Middens with Mushrooms

With our area, Northeast California, in the midst of an extended drought, very few of the normally abundant fungi have appeared the last few years. Over the last week about 0.3″ of rain fell – not much by any standards. Ever the optimist I went to Ash Creek (Lassen County CA) in the hope of finding some mushrooms. What a delight to feel spongy pine duff under my feet rather than the crackly, dryness that greeted me all summer.

It did not take long to realize I was not the only one waiting for the mushrooms. Almost every chickaree (Douglas tree squirrel) midden was littered with mushroom detritus. See “Chickaree Middens” from 10-24-12. The chickarees left very few mushrooms for me to photograph. (With very rare exceptions Leonard and I do not eat wild fungi.)

The photographs show a chickaree midden with mushroom pieces and a ponderosa pine cone stripped of scales. As can be seen, the chickarees dug the mushrooms from a mushrump (hump in the ground caused by developing mushrooms) on the bank of Ash Creek.

The pictured mushrooms belong to the Bolete Family. Instead of gills, boletes have a thick layer of pores or tubes which are readily detachable from the mushroom cap. Almost every bolete scrap on the middens was missing the pore layer. Perhaps that is the most tasty, to a chickaree, part of the mushroom. I believe these boletes are short-stalked suillus (Suillus brevipes).

There may not have been many mushrooms, however, the chickarees probably were sated with the few that did appear.

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