Squirrely Squirrels and Some Slime Mold, 02-12-21

I got up at 6:30 this morning feeling really good; hardly any pain, feeling strong. I did my morning ablutions stuff, took my meds, and headed over to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve for a walk.  It was 46° when I got there, and got up to about 54° when I left. I didn’t even have to wear a jacket. It was overcast for the first part of my walk, and then the sun came out during the last half of it.

Yesterday’s rain plumped up the jelly fungi, woke up a few more mushrooms, and fluffed up the lichen. Among the ‘shrooms were some lovely specimens of Destroying Angels and Jack-o-Lanterns. I also found a few Silky Pinkgills – which are actually dark brown mushrooms. Their caps curl up, exposing the gills which are a much lighter hue.

The squirrels, especially the Western Gray Squirrels, were totally squirrelly today! They were running all over the place, up and down and around trees, across fields, and even down the trail and around my feet a couple of times. I think they were happy about the weather, and were so full of hormones the couldn’t be still. It was like Spring Break out there. I saw one female squirrel runup the side of a tree, and get grabbed by a male and tackled down to the ground. Sheesh!

At the other end of the squirrel spectrum were the California Ground Squirrels who seemed extra chunky to me today, and posed outside their burrows for photos.  Hah!

California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi

In two different puddles, I found hairworms snaking around. I picked up one of them and tried again to get closer photos of their “ends”. One end of the worm was “blunted”, like the nose of a bullet, and the other end had a y-shaped appendage at the end.  Apparently, the y-shaped end signifies that this one was a female. She lays strings of eggs with that end once she’s fertilized… I learn more about these things every time I encounter them.

            “…Adults mate in water and females lay long gelatinous strings of eggs. Depending on water temperature, the eggs hatch in 2 weeks to 3 months. The life of the microscopic larvae is not completely understood. Within 24 hours of hatching, the worm is thought to form a protective covering or cyst. If the cyst is eaten by a suitable insect, the protective covering dissolves and the released larva bores through the gut wall and into the body cavity of the host. There, it digests and absorbs the surrounding tissue. When mature, it leaves the host insect to start the process again…” 

I’ll have to keep an eye out, now, for the egg strings. Photos of them make them look like white, snotty strings that look like over-cooked spaghetti wrapped in s-curved lines. Here’s a good resource.

All along the trail, tiny lupine are starting to show up, along with new horehound plants.  I also found a pipevine vine in full flower – just the one. It must have been the herald for the coming spring.

Work on the river bed to make it more enticing for salmon meant the water was lower than it normally would be. I could actually get out a little bit further onto the exposed flat parts riverbed than I could before.  From that vantage point I saw two Great Blue Herons, a group of Turkey Vultures on the rocks, a Snowy Egret, a tiny sandpiper, Common Mergansers and some Black Phoebes. I saw one of the herons catch a long white fish, but the action happened so fast, I wasn’t able to get my camera to focus properly on it, so I just got some blurry pix.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

There was also a small flock of Killdeer, running all over the rocks and peeping loudly at one another.

Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous

According to Cornell, a lot of what I was seeing seemed to be distress and alarm calls: “…With slightest provocation, the nervous dee or te-dit notes erupt into more rapid series of dee s, becoming a soft to loud Trill, the increasing amplitude indicating higher levels of alarm. In agonistic encounters, Trill is usually given with head down and feathers of back and scapular region raised in hunched-back posture as bird faces or chases an intruder…” 

Some of it may have also been mixed in with courtship. I saw some the birds put their chests down to the ground as they do when they’re checking out a nesting site, and I saw others bow and spread their tail feathers – not quite like the broken-wing display they do when they’re trying to distract an intruder. It’s called an “Ungulate Display”.

“When Killdeer becomes aware of human or other intruder nearby, it stops to look at intruder, and in that instant its body bobs up and down as if the bird just hiccuped. Most encounters are limited to chasing, parallel runs, and upright threat displays.”

The birds were SO noisy, their sound drown out the calls of other birds nearby, like the phoebes, geese and crows.

Later, when I was back on the trail, I could hear the distinct gravely call of Sandhill Cranes. I looked around for them, and saw a small flock of them flying in v-formation waaaaay overhead against the clouds. It always amazes me how far their call scan travel, and how “close” they sound even when they’re a mile away.

Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, in the lower right corner.

As I was heading out of the preserve, I passed a fallen tree and noticed something bright pink showing from nearly underneath it. I reached down and in with my camera to get a few shots of it, and also took some photos with my cellphone. Checking the images out, I confirmed that it was what I thought it might be: Red Raspberry slime mold! This is the first time I’ve seen that at this location.

The last thing I noted before I left was that on the hill behind the nature center there was a herd of about 10 or 11 deer; young bucks and does. They all seemed to be settling down for a morning rest.

I walked for a full 4 hours (!). This was hike #16 in my #52HikeChallenge.

I was still feeling strong enough after the long walk to do a little grocery shopping. I went in for bread and strawberries – and got all sorts of stuff EXCEPT the bread and strawberries so I’ll have to go back tomorrow, I guess, to get them. D’oh!

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Bark Rim Lichen, Lecanora chlarotera [looks like Whitewash Lichen but has apothecia]
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
  5. Bedstraw, Velcro Grass, Cleavers, Galium aparine
  6. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  7. Black Jelly Roll Fungus, Black Witches’ Butter, Exidia glandulosa
  8. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  9. Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii
  10. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  11. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  12. California Ground Squirrel, Otospermophilus beecheyi
  13. California Mugwort, Artemisia douglasiana
  14. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  15. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Candleflame Lichen, Candelaria concolor [bright yellow-orange]
  18. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  19. Common Daffoldil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus
  20. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  21. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  22. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  23. Coyote, Canis latrans [scat]
  24. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long curling moss on trees]
  25. Desert Cottontail Rabbit, Sylvilagus audubonii [scat]
  26. Destroying Angel Mushroom, Amanita ocreata
  27. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  28. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  29. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  30. Fancy Frost Lichen, Physconia americana
  31. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica [blue-green dust lichen]
  32. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  33. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  34. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  35. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  36. Horsehair Worm, Hairworm, Phylum: Nematomorpha
  37. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  38. Jack-o-Lantern, Western Jack-o-Lantern, Omphalotus olivascens
  39. Jelly Spot Fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  40. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  41. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  42. Lincoln’s Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  43. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  44. Mazegill Fungus, Daedalea quercina
  45. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata
  46. Netted Crust Fungus, Byssomerulius corium, a kind of resupinate fungus, lays flat on the substrate
  47. Non-Biting Midge, Cricotopus sp.
  48. Pale Oysterling, Crepidotus caspari [tiny, white, well-spaced gills]
  49. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  50. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  51. Pyracantha, Firethorn, Pyracantha coccinea
  52. Red Raspberry Slime Mold, Tubifera ferruginosa
  53. Ring-Billed Gull, Larus delawarensis [ black ring, light eye, yellow legs]
  54. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  55. Sandhill Crane, Grus canadensis
  56. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  57. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  58. Silverleaf Fungus, Chondrostereum purpureum [sort of like Stereum with white/pale edges]
  59. Snowy Egret, Egretta thula
  60. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  61. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  62. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  63. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  64. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  65. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  66. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  67. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  68. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  69. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  70. Winter Oyster, Scytinotus longinquus (Pleurotopsis longinquus) 
  71. Witch’s Butter Jelly Fungus, Tremella mesenterica
  72. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans