Category Archives: Events

Volunteer Brunch in a Bag, 08-14-20

I got up around 7:00 am with the dog this morning, and after getting some breakfast and letting Esteban out for potty, I took a fast shower and got dressed to go to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve with my friend Roxanne. We left the house about 8:30 am and it was already 78° outside. [It got up to 102° today.]]

We went to the preserve for a volunteer brunch.  Before we even got through the front entrance, we saw a lovely female Flame Skimmer dragonfly who had landed on the antenna of a truck in the parking lot. She was very cooperative and we were able to approach her to get a few photos with our cellphones.

Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata

Usually, these brunches are held indoors with all of the volunteers together in one room. The staff prepares food for everyone and it’s eaten buffet style. Because of COVID, this time, small groups of volunteers were let in in shifts, about 30 to 45 minutes apart. Rather than having a buffet, the staff had put together bagged lunches for everyone, and had personally decorated each bag with their own artwork. I got a bag with a deer on it, and Rox got one with a little gray mouse and sparkly dandelion puffs. So cute! 

My bag had a huge blueberry muffin in it along with a banana, mandarin orange, and hard-boiled egg.  Along with that we each got a cup of apple cider. As free gifts for the volunteers there were “Save the Frogs” water bottles from KEEN, little pins and magnets.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

And rather than having folks sit close to one another at tables, there were chairs spread out all over the main lawn in the shade.  Rox and I grabbed two of them and got them situated the way we wanted them by the little pond, and then enjoyed our meal. We noticed some Tongue Galls on a nearby alder tree and got some photos of them.  Ever the naturalists.  Hah!

Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni

After our meal, we headed out to go to William Pond Park and look for some galls there.  On our way out of the preserve, we met with Mary Messenger, a fallow trail steward, who was just coming in. She’d brought me a 2021 wall calendar and a bag of figs from her tree at home to share with everyone.  I thought that was so sweet of her.

At William Pond Park, I was going to show Rox where the “Reverend Mother” tree is, but it was just too hot to do anything.  So, we walked along parts of the manicured lawn there and got some photos of the galls on some of the Valley and Live Oak trees. On our way back to the car, we saw a White-Breasted Nuthatch in a tree, pulling on spiders’ webs and eating bugs.

White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Once I got home, for the rest of the day, I stayed indoors with the dog for the most part, went through my photos, and posted stuff to iNaturalist. 

Speaking of iNaturalist:

A pair of people in California spotted specimens of a species of cicada that haven’t been seen for over 100 years! It was a Clear-Winged Red Manzanita Cicada, Okanagana arctostaphylae. Considered the “holy grail” of cicadas, it hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1915. A woman found one near a standoff blueberry bushes on her property (which is surrounded by manzanita),and the other one was found by a guy who read about her experience and went out to the same area looking for them. 

Clear-Winged Red Manzanita Cicada, Okanagana arctostaphylae. [I did NOT take this photo.]

The cicada is reddish brown and blends into the wood of the manzanita trees. The guy who found it wrote, “…Collecting this species and including it in our research was going to be big news for maybe fifteen people on the entire planet.”   Hahahahahahaha!

He continued: “…Finding that beautiful insect, camouflaged so perfectly against the smooth red bark, and knowing that I’m the first scientist in 100 years to see this creature—that’s a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life…”

CLICK HERE to read more about it. So cool!  You never know what you might see out there, so keep observing and document your observations.

Species List:

  1. Alder Tongue Gall Fungus, Taphrina alni
  2. Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  3. Flame Skimmer Dragonfly, Libellula saturata
  4. Flat-Topped Honeydew Gall Wasp, Disholcaspis eldoradensis
  5. Jumping Oak Gall Wasp, Neuroterus saltatorius
  6. Oak Apple Gall Wasp, Andricus quercuscalifornicus
  7. Round Gall Wasp, Cynpis conspicuus [round gall near base of leaf on Valley Oaks, formerly Besbicus conspicuus]
  8. Spiny Turban Gall Wasp, asexual, fall generation, Antron douglasii
  9. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  10. Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa
  11. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia
  12. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

Attending the Sticker PArty, 03-09-20

Today, I attended a “Sticker Party” at the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne, volunteered too, as did “The Other Mary” (Mary Messenger). I think there were seven volunteers in all there.

