Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Introduction to some Mushrooms


Mushrooms, we have all seen them, either on our lawns, or in the woods and even in the supermarkets. But there is more to the group than the standard white mushroom with gills that we purchase in boxes at the Market. Depending on the source mushrooms have been broken down into at least 12 groups, only one of which is mushrooms with gills.

I have always been fascinated by mushrooms and when I acquired a digital camera and started wandering the local woods and parks I also started photographing anything that I found unusual or interesting.  Today's photographs are a selection of some of those photos, some made this year (2017) but others made in previous years. I am not going to try a identify these photos with specific Latin names, only the general group to which they belong, nor am I going to address edibility, if you are interested in that I suggest you purchase one of several guides that can be found either on-line or in a bookstore.  It takes more than a photograph to correctly identify a mushroom, smell, spore prints, etc. are details given in books that I am not even going to try to touch here. Note: I rarely pick the mushrooms I see, so correct identification usually isn't possible.

Before I start identifying the photographs I want to say that all mushrooms have a couple of things in common no matter the shape of the fruiting bodies, and what I have photographed are "fruiting" bodies, they are fed and created by fungi networks (mycelium) that live in soil, wood or other organic substances. The second trait they share is they reproduce by spores.  

OK, on to the photographs, the mushroom in the top photograph (by the way the color is accurate, I did not Photoshop this photo other than to resize it for the web) is a member of the Polypore or Shelf Mushroom group. I believe that this is actually a Sulphur Shelf, but since I am not sure the species of the tree it is growing on I wouldn't eat it. I found this growing in my local Brockton, MA park just this past week. I actually pulled the car over as I was driving by so I could walk back and make the photo.


The mushrooms above are a member of the Coral Fungi family. They sort of look like coral don't they. I believe this is a Ramaria Sp. but could be totally wrong.  I found these in Borderland State Park, Easton, MA. in 2011. 


These spiky white balls are a member of the Puffball family. They have no gills, and while some members of this family may have stalks they still release their spores through slits in the outer covering that occur as the mushroom matures. Photographed this summer in my local Brockton Park. I believe this is Lycoperdon echinatum, but can't swear to it. 


One family in the Mushroom category looks like a "standard" mushroom until you look under the cap to find there are no gills. The spores are released through tubes, so the underside looks spongy. This family is the Boletes. This a semi large family and I am not sure what the above is, perhaps chestnut Bolete (Gyroporus castaneus). Photographed in Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. this summer.


These next three photographs are of mushrooms that belong to the Agarics or gilled mushroom family, which includes most of the mushrooms found in the supermarket. This group is very hard to identify by looks alone as their appearance can mislead the identifier at different stages of growth leading someone to think they have an editable mushroom when in reality it is deadly poisonous.

The white dots on the above mushroom are the remains of the volva (the membrane that covered the mushroom as it developed, and ruptured as it emerged above ground). There are so many types of gilled mushrooms that I haven't even attempted to name these three. The one above was photographed in my local Brockton Park this summer.


Gilled Mushrooms often grow in in clumps, above are a trio that I found growing in the woods in Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. this summer. 


This larger clump also photographed this summer was found in Ames Nowell State Park. Can I say that I love to photograph clumps, well I also find individual mushrooms interesting but the clumps really spark my interest.

There are other families of Mushrooms that I haven't photographed (to my knowledge), they include Morels, Stinkhorns, Jelly Fungi, Cup Fungi, False Morels, and Hydnums (Tooth Fungi). I took my family names from a Petterson Mushroom guide I borrowed from the Library. Other information comes from a couple of web sites I have found that are devoted to North American Mushrooms. 

David Fischer's American Mushrooms,   Mushroom Expert,
and Merriam Webster Visual Dictionary 

The first two sites are packed with photographs and detailed information about mushrooms and how to identify them. They also both have information about guide books for those who wish to pursue an interest in Mushrooms.  But be warned both sites are complex and finding exactly what you want may take some time and a bit of browsing. The Webster site identifies the structures of a mushroom.


