Category Archives: Firsts

Fungi in the Fog, 12-17-21

I got up a little before 7:00 this morning, fed and pottied Esteban, and had some breakfast before heading out to Mather Lake Regional Park. I usually don’t go out that late (around 8:00 am), but it was SUPER foggy this morning, and I wanted the sun to come up a little bit more so I could see where I was going.

You can normally see across the lake to the opposite shore. Not so much today.

I hadn’t been to the lake in a while, and I was anxious to see what I might find there. When I got to the park, the fog was still heavy, dragging its belly on the ground in most places, and it was a finger-nipping 37ºF. I was dressed in three layers (my shirt, the vest my naturalist students had given to me, and my hooded jacket), so I was relatively warm…-ish.

The fog makes it difficult to take photos because the camera doesn’t know what to focus on. I like the “diffused” look of some of them, though. The fog would split open periodically to let the sun in, then close up again.

Mostly Mute Swans, Cygnus olor

The first thing I saw was the white bodies of Mute Swans floating on the water, looking otherworldly. They seemed to dominate the lake this morning; I think they’re pairing up for the breeding season and setting down their nesting spots. I saw a couple of them bullying a pair of Canada Geese out of their resting place.

Among the Mute Swan, I saw one Tundra Swan.  I watched it as it flew in, its wing-flap pattern different than that of the Mute Swans. It circled once before landing softly on the water.

With all the moisture in the air, the lichens were wide awake, some of them reproducing, showing off their suction-cup-looking apothecia.

CLICK HERE to see the full album of photos

There were also a few fungi I didn’t expect to see, like Shaggy Mane inkcap mushrooms, Layered Cup fungus, some Brownflesh Bracket,  and a couple of Pungent Slippery Jacks (which were new to me) among others.

I was hoping to see otters, and I saw one, but it was so far away, I couldn’t get any really decent photos of it.  It was swimming back and forth in a tight formation as though searching a specific area for fish. I didn’t see it catch anything, but it was very persistent.

As always, I reported it to the Otter Spotters website.

It also looked to me like the beaver’s den had some new branches piled onto it. I’ve never see the beavers there, but I’ve seen the trees they’ve felled and they seem to maintain their den pretty well.

Beavers den

What surprised me was the number of new Coyote Brush flower galls there were on the bushes (and it looks like they like the female bushes more than the males, but that was just a cursory observation). They usually don’t show up until the spring, but here they were, some bushes covered in them. It was very curious.

Because of the damp and cold, I only walked for a little over 2 hours.  This was hike #91 in my annual hike challenge. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make my goal of 104 hikes this year but I’m pretty dang close.

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Species List:

  1. Azolla, Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides
  2. Beaver, American, Beaver, Castor canadensis [den]
  3. Brown Parachute Mushroom, Collybiopsis villosipes
  4. Brownflesh Bracket,  Coriolopsis gallica
  5. Callery Pear, Pyrus calleryana
  6. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [small black dots on wood, by themselves or on a background of white, gray, etc.]
  7. Common Sunburst Lichen, Golden Shield Lichen, Xanthoria parietina [yellow-orange,on wood/trees]
  8. Coyote Brush Bud Gall midge, Rhopalomyia californica
  9. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  10. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  11. Elongate Springtail, Order: Entomobryomorpha
  12. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  13. Fremont’s Cottonwood, Populus fremontii
  14. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  15. Golden-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla
  16. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  17. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  18. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  19. Horse Mushroom, Agaricus arvensis
  20. Layered Cup, Peziza varia
  21. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  22. Moss, Wood Bristle-Moss, Lewinskya affinis
  23. Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
  24. Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
  25. Oak-loving Gymnopus Mushroom, Gymnopus dryophilus [tan-orange with pale gills; cap can be flat or curved up as it ages]
  26. Oyster Mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus
  27. Pied-Billed Grebe, Podilymbus podiceps
  28. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  29. Poison Oak, Pacific Poison Oak, Western Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum
  30. Poplar Sunburst Lichen, Xanthomendoza hasseana [sunburst on Cottonwood]
  31. Pungent Slippery Jack, Suillus pungens
  32. River Otter, North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis
  33. Rosy Navel Mushroom, Contumyces rosellus
  34. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  35. Scurfy Twiglet Mushroom, Tubaria furfuracea [small, pale tan/ orange, wide gills]
  36. Shadow Lichen, Family: Physciaceae
  37. Shaggy Mane Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinus comatus
  38. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  39. Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  40. Trembling Crust Fungus, Merulius tremellosus
  41. Tuberous Polypore, Polyporus tuberaster
  42. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  43. Tundra Swan, Cygnus columbianus
  44. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  45. ?? Felty Mouse Ear, Order: Pezizales

Looking for Fungi, 12-06-21

I got up around 7:00 this morning and headed over to the American River Bend Park for a walk.  It was a chilly and dampish 46º at the river. I actually do better in cool weather, so I was out for quite a while.