The organization had something like 3500 brochures for their kids/school programs that had been accidentally printed with “2019-2020” on them so we had to put sticky labels over that with the correct “2020-2021” dates.  Some of the school districts also required special liability disclaimers on them, so those brochures also got labels with the language specified by the district.

Some of the brochures we “stickered” today

The Effie Yeaw volunteer coordinator, Rachael, had set up coffee, water and Danishes for us, and while we were working, the Executive Director, Kent, came in with a plate full of Girl Scout cookies for us, too.  That was nice.

Roxanne, The Other Mary and I worked on the brochures for about three hours. Between all of us volunteers we labeled a little over 1500 of them, so we felt really good about that.

One of the other volunteers there was a gentleman named Mike who I had met earlier in the year on a fungus walk I led at the preserve.  He had liked the Nikon the camera I use so much that he went out and bought one for himself.  He showed me some of the photos he’d gotten with it, and they were great! I’m so glad he was as pleased with the camera as I am.

When we were done working, The Other Mary left, but Roxanne and I stopped for a little bit to take photos around the nature center.  Bushtits have setup a nest in a Redbud tree there and I was able to see the mom fly back to the nest with a mouthful of what looks like bits of plant fluff and lichen.  So cute!  The resident Black Phoebes are also nesting under the eaves of the building and I got a few photos of them.

American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus,nest in a Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, tree
Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  3. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  4. California Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  5. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  6. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  7. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
  8. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  9. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  10. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis

At Park Winters, 03-05-20

I got up around 6:30 this morning, and gave Esteban his breakfast before getting myself ready to go out to Park Winters in, duh!, Winters.

The Inn at Park Winters

It was about 49°, sunny and clear when I got there. I immediately started taking photos, but focusing on the flowers and whatever birds I could see rather than taking photos of the venue itself. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

In another month or so, it should be more spectacular to look at, when the trees all have leaves on them, but right now there were mostly cultivated tulips, daffodils and other bulb-flowers… and I don’t get too excited about non-native plants.  I was surprised, for example, by the amount of common ivy and periwinkle on the grounds.  They’re both invasive species. From a naturalist standpoint, I would have been happier to see native plants and flowers throughout the place.

Garden Tulips, Tulipa gesneriana

On the grounds, there’s a huge Victorian house, silo and barn that are just pristine and gorgeous, and the grounds abut agricultural land. I wanted to see the chicken coop, which is supposed to be spectacular, but I missed it. 

I was walking across the lawn with the giant pecan tree in the middle of it, though, and came across a super-tall door.  There were glass inserts in the top of it, but too high for me to look through, and hedges on either side. I noticed that there was a handicapped button next to the door, so I pushed it… and the door opened slowly to reveal a huge swimming pool.  Very impressive.  ((I was also kind of jazzed to see battery hook-ups for cars in their parking lot.))  There’s also a large fountain full of koi fish and a “carved” English garden across from it.  Just lovely.

Koi Fish, Cyprinus carpio

I did get to see my first Painted Lady butterfly of the season and a Common Checkered Skipper. 

And I got photos of a robin, Spotted Towhee, Yellow-Billed Magpie, and Red-Breasted Nuthatch, among other birds.  The Nuthatch had landed on a ball of twigs and threads that one of several hanging from the limbs of the pecan tree.  At first I thought they were little hanging nests, but on closer inspection I could see that they were most likely man-made balls of excelsior, threads and fine ribbons for the birds around to use as extra nesting materials.

Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis, on a ball of nesting material

I walked the grounds and took photos for about 2 hours and then headed back home.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Bearded Iris, Iris x Germanica
  3. Begonia, Begonia sp.
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Blue Magic Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum
  6. Common Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  7. Border Forsythia, Forsythia × intermedia
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Calla Lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica
  10. Camelia, Camellia japonica
  11. Canary Grass, Reed Canary Grass, Phalaris arundinacea
  12. Cardoon, Artichoke, Cynara cardunculus
  13. Chinese Pistache, Pistacia chinensis
  14. Common Asparagus Fern, Asparagus setaceus
  15. Common Blue Hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis
  16. Common Checkered-Skipper, Burnsius communis
  17. Common Ivy, Hedera helix
  18. Cooper’s Hawk, Acipiter cooperii
  19. Crevice Alumroot, Heuchera micrantha
  20. Double Daffodil, Narcissus sp.
  21. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  22. European Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  23. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  24. Garden Tulip, Tulipa gesneriana
  25. Golden Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  26. Hen-and-chickens Echeveria, Echeveria secunda
  27. Hoverfly, Long-tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes fumipennis
  28. Hydrangea, Mophead Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla
  29. Intermediate Periwinkle, Vinca difformis
  30. Italian Cypress, Cupressus sempervirens
  31. Jonquil, Narcissus jonquilla
  32. Koi Fish, Cyprinus carpio
  33. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  34. Lodgepole Pine, Pinus contorta
  35. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  36. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  37. Oleander, Nerium oleander
  38. Olive Tree, Olea europaea
  39. Ornamental Freesia, Freesia alba × leichtlinii
  40. Painted Lady Butterfly, Vanessa cardui
  41. Pecan Tree, Carya illinoinensis
  42. Pincushion Flower, Mourningbride, Scabiosa atropurpurea
  43. Primrose Jasmine, Jasminum mesnyi
  44. Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata,
  45. Ranunculus, Ranunculus sp.
  46. Red Maple, Acer rubrum
  47. Red Tip Photinia, Photinia × fraseri
  48. Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber
  49. Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis
  50. Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus
  51. Saucer Magnolia, Magnolia × soulangeana
  52. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  53. Spring Sowbread Cyclamen, Cyclamen repandum
  54. Spurge, Euphorbia atropurpurea
  55. Star Magnolia, Magnolia stellata
  56. Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo
  57. Summer Snowflake, Leucojum aestivum
  58. Topped Lavender, Lavandula stoechas
  59. Weeping Willow, Salix × sepulcralis
  60. Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis
  61. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  62. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

Napa Trip Day One, 02-04-20

Napa Trip Day One: My friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne and I, took Highway 113, and stopped in Davis for a little breakfast (breakfast sammich and coffee) and then we stayed pretty much on Highway 128 through Winters, past the Monticello Dam and around Lake Berryessa to the city of Angwin. At a market across the street from Pacific Union College, we met with some of my other naturalist class graduates: Pam, Patty, Elaine, and Deborah (who was the one who organized the group and hosted us at her home). It was so great to see them all again and to spend the day with them out in nature.

Me (right) with Pam on the trail. Obviously, I didn’t take this photo.

Just a short drive down the road from the market we went to the Pacific Union College Forest.  According to the college website:

“The forested lands of Pacific Union College were once the winter camp of the Wappo tribe of California Indians, who enjoyed a bountiful supply of acorns. In 1843 the land became part of a Mexican land grant to George Yount. After the Mexican-American war, settlers used the redwoods to build homes and make grape stakes for vineyards. 

Lumber was the primary industry on Howell Mountain until Edwin Angwin built his resort hotel in 1883. PUC purchased Angwin’s resort in 1909. Since then, the forest has supported the mission of the college by providing lumber for classroom buildings and residence halls, firewood for heat, and recreation in the ‘back 40’. In the 1950s, the biology faculty began to enrich student learning by studying native trees, shrubs, and wildlife.