One last photo, and this one has nothing to do with mushrooms. It is a Doe that I photographed in the Power Line cut at Ames Nowell State Park. I rarely see or even hear deer on my walks even though I know most of the locations where I walk have them in residence. On the day I was in the park there were very few other visitors and none of them must have been in the cut prior to my arriving. This deer was eating until she heard me. She stood like that for about a minute (time for me to make a couple of photographs) and then took off. She looks healthy and well fed so hopefully she will survive the coming winter. She was fairly large so I am assuming a mature Doe, White Tailed Deer, sort of wish it had been a Stag but one takes what one can get.

That is it for today. Took me far too long to pull this post together, hope you enjoy it, comments are welcome, esp if you can identify any of my mushrooms.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Wildflowers I have found


I have been trying to come up with the number of years I have spent hunting wild flowers, both before my digital camera (making photographs) and after its advent. Not quite sure but a ball park number of 15 years (give or take a year or two) sounds about right. Considering my age that is not a huge number of years, but since I am not and have never been a professional botanist I think it is a good number. I will of course check out wild flowers anywhere I travel and they can be seen, but the majority of my hunting grounds are fairly close to home in a pretty limited region, Southeast MA, with some excursions a bit further north. Habitat is mostly fields, woods, pond (lake) edges and some boggy areas that I can easily access. I don't have waders so I don't venture deep into bogs. What I am trying to say is that while I haven't by any stretch of the imagination "seen it all" I have seen and identified a lot of flowers/plants I see on my outings.

The flowers in today's post all share one common feature, these are the first photos I have made of the flower. Some flowers I knew about and the photos are just the icing on the cake so to speak. I was/am happy to finally have them, but I didn't have to do much research to pin a name on them. Others I had to look up, and in a couple of instances ask for help identifying. Oh, another common feature they are native to north America if not originally to MA and they have all been photographed in the past week or so. 

The above little yellow flower (and I do mean little) is Northern Yelloweyed Grass. I found this in a boggy area between two lakes at Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA, August 30, 2017.  This is one of those plants that I had seen drawings of but had never seen the actual flower until this past week. In one of my Wild Flower Guides the drawing of this flower is on the same page as Stargrass, a yellow flower that I think I have seen every year I have been looking for wild flowers.




Also found at Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA, August 30, 2017, Nodding Ladies Tresses. This is one of our native orchids. Not very showy flower like Lady Slippers are, but still pretty, and I was very happy to find it growing so profusely at Massasoit. It was in the same boggy area as the yellow-eyed grass above.


These next two flowers are both types of clover, actually they are both Bush Clovers, and I found these in my local city park, D W Field Park, Brockton, MA., August 31, 2017. The pink flowers above are Slender Bush Clover. 


The above is Round Headed Bush Clover. I have photographed this plant for years, but this year is the first time I have actually managed to find it in bloom. The flowers aren't very obvious and they don't last long. Found along the same path as the Slender Bush Cover above.


Not the best photo but for some reason I had a hard time photographing these flowers. Still is shows a flower and some of the plant leaves so it is representative. This is Partridge Sensitive Pea, and I found it at Nasketucket Bay Reservation in Mattapoisett, MA. Photographed Sept. 1, 2017. 


This last plant had me totally stumped, it is semi parasitic like Indian Pipes as it links to a fungus network in the soil for its nutrients. In this case the associated trees are Oaks. Many thanks to the members of Native Plants of New England Facebook group for helping me to identify it. This is Hairy Pine-Sap, and is my missing 4th Parasitic plant. See my post on Parasitic Plants back in September, 2017. Photographed September 2, 2017, Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA.

That is it for new to me plants that I have seen in the past week or so. Actually there were a couple of others but these are the most interesting and the post was getting too long so I will stop here. Please note that there are links to GoBotany for each flower if you are interested in Latin names or other facts, or if you wish to view other images.


As a final image today, above is a young Great Blue Heron that I photographed waiting for dinner to swim by in my local park.

