Friday, November 30, 2018

Bird's Nest Fungi

There is an old cliche, about how chance favors the prepared mind. This is an example thereto.

I had heard of and seen pictures of the so called "Bird's Nest Fungi". And had been looking for it in my outdoor travels. And this fall I found some in our yard.

There are several varieties, and my fungi field guides describe them all as "common and widespread". Yet this was the first I'd ever found.

This was a very good year for all manner of fungi in our yard and throughout the Northeast United States. And it was while I was photographing the various mushrooms, puffballs, and shelf fungi in the yard that I noticed these. At first, I thought they were acorn caps, the acorns having fallen away. But this is where the prepared mind, and the fact that I was already thinking about fungi, came in to play.

And the light bulb lit.

As you've no doubt surmised, they are called "Bird's Nest Fungi" because of the nest shaped cup and egg like peridioles (spore casings). They form on the wood debris, a stick in this case, littering the forest floor.

And they are tiny! That is a US 10¢ piece, our smallest coin. Which is obviously one of the reasons they are so hard to find. And it I hadn't been down on the ground photographing other fungi I would not have seen these.

So keep looking down.


It has been a very good year, very wet, for fungi.

And mushrooms were popping up all over.

These are just some of those which we saw while hiking on the Finger Lakes trip.

Despite having multiple fungi field guides, I've not been able to identify these.

This one is weird looking even for fungi, so you'd think it would be easy to ID.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Finger Lakes Trip

For as long and as Patty and I have been together, every Columbus Day weekend we've gone with a group of friends on the "Finger Lakes" trip. (Patty and friends were going before we met.) "Finger Lakes" is in quotes as the past few years the trip has not actually been to the Finger Lakes.

This year it was to Dauphin, Pennsylvania, where we rented a house on the Susquehanna River.

For the geographically challenged, Dauphin, is not in the Finger Lakes.

It was a nice house, although we spent more awake time out than in.

Nine of us, eight women and yours truly, spent a relaxing extended weekend hiking, bike riding, birding, and eating. There as a lot of eating. Very yummy.

That's a big house plant.

As this was my first trip after my back troubles I enjoyed hiking, my first significant jaunt since Glacier, and birding (we did not bring our bikes). And the eating, I enjoyed the eating (did I mention it was yummy?) ((and I don't need to go on trips to enjoy eating)).

Nor did we bring our kayaks. Alas, heavy rains had made the river un-kayakable.

It would have been nice to visit the Statue of Liberty, which is barely visible in the image below (click to bigafy).

The owners of the house did offer a motorboat excursion, but we declined.

Across the street from the house (and from this tree) was a small natural area, well maintained, although it was not clear by who (Mother Nature?). Frogs, birds, turtles, and dragonflies, and no doubt other critters, to say nothing of the plants, appreciate whomever it is.

It is the remnants of the Pennsylvania Canal, which once upon a time cut transit times form Pittsburg to Philadelphia to four days from one month. One of our house mates, Kim, is an archeologist and has done work on the canal. She explained that the trip was one way. The boats did not return to Pittsburgh, they were part of the cargo.

And all too soon the trip is over. A weekend is just too short.

Elani, enjoying a moment of solitude, and who does have two legs.

✈️  🚂  🛳

We've already booked next years Finger Lakes Trip, which is returning to its roots in the Finger Lakes region. I'm already looking forward to the wine tasking.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Smoke and Sun

The astute observer will notice that the building in this image is the same as is in the one in this post.

Perhaps they are burning the original tree?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I'm Not Sure ...

... if this is a new tree growing out of the stump, or the old tree reborn.

Either way, its a lesson for us all.

Use a stump grinder

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

An occasional winter visitor to our yard, this year we've had one, or maybe two, which appear to have taken up temporary residence. They show up for a day or two, go missing for a similar period, and then are back again. Or perhaps they're here every day and we're simply not sufficiently observant.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that this could be a good year to see a variety of usually northern species down here in the lower forty-eight, and the National Audubon Society says that it will be especially good for these nuthatches.

Red-breasted Nuthatches, much like their resident White-breasted cousins, seem to be constantly on the move. Making them rather difficult to photograph. I've been trying for the last two weeks to get a shot, and out of twenty plus shots I got these few 'blog worthy' images.


🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦

And then the bird perched on the feeder pole and was still for several minutes.

No doubt a hawk was in the area, and the birds were frozen.

