Category Archives: Slime Molds

At River Bend in the Rain, 06-05-22

I got up around 6:30 AM and decided to do some self-care and go for a short walk at the American River Bend Park with my dog Esteban. I hadn’t been able to get out for a walk in about a week and I really needed to move and get some fresh air.

Esteban and I got pretty soaked from the rain on our walk today. My friend Bryan wrote: “Mare I don’t want to alarm you but there is a one eyed alien worm in the back of your car😱” Hahahahahaha!

We had a little rain in Sacramento yesterday — yes, rain in JUNE — and then it was warm and humid for the rest of the day.  Today, it was totally overcast and rained most of morning – even during my walk. I can’t handle the dog, my camera, my bag and an umbrella, so I did without the umbrella and just covered my camera with my shirttails when the rain was hard. The dog and I were fairly soaked through after a couple of hours. It got up to about 77º by the late afternoon.  We’re supposed to be over 100º by the end of the week. Not looking forward to that.

The first thing I saw when I got into the park was a doe and her yearling. The doe looked kind of thin to me; I could see the bones in her hips. And he face and right shoulder were cut and scarred, like she’d run into barbed wire or something. She was moving okay, and her fawn looked fine… I hope she’s on the mend, and they’ll both be safe now.

I could hear birds all around me, but couldn’t seem to get photos of all of them: Western Bluebirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Nuttall’s Woodpeckers, Mallards, Black Phoebes, Ash-Throated Flycatchers, White-Breasted Nuthatches, House and Bewick’s Wrens, Bushtits, California Scrub Jays, Mourning Doves, Spotted Towhees, and California Towhees.

There were small troupes of Wild Turkeys here and there, and many of them ran right toward the car when they saw it. I continue to believe that this behavior has been caused by the homeless people who live in their cars in the park – and regularly feed the turkeys around them. Human interference.

On the river’s edge below the trail there were some Canada Geese with a handful of fuzzy yellow goslings.  The goslings were intrigued by a Killdeer that rushed past them, and they chased after it for a little while.  So cute.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

Along the trail, the rain plumped up some of the lichen and mosses on the trees and gave them a nice dark background of wet bark.

Didn’t see a lot of insects; they don’t come out in the rain, but I did see a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar going into the first stages of its metamorphosis, and on another tree I saw a completed chrysalis. Very cool. Oh, and I also found my first  cocoon of a Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth (Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella). Usually, those cocoons have a “fence” of fine white hairs around them, but this one didn’t. I wondered if that was an aberration or if the rain had washed the hairs away.            

I only walked for about 2 hours and then headed home.

Species List:

  1. Acorn Woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna
  3. Ash-Throated Flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens
  4. Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans
  5. Bushtit, American Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus
  6. California Buckeye Chestnut Tree, Aesculus californica
  7. California Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly, Battus philenor hirsuta
  8. California Scrub Jay, Aphelocoma californica
  9. Canada Goose, Branta canadensis
  10. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  11. Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis
  12. Crust Fungus, Split Porecrust, Xylodon paradoxus
  13. Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Fuligo septica [yellow]
  14. European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris
  15. Killdeer, Charadrius vociferous
  16. Lesser Goldfinch, Spinus psaltria
  17. Mallard Duck, Anas platyrhynchos
  18. Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura
  19. Mullein Aphid, Aphis verbasci
  20. Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Picoides nuttallii
  21. Oak Titmouse, Baeolophus inornatus
  22. Oak, Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia
  23. Oak, Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  24. Ribbed Cocoon-Maker Moth, Oak Ribbed Skeletonizer,  Bucculatrix albertiella
  25. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  26. Swallow, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  27. Tarweed, Fitch’s Tarweed, Centromadia fitchii [yellow, no thorns, smells like lemons]
  28. Tobacco, Tree Tobacco, Nicotiana glauca
  29. Tobacco Thrip, Frankiella fusca
  30. Towhee, California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  31. Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  32. Turkey Mullein, Doveweed, Croton setiger
  33. Turkey Tail Fungus, Trametes versicolor
  34. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura
  35. Western Bluebird, Sialia Mexicana
  36. Western Hoptree, Ptelea crenulata
  37. White-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta carolinensis
  38. Wren, Bewick’s Wren, Thryomanes bewickii
  39. Wren, House Wren, Troglodytes aedon

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Up Ice House Road, 04-01-22

I got up a little before 6:00 AM this morning and got myself ready to head out to Ice House Road with my friend and fellow naturalist, Roxanne. We left about 7:00 AM. The drive is a relatively straight forward one – go up Highway 50 East to Ice House Road  — but you go up to over 4000 feet in elevation, and temperatures can vary greatly depending on where you are.

