strange and wonderful worlds

I’m just getting geared up for the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz that’s coming up later this month. While walking around the farm, I’ve been thinking about which areas I’d most like to survey, and what kinds of things I’ll be looking at. There’s plenty of large stuff around — trees, birds, mammals. Due to the early timing of the blitz in relation to our springtime, I’m not too sure how much I’ll be able to do with plants and insects. However, one thing we do have quite a bit of around here is small stuff — fungi, mosses and lichens. In fact, in just one small area, there are many lichens growing on the ruins of an old barn roof that has been lying in one of the fields for more than thirty years. It resembles the surface of a strange planet, with weird formations of lichen growing across its alien-looking landscape.

I have some field guides on fungi, mosses and lichens already, but I ordered a couple of lichen field guides through the local library. One is the great tome, Lichens of North America (Brodo, Sharnoff, Sharnoff). I’ve already begun trying to ID some of the lichen on the old barn roof section.

I’ll also be using George Barron’s wonderful Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada, which is one of the most used field guides in my own collection.

And, over the weekend, I assembled two new collections of links to pages that will help myself and others with identification. There’s now a page of links on fungi, and another on ferns, mosses, and lichens. I hope you’ll find them useful, for the bioblitz, or for other future uses. By the way, if you’re interested in participating in the bioblitz and haven’t already signed up, just click on the logo at the top of this post and you’ll be directed to more information on Jeremy Bruno’s blog, The Voltage Gate.

Now, about today’s photos. The top image is of a type of fungi that I frequently find growing on dead poplar branches here at the farm. Based on George Barron’s guide, I’ve ID’d it as Peniophora rufa. What’s interesting, if you wish to take a closer look(click on image for a closer view), is that the little discs of bright orange fungi are covered with tiny springtails (collembola)! If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll have seen these little characters before on a couple of occasions — once gathered on the surface of a stream, and then on top of the snow. Well, here’s another place where I frequently find them, and that’s wandering around eating fungi (you can see more examples of that on the page about the springtails on snow).

The photo below is of one of the little clusters of lichens found on the old barn roof at the ruins on the other side of the farm. This little cluster looks to be British Soldiers lichen (Cladonia cristatella), although I think some of the British Soldiers lichen around the farm look more like Gritty British Soldiers (Cladonia floerkeana), which has a more granular appearance. I’ll find out more about all of that in the next couple of weeks before the bioblitz.

Okay, that’s all for today. The sun is *finally* shining after many frustrating overcast days on which a bit of snow would fall and then melt off again. I’m hoping for some better weather over the next couple of weeks to wake up the plants and insects in time for the bioblitz.

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10 Responses to “strange and wonderful worlds”

  1. robin andrea Says:

    I was thinking at first that it would be fun to do the bio-blitz at the mouth of the creek. There’s so much going on there. But I am starting to lean toward just picking an area of our yard to really concentrate on. Love the lichen pic, and it reminds me of all the lichen we have here. We’re really having very spring-like weather. Almost all of the trees have begun budding or leafing already. We’re seeing more insects too. So, maybe we’ll just take a good look around here.

  2. Susannah (Wanderin' Weeta) Says:

    Great post, as usual! I love cladonia. There’s quite a bit around here, but I’ve never tried photographing it. Next time.

    About your fungus links; I find George Barron’s home page a little easier, in terms of finding my bearings. He definitely could use a good web designer, though! And I use Sharnoff’s
    Lichens of North America online.

    For my contribution to the Bioblitz, I am going to concentrate on a small area, I think; my backyard, specifically looking at lawn weeds, bugs and worms. There should be a few mushrooms in there, as well. And plenty of moss.

  3. Duncan Says:

    Great minds! Just yesterday ordered a field guide to the fungi for myself.

  4. Larry Says:

    -I’m trying to pay attention to more than just birds so maybe the links will help-thanks.
    As far as the photos go -all I can say is-I’m lichen it!

  5. Cathy Says:

    So glad you’re getting a wee bit of sun. We all need it sooo bad.
    I love the Springtail on the fungus. I’d not perused your fungus gallery before and Wow! The shot of the Pholiota Sp. lined up inside that hollow branch has to be one of my favorite fungus pictures ever. It reminds me a little of the ‘honey mushroom’ I see here, but they’re always in clumps.
    As a sometimes mycophile I have to know – Do you eat the sulphur shelf? Yummmmy.

