Fungi

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. This metaphorical drought is partly due to a physical drought. Until two weeks ago, we have only one rain shower since early May.  My garden was a complete failure. After initial attempts at watering from the creek, I couldn’t keep up. Because our “soil” is mostly sand, the water just disappeared within hours under the sun and 30ºC heat so it would have taken all my time to keep it watered.

I’ve figured out a plan for irrigating next year, but it was too late once I realized it was needed, so got almost no vegetables this year. Luckily, I was too lazy to plant all my new perennials so they were safe in the greenhouse and I’ve started planting them so they can flower next year. Most will be safe enough once established, though I lost quite a few established perennials and even small bushes this year.

A few days after we finally got some rain, by way of torrential downpours, the forest floor sprouted many fungus fruiting bodies.

I’m not that great at identifying fungi, so you’ll just have to enjoy the pictures without knowing exactly what they are.

Small fungus
Small fungus
A bit larger
A bit larger
Maybe oyster but not risking eating
Maybe oyster but not risking eating
More tiny ones
More tiny ones
Nearby one had much larger cap
Nearby one had much larger cap
Hiding in a hole
Hiding in a hole

Fungus 6

Yellow cluster
Yellow cluster
Pink umbrella
Pink umbrella – a little larger
More delicate
More delicate
Slug food
Slug food

The end of winter?

This is just a quick gallery of the pictures I have taken since early February, mostly birds with some ice, lichen and a snowdrop.

I have posted over half of these pictures on Twitter but, since I do a print version of this blog for a few people who don’t use the Internet, I thought I’d better get caught up. I haven’t been doing as many pictures over the winter as things don’t change much in the garden, although this year has been weird, with not much snow and very wild temperature swings from -20ºC to +15 in a single week. Not having the snow makes it worse as the snow insulation takes the edge of the swings. We’re having May weather in March.

On one of the -20ºs swings it got cold enough for fur hats, but only for one day. It’s from Russia, thanks to my sister-in-law, Lily; warm at -40º.

Fur hat
Russian fur hat

It’s Charlie’s birthday party in mid-February, so we went to Toronto.  He seems to know almost everyone in Toronto, there was at least one floor of the bar full of his friends.

Me Laurie Charlie
Me, Laurie and Charlie at his birthday party at the Artful Dodger

Next are some of the birds that stay around for the winter,

Purple Finch
Purple Finch
Chickadee
Chickadee

One day, we had a huge flock of American Goldfinches, around 200. All our trees and bushes were full of them.

Goldfinches on ground
American Goldfinches
Goldfinches
Goldfinches in Locust tree
Male Downy woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker

Mourning doves are regulars, but we hadn’t seen quite this many in the one tree at once, they’re usually only a few.  These are not peace doves, they’re quite aggressive with other birds. Even the blue jays keep a careful eye on them when they’re within beak range.

Mourning doves
Mourning doves

We had an ice storm and lost power for a few hours. It came back just as the house was getting cold and I was downstairs getting ready to light the wood stove which we keep for emergencies and to start the generator for a few lights and recharge batteries. We should look into getting it set up to run the furnace fan.

Ice-covered dogwood
Ice-covered dogwood
Ice on trees
Ice on trees

Next are the same trees, slightly out of focus so you can see the rainbows. I can’t capture how they were with the naked eye, because it took a little bit of motion to make them sparkle. I should have shot some video.

Ice storm rainbows
Ice storm rainbows
Ice storm damage
Ice storm tree damage – sugar maple

The next wasn’t the one that took our power out because ours was back on by the time we ventured out.

Ice storm power line damage
Ice storm power line damage

 

Ice-covered branches
Ice-covered branches

The sharp-shinned hawk sat here spreading its wings and shaking them. It was still hunting through the ice rain falling.

Sharp-shinned hawk
Sharp-shinned hawk
Pigeon River at home
Pigeon River at home during a thaw

The next one is from my home brewing. The sanitizing fluid made large bubbles in the carboy I use for fermenting .

Sanitizing fluid bubbles
Sanitizing fluid bubbles

These pixie cup lichen are very pretty. Almost a garden by themselves.  On my high-resolution original, you can zoom in to see tiny cups within these larger ones. Fractal.

Pixie cup lichen
Pixie cup lichen
Downy close up
Male Downy Woodpecker, close up
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female Downy Woodpecker
Female cardinal and Junco
Female cardinal and Junco
Female cardinal
Female cardinal in dogwood

The next is a tree branch that had fallen but not touched the ground, so these fungi look like they’re cascading off the end.  The green is from algae that live within the fungus. I don’t know if the fungus gets energy from the photosynthesis or not. Since lichen are fungus with algal partners, these are part way there but not with the same species.

Fungus cascade
Fungus in a cascade
Snowdrops
Our first snowdrops

Finally, a much-magnified (4mm=0.15″) flower from summer savory, which I had growing this winter in my plant case. But didn’t get enough leaves to use as herbs.

Summer Savory herb
Summer Savory herb

 

Pigeon River Headwaters in the fall

OK, It’s December but still looks like late fall.  Today it was raining lightly; too wet for gardening as handling soil gets dirty and cold, but too warm to stay indoors when there won’t be many more days left before freeze-up, so I went downstream a few miles from my home to the Pigeon River Headwaters conservation area.  I don’t go all that often because it is very similar to just out the door from the house, except there are more wetlands there as the slope is less.

I grew up by the Lancashire Moors so I call this stuff “bog”. I spent so much time around water that my mum called my friend that I often went with “Willy Webfeet” because we always got wet feet and she wasn’t going to call me that while I was listening.

