Tuesday, November 3, 2009

the unexpected

I returned to the Blue Ridge Tract to see how it had changed since the 19th of October, just two weeks ago. The leaves were darker and more of them were on the ground this time.

When I came to the fallen tree I found mushrooms as usual but this time they were on a standing tree nearby. I think they are Oyster Mushrooms. My mother would have been appalled if I had collected them to eat and my friend Angie is probably appalled that I didn’t collect them for dinner. But I was on the hunt for slime molds and other delights to the eyes.

Click on this and other photos for larger views.

I pulled up some of the bark from that old downed tree and this time was rewarded by a hibernating slug snuggled just under the bark and some unknown egg cases. You can see the mantle fold on its back in the area that would have a shell if it were a snail. You can also see the pneumostome which is an air hole used for breathing. Notice that little slimy silk like stuff attached to one end. I’ve seen that before but I’m not sure what its function is. If any one knows please let me know.

These are the egg cases I found.

At the bottom of the hill down in the Furnace Run Wetland area I spotted a Common Checkered Skipper. It was so “fresh” meaning the wings were not ragged or torn and newly hatched. It was a beautiful and unexpected sight on this fine fall day. A butterfly was the last thing I expected to see.

I took some time to photograph some British Soldiers, the lichen Cladonia cristatella, because I found a large quantity of them on a log that is normally surrounded by water. They are always fun to find. The red part of the “British Soldier hat” is the part that makes the spores that are blown by the wind to start new fungus. It takes about four years before the British Solders can make their spores. When the algae Trebouxia erici connects with the fungus then it becomes this lichen. Another interesting feature is that it can make new lichen from a broken piece if it is in the proper environment. So I guess it is a good idea to either leave them in place or at least put it back in the environment you found it.

UPDATE: Woodswalker commented: "Not to nitpick, but I think your Cladonia lichens may be Cladonia macilenta instead of Cladonia cristatella because they are far less branchy than British Soldiers. My lichen book (Lichens of the North Woods by J. Walewski) calls them Lipstick Powderhorn, an aptly descriptive name."

I think she is correct and am grateful for her correction because I learned even more. I now wonder if the British soliders used lipstick powderhorns during their battles. Tee Hee. 

Beside the trail was Witch-hazel that I had never noticed before. I recognized them after seeing reading Woodswalker’s blog “Saratoga Woods and Waterways”. They are really interesting deciduous shrubs that can grow to small trees. The genus name Hamamelis means “together with fruit” is a reference to its unique ability to have fruit, flowers and next year’s leaf buds all on the same branch simultaneously. Here you can see new flowers and fall leaves on the same branch and thus the origin of the other common name “Winterbloom”. The common name that I am most familiar with, witch-hazel” comes from the old English words “wice” meaning “bendable”. Hazel is from the English hazel twigs used as divining rods so I guess this is a good tree to use for finding water. Personally I now associate it with Halloween witches that are flying about the same time this plant is in bloom.

Finally I came to the log I knew would have slime mold and sure enough I found about four different varieties. Also some interesting mushrooms and other critters were crawling around. One was a lightening bug from the beetle family Lampyridae, again an unexpected sight. I had no interest in flying away but I am not sure what it was searching for but it was very intent to go about its business. They overwinter in their larval stage, so maybe it was looking for a good place to lay eggs.

On the way back up the hill I found a green metallic sweat Bee (Halictidae) on this lonely blossom. From the looks of it you would never know it was October 31st instead of a find summer day in August. The forest is always full of interesting surprises and challenges my limited expectations.

See more from My World Tuesday.


Woodswalker said...

Ooooh! What great finds you had on your walk! Thanks for bringing us along with you. Those egg cases are so exquisite, I cant wait to see if anyone can tell us what they are. And a butterfly! So late in the year!

Not to nitpick, but I think your Cladonia lichens may be Cladonia macilenta instead of Cladonia cristatella because they are far less branchy than British Soldiers. My lichen book (Lichens of the North Woods by J. Walewski) calls them Lipstick Powderhorn, an aptly descriptive name.

Barb said...

I'm so glad you took that path and shared the interesting finds with us! The egg casings are wonderful. I've never encountered that type of lichen - quite beautiful. Thanks for the walk in the woods.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous post and fantastic captures! Thanks so much for taking us on the walk with you! And what fascinating things you found! Do love the butterfly!

Enjoy the day!


squirrel said...

Woodswalker, I am glad you are picky. You are probably correct, to be honest I didn't even themup look, I just assumed. There were also some with Brown tops. Glad you are keeping me on my toes.

Coffeedoff said...

Fantastic post. Great photos!

Riet said...

What a beautiful post and great pictures.

Sunny said...

What wonderful finds on your walk, it's always delightful to join you.
Sunny :)

Lawstude said...

these are lovely shots of the forest. there are really a lot of great subjects out there and you definitely have the eyes for details. great job.

Carolyn said...

Wow, such a wonderful and informative post. I love to walk in the woods at this time of year. Your macro photos are stunning and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

serline said...

A very interesting world. Love the photos and the post.

Carolyn Ford said...

Wow! Amazing macro!

JOE TODD said...

I enjoyed your walk in the woods almost as much as I enjoy my own.