The American River asseen from the River Bend Park trail.

I was hoping to find some birdsnest or coral fungus but struck out on those (might not be wet enough yet). I did find some other fungi, however. I found my first Purple Core (Blewit) of the season. I was a young one and still had a lot of its lavender color. I also found several different kinds of inkcap, some Cavaliers, Sweetbread mushrooms, and Purple- Edged Bonnets (which were new to me).

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

At one point, I came across a Great Blue Heron on a rock in the river below the trail, and stopped to get photos of it. It was joined by Turkey Vultures, a Herring Gull, a couple of Double-Crested Cormorants, and a tiny Spotted Sandpiper.

They all played musical chairs among the stones while a Common Goldeneye watch them from the water.  Very cool. I was able to get still shots and a few video snippets.

I also saw a few deer, including a pair of yearling fawns with their mom that passed the road in front of my car as I was leaving the park. The mom was being harassed by a buck who was sniffing after her to see if she was in estrus. When they had all crossed the road and were on the driver’s side of my car, I heard the doe give a low bleat, and her fawns took off in different directions. 

I think the idea that the buck would kill the fawns is a myth, although if mom was in estrus the buck might deliberately chase the fawns away. The fawns I saw were big enough, I think, to fend for themselves, but their mom was still protective of them.

I was out for 4½ hours, so was pretty tired by the time I got home. This was hike #89 of my annual hike challenge.


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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Audubon’s Warbler, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Setophaga coronata auduboni
  3. Barometer Earthstar, Hygroscopic Earthstar, Astraeus hygrometricus
  4. Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  5. Blewit Mushroom, Purple Core, Lepista nuda
  6. Bottlebrush Frost Lichen, Physconia detersa
  7. Bracket-Forming Polypore, Perenniporia sp.
  8. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  9. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  10. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  11. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  12. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  13. Cavalier Mushroom, Melanoleuca sp.
  14. Chocolate Tube Slime Mold, Stemonitis splendens
  15. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  16. Common Button Lichen, Buellia erubescens [small black dots on wood, by themselves or on a background of white, gray, etc.
  17. Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
  18. Common Merganser, Mergus merganser
  19. Deer Mushroom, Western Deer Mushroom, Pluteus exilis [heavy, dark cap and white stipe and gills]
  20. Double-Crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auratus
  21. Dryad’s Saddle, Hawk’s Wing, Polyporus squamosus
  22. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum ostrea
  23. Farinose Cartilage Lichen,  Ramalina farinacea [like Oakmoss but very thin branches]
  24. Flocculose Inkcap, Coprinellus flocculosus
  25. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  26. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  27. Golden-Haired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma
  28. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
  29. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  30. Hare’s Foot Inkcap Mushroom, Coprinopsis lagopus
  31. Herring Gull, Larus argentatus [spot on bill, gray legs, pale eye]
  32. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  33. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  34. Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizeni
  35. London Plane Tree, Platanus × acerifolia
  36. Magpie Inkcap, Common Inkcap, Coprinopsis picacea
  37. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  38. Mealy Pixie Cup, Cladonia chlorophaea
  39. Milk-White Toothed Polypore, Irpex lacteus
  40. Moss, Wood Bristle-Moss, Lewinskya affinis
  41. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  42. Pin-Cushion Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona polycarpa [bright orange, apothecia, close, piled]
  43. Pleated Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola plicatilis
  44. Powder-Edged Speckled Greenshield, Flavopunctelia soredica
  45. Purple-Edge Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena purpureofusca [like little red Marasmius]
  46. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  47. Rosellinia Fungi, Rosellinia sp. [a plant pathogen, looked like cement; was hard like crampballs]
  48. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  49. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  50. Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius
  51. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  52. Stubble Rosegill Mushroom, Volvopluteus gloiocephalus
  53. Sweetbread Mushroom, Clitopilus prunulus
  54. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora [soft felted leaves, yellow flowers]
  55. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  56. Two-Horned Gall Wasp, unisexual gall, summer generation,  Dryocosmus dubiosus [small, green or mottled, on back of leaf along the midvein]
  57. Wolf’s Milk Slime Mold, Lycogala epidendrum
  58. ?? Mushroom with brown cap, tan gills and tan/brown stipe
  59. ?? Mushroom with dark brown cap, white gills and twisted stipe

