so many different lichen, I went a little crazy trying to identify them all. I have a couple of field guides on them but they’re still difficult for me because they can look different when they’re reproducing than they do when they’re not. Among the new finds for me were the Stonewall Rim Lichen, Sagebrush Goldspeck Lichen, Yellow Map Lichen, Star Rosette Lichen and the Powderhorn Lichen.  Phew!  Lots.

Among the new mushrooms we found were the Aniseed Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe odora, that smelled just like licorice, and some HUGE specimens of Shellfish-scented Russula, Russula xerampelina. Those were thick and leathery, red stained, and as big as my open hand. 

This time around, too, we noticed the silk and lichen lined doorways that lead to the dens of the California Turret Spider. So cool!

California Turret Spider, Antrodiaetus riversi

We noted the Mountain Misery plants growing everywhere along the trail and wondered how they had gotten its name.  It’s actually quite a pretty ferny-looking plant, and gets white flowers on it in the spring.  When I got home, I looked it up and found that, apparently, early settlers in California got their feet tangled in the stuff and it pissed them off.

“…Mountain Misery was named because of the sticky resin on all parts of the plant and its strong medicinal odor. Also called bear mat, the underground stems form a tangled mat of vegetation.”  

We didn’t see or hear many birds in the forest (only a few along the highway near the parking lot.  I thought that was weird.  The quiet forest was lovely, though, with the sounds of trickling and rushing water here and there along the way.

We’d actually taken what we thought was the shallower route this time around (and avoided the deep ravine by the irrigation ditch), but the trail seemed to go on “forever”.  After a few hours we sat down on some logs, caught our breath, and tried to figure out where we were in relationship to the parking lot where the car was.  Google maps told us to head south for 250 feet and then turn left.  We figured that was easy enough, so I got out my brother Mark’s compass (which my sister Melissa had given to me after Mark died) and found “south”, and we continued on down the trail for the 250 feet… There the trail dead-ended, and “left” was straight up the side of the mountain.  D’oh! 

I knew it was going to be super difficult for me to manage that climb so I sent Roxanne off ahead of me.  She’s got more mountain goat in her than I do and was able to make the climb easier than I could.  I kind of zig-zagged my way up the steep incline, trying to maneuver myself near trees where I could use them as helping hands and using my cane to steady myself. I made it, but it took me almost an hour. Phew!  When we got back to the car, I told Roxanne, “Once I sit down, I may not be able to get up again.”  Hah!  She was very encouraging and congratulated me on making the climb.  I. Never. Need. To. Do. That. Again.

We headed back to Sacramento, tired but satisfied with our findings, and got back to the house around 4:30 pm.  A long day, but a fulfilling one.

Species List:

  1. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  2. Amber Jelly Fungus, Exidia recisa
  3. Aniseed Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe odora [smells like licorice]
  4. Beaked Twig Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis plumbella
  5. Bicolored Bracket Fungus, Gloeoporus dichrous [white with gray center]
  6. Black Oak Stem Gall Wasp, Zapatella davisae
  7. Bryum Moss, Bryum capillare
  8. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  9. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  10. California Turret Spider, Antrodiaetus riversi
  11. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  12. Collared Parachute Mushroom, Marasmius rotula
  13. Common Bird’s Nest Fungus, Crucibulum laeve
  14. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  15. Cricket, Arboreal Camel Cricket, Gammarotettix bilabatus
  16. Cumberland Rock-Shield Lichen, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  17. Cushion Moss, Leucobryum sp.
  18. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica
  19. False Turkey Tail fungus, Stereum hirsutum
  20. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  21. French Broom Gall Mite, Aceria genistae
  22. French Broom, Genista monspessulana
  23. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  24. Gilled Polypore, Trametes betulina
  25. Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata
  26. Golden Dwarf Mistletoe, Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  27. Golden Floccularia, Floccularia albolanaripes
  28. Gray Pine, California Foothill Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  29. Hoary Lichen, Hoary Rosette, Physcia aipolia
  30. Horsehair Mushroom, Gymnopus androsaceus
  31. Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  32. Long-tailed Silverfish, Ctenolepisma longicaudata
  33. Lyell’s Bristle-Moss, Orthotrichum lyellii  [semi long panicles, dark with green ends]
  34. Manzanita Leaf Gall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  35. Millipede, Rosy Short-Head Millipede, Brachycybe rosea
  36. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa 
  37. Pale Brittlestem, Psathyrella candolleana
  38. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  39. Powderhorn Lichen, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  40. Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Daucus carota
  41. Rocktripe Lichen, Emery Rock Tripe,Umbilicaria phaea
  42. Rosy Saucer Lichen, Ochrolechia trochophora
  43. Sagebrush Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella rosulans [yellow, on rocks]
  44. Shellfish-scented Russula, Russula xerampelina
  45. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  46. Smokey-Eyed Boulder Lichen, Porpidia albocaerulescens [white with black dots]
  47. Star Moss, Syntrichia ruralis
  48. Star Rosette Lichen, Physcia stellaris [hoary colored, black apothecia]
  49. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Protoparmeliopsis muralis
  50. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  51. White Cup Fungus, Calyptella capula [no gills]
  52. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. Viscida
  53. Yellow Map Lichen, Rhizocarpon geographicum [bright yellow-green with dark spots]
  54. ?? Lichen, Family: Tephromelataceae

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.