This gallery contains 5 photos.
The stem gall tephritid fruit fly (Eutreta diana) causes galls to form on tall sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata) following oviposition of a single egg in its axillary or terminal buds. In my last post (“Sagebrush Stem Gall”) I noted that the … Continue reading
This gallery contains 6 photos.
The other day I wandered through some tall sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) on our property (Lookout CA) looking for sagebrush galls. Artemisia species are galled by many species of midges, tephritid fruit flies and a eriophyid mite. Tall sagebrush (also called … Continue reading
Many of our bright, colorful birds have migrated to more temperate climes for the winter. The western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) does not desert us on the sagebrush steppe of Northeastern California during cold weather. Although its melodious song is not often heard at this time of the year, the western meadowlark does add a bright flash of yellow to the dull winter landscape.
There seem to be more western meadowlarks in our pastures this season – an opinion not a scientific observation. Leonard and I are seeing many large groups of meadowlarks sitting along the fence rows or foraging for seeds and grains in the tall nearby vegetation. Usually I do not think of western meadowlarks as strongly social birds, however, they are congregating this winter.
Western meadowlarks are a prey of marsh hawks (currently called northern harriers – Circus cyaneus). Although marsh hawks do not subsist solely on western meadowlarks, it is probably not a coincidence that with the increase in meadowlarks around our house the marsh hawk activity seems to also have increased.
The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states – Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oregon and Wyoming. Apparently Leonard and I are not the only ones to appreciate western meadowlarks.
My previous western meadowlark posts include: Western Meadowlark, Meadowlark Hatchlings.
This western meadowlark was enjoying the morning sun on a fencepost near our house (Modoc County CA) and was a very cooperative model.
This gallery contains 3 photos.
White wagtails (Motacilla alba) can be found in Europe, Asia and parts of North Africa. White wagtails are rare in extreme western Alaska where they are known to breed. There are also sightings of white wagtails along the California coast … Continue reading
This gallery contains 4 photos.
On winter walks Leonard and I notice things we often ignore during the spring and summer when the abundance of flora and fauna are sometimes almost overwhelming. During this time of greys and browns we tend to look a little … Continue reading
“Cow Dung” Mushrooms
Several days ago “KC”commented on my post “Elfin Saddle“saying she misidentified a mushroom resembling Elfin Saddle, ate it and was suffering the consequences. That reminded me of an experience I had many years ago while in graduate school at Oregon State University. Since then I do not eat wild fungi except in VERY RARE circumstances and only when I am ABSOLUTELY certain of the mushroom’s identification.
Six of us, including Chris, a Ph.D candidate in mycology (the study of mushrooms and fungi), spent an afternoon in the woods gathering mushrooms. Chris wanted to see how many different species we could find and practice his identification skills.
Once back at Chris’ house the six of us sat around a table with our baskets of fungi and identification handbooks. Each of us separated our collection into three piles: Edible, Maybe Edible and Definitely Poisonous.
Chris threw away all the “Maybe Edible” and “Definitely Poisonous” piles. He proceeded to separate the “Edible” mushrooms into three categories: Edible, Maybe Edible and Definitely Poisonous.
We then took ONLY the mushrooms Chris deemed edible (after two screenings) to his major professor’s home. His major professor proceeded to separate our edible mushrooms into three categories. Do I need to repeat what the piles were labeled?
Although I enjoy foraging, since that time I prefer to eat only mushrooms that arrive wrapped in cellophane from the grocery store. I love to search out and photograph fungi. However, I do not eat my “finds”.
These are mushrooms that belong to the “cow dung” group because of their preferred habitat and were photographed along the Pacific Crest Trail near Ashland OR. I will eventually post more pictures and information about them.
Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) visit Northeastern California (Modoc County), where we live, in the winter after breeding in the Arctic during the summer. Leonard and I always watch for the arrival of the first rough-legged hawk each fall – one of our signs of the approaching winter.
This year our first sighting of a rough-legged hawk occurred on November 5th, although Leonard thought he may have seen one a day earlier, but could not be absolutely certain. We keep a close watch for the first rough-legged hawk each year so our observations are probably fairly accurate. We both thought the return date was early, but checking we found in 2011 the rough-legged hawks were here on October 30th. This year was the second earliest return since I began keeping note of the hawks’ arrival dates seven years ago.
A recap of our first rough-legged hawk sightings:
2007 – November 9 2011 – October 30
2008 – December 4 2012 – November 9
2009 – November 9 2013 – November 5
2010 – December 15
This rough-legged hawk was photographed along Modoc County Road 90. A large, dark carpal patch can be seen on the underwing, a good field mark to distinguish a rough-legged hawk. The wide, dark subterminal tail band, legs feathered to the toes and a head that appears whitish are also visible .
Although their return presages the snows to come, the return of these winter residents is welcome.