Today the PUC Demonstration and Experimental Forest is protected by a conservation easement in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) and the Land Trust of Napa County. As such, it will always remain forest and provide learning opportunities for PUC students as well as 35 miles of recreational trails—for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding—for students, college employees, and community members. Home to a nesting pair of Northern Spotted Owls, the rare Napa False Indigo, and some of the easternmost Coastal Redwood trees, the rich biodiversity of the PUC forest makes is especially valuable to conservationists and researchers. Our forest truly sets PUC apart and makes Angwin a unique and special place to live, learn, and grow.”

You can get a map of the trails here.

It was very chilly and breezy when we got to the forest, so we were all pretty much bundled up for the whole walk but that didn’t hamper our enthusiasm or exploration. 

CLICK HERE for the full album of today’s photos.

Because of the part of the trail system we were on, we didn’t see a lot of fungi, but the lichens were everywhere and we also found some insects and a tiny, beautiful California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuates).  These little guys are nearly-endemic to northern California and breathe through their skin (so we were careful not to handle it).The one we found was snuggled down into a hole under a log and wrapped around a stick.  It’s hard to describe how small they are; most people mistake them for little worms…

California Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps attenuates

According to Wikipedia: “…From May to October, aestivation is the norm for this species. Unlike other members of its genus, egg-laying occurs quite early, as soon as December in the southern part of its range. Oviposition is thought to occur primarily in the tunnels of other creatures, but clusters have commonly been found on moist surfaces beneath bark, rocks, or other types of forest detritus. Clutches contain approximately five to twenty individual eggs, but five to ten different females may use the exact oviposition site; in any case, hatching occurs around March or April, somewhat later in the extreme northern part of the range.”

Such neat little dudes.

As I mentioned, we saw a lot of lichen there that we don’t get to see in the valley.  I’d been looking all over for some “Toy Soldier” and “Lipstick” lichen in Sacramento, and just wasn’t finding it anywhere.  They’re both lichens that stand straight up and have red “lips” at the end of their stalks.  There in the PUC forest, I found several specimens of both… and was surprised by how small they are.  In books, you see photos of them and they look as big as your fingers, but they’re really quite tiny.       

Toy Soldiers, Cladonia bellidiflora

Along with those two, I also got to see live for the first time specimens of Beaded Tube Lichen, FishboneBeard Lichen, Crabseye Lichen, Speckled Greenshield, Farinose Cartilage Lichen, Mealy Pixie Cups and others.

Lung Lichen, Lobaria anthraspis

We also found some great specimens of Woolly Birdsnest Fungus, which unlike the Common Birdsnests we see here, are taller and covered in fine hairs.

Woolly Bird’s Nest Fungus, Nidula niveotomentosa

And we got to see some Candlesnuff Fungus, also called Carbon Antlers.  These were very unobtrusive-looking little “antlers” that were stickling straight up from the ground around a burl.  When Deb touched them, they spewed frost-looking smoky clouds of spores all around them.  [[I was so busy watching Deb flick the antlers and video the spores, that I forgot to take photos myslef!  D’oh!  So, I hope she shares her video with everyone.]] 

Here’s a little bit of a write upon it from Wikipedia: “Specimens found earlier in the season, in spring, may be covered completely in asexual spores (conidia), which manifests itself as a white to grayish powdery deposit. Later in the season, mature ascocarps are charcoal-black, and have minute pimple-like bumps called perithecia on the surface. These are minute rounded spore bearing structures with tiny holes, or ostioles, for the release of sexual spores (ascospores).”

So, what we were seeing was the release of the asexual spores.  How fascinating is that?!  The fungus has two ways of reproducing: asexually and sexually.  Nature tries everything.

As for mushrooms, there weren’t a whole lot on the part of the trail we traveled, but we did find a few specimens of ones like Cowboy’s Handkerchief, Milky Caps and Slippery Jacks.  (Who names these things? Hah!)

Poor Man’s Slippery Jack, Suillus fuscotomentosus

I figured we walked from about 9:30 am to 2:00 pm, taking a break once for snacks.  I hadn’t carried any food into the woods with me (it was all sitting in the back of the car). I wasn’t really hungry at all but Elaine shared her tea with me, and Deb gave me part of her PB&J sandwich which I thought was super-sweet of them. 