Found More Fungi Than We Expected To, 11-19-21

I got up around 6:30 again this morning and got myself ready to go out to the American River Bend Park for a walk with my friend Roxanne. I was hoping to see some fungi and some slime molds. We got the fungi but no slime molds.

It was drizzly and overcast, but the rain was nice to us. It rained a lot as we stopped for coffee and headed in toward the park, but once we got moving along the trails, it stopped. I’d brought an umbrella with me, but didn’t really need it.

When we got to the gates of the park, there was cadre of male Wild Turkeys walking by, blocking the road. This time of year, the males travel in bachelor groups and vie with one another for supremacy over roosting spots in the winter.

Besides the turkeys, we didn’t really see a lot of birds. I could hear Northern Flickers, California Quail, and Oak Titmice, but I couldn’t see them to get a photo. I did get a photo of a Spotted Towhee early in our walk, and a couple of a Lark Sparrow we saw on our way out of the park. We’d stopped to get photos of some Telegraphweed plants and were surprised when the sparrows showed up. We hardly ever get to see Lark Sparrows (which I think is the prettiest of the sparrows in California) so we’re always excited when we get the chance to see one.

We went into the first turn-out, near the manicured lawn and picnic tables, and looked through some of the rougher areas around the lawn for fungi.  We found some nice specimens of  Honey Fungus, Yellow Fieldcaps, Scaly Rustgill mushrooms and Dryad’s Saddle polypores among others.

On the lawn we found some Death Caps, which are sort of in the same family of deadly mushrooms as the Destroying Angels. Unlike the angels, which are pure white all over, the Death Caps have a yellow cap. I don’t think I’d ever seen them in that lawn before, so that was a nice find.

When photographing some lichen, Rox found a nice crop of the reddish-orange “moles” of the Orange Hobnail Canker, a plant pathogen that was discovered in 1916 by Stephen Bruner. We also found Green Shield lichen, Shrubby Sunburst, and  Hoary Rosette Lichen. We weren’t really focused on lichen on this trip, so I’m sure there were a lot more that I missed recording.

One of the trees we found clumps of sandy “mud” on the side of a tree, and then red woody sawdust on another tree… I think it might have been termite signs, but I’m not sure.

Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva, a type of bracket fungus

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We then went over to equestrian area to see if we could find any jelly fungi, but there weren’t any out yet. As we drove out of there, we saw some “melted” inkcap mushrooms in one of the fields, and stopped to get pictures of those. The inkcaps have a high water content so as they age, their gills liquify and leave a black inky sluice on your skin.

Then we drove toward the camping area (and restrooms) and looked around the fields there. On the way we came across a Columbian Black-Tailed doe and her two fawns. Sooooo beautiful. 

In the fields I was looking for some earthstars but didn’t see any.  We DID find some False Turkey-Tail fungus, puffballs, and horsehair fungus, and Roxanne found a lovely specimen of Oak Mazegill.

We walked for almost 3½ hours which I thought was pretty good for me considering my “depleted” state, especially with all of the bending over and climbing over fallen logs that we had to do. It was exhausting but fun.

We then went over to Brookfield’s Restaurant in Rancho Cordova for lunch. Rox had a Rueben sandwich and sweet potato fries and I had a French dip and regular fries. I also had coffee and a mimosa. So yummy! Thank you, Roxanne.