  6. burning silo Says:

    robin – I’m sure that either place would be enjoyable to survey. However, there’s something to be said about doing a survey right in your own yard. It gets you to look at things in a slightly different way than you normally would.

    Susannah – I’ll be that both you and robin have some great lichens and fungi around your places. I like cladonia lichens as well — powder horns and the little pixie cup lichens, etc. Thanks for the links — I may have them on the fungi and lichen link pages. George Barron has taken a lot of incredible photos of fungi over the years.

    Duncan – I find fungi so interesting. I’ve always had a fondness for the bracket fungi on trees. Some of them are absolutely beautiful.

    Larry – I hope the links will be of use to everyone. I’ve tried to pick ones that go right to identification photos and keys.

    Cathy – The sun has been playing hide-and-seek all day, but it did come out for a little while. I’m feeling very tired of the brown and gray landscape. Oh well! It will be GREEN out there soon enough. Thanks about the fungi galleries. Yes, isn’t that little row of Pholiota inside the hollow log pretty cool?! Regarding the sulphur shelf fungi — no, I haven’t eaten them. How do you cook them? I remember once getting and email from George Barron (the author of the fungi book that I use) — he taught at University of Guelph for many years — anyhow, he said something like, “Well, some people like them, but I never thought they were anything to write home about.” (o:

  7. Wayne Says:

    Bev – those little Cladonias are superb. They are certainly different from the ones I’ve seen in our immediate area but again immediately recognizable.

    Thanks for gathering those links to Fungi, and to Mosses, Lichens, and Ferns. You’ve done an amazing job with your resource links and I’ll be linking to them and visiting them especially during the bioblitz week.

    I’ve realized that I’m scouring the area much as you are: scouting out and identifying in advance everything I can so when the bioblitz week comes I’ll be prepared for submitting those plants, and insects that are still around at that time. By then there will be new ones, and I’ll have my hands full! Preparation is so important.

    I still haven’t quite mapped out my areas of study though, although I’m getting a vague feeling of how to do it.

    Robin’s idea of the tidal creek mouth continues to excite me, but now that she’s mentioned having lichens I’m hopeful that she will become a lichen expert. We have them, but they’re not the diverse population that we would find elsewhere. In that regard, Susannah’s comments on Fungi and lichens are useful – I’ll also have to check out a site that can use a good web designer ;-)

    Regarding Larry’s bird comments – I was thinking that I’m going to probably have so neglected birds, excepting the most spectacular and/or common ones, that I’m thinking I should find someone around here who specializes and propose a collaboration. I’m certainly not patient enough and knowledgeable enough to give them good coverage (besides, the time I’ll spend will detract from the insects, plants, and fungi!). What to do??

  8. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes, I’m doing quite a bit of prelimary “thinking about” for the blitz – figuring out which plots, how to try to survey for certain species (for example, netting dragonfly naiads in the drainage creek as we will not have adults flying so early in the season — and neting other aquatics as well). I may set up a moth sheet on at least a couple of evenings if we’ve got some moths flying by then. I’m also beginning to work on some IDs, especially for the lichen and mosses, as I’m not great at IDing them. However, I have the big lichen book here, and another on the way from the library fairly soon, so I’ll be able to work with those. I don’t consider myself to be much of a birder, although I suppose I’m not too bad. At this time of the year, I often go walking around with my binoculars in the mornings to see what is arriving in various areas of the farm, so I’ll be doing that over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, that will give me a handle on the bird situation. If the weather turns warm, things can wake up so quickly, that I could be hard-pressed to ID even a fraction of the flora and fauna, but it can go the other way as well if we get some freakishly cold weather in April. Makes things exciting (or not!).

  9. Cathy Says:

    Bev! Don’t eat them! Send them to me!!!! Ho Boy. The New York Mycological Society rated them NO 1 – even above morels! Ohhh.. They are sooo good. They have to be tender – fairly new – not too many bugs. You pick the shelves and then using a paring knife cut inward from the edge until it stops slicing like going through a cool stick of butter. Cut them into manageable pieces and fry in butter (real) until tender. Maybe 5 minutes on a side depending on thickness. OMG! It is soooo excellent. You can freeze what you’ve cooked and enjoy it later. You’ll never look at them the same – again :0)

  10. burning silo Says:

    Cathy – Well, next time I find a tree covered with them, I’ll have to pack up a major shipment and send them along to you. (-:
    Sounds interesting. Now that I know more, I’ll have to give them a try. I couldn’t imagine them being too good as they seemed more like wood, but I guess it’s all in the age.