One last comment, on my trip to Mattapoisett I photographed 2 (new to me) butterflies, a Red Banded Hairstreak and a Zabulon Skipper that I have added to the Butterfly page. That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome. Hope you enjoyed this post.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Butterflies, Damselflies, and Goldenrod

Painted Lady Butterfly

It has been too long since my last blog update. Oops though it isn't entirely my fault, I have been sick, very sick, but am now getting better and after about 4 weeks out of the field I have actually been able to get out with the camera. So today's post are some of my more recent photographs. This update was supposed to be about mushrooms, but my research just isn't happening as quickly as I would like so I thought I would post these instead.

These first two photographs are butterflies that are visitors to MA. They can't overwinter here (too cold) so they usually show up later in the summer, some years they never show up in large numbers. This year for some reason Monarchs arrived early and the Painted Lady above has also been seen in larger than usual numbers along with the Common Buckeye which is usually anything but common.

Monarch Butterfly
I photographed both butterflies in my local city park enjoying the Joe-pye weed. Made for a nice first outing after weeks off my feet.



These next two photos are both Damselflies. Damselfies are Odonate's as are Dragonflies. The difference between Damselflies and Dragonflies is partly size, Damsels are usually smaller, but also they can fold their wings. Dragonfly wings are always open, sometimes angled forward or backward but they can't fold neatly along the back. 

The blue Damsel above is a Skimming Bluet. Both Damsels were photographed at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. Aug. 25th.


This orange beauty above is an Orange Bluet. I have been wanting to photograph one of these for a while so was happy to see them this week.


It is August so it is time for the Goldenrods to start to bloom. There are many varieties, these two photographs represent just 2 of them, and sorry I can't be more exact than that today.  I was going to include a photo of ragweed in flower, but the photo isn't as sharp as I prefer so am leaving it out. But ragweed is also in bloom and is usually the real cause of hay-fever. Goldenrod pollen is really too heavy to float in the air and be breathed in. Ragweed flowers, on the other hand, are small and green so most people don't even notice that the plant is in bloom, so they blame the showy goldenrod that is so conspicuous.


Note that the top photo shows a stalked goldenrod, these plants are often quite tall and showy, the second image above is a flat topped goldenrod, with more bushy growth characteristics. The leaves are also thinner than those on the top image.


Last image today is a Great Blue Heron waiting for dinner at the upper pond/lake in my local park here in Brockton. It stayed motionless while I made my photographs waiting for a fish or frog to swim too close. Hope it found dinner sooner rather than later.

That is it for today, per usual comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Showcasing birds

Newly Fledged Robin
I spent most of Sunday afternoon (July 16) at Daniel Webster MA Audubon sanctuary in Marshfield, MA. I was hoping to photograph birds and I did. I spent a lot of the afternoon in the South blind, not gazing at the pond which had limited activity but at the shore and a defoliated tree outside the right windows. In doing so I ignored (for the most part) the comings and goings of the resident Barn Swallows, who were busy tending to nests of young birds.

These first few photos are all of recently fledged birds, the American Robin above is still a bit speckled and certainly isn't as dapper as mature robins are. 


Gray Catbirds usually look sleek and polished, this has to be a young one. It wasn't very happy down there either, and parents kept visiting. I didn't realize exactly what was going on until I looked at my photos later. The colors are right, but all that fluff?


This young Barn Swallow looks a bit unfinished, certainly not as sleek looking as its parents are. Since there were several nests in the building with non-fledged youngsters this one may be from an earlier brood.


Some of my other bird photos from Sunday. 


This is a Female Baltimore Oriole, she isn't bright orange like her mate, but I think she is still a pretty bird. There were some Honeysuckle bushes with berries near the Blind, she was probably on her way to visit them.  


I believe this is an adult Gold Finch, probably female from the coloration, it didn't hang around long, so this is my best photo.

Female Bobolink

Daniel Webster is one of the remaining nesting spots in state for Bobolinks. They build their nests in the grasses that are allowed to grown in the fields at Daniel Webster. Thankfully they wait to mow until the young Bobolinks have fledged and left the fields. But I have heard horror stories of parent birds looking for their nests after a thoughtless farmer has mowed a field early.

