Monday, July 21, 2014

Rest Stop Luna Moths

These Luna Moths, Actias luna were found at a rest stop somewhere in Nebraska, on our way back from a family trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
I've found that some rest stops are excellent places to look for moths.  Definitely not all, there must be some combination of habitat and lighting that makes certain ones good spots to look for moths.  People might look at you strange, especially if you have one of your kids on your shoulders with a camera by the front door, apparently photographing the window trim or something.  They notice you, but they don't usually notice the big, showy green moth.

And remember it's National Moth Week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Band-winged Meadowhawk

There was a big hatch of these Band-winged Meadowhawks, Sympetrum semicinctum over the 4th of July weekend at Westwood Hills Nature Center. I don't think I've seen this particular dragonfly before; I wonder if there is an unusually big hatch this year, or if I've just never noticed them before (and not just me, two other acquaintances have noted their appearance this year.  Or maybe it’s some of both.  Here are some relevant facts from the guide books I consulted.
·         it is a relatively uncommon dragonfly, and usually occurs in small numbers, unlike other meadowhawks
·         it is very susceptible to predation by fish
·         it does not compete well with other dragonfly larva
·         it often lays eggs above the water line in vegetation, which over-winter, and hatch the next spring when water levels rise with melting snow and rains.
We’ve has a couple of cold, snowy winters in a row, which has led to a very low fish population at Westwood lake.  It was also a very wet spring, with higher than normal lake levels, so maybe a higher percentage of Band-winged Meadowhawk eggs ended up in the water this year to hatch and develop.  The expanded habitat may have also led to less competition with other dragonfly larva.  So perhaps Band-winged Meadowhawks have been present at Westwood in very low numbers, but the combination of cold winters and a very wet spring created very favorable conditions for this dragonfly to thrive and appear in large numbers this year.  Perhaps.

With the amber patches on all four wings, it's a fairly distinctive dragonfly. Most species of meadowhawks are often difficult to identify to species, though as a group they are pretty easy to recognize. They are smaller dragonflies that often perch horizontally, with their wings held slightly forward.   Males are generally red, and females are a yellow-orange. 

You might find in some sources that this dragonfly is split into two separate species, S. semicinctum and S. occidentale, or the Western Dragonfly.  The Western Dragonfly is often further split into a number of subspecies.  The latest studies seem indicate that while there are geographical variations in these dragonflies, there aren’t enough differences to warrant a split into separate species.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

False Turkey Tail

The False Turkey Tail, Stereum ostrea is probably one of my favorite mushrooms.  It's not particularly interesting or unusual.  It's certainly not rare.  It's more like a "comfort" fungus maybe.  It's always around, hard at work, quietly decomposing lignin.  It's not showy or grand in any, but to one who has a discerning eye it offers many nuanced patterns, textures, and colors to admire.

Note: this is available in a number of formats at Red Bubble.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mushroom Log - late June 2014

Giant Puffball - Calvatia gigantea

I don't think I've ever seen Giant Puffballs this early in the season.

Green-spored Lepiota - Chlorophyllum molybdites

A pictorial tour of some of this poisonous mushroom's features.


Clitocybe candicans

Described as fruiting in August through October, but it matches the description given in Mushrooms of Northeastern North American very well.  A noteworthy feature (noteworthy only because this is such a nondescript mushroom) is the collar at the top of the stem where the gills attach (not pictured).

Laughing Gym - Gymnopilues junonius 

This patch of mushrooms has grown to be quite large since this picture was taken.  The darker orange mushrooms in the background are older ones.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mushroom Log - mid June 2014

Cross-veined Mushroom - Xeromphalina tenuipes

I've misidentified these mushrooms as Velvet-foot Mushrooms, Flammulina velutipes in past posts, but I was never entirely confident that was correct.  It's superficially similar - an orangish mushroom growing on wood.  One feature unique to the Cross-vein Mushroom is the gills growing crosswise to the main gills, visible in the picture above if look.
Overall, its more "leggy" than the Velvet-foot.  This feature led me to believe that they were Velvet-foots past their prime.  And the Velvet-foot usually grows in tight clusters from stumps, the Crossgill grows along the sides of logs in looser groups (in my experience).
Both mushrooms have velvety stems which contributed to my confusion.  Plus X. tenuipes is not a common field guide mushroom, so it took some extra research to find it.

Crown-tipped Coral - Artomyces pyxidata
One of the few coral-shaped mushrooms that grows on wood.  It's edible, I think I'd like to try it in a hot and sour soup.

Crep - Crepidotus sp.
Fawn Mushroom - Pluteus cervinus

Gymnopus dryophilus

I usually like to include a common name for mushrooms, to facilitate casual conversation (that's what we do with other forms of life).  But the typical common name, Oak-loving Collybia given for this mushroom just doesn't work.  For one, they can be found associated with other trees, these were under White Pines.  And second, the name Collybia references an older genus name given for this mushroom. 

Yellow Fairy Cups - Bisporella citrina

Unknown Mushroom