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

 

Ice needles in the forest

It’s been hovering around freezing for a few days, give or take a degree or two, still unseasonably warm for December, with no snow.  Apparently just the right conditions for ice needles in the forest.  The ground is fairly wet as the forest floor doesn’t get bright sun.

I don’t know the physics of this, but the combination of moisture and approximately freezing temperatures has resulted in these ‘needles’ rising roughly vertically from the forest floor.

Ice needles
Ice needles
More ice needles
More ice needles

While wandering in the forest, I saw this rather weird fungus that at first looked like some animal had been using the stump for a toilet.

Tree stump fungus
Tree stump fungus

This branch from juniper (aka Eastern Red Cedar, but not a cedar at all) seems to have taken quite a detour on the way to find light.  Junipers are very shallow rooted and tend to blow over a lot.  The main trunk was leaning at about 60º from the vertical, so you can imagine the twists and turns as it sank, causing the branch to re-orient a few times.

Twisted Juniper
Twisted Juniper

Beginning of fall

Early fall photos and as it is National Fungus Day in the UK I went down to the woods and got some fungus pictures.

Yes, we’ve had a couple of frosts, though we’re back into the warm weather.  Here is the frost on the seed pod of a pie plant:

Frosted pie plant
Frosted pie plant

The colours are starting to turn in the trees:

Home: early fall leaves
Home: early fall leaves

A few trees in particular:

Sugar maple
Sugar maple

Since today is National Fungus Day in the U.K. (Why doesn’t Canada have a day to celebrate these amazing organisms which are so essential to turning dead plants and animals to the cycle of life?) I thought I’d go down to the woods and see what I could find:

Fungus 1
Fungus 1
Fungus 2
Fungus 2

Some fungi like to get a better view than their cousins on the forest floor:

Fungus 3
Fungus 3

And some fungi do not have the “traditional” shape of fruiting body at all.  This first one looks a bit like icicles :

Icicle fungus
Icicle fungus (I made up the name – I still have to identify it)
Candelabra fungus
Candelabra fungus (another made-up name)

 

 

 

A walk in the forest

A walk in the woods – flowers, a fungus and weird animals.

I took my camera for a walk in the woods. On the way down to the river, I found this heal-all.  It is only about 1cm across, so is often overlooked, but it is worth a closer look.  I suspect the name is an exaggeration.

Heal-all
Heal-all

On the ban of the Pigeon River, there are still some irises in bloom – it is shaded so they are a little later.

Wild Irises
Wild Irises

Once across the river, I found the masters of disguise in my previous post. There aren’t many fungi, they’re probably waiting for some rain before sending up their fruiting bodies.  I did find this one that I think is an inkcap, but not sure.

Inkcap?
Inkcap?

All the wood chips are cut from the rotting tree above, by a pileated woodpecker.

I had assumed that the next one was also a fungus, but it turns out to be something more interesting – it is actually and animal, more specifically a slime-mould.  In spite of the uninspiring name they are very interesting.  They spend most of their days as a single-celled amoeba but when it is time to reproduce, they collect together into a single organism and slither off to a good spot to generate their fruiting body.

Slime mould
Slime mould: Lycogala epidendrum

On the other side of the woods, there are clearings and then open field.  This week, the clearings were full of wild penstemon (beard-tongue).

Penstemon meadow
Penstemon meadow

Here is the flower closer up:

Penstemon flower
Penstemon flower

 

 

 

More strange forest fungi by the Pigeon River

Alien-looking fungi along the Pigeon River in Ontario

The Pigeon flows through our back woods.  Here is a section.

Pigeon River Headwaters
Pigeon River Headwaters

It starts a kilometre or so upstream, in some wetlands.  Another two or three kilometres downstream and it gets untangled enough to put a canoe in.

Two posts ago I showed some of the non-mushroom-shaped fungi in the woods by the river.

Here are some more strange-looking ones. If you ever saw any of the Alien movies, perhaps this fungus opening will remind you of the alien eggs.

“Alien” fungus
“Alien” fungus

I still have to look all these up, but it’s long past my bedtime, so unless someone identifies these in a comment, I’ll have to look them up later.  Next, I’ll post some of the prettier ones.