Thursday, November 15, 2018

Red lipstick and white reindeer

A few lichens from the edge of Oyster Bay forest:

Coastal reindeer lichen on old, wet wood

Look for the bright red spot near the pointer on the upper left; the tip of a lipstick Cladonia; and near the bottom left, I think that scaly lichen is a Dragon Cladonia.

"Roughly 70 species of Cladonia occur in our region, making this one of the most diverse of lichen genera." (Plants of Coastal British Columbia)

Spiky-branched lichen, a few pixie cup Cladonia, moss, and fir needles.

More of those spiky lichens behind a mushroom

And a whole mini-forest of lipsticks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

All messed up

I came across this mushroom growing on the remains of a log in the Oyster Bay forest.

One mushroom, two, or more?

The main part of the mushroom is at least a foot across (reminder to self: carry a tape measure!). The chunks to the lower right may be a second specimen. The flesh was solid and dry to the touch, slightly softer than the shelf fungi that grow on our trees, off-white with a greenish tinge.

Even up close, the only scents noticeable were of old wood, drying fir needles, and moisture.

There was no sign of slug feasting, but the mushroom was badly broken up. This is off the trail and there was no sign of human footprints. What broke the mushroom? A bear, maybe?

I have no idea what mushroom this is. Do you?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Tree bones

Wind, salt, rain, blowing sand. Give them time, and they peel the thick bark off trees, snap off the branches, sandpaper the roots. Add a bit of moss and lichen and strew the resulting fantastic shapes all along the shore line and across the dunes. Ma Nature's modern art gallery.

Log, needles, lichen. And a sort of bird shape.

Standing statuettes, the innards of branch attachments. This wood seems to be tougher, more resistant to rot than the rest of the tree.

Log end and Big-headed sedge, turned yellow with the cold weather.

New tree, old tree, young tree.

Grandaddy stump, Saratoga Beach

Sunday, November 11, 2018


A flock of tiny birds was browsing in the evergreens at Oyster Bay. Really tiny; they looked like large, fast moths. They bounced from twig to twig, sometimes hanging upside-down, sometimes perching on the trunk, but never for more than a couple of seconds. Stop, peck at twig, flit to another, peck, flit, flit, flit. Neither my eyes nor the camera could focus that fast, but I could see flashes of yellow on back and head.

I took about a hundred photos. Two sort of turned out.

A golden-crowned kinglet, I think. 

Hanging upside-down

In the deciduous shrubs and around the logs on the shore, a flock of juncos were feeding. Easier to identify, but much more cautious; any attempt to approach on my part, and they were off.

Alder branches, mini-cones, and junco against the sky.

A Skywatch post.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Captured cocoons

A couple of days ago, I posted a photo of a cocoon seen at Oyster Bay. I went out there again yesterday, with a long stick and a collecting jar. And found two.

They both ripped as I unglued them from the eaves where they had planned to shelter for the winter, one more than the other. But the inner pupae were entire. And they're strange.

Cocoon # 1. The wrapping is badly torn. But what are those two "wings"?

Cocoon # 2. Just a small fraying of the side of the cocoon.

The fabric of the cocoon is very thin; a few layers of loosely-woven threads. Many of them look like wooly-bear caterpillar spines. Some, looking closely, are lined with barbs.

Black, tan, whitish fibers. The green and red are artifacts of the camera and flash.

The two cocoons are now housed in a ventilated container, snug in a flowerpot in a protected area of the carport. I'll keep an eye on them, hoping to see what emerges.

Meanwhile, I'll send these photos in to BugGuide.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Wild and tame

In a friend's backyard.

Plastic goldfish pond (sans goldfish), mushroom and native companions.

Oh-so-red berries. Pyracantha, I think. Not a native species.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Spider search

It was the tail end of Arachtober, and I was running out of spider photos. Oyster Bay seemed a good place to look for a new candidate. I stopped first, to look at the trees in their glorious late fall outfits.

From the meadow, looking back at the parking lot.

Then on to snoop in the corners and crevices.

First find: a cherry-faced meadowhawk. On the parking lot fence.

Under the eaves of the public washroom (centre, top photo); a tightly-wrapped cocoon.

I found one of these cocoons on my doorstep four years ago. I kept it in a container for a month, and a wasp emerged. BugGuide identified it as a parasitoid wasp, but the cocoon would have belonged to the larva of a caterpillar. I couldn't reach this one to capture it; I may go back with some long-handled tool.

Also on the washroom: a house spider with her four egg cases. Too small, too high above my head for an Arachtober photo.

And finally, on the pilings by the shore, a running reddish and black spider. Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Blobby bryozoans

Early winter storms tear and uproot the summer's crop of seaweeds. The mound along the high tide line, that in summer is mainly eelgrass with a sprinkling of sea lettuce and rockweed, in November becomes a full salad bar, multi-coloured, multi-textured.