And I got a few more usable shots. 🙂

🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦  🐦

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Ice Flowers

When conditions are just right this happens.

Ice Flowers. Shown here on a salvia plant that is growing in the cracks between the bricks at the base of our deck stairs. Essentially a weed that we never got around to pulling. Rather serendipitous.

I'd heard of the phenomena but had never seen it.

Until now.

When I went to take the trash out this morning I noticed the plants had a white growth on them.

I looked closer and the light bulb went off, and I was off to get my camera. Chance and the prepared mind and all that.

They were quite delicate and fragile.

I originally wrote, "Water is drawn up and then extrudes out of the plant stem and forms thin ribbons of ice", alas this is incorrect. Dr. James Carter has a number of web pages on the subject and in an email exchanged noted that detailed scientific explanation involves "Ice Segregation", a process previously unknown to me.

Instead of trying to explain it here, I'll link to one of Dr. Carter's web pages on the subject, as he does a much better job explaining it than I would. Of course, any remaining errors in this post are mine alone.

And be sure to check out Dr. Carter's page on Ice Flowers as well.

If I wasn't careful, moving the stems and leaves to get a clear shot could shatter the flowers.

Touching them released the double whamming of physical force and heat, and bye bye they were gone.

And of course once the sunlight hit it was all over.

They were nice while they lasted.

And a wonderful surprise to start the morning.

And as you can see, they are small. That is a US 25¢ piece for scale.

So keep a weather eye.

And keep looking down.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Even the Turkeys ...

... are sleepy after a big meal ...

... and bad football on TV doesn't help.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy Turkey Day!

There has been a small flock of five turkeys* which have been visiting our yard for several weeks now. Stopping by the feeders daily, often making both a morning and a late afternoon visit.

And of course I take pictures.

🦃  🦃  🦃  🦃  🦃

A second flock of eleven birds has now started visiting. 

We're gonna need more bird food (and in olden times more film!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

🦃  🦃  🦃  🦃  🦃

* On November 19th, all five turkeys visited, but in two groups. In the morning, a lone bird visited. I feared the worst having heard multiple gunshots the prior evening. But later in the afternoon four birds came by. I wonder want happened to split the group?**

** On November 20th all five turkeys visited as a group. I wonder want happened to unsplit the group?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Winter is Coming

Speaking of insulation, the bog garden now has a nice blanket of pine needles to keep it warm until spring.

If you look closely, you'll see an Orange Milkwort in bloom.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Rockets Red Glare

Wasn't visible because of the clouds.

On November 17th an Antares rocket was launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. And if the conditions were right it would be visible from my neck of the woods.

Conditions were not right.

So all I got to see was orange light pollution reflecting off the clouds. Very disappointing.

🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀 🚀

The launch was successful. Supplies are on the way to the International Space Station. It's a good thing.

😴 😴 😴 😴 😴

The launch was at 4:01 am, so I set my alarm for 3:30 and woke up at 2:30 (grrrr). I had loaded my optical equipment in the car the evening before. So I got up. Got dressed. And headed out. My observing site was a half mile away. As I started out to my car I looked up. No stars. Not good. But if the clouds were high enough I could still see it. And it might look cool as it went through the clouds. So I decided to go.

The clouds were not high enough. I did not see the rocket. So I went home. Parked the car. Went inside. Got undressed. And went back to bed. Couldn't fall back asleep (grrrr).

Maybe next time.


If you look at the image above, the clouds are lit from underneath. That means light from the ground is aimed up. I can't think of any good reason why anyone would need to illuminate the clouds. That is just wasted energy. Some of the reason is poor lighting design. Some is ignorance. Some is the false sense that light equals security (spoiler, it doesn't!). Light pollution isn't just the bane of astronomers. It has real consequences in human health among other things (it's not good for wildlife).

This can all be fixed. The International Dark Sky Association is working to fix it. I'm a member and they deserve your support. 

Yard Critter of the Week - Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

It is the time of year when most warblers have long left these parts. But one that lingers is the Palm Warbler. And we've had several, or maybe one continuing, for a couple of weeks in early November. Alas, with the recent cold snap they seem to be gone for good now.

They show up in the gardens but don't stay long. Leading me to believe it is multiple birds just passing through.

The bird shown in these images, not surprisingly given our location, is eastern variety, the yellower of the two morphs.

It spent its time in the garden looking to fuel up on bugs before continuing its journey south.

And kindly posed for a suitable shot for the "Bird Butt Field Guide".


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.