Bog
Bog

Some of the wet parts are caused by water oozing slowly into the river, but also from river flooding caused by beaver dams, which interrupt my canoeing activities.

Beaver dam
Beaver dam
Beaver pond
Beaver pond
Pigeon River
Pigeon River

The surrounding forest has decked itself out in seasonal colours.

Woody Nightshade Berries
Woody Nightshade Berries
Spruce with nightshade
Spruce with nightshade

Though the dogwood doesn’t need any

Dogwood
Dogwood

The lichen is ready to feed any reindeer that happen along – no need for cookies and milk here.

Lichen 1
Lichen 1
Lichen 2
Lichen 2

Lichen are a community of fungi and algae. These fungi are up to the same trick to some extent.

Bracket fungi
Bracket fungi

A change of subject. This area is all on the Oak Ridges Moraine. You may wonder why all that water doesn’t disappear through the sand and gravel that makes up much of the landscape. Some of the answer is the underlying rock but also there is a lot of clay, which are the finer ground particles, impervious to water.
The sand and gravel were left in random piles that got weathered, leaving these rolling hills. In fact the local school is even called Rolling Hills School. That’s part of the reason I prefer the landscape to the prairies where I lived for quite a while, as I grew up in the English Pennines and spent lots of time in the Lake District.

Rolling Hills
Rolling Hills

An a propos of nothing, I liked this spiral vine growing up a birch sapling.

Spiral vine
Spiral vine

Forest Fungi

Here are a few pictures from the back woods – mostly cedar as you can see from the litter – showing the various fungi I found in the space of about 20 minutes.  It was a few days after heavy rainfall so they had fruited.  As you probably know, the parts we see are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, the major mass being the underground feeding threads, or hyphae.  And as you also probably know, especially if you’ve seen my fungus pictures before, fungus are more closely related to people than to plants.

Cladogram
Family tree of plants, animals, fungi

This first set you could think at first glance was a coral reef, but a closer look shows it is a moss-covered rock with a coral fungus.

Coral Fungus
Coral Fungus
Fungus 1
Fungus 1
Fungus 2
Fungus 2

The next one is very shiny, excreting a type of slime.  Many of the fungi I found had slugs on them, eating large holes, so I wonder if the slime encourages them or is a deterrent. There was no sign of bite marks.

Fungus
Fungus 3
Fungus Garden 1
Fungus Garden 1
Fungus Garden 2
Fungus Garden 2
Fungus Garden 3
Fungus Garden 3
Fungus Garden 3
Fungus Garden 3

The next one I thought might be a caterpillar, like the one in Alice in Wonderland, but closer inspection shows it is more likely to be a beetle larva than moth/butterfly larva.

Fungus with larva
Fungus with larva

A walk in the back woods today

Finally it is warm enough to go for a walk in the back woods and safe enough to cross the river.  Here are a few pictures, starting just as I reach the Pigeon River about 100 m/yds from the house where I see the first wildflower of the year, just emerging.

First wildflower - coltsfoot
First wildflower – coltsfoot
Bridge over troubled waters
Bridge over troubled waters

Our bridge keeps getting washed out so I haven’t bothered putting boards across as we used to have.  The angle of the river means it is undermining the bank and the bridge keeps falling in.  In a few more years the curve will be further upstream and it will be more stable for another decade, so I’ll fix it properly then (unless I find another excuse for procrastination).

Bracket fungus
Bracket fungus

The generation of white birch that preceded the Eastern Red Cedar is mostly dead now.  This one has a good crop of bracket fungus – older at the top and newer lower down.

This one has had a one-bird woodmill at it; the pileated woodpecker I photographed for my last entry.

One-bird woodmill
One-bird woodmill

Here are some of the holes:

 

Holey Birch
Holey Birch

Woodpeckers have lots of interesting adaptations to prevent brain damage while they drill these holes.

Deer print
Deer print

There have been plenty deer around.  Probably the same ones that ate all the ends off my apple tree.

As you can see below, the river here is too small for canoeing and too many branches for fishing.  There are trout but they would easily find something to wrap your line around if you decided to try to catch them.  We are only 1km from the source, in a swamp. I have to go about 5km downstream before it is deep enough to put the canoe in.

Pigeon River in Spring
Pigeon River in Spring
Muddy and Cold feet
Muddy and Cold feet

I managed to go through the icy snow cover in a couple of places.  My new-ish walking shoes breathe, which keeps my feet cool during the summer but I guess I should have put on my leather hiking boots as there are small water courses under the snow so I got cold, wet and muddy when I broke through.  Otherwise, I much prefer these lighter shoes which have good Vibram soles.  I don’t recommend many products but these, my hiking boots and even my sandals all have Vibram as have their precursors for a few decades.  I like to stay upright even when the footing is not good.  We bipedal mammals can easily get damaged as several of my family can testify.

It was just a short walk, for an hour, as I had left a nice Moroccan Lamb Tajini in the oven for when I got back.  In the garden there were more flowers.  You can tell it’s early spring when I can still count them.  41 snow drops, 4 crocus and one Johnny-jump-up.

Crocus
Crocus

Did you know that saffron is just crocus stamens? The little threads in the picture.  No wonder it is expensive, it must be very labour-intensive to pick.

Finally, I’m betting that most of you do not have a zombie gnome in your garden.  No? Well, having a son who is into horror movies helps. What else do you get for the Dad who has everything?

Its eyes glow in the dark.

Zombie Gnome
Zombie Gnome