A lot of the area was affected by the Caldor Fire, a large wildfire that burned 221,835 acres in the El Dorado National Forest and other areas of the Sierra Nevada in El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine County during the 2021 California wildfire season. Where we were driving, the trees looked fine, but you look across to the adjacent foothills and you can see the burn scars all up and down them.

Before the 2021 fire season, a project called  “Fire Adapted 50” was introduced in the area. In the places where the program was applied, the fire fighters had an easier time getting in and out of the areas, and fire suppression was easier. (You can read more about that HERE.)

What kind of ticked me off during this trip was that ALL of the picnic areas and ranger stations were closed, gated off, so we couldn’t picnic or use the restroom facilities anywhere. *Sigh* As far as I could tell, looking at the Forest Service website, everything’s shut down for “the winter”.  I admit, we were surprised when we drove through areas where there was still snow on the ground!

Rox and I had gone up looking for wildflowers. We didn’t really find any – as I said, there was actually snow still on the ground in some spots! But because we weren’t “distracted” by lots of pretty flowers, we focused on whatever was in front of us at the moment, and that made for an interesting drive. Everywhere we stopped, it seemed, we found something of interest.

When looking for a restroom at the around the reservoir, we pulled off the road and into a shallow turnout area near an education center. The gate to the center was closed, so we didn’t get to see what that was either. What we did find there were lots of cedar trees and Ponderosa Pines, Mountain Misery plants, and lupines that were leafed out but weren’t flowering yet.

Here, too, we found some Erineum Mite galls on Canyon Live Oak, some Ruptured Twig Galls, and some psyllid lerps on the leaves of a manzanita tree. I’d seen the lerps on eucalyptus trees before, but never on manzanita. The tiny insects even have their own species name, Manzanita Lerp Psyllid, Neophyllura arctostaphyli.

And we found several different kinds of lichen.  Lichen was actually the standout for us on this trip, including those species on the trees and the boulders. We  saw both Wolf Lichen and Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen, Chiseled Sunken Disk Lichen and Crater Lichen, Scaly Pelt Lichen, Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Tube Lichen, Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, and various Shield Lichens. So, so many.

When we were looking at the various kinds of lichen we saw, we wondered about the wolf lichens, one has “brown eyes”, the other doesn’t.

The brown eyes on Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen (Letharia columbiana) are the apothecia, the reproductive fruiting bodies that produce the spores. When these fungal spores drop, they have to find their own algal buddies to form new lichen.

The other Wolf Lichen (Letharia vulpine) doesn’t have “eyes”; it reproduces by propagules (soredia). The soredia are the hyphae from the fungal component of the lichen wrapped around cells of the algal component. They’re shed through openings in the cortex (outer layer) of the lichen. After they land the shed soredia create clones of the original lichen. So, we have one wolf lichen that reproduces sexually, and one that reproduces asexually. Nature is so cool.

Some of them, especially the pelt lichen, were seen alongside the wispy Bridal Veil Falls at around 3200 feet elevation.

“…Bridal Veil Falls was basically a drive-to waterfall with a chance to stretch out the legs while making the high-speed yet twisty drive along Hwy 50 between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe…  The 150 foot waterfall pours down on massive polished granite boulders… The fall is on Esmeralda Creek, and flows into a  large picturesque pool, dotted with boulders around the border. The creek and falls lie along the Mormon Immigrant Trail, and the Pony Express Trail…”

At another stop off, we found some bright pink Kellogg’s Monkeyflowers – a first for me – and some tiny yellow Seep Monkeyflowers. Roxanne also found a lovely little Yellow and White Monkeyflower (Erythranthe bicolor).  Elsewhere, we pulled off into an area where there were a lot of Buckbrush ceanothus bushes in bloom, many of them covered with bees and hoverflies of various species. In this spot, the sun was beating on us, and we got so warm we had to take out jackets off.

Then we continued driving, looking for somewhere where we could have our lunch and were stunned when we came around a bend in the road to find snow on the ground.