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Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

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Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Brown Jelly Fungus, Leafy Brain, Phaeotremella foliacea
  3. Bufflehead Duck, Bucephala albeola
  4. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  5. California Quail, Callipepla californica
  6. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  7. Cavalier Mushroom, Melanoleuca sp.
  8. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  9. Common Ink Cap, Coprinopsis atramentaria [large]
  10. Crow, American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
  11. Dark-Winged Fungus Gnat, Bradysia sp. [larvae]
  12. Deathcap Mushroom, Amanita phalloides [yellow cap, everything else is white]
  13. Dryad’s Saddle, Hawk’s Wing, Polyporus squamosus
  14. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  15. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  16. Foothill Shoulderband Snail, Helminthoglypta cypreophila
  17. Fragrant Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe fragrans
  18. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  19. Goldenhaired Inkcap Mushroom, Parasola auricoma [like parasol mushrooms but with a goldish button in the middle of the cap]
  20. Green Trichoderma Mold, Trichoderma viride
  21. Harvestmen,  Order: Opiliones [tiny clear “spider” on the gills of a mushroom]
  22. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia [hoary, brown apothecia]
  23. Honey Fungus, Honey Mushroom, Armillaria mellea
  24. Horsehair Fungus, Gymnopus androsaceus [thin black stipe]
  25. Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
  26. Meadow Puffball, Lycoperdon pratense [pure white, smooth surface]
  27. Mock Strawberry, Potentilla indica
  28. Mustard Yellow Polypore, Fuscoporia gilva [bracket type fungus]
  29. Northern Flicker, Colaptes auratus
  30. Oak Mazegill, Daedalea quercina
  31. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  32. Oak-loving Gymnopus, Gymnopus dryophilus [tan-orange with pale gills; cap can be flat or curved up as it ages]
  33. Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri [like strap but with soredia]
  34. Ocre Spreading Tooth Fungus, Steccherinum ochraceum
  35. Orange Hobnail Canker, Endothia gyrosa [hard reddish-orange pimples on trees]
  36. Peeling Oysterling Mushroom, Crepidotus mollis [small oyster mushroom on sticks/bark]
  37. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  38. Scaly Rustgill Mushroom, Gymnopilus sapineus [rusty red top, yellowish gills that turn rusty with age]
  39. Scaly Shield Mushroom, Pluteus petasatus
  40. Shrubby Sunburst Lichen, Polycauliona candelaria
  41. Speckled Greenshield Lichen, Flavopunctelia flaventior
  42. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  43. Sulphur Shelf Fungus, Western Hardwood Sulphur Shelf, Laetiporus gilbertsonii
  44. Tall Psathyrella Mushroom, Psathyrella longipes [tan cap that often splits, dark tan gills]
  45. Telegraphweed, Heterotheca grandiflora [soft felted leaves, yellow flowers]
  46. Toothed Crust Fungus, Antrodia sp.
  47. Western Deer Mushroom, Pluteus exilis [heavy, dark cap and white stipe and gills]
  48. White Clover, Trifolium repens
  49. Yellow Fieldcap Mushroom, Bolbitius titubans
  50. ?? mold on deer scat
  51. ?? Sandy mud on the bark of a tree

Nature in the Yard, 11-02-21

My friend Roxanne reminded me, in her recent Facebook posts, that there are possible nature experiences even your own backyard, so even though I’m still in recovery from my surgery, I did a little search before lunchtime this morning.

We’re seeing Mourning Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves, White-Crowned Sparrows, Scrub Jays, House Finches, Black Phoebes and House Sparrows at the birdfeeders in the front yard.  Eastern Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels are also regular visitors there. [[And there are also a few neighborhood cats that come into the yard to drink water out of birdbath.]] 

In the backyard today, I found some Cottony Cushion Scale insects, Icerya purchasi, on the lemon tree including a mama with her attached egg sac and some young ones in various instars. They were all being tended by some ants. 

On the mandarin orange tree, I also found some interesting “flat” eggs on one of the leaves. I think they might have been from a kind of scale insect, too, but I’m not certain. I’ll post them to iNaturalist and see if anyone can tell me more about them.

Update, 11-04-21, Eggs Hatched

I checked on the insect eggs I’d found the other day. I thought they were from some kind of scale insect, but today, the eggs hatched… and now I think they might be gnat or midge babies. [Non-Biting Midge: Chironomus sp.]

20211104_133812

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Donate $5 to buy me a coffee so I have the fuel I need to keep exploring and bring more of nature to you. Thanks!

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Species List:

  1. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  2. Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile
  3. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  4. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  5. Cat, Felis catus
  6. Cottony Cushion Scale, Icerya purchasi
  7. Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger
  8. Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis
  9. Eurasian Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto
  10. House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
  11. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
  12. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  13. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  14. Scale Insects, Superfamily: Coccoidea [eggs]
  15. White-Crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys