Saturday, May 14, 2016

An Illustrated Life List: Rusty Blackbird

This past April I was lucky enough to add Rusty Blackbird, Euphagous carolinus to my life list. Especially gratifying was the fact that I found them (a pair) and identified them on my own.
They aren't the easiest bird to find. Rusty Blackbird numbers have been dropping significantly for unknown reason, and can be quite scarce. And if you do happen to come across one it's not the easiest bird to identify by field marks alone; you might not even give it a second look since it resembles a grackle, a bird dismissed by most birders.
In fact it wan't the field marks that led me to discover these birds. I think ultimately it was my familiarity with the common, everyday birds of the area and season that allowed me to notice these Rusty Blackbirds; a familiarity with the sounds and behaviors of common Icterids like Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Brown-headed Cowbirds.
My first clue that an unusual bird was about was hearing an unfamiliar but definitely blackbirdish song. I followed the source of the song to a pair of birds foraging along the ground in an area of planted pines. It was tough to get a good view of them because they kept moving through the underbrush, but their overall "feel" or giss was unfamiliar and kept me watching.
There was no particular "a-ha" moment where I realized I was looking at two Rusty Blackbirds. It was just a slow accumulation of sight and sound impressions that led to conclude they were Rusty Blackbirds. Impressions that I could compare in some almost subconscious manner to countless observations of other blackbirds.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mushroom Log - late April 2016

Unknown Mushroom
Appearance, size, habitat, spore and shape resemble a species of Tubaria. T. furfuracea is common mushroom, but usually features little white fibers along the cap margin (partial veil remnants). T. confragosa is another species commonly listed in field guides, but usually has a slight ring around the stem. Maybe these features were originally present, but washed off during the week of rain we've had.
Unknown Mushroom
These were growing in the same wood chip patch as the above mushrooms. I assumed they were dryer version of those mushrooms, but the tightly clustered growth makes me now think otherwise. No details or spore print taken.
Inky Caps - Copronoid mushroom
Velvet-foot Mushrooms - Flammulina velutipes
Velvet-foot Mushrooms are usually found on stumps, not from the ground where these appear to be growing. They were likely growing from a root of a tree that had been cut nearby.
Devil's Urn - Urnula craterium
Morel - Morchella sp
A bit early this year.