On a manzanita tree there, I found some slimemold on the end of one of the branches and along some of the leaves. It was already in its sporangia stage, little metallic purple balls of spores sitting on top of thread-like stems. It was so unexpected – like the snow. I guess, with the weather being so odd, the slimemold had to take a chance, as soon as there was some snow melt, to rush through its life stages and lay down new spores for the summer months.

Around the same area we found several large patches of a cream colored Dog Vomit Slimemold. One of the patches looked kind of like snow, and Rox drove through it, squishing some of slime onto the ground with the treads of her tires. Weird!

We drove down Sly Park Road (off of Ice House) to the Sly Park Recreation Area at Jenkinson Lake, hoping to picnic there, but were waylaid briefly by a cadre of motorcycles and some large pick-ups. That group made it to the lake before we did, and were super-noisy. They were friends and family members, I think, yelling at and laughing with one another. Too much noise. The picnic area there, we discovered, was also closed, so the large group couldn’t use it. They decided instead to bypass a closed gate and walk out onto a levee-like trail across part of the lake.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

We didn’t want to be anywhere around them or their noise, so we drove back Ice House, and stopped at a turnout where there were some fallen logs we could use a tables (or benches). We had our lunch there and got to watch the antics of a darling little Red-Breasted Nuthatch who was singing away, trying to woo a lady-friend, and excavating a nesting hole in the side of a tree.

There were also several Steller’s Jays calling to one another from the surrounding trees. They sound very much like the Scrub Jays but have their own pitch and nuances to their voices. They were difficult to get photos of. They stuck to the shadows for the most part, and moved too quickly for me to focus my camera on them. I got a few fuzzy photos, mostly of a youngster, but nothing noteworthy.

On our way back toward Ice House/Highway 50, we saw several Robins on the ground and stopped to get photos of them. Then I caught sight of a White-Headed Woodpecker, a bird I had never seen before. [I’d seen it in photographs before, but never “live”.] It flitted from tree to tree for a while, darting out of sight before we could get any photos. Then, mercifully, it stopped on the side of a stump and rooted around for bugs for a few minutes. Click-click-click, both Rox and I got some photos of it. It was highlight of the trip. A “lifer” bird for both of us.

A one point we saw a large gall on the branch of a pine tree along and assumed it might have been caused by now dead golden dwarf mistletoe. More research, though, revealed it was a gall created by Western Gall Rust (also called Pine-Pine Gall Rust). We’ve seen rust galls on Coyote Brush, but this was the first time I’d found one on a pine tree.

Large gall created by Western Gall Rust (also called Pine-Pine Gall Rust) on Ponderosa Pine

It’s called Pine-Pine Gall Rust because it takes TWO trees for the fungus to complete its life cycle. (There’s also a Pine-Oak Galls Rust). Or as Wikipedia says: :…[it’s]an autoecious, endocyclic, rust fungus that grows in the vascular cambium of the host. The disease is found on pine trees with two or three needles, such as ponderosa pine, jack pine and scots pine…” Lots of cool words in there.

“…The fungal infection results in gall formation on branches or trunks of infected hosts. Gall formation is typically not detrimental to old trees, but has been known to kill younger, less stable saplings…” This one was on a Ponderosa Pine.

We stopped at one turnout on the highway to get some photos of the water rushing through the South Fork American River. Snow-melt is filling the river with a lot of fast moving water right now.

Eventually, we started the long drive back into Sacramento. Got home around 3:30 pm.  It was a long day, but we saw a LOT. It’s going to take days to sort through all my photos.

Species List:

  1. American Robin, Turdus migratorius
  2. Barberries, Berberis sp.
  3. Bark Beetle, Subfamily: Scolytinae
  4. Bee, European Honeybee, Western Honeybee, Apis mellifera
  5. Bigleaf Maple Tree, Acer macrophyllum
  6. Bird’s Foot Cliffbrake, Pellaea mucronata
  7. Bittercress, Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta
  8. Boreal Button Lichen, Buellia disciformis [pale gray to bluish with black apothecia on wood]
  9. Broad-Leaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium
  10. Brown-Eyed Wolf Lichen, Letharia columbiana
  11. Buckbrush, Ceanothus cuneatus
  12. Bumpy Rim-Lichen, Lecanora hybocarpa [tan to brown apothecia]
  13. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  14. Canyon Live Oak, Quercus chrysolepis [dark on top, light underneath]
  15. Chickweed, Common Chickweed, Stellaria media
  16. Chiseled Sunken Disk Lichen, Circinaria contorta
  17. Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens
  18. Cobwebby Thistle, Cirsium occidentale
  19. Cranefly, European Crane Fly, Tipula paludosa
  20. Crater Lichen, Diploschistes scruposus [pale gray with black craters]
  21. Cumberland Rock Shield, Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia
  22. Cutworm Wasp, Podalonia sp. [black, ground hunting, iridescent wings]
  23. Dark-Eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
  24. Echo Azure Butterfly, Celastrina echo
  25. Emery Rocktripe Lichen, Umbilicaria phaea
  26. False Turkey-Tail, Stereum hirsutum [thin, flattish, brown underside]
  27. Fluffy Dust Lichen, Lepraria finkii
  28. Giraffe’s Head, Henbit Deadnettle, Lamium amplexicaule
  29. Grass, Bulbous Bluegrass, Poa bulbosa
  30. Greater Bee Fly, Bombylius major
  31. Hoary Rosette Lichen, Physcia aipolia
  32. Hoverfly, Large-Tailed Aphideater, Eupeodes volucris
  33. Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens
  34. Ladybeetle, Convergent Lady Beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  35. Litocala Moth, Litocala sexsignata [black and gray with eye spots on the hind wings]
  36. Live Oak Erineum Mite, Aceria mackiei
  37. Lupine, Grape Soda Lupine, Lupinus excubitus
  38. Lupine, Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
  39. Lustrous Camouflage Lichen, Melanohalea exasperatula [bright green camouflage]
  40. Manzanita Leafgall Aphid, Tamalia coweni
  41. Manzanita Lerp Psyllid, Neophyllura arctostaphyli
  42. Manzanita, Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos patula
  43. Manzanita, Whiteleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida
  44. Millipede, Tylobolus sp.
  45. Monkeyflower, Kellogg’s Monkeyflower, Diplacus kelloggii [bright pink]
  46. Monkeyflower, Seep Monkeyflower, Erythranthe guttata [yellow]
  47. Moss, Spoon-Leaved Moss, Bryoandersonia illecebra
  48. Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa [fern-like leaves]
  49. Pebbled Pixie Cup, Cladonia pyxidata
  50. Pelt Lichen, Scaly Pelt Lichen, Peltigera praetextata
  51. Phacelia, Mountain Phacelia, Phacelia imbricata [white]
  52. Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa [three needles]
  53. Powdered Ruffle Lichen, Parmotrema hypotropum
  54. Raven, Common Raven, Corvus corax
  55. Red Fir Tree, Abies magnifica
  56. Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis
  57. Rock Disk Lichen, Lecidella stigmatea [black spots]
  58. Ruptured Twig Gall Wasp, Callirhytis perdens [on live oaks]
  59. Sanicle, Pacific Sanicle, Sanicula crassicaulis [yellow flowers, stinky]
  60. Sanicle, Tuberous Sanicle, Sanicula tuberosa [yellow]
  61. Shield Lichen, Parmelia sulcate [pale gray-green, veined]
  62. Slime Mold, Cribraria sp. [dark, metallic sheen, head on stalk]
  63. Slime Mold, Dog Vomit Slime Mold, Mucilago crustacea [cream colored]
  64. Steller’s Jay, Cyanocitta stelleri
  65. Sticky Mouse-Ear Chickweed, Cerastium glomeratum
  66. Strap Lichen, Western Strap Lichen, Ramalina leptocarpha [without soredia]
  67. Sugar Pine Tree, Pinus lambertiana
  68. Sunken Disk Lichen, Aspicilia sp.
  69. Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
  70. Trembling Aspen, Populus tremuloides [white bark]
  71. Tube Lichen, Imshaug’s Tube Lichen, Hypogymnia imshaugii
  72. Variable Wrinkle-Lichen, Tuckermanopsis orbata
  73. Wavy-Leafed Soap Plant, Soaproot, Chlorogalum pomeridianum
  74. Western Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium campylopodum
  75. Western Gall Rust, Cronartium harknessii
  76. White Nemophila, Nemophila heterophylla
  77. White-Headed Woodpecker, Dryobates albolarvatus
  78. Willow Rose Gall Midge, Rabdophaga rosaria
  79. Willow, Scouler’s Willow, Salix scouleriana [silvery, feathery catkins]
  80. Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpine [bright yellow-green]
  81. Yellow-Shouldered Drone Fly, Eristalis stipator [looks like a dark honeybee with fly eyes]