I liked Elaine’s idea of taking hot tea out into the forest with you. Seems very “Downton Abbey” to me…except that I’d have to carry the tea myself instead of having servants carrying it and setting it up for me – along with petit fours and cucumber sandwiches – further up the trail. How fun would THAT be!  I need to organize something like that sometime… (Where’s my Publishers Clearinghouse money!?)

I’d very much like to go to the PUC forest again sometime, and maybe attack some of the other trails. There’s supposed to be an area where there are young Redwood trees, and wetter more riparian habitat.  It’s just that lo-o-o-o-n-g drive back and forth.  The gals said, though, that the hotel in Winters is finally finished and that’s kind of at the halfway point between here and Napa, so that might help.

After our walk, Elaine, Pam and Patty all went back to their respective abodes, but Roxanne and I did an overnight visit at Deb’s place.  Her house is very cozy and lovely, filled with art and craftwork, some of it done by her and her mom.  Her mother does pottery, so there were example of her work in the plates, bowls and trays used throughout the house.  And Deb does really incredible work with gourds.  You can see some of them here.

Roxanne at the table web Deb and me, noshing of fruit and veggies while we research what we saw today.

The first thing we did when we got to Deb’s was sit around the kitchen table with our cellphones and cameras, and piles of field guides, and tried to make a list of everything we’d see that day.  It was so much fun being surrounded by people who get as excited about identifying a “new-to-me” lichen as I do, pouring through the books, comparing photos and notes.  I loved it!  These ladies are so “my tribe”. Hah! 

CLICK HERE for Day Two.