The above bird is a female Bobolink. She wasn't happy with me, even though I was on the mowed path. I have a feeling either her nest or some of her young ones weren't too far away from me.

Male Bobolink in flight

Male Bobolink in flight, it wasn't my intention to make a flight photograph. I had been photographing a Redwing blackbird, and when I checked the display to see how the photo looked I noticed a bird just a bit beyond the blackbird sitting on some wire fencing. I was trying to photograph the bird on the fence wire, but it took off just as I snapped the shutter. Thankfully I was using a fast enough shutter speed that the bird is mostly in focus. By the way the male is still in breeding colors.


The not very good photo above is a Lesser Yellowlegs, it was just about at the limit of what I can photograph with my current lens. There were also a couple of Killdeer in the same general area, but they were a bit too far for me to make a good photo. The photographs of them were good enough to ID the bird but not to post.


The final photo is a view from Fox Hill of some of the property at Daniel Webster. I had a really good day with Birds Sunday, hope you enjoyed a look at some of my best photos. Please note that I have added links to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds web site for each species above if you are curious to learn more about them.  Per usual comments are welcome.



Friday, July 14, 2017

Dragonflies - Some Skimmers

Widow Skimmer - Libellula luctuosa - Male Mature  

Finally a Dragonfly post, first I want to say I am not an expert. I depend on a Facebook group I belong to for most of my identifications.  However, today's post includes three very common Dragonflies, they can be found pretty much anywhere in North America where dragonflies are flying.  These three all have a couple of other things in common, they are all Skimmer Dragonflies and they all (depending on the sex for some) develop pruinescence as they age. Pruinescence is a waxy film usually white.  Skimmers are the largest group of Dragonflies, if you want to know more about them click on the link above.

Now on to today's photographs, above is a mature male Widow Skimmer, the image below is also of a Widow Skimmer, but this one doesn't show the pruinescence of the older Dragonfly. Note how the mature Male Dragonfly has developed white on the wings, blue on the abdomen, and black on the top Thorax.  Females may develop brown wing tips but won't have the white or blue though the thorax and abdomen will darken. I don't have a good photo of an older female.

Widow Skimmer - Libellula luctuosa - Newly Emerged

The next three photographs are of Common Whitetails, note the different wing pattern between males and females. 

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Male

The male Whitetail above is fairly newly emerged, the white patterning is still visible on the body.

I want to explain what I mean by the comment newly emerged (another term is Teneral). Dragonflies go through a nymph phase that lives in water, when it is time for the adult Dragonfly to emerge the nymph crawls out of the water usually on a grass or water plant stem, and like a chrysalis splits open allowing the adult form to emerge. Like butterflies they need to expand their wings and dry off. As the Dragonfly or Damselfly age they often undergo color changes, pruinescence is just one of changes.

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Male Mature

 The above photo shows a mature Whitetail where the pruinescence is fully developed. 

Common Whitetail - Plathemis lydia - Female

Above is a Whitetail female, note that her wing pattern is very different from the males. It can be confusing for beginning Dragonfly observers I know I though I had found a different species only to discover that no, it was one I had already identified just a different sex.

Blue Dasher - Pachydiplax longipennis

I have one last example for today's post. The Blue Dasher is another very common dragonfly, and from what I have read one of the most studied. I think they are a rather pretty, certainly more colorful than the other two Dragonflies in this post.

Blue Dasher Mature Male

Above is a mature male Blue Dasher and you can see where the name comes from with the blue abdomen.

One last photograph, not a very good one but I was trying to photograph a female Blue Dasher as she was depositing eggs on the surface of the lake at Ames Nowell State Park. 

Blue Dasher Female depositing eggs

In the case of the Blue Dasher both male and female dragonflies develop the blue coloration.  Correction: I have recently regained access to my one book on Odes, according to this book the females don't pruinose, so I wanted to correct my comments - Sept. 19, 2017.

That is it for today, all photographs were made by me, though not all of them from this year, in local (Southeastern MA) State Parks or other nature reserves.  Per usual comments are welcome.