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Post-Christmas Deer, 12-26-21

I got up around 7:00 AM and headed out to the Effie Yeaw Nature Preserve. I was hoping to take advantage of the early morning sunshine. When I got to the preserve, it was cold(37º) and breezy but the sun was shining. Within about 20 minutes, though, all the clouds moved back in threatening rain. Luckily, the rain didn’t start until after I was done with my walk and had gotten back into my car.

California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose

The highlight of the walk was all of the deer I saw. I counted 22 along the way. Most of them were in small  groups of two or three, but the largest concentration I saw was 10 in one field, six does and four bucks including a handsome four-pointer, and the one with the wonky antlers.

CLICK HERE for the full album of photos.

They were close enough to the trail that I could smell the boys’ heady musky scent. I love that smell: a sort mix of burning wood and horse manure. All of these deer were laying in the grass except for one of the bucks who stood up when he saw me coming down the trail and kept in eye on me.

I’m used to seeing the Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, with their large mule-deer ears (right). But on Sunday, I found some deer with shorter ears (left). I wonder if they have some Sitka, Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis, genes in there.

The Sitkas are another subspecies of mule deer that are usually only found in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and in British Columbia. They have shorter ears and spotted coats. I suppose some cross breeding has been going on, or, more likely, the short ears are from throwback genes in the black-tailed deer gene pool.

There were lots of puddles on the trails from the recent rains, and I checked those I passed for any sign of hairworms. Nada. It might be the wrong time of year for them.

Rio Grande Wild Turkeys, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia, and puddles along the trail.

I found quite a few different mushroom species, but nothing outside of the norms.

I also found some pinkish/flesh-colored slime mold on the underside of a log. It was too early in its fruiting body stage to tell exactly what species it was, but it could have been Red Raspberry Slime Mold, Tubifera ferruginosa, or (more likely) very early stage of Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata.

I walked for about 3 hours and then headed home, stopping at Donut Time for some donuts and a Vietnamese coffee. This was hike #92 of my annual hike challenge.

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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. California Camouflage Lichen, Melanelixia californica [dark green with brown apothecia, on trees]
  3. California Sycamore, Western Sycamore, Platanus racemose
  4. California Towhee, Melozone crissalis
  5. Carnival Candy Slime Mold, Arcyria denudata
  6. Columbian Black-Tailed Deer, Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  7. Common Bonnet Mushroom, Mycena galericulata
  8. Deceiver Mushroom, Laccaria laccata [reddish-tan, dimpled, goblet shaped]
  9. Fragrant Funnel Mushroom, Clitocybe fragrans
  10. Gem-Studded Puffball, Common Puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum
  11. Giraffe Spots Crust Fungus, Peniophora albobadia
  12. Gold Dust Lichen, Chrysothrix candelaris
  13. Green Shield Lichen, Flavoparmelia caperata
  14. Hooded Rosette Lichen, Physcia adscendens [hairs/eyelashes on the tips of the lobes]
  15. Jack-o-Lantern, Western Jack-o-Lantern, Omphalotus olivascens
  16. Lilac Oysterling, Panus conchatus
  17. Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Arum italicumm
  18. Miner’s Lettuce, Claytonia perfoliate [first leaves, just starting to sprout]
  19. Oak Mazegill, Daedalea quercina
  20. Pleated Marasmius, Red Thread, Marasmius plicatulus
  21. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia
  22. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula
  23. Silky Pink Gill Mushroom, Nolanea sericea (Entoloma sericeum ssp. sericeum) [very dark brown cap with a nipple on top]
  24. Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus [heard, glimpsed]
  25. Tule, Common Tule, Schoenoplectus acutus
  26. Valley Oak, Quercus lobata
  27. White Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
  28. White Stubble Rosegill, Volvopluteus gloiocephalusi [white or gray mushroom, slick cap with colored center, pale pink to gills, papery volva]
  29. ?? Grey mushroom with white gills on wood, Hydropus sp.
  30. ?? Pink-tinged fungus, Chromelosporium sp.
  31. ?? white mold