Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snowy walk in the woods

My most recent trip to the Blue Ridge Tract was with Trillium after our big 2 foot snow. By then the rain had melted some of the snow but the ground was still covered in the forest. I always look for insects when I am out and this time I found about five tent caterpillar egg cases on one small cherry tree. Most of them had been eaten into but one was still intact. I brought it home to see them hatch out and study them up close. I didn’t think the tree would mind and I can feed them to the birds.

Down by the wetland area Trillium noticed a hundred or more spider threads floating on the dead stems. Close inspection revealed a very tiny spider at the end of one strand. After they hatch, baby spiders let out a string of silk that blows in the wind. When they are ready they let go of their hold and are pulled away with the flying silk. This is called ballooning. Personally I think it is very gutsy because they have no idea where they will land. She also spotted another spider in a foot print.

We found two interesting fungi. One, seen below, is a type of puff ball. It is called Calostoma lutescens and I have found them before. I was excited to see these puffballs in a new location.

The other interesting fungi we found was a jelly fungi, called Auricularia auricula. The common name is Wood Ear or Tree Ear and according to Bill Roody in Mushrroms of West Virginia it is edible even raw and dries well for future consumption. It almost doesn’t look real but it is.

The thing that most excited us and occupied our attention was the animal tracks we could see in the snow. Deer and squirrel tracks were abundant. Here is a raccoon track showing those charastics toes they have.

The find of the day was Black Bear tracks. It was hard to believe but the size, shape and gait of the tracks didn’t lie. I knew black bears were up there but this was the first evidence I had personally seen.

We followed them up the fire road but didn’t peruse them into the woods. To me they looked old because our own tracks were going much deeper into the snow. I thought the bears would be snuggled up fast asleep by now but in our area they could still be found until January. You can bet this spring I will be looking for scat and other bear signs. Wanting to learn more about tracking I asked a fellow blogger who loves to track for good resources. Ellen Rathbone, replied with a very comprehensive blog on the subject. Be sure to visit her blog Adirondack Naturalist and check out her reply and other pages for examples.

You can also see Trillium’s thought on our walk at her blog simply called “Trillium”. There are signs of life in the woods everywhere and I can’t wait to get back out and look for more.

See more outdoor adventures at Outdoor Wednesdays.


Woodswalker said...

You guys had quite the adventure: BEAR tracks! Very cool! That jelly fungus looks to me like Wood Ear (Auriculariaceae auricula), which is very closely related to one cultivated in China for food. My Audubon guide tells me that studies have shown that this fungus can affect blood coagulation and is possibly a factor in the low incidence of coronary artery disease in China. Mushrooms are amazing!

Thanks for giving us Trillium's new address. I had missed her wonderful blogs.

Anonymous said...

What sharp EYES you have ;-)
Thanks for sharing your wintry walk and all the wonderful sites you found along the way.
Hugs and blessings,

JLS Hall (Joysweb) said...

Lovely photos of the two kinds of fungi! That "jelly" one looks like it might reach out and grab you if you get too close. Glad you had such an exciting adventure, but those bear tracks are pretty scary!
Happy Outdoor Wednesday

Ellen Rathbone said...

My first thought when I saw your puffball pic was "earthstars!", but obviously they aren't. I'm drawn to earthstars, probably because a) they are neat-looking and b) I've only seen them a couple times.

Have fun following your bear come spring!

Thanks for the plug!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

The fungi is fascinating. The woods "lovely, dark, and deep." But I would NOT want to meet up with a black bear hiking. ;-) I had bear run in front of my car (twice) in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. Yes, we have Florida bear. I loved seeing them, but again, would not like to come eyeball to eyeball with either on a walk.

Happy Outdoor Wednesday!


Sheila :-)

squirrel said...

Woodswalker, thanks, I suspected Wood Ear but haven't confirmed yet if it is in our area. I must confess I took the easy route and called it a jelly fungi.

Happilyretired,and Joyswed thank you for your nice comments.

Ellen, like you I like earthstars but have only seen them a couple of times and those were almost mush at the time I found them. I love stinkhorns as well.

squirrel said...

Sheila, thanks for your comment. I lived in Ocala for a short time but was not blessed with a bear sighting. I hope you had your camera handy.

Stine in Ontario said...

Thank you for taking us on a walk in your woods. My local forest is covered in snow so what a pleasure to see some life in yours!

PlantSomeRoots@Lakewood said...

Nothing like a good educational hike. Bear tracks would make me a little nervous though. Great pics of your finds!
Living it up at Lakewood,

Gaelyn said...

What a wonderful walk. Should be fun to watch the tent caterpillars. Surprised to see puffballs out with the snow. The bear tracks are the coolest. Glad they weren't too fresh.

Jackie Callahan said...

I love the Wood Ear fungi; so beautiful!This kind of fungi is one of my favorites to draw!
Bears, on the other hand, I like to admire from afar! :-)

kate said...

I would LOVE to see bear tracks in the snow, we sometimes get them here, maybe someday....

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

The wood ear is amazing. In that photo it looks like little gathers of satin meant to look like bunches of flowers on a fancy gown!

Anonymous said...

Your pictures are stunning- you have an incredible eye. You have made me want to go out walking just to look- you speak of nature -and with such respect- that I have only read of in books.
I'm so glad you stopped by my new blog- thank you for the comment! I'm even more glad that you brought me here- I'll definitely be back for more.

George said...

Thanks for taking us along on your walk. You've got good eyes to spot all that you did. I was surprised to see the bear tracks as it has been quite cold recently.