In a short walk, I collected a bag of treats for my hermit crabs, with only one sample of each species, I ended up with a full grocery bag. Sea lettuce, of course. Two kinds of rockweed. Turkish washcloth, and a black, leathery, pimpled towel seaweed, four or five kinds of kelp, the invasive sargassum, several tiny blackish curly weeds, Pacific rose algae, red blades, rubbery threads, ... I didn't bother with eelgrass; the aquarium is planted with a fair crop from my last collecting trip.

I collected three pieces of a red algae that was coated with bryozoans. None of the algae were entire; they were stalked, and opened out into red blades, badly torn, rotting along the edges; I couldn't determine their shape or full size. But the bryozoans intrigued me.

At home, in a bowl. The stalks are encrusted with these hard blobs. The pink stub at the right seems to be a growing tip of the algae; there were several of these.

One of the blobs. Each little hole was the home of one zooid. If you look really closely (click for full size) you can see tiny pink pores on the body of each case.

Where the stalks met the blades, the structure changed; here they lie flat, one critter deep. Membranipora sp., maybe?

I don't think any were alive; they'd been lying out on the shore for a while. I looked while they were underwater, but saw no hint of movement.

I've been searching for an ID in my books and on the web, but can't find any that take these two forms on red algae. Blobs on rocks, yes. Single layers encrusting kelp, yes. Both together, no.

Membranipora membranacea is common on bull kelp on our shores; it makes circular, flat colonies on the blades. I could find no photos or record of it making these blobs.

And the crabs, hermit and "true" are happy, busy climbing and feasting.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The greys of winter

November. Here on Vancouver Island, that means rain, mist, fogs, and the colours leached out of the landscape. Grey days.

The view from Saratoga Beach. Grey, blue-grey, blue. The line of green along the shore is torn seaweed, tossed up at the high tide line.

Lonely young gull, waiting for the tide to retreat. Her colours are muted, too; grey-browns, palest of pinks, a hint of blue on beak and knees. Notice her painted toenails, though.

A Skywatch post

Saturday, November 03, 2018

A multitude of one

Mushrooms grow on soil, on mossy rocks, on fir cones, on old logs. In Cathedral Grove, we passed many growing on tree trunks.

The stalk grows out horizontally, then curves upwards.

All of these (all of the photos) seem to be the same species; creamy gills, white rings, smooth brown, flattish cap.

They grow out of crevices in the old bark.

The stalks on these are much darker, and the caps are freckled.

More freckled caps, growing on a mossy trunk.

Showing off the gills.

In my little guide, Common Mushrooms of the Northwest, I found only one that seems to match; the Honey Mushrooms, Armillaria mellea complex. (12 related species). (Probably Armillaria ostoyae.)

These grow on standing wood, or buried wood near conifers and the mushrooms we see are a small part of the huge hidden body of the fungus; one individual may cover hundreds of acres, spreading from tree to tree. It is possible that all the ones we saw on the walk through Cathedral Grove were outcrops of the same organism.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


It's Hallowe'en and the night is alive.

Walk carefully down those dark halls! She's waiting!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

'Shroom heaven

The sun shines through dripping curtains of hanging moss, warming layers of black bark and orange maple leaves. Slugs feast on white mushroom meat. In the dark crevices between the fallen trees, polypore fungi gleam. It's fall in the rainforest.

Sunlight and hanging moss

Blending in. Big-leaf maple leaves and five big mushrooms to match.

This creamy-capped mushroom has slightly purplish grey gills.

Red-belted polypores with a pinkish cast.

Spore-laden firs and glistening mushrooms

These gilled mushrooms are common in the Grove. They all have freckles in the centre of a slightly pinkish cap.

Down in the mud under a log, we found these large, muddy boletes, identifiable as boletes by the dense pores instead of gills. I had to "see" them with my fingertips, as there was no way I was going to put my cheek in that cold mud.

More to come, tomorrow. This was a mushroom-rich forest!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mushroom country

And more mushrooms from Cathedral Grove. The forest was dotted with them everywhere; every few steps we saw another clump.

A rotting, moss-covered stump, with its sprinkling of mushrooms.

Most of the trees on this side of the highway are Douglas firs. About 300 years ago, a forest fire downed many of them, and their enormous trunks lie on the ground, covered in a thick mossy blanket. In the space the fire opened up, big-leaf maples reach for the sunlight.

Ideal mushroom habitat; green, dim, and wet.

Mushrooms, burnt bark, and a mulch of big-leaf maple leaves.

Weeping shelf fungus, looking like a sticky bun, on the cut end of a log.

Gilled brown and beige mushroom. There's a scrap of hairy lichen here; these elastic threads hang from all the upper branches.

A similar mushroom, with a paler stalk.

More mushrooms tomorrow.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Under the firs

We went to Cathedral Grove on the Port Alberni highhway to look at the big trees and found mushrooms, small and large. It had been raining; the paths were muddy and puddly, the fallen leaves quickly turning to mush. Perfect mushroom conditions.

Mushroom and wet moss. And a strand of spider web.

The rest of the photos are still waiting to be processed. More tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


I met my son for lunch yesterday in Coombs, near Nanaimo. The restaurant is called, "Goats on a Roof". And yes, there are goats on the roof.

"Hello, down there!"

No fences!