Species List For Both Days:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  3. Arundo, Giant Reed, Arundo donax
  4. Bay Laurel Tree, Laurus nobilis
  5. Beaded Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia apinnata
  6. Big-headed Ground Beetle, Scarites subterraneus [black, shiny, large mandibles] ??
  7. Black Cobweb Spider, Steatoda capensis
  8. Black Jelly Roll fungus, Exidia glandulosa
  9. Brewer’s Blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus
  10. Bright Cobblestone Lichen, Acarospora socialis [bright yellow, on rocks]
  11. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  12. California Black Oak, Quercus kelloggii
  13. California Pipevine, Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia californica
  14. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  15. California Slender Salamander, Batrachoseps attenuates
  16. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  17. Candlesnuff Fungus, Carbon Antlers, Xylaria hypoxylon [upright, branched, white with a layer of spores; spores release at a touch]
  18. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis
  19. Chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum
  20. Cinder Lichen, Aspicilia cinerea
  21. Coastal Woodfern, Dryopteris arguta [pointed leaves, two rows of spore sites]
  22. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  23. Common Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  24. Common Gold Cobblestone Lichen, Pleopsidium flavum [bright yellow]
  25. Common Gray Disk Fungus, Mollisia olivascens
  26. Common Jelly Spot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus
  27. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  28. Conifer Mazegill, Gloeophyllum sepiarium
  29. Cowboys Handkerchief, Waxy Cap Mushroom, Hygrophorus eburneus
  30. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  31. Crabseye Lichen, Ochrolechia subpallescens [creamy colored lichen with white-rimmed pale orange/pink apothecia on trees]
  32. Crampball Fungus, Daldinia concentrica
  33. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp.
  34. Dendroalsia Moss, Dendroalsia abietina [long curling moss on trees]
  35. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  36. Douglas Fir Tree, Pseudotsuga menziesii
  37. Dusky Tile Lichen, Lecidea Lichen, Lecidea fuscoatra  [black rimmed apothecia on rocks]
  38. Ear-leaf Lichen, Normandina pulchella [green leaf-like on rocks]
  39. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  40. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  41. Fishbone Beard Lichen, Usnea filipendula [hairy eyeballs]
  42. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Pacific Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria pacifica
  43. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  44. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen, Tuckermanopsis americana [pale green, brown fringes, on trees]
  45. Globular Springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata 
  46. Goldback Fern, Pentagramma triangularis
  47. Gray lungwort, Lobaria hallii  [gray to green, with soredia on surface]
  48. Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana
  49. Great Blue Heron, Ardea Herodias
  50. Great Egret, Ardea alba
  51. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  52. Green Trichoderma MoldTrichoderma viride 
  53. Herre’s Ragged Lichen, Platismatia herrei
  54. Hidden Goldspeck Lichen, Candelariella aurella [small, scattered, yellow, on rocks]
  55. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  56. Ink Lichen, Placynthium nigrum [pitch black, fine grained]
  57. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  58. Lace Lichen, Ramalina menziesii
  59. Lipstick Powderhorn, Cladonia macilenta
  60. Lung Lichen, Lobaria anthraspis
  61. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  62. Milky Cap, Hemimycena hirsute [tiny white mushrooms with distant gills]
  63. Mistletoe, American Mistletoe, Big Leaf Mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum
  64. Mistletoe Gall, caused byMistletoe haustorium growing on a tree
  65. Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Nymphalis antiopa
  66. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  67. Non-biting Midges, Family: Chironomidae
  68. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  69. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri
  70. Oleander Aphid, Aphis nerii
  71. Orange Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena acicula
  72. Pacific Madrone Tree, Arbutus menziesii
  73. Pigeon, Domestic Pigeon, Columba livia domestica
  74. Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa
  75. Pink Elongated Springtail, Podura sp.
  76. Pink Honeysuckle, California Honeysuckle, Lonicera hispidula
  77. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
  78. Poor Man’s Slippery Jack, Suillus fuscotomentosus [sort of looks like a bolete]
  79. Powderhorn Lichen, Common Powderhorn, Cladonia coniocraea
  80. Powdery Sunburst Lichen, Xanthoria ulophyllodes [yellow, leafy, rare on rocks but does sometimes appear on them]
  81. Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus [heard]
  82. Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
  83. Red-Winged Blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
  84. Rove Beetle, Quedius sp. [red-orange] ??
  85. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  86. Scaly Rustgill Mushroom, Gymnopilus sapineus
  87. Shield Lichen Parmelia sulcata [gray foliose lichen on trees]
  88. Sidewalk Firedot Lichen, Xanthocarpia feracissima  [bright orange, on rocks]
  89. Silky Piggyback Mushrooms,  Asterophora parasitica
  90. Slime Mold, Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  91. Slime Mold, Honeycomb Coral Slime Mold, Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa
  92. Slime Mold, Insect Egg Slime Mold, Badhamia sp. [early stages of plasmodium]
  93. Slime Mold, Spotted Trichia Slime Mold, Trichia botrytis
  94. Soaproot, Amole, Chlorogalum pomeridianum ssp. pomeridianum
  95. Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  96. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Lecona muralis [ pale green/gray thallus with rose/tan apothecia gathered in the center; color can be quite variable]
  97. Stonewall Rim Lichen, Protoparmeliopsis muralis [tan, pebbled with leafy edges, orange-tan apothecia]
  98. Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis [road kill, saw 5]
  99. Sulphur Tuft Fungus, Hypholoma fasciculare 
  100. Tan Nipple Lichen, Thelomma santessonii [gray/tan, deep holes in the structures]
  101. Tanoak, Tanbark Oak, Notholithocarpus densiflorus
  102. Toy Soldiers, Cladonia bellidiflora  [stalks are crusty, heads are split with red faces]
  103. Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia
  104. Trembling Crust Fungus, Merulius tremellosus [with guttation]
  105. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  106. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  107. Velvety Tree Ant, Liometopum occidentale
  108. Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
  109. White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida
  110. Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata [larvae, green inchworm with orange head]
  111. Woolly Bird’s Nest Fungus, Nidula niveotomentosa
  112. Wooly Foam Lichen, Stereocaulon ramulosum [like Oakmoss but very crusty with small brown apothecia at the end of the branches]
  113. Yellow-Billed Magpie, Pica nuttalli

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]

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