urbpan: (dandelion)
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When I first encountered salamanders in the swampy seep at the edge of Ward's Pond, I misidentified them as northern dusky salamanders; a fried suggested it might be the leadback phase of the red-backed salamander; then, more recently, it was suggested that this is the two-lined salamander. This picture was taken on an uncommonly warm December 26. I think I'll return to the pond in spring, with my more knowledgable friends, to settle this amphibian mystery.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This lone elbiem (little brown mushroom) went unidentified during our most recent Urban Nature Walk in Waltham. I suspect it's related to either Xeromphalina or Marasmius mushrooms.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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The fact that I'm unable to identify these mushrooms does nothing to take away their charm and beauty. (probably Mycena) These are in the Wiessner Woods in Stowe Vermont.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I found these little guys in the same mulch bed with the mysterious phallic mushrooms from the last post. This was in a drug store parking lot in the city of St. Louis Missouri. I was not surprised to find these tiny bird's nests--wood chips are a predictable habitat for them--and I was confident I could identify them when I got a close look at the picture.

Flash forward to this week, when I spend some time looking at them closely, checking the key, and coming to no conclusion. Well, I came to the conclusion that these are not either of the two species that are very common in the urban northeast, they are one of the other 39 species that occur in North America. The little "eggs" inside are black rather than white, as they are in the members of Nidulariaceae* that I am familiar with.

In any case, the natural history of this mystery species is likely to be very similar: The cups emerge from the substrate with little covers on, which either peel back or dissolve away, leaving the eggs exposed. Then the rain comes, and if a drop hits the cup in the right place it will splash the egg some distance away. In some species a cord is attached to the egg, and will entangle it on objects in its path. Then the covering on the egg wears away, exposing the spores; some species may depend on being accidentally eaten by herbivorous animals to spread the spores.

*Small nest family
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I was unable to identify this pretty red mushroom, but it's probably a Russula.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This beautiful youngster is a stinkbug in the family Asopinae.* This family differs from all the others in that it is a predator. Most Asopines attack small soft-bodied creatures like aphids or caterpillars. Others attack their cousins, the plant-sucking stink bugs. Predatory stink bugs have been used for biocontrol in gardens and crops for this reason. This nymph has yet to grow wings, and my photo was sent to the bugguide file "Not Yet Identified Nymphs."


* from the Genus Asopus, from a Greek river god of the same name.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I thought having a pair in flagrante delicto was supposed to help you identify them?? Alas, even my facebook experts are stumped on these opposite-facing lovers, and the picture isn't good enough to subject it to bugguide.net's scrutiny. All we can say for sure is Order hemiptera.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I picked a wine cap mushroom, a nice fresh one that looked like it would make a good spore print. I looked at the gills, they were purple and intact, but I could see something wedged in them. It was some kind of insect larva. There are many kinds of beetles and flies that lay eggs in mushrooms, allowing their young to develop enveloped in the nourishing safety of fungus flesh.

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I carefully worked it out of its refuge with my knife, and was surprised to see what appeared to me to be a caterpillar. I posted these photos on a caterpillar identification group on facebook, and someone quickly pointed out that I was barking up the wrong tree. This larva has no distinct head, meaning it is not a lepidopteran, but a dipteran. This baby fly is in the Syrphidae* family--hover flies and flower flies. Syrphid larvae are predators--aphid killers come to mind. What was this one doing in the lamellae of a mushroom? Dunno, but possibly it was hunting fungus gnat maggots or other tiny prey. Have any entomologists out there heard of mushroom-dwelling syrphids?



* From Ancient Greek σύρφος (súrphos, “gnat, winged ant”)
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I know almost nothing about mayflies, but I recognize them when I see them: the tapered body and long tails seem distinctive to me. I know that they breed in clean and/or moving water, and that fly-anglers have probably studied them more than almost anyone. The scientific name for the mayfly order is Ephemeroptera--a nod to the very short lifespan of the adult stage of the insect.

Knowing what little I do, I'm going to attempt an identification anyway. Short middle tail, dark brown body, dark front legs and other legs lighter. I'm leaning toward Leptophlebia cupida, the early brown spinner. This species looks right in my references, plus it is active in April and May, and found across the North American continent. As always, I'm eager to be contradicted by someone who knows the taxa better.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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These mushrooms are growing from a log in front of the (indoor) tapir exhibit. They probably were there when the log was brought indoors. Most likely this is Poronidulus conchifer, a species that has strikingly banded cuplike mushrooms when fresh but quickly fades to whitish.

Ant; eater

Jan. 3rd, 2015 02:20 pm
urbpan: (dandelion)
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So this is me trying to get a good shot of an ant with my new camera, through a loupe.

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Here it is without the loupe (just enlarged and cropped in iPhoto)

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Through the loupe, then enlarged and cropped in iPhoto. You can see the two nodes on the petiole between the thorax and abdomen. These were critical (along with other field markings) in identifying this ant as Tetramorium sp., the pavement ant.

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None for you Jockamo! Enjoy your blue ice treat instead.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I found these mushrooms about a week ago in my brush pile. A couple days laterRead more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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On xmas day, since I had the day off, I puttered around the house. Messed about on the internet for hours, and played with dogs. Also I walked around the yard looking for mushrooms. Sounds crazy, looking for mushrooms in late December, but it's been rainy and fairly warm lately, so it could happen.

Back in the brush pile there's a sapling Norway maple (about 3 inches diameter) trunk laying there. This beautiful fresh bloom of coral spots caught my eye.

As I backed out of the pile I saw what looked like mushroom caps--could it be?

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Holy crap! I didn't think to take a sample for a spore print. Feels a little like a honey mushroom but a little wrong. Could be growing out of anything--it's coming from a huge pile of dead wood, but there are live tree roots under there too.

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I'm just happy that they are there. If they're still there this weekend I might put some more effort into identifying them.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Growing inconspicuously inside a huge hollow stump (probably an oak, based on the size and location), I nearly missed these mushrooms. It was December 24th 2014 and the cluster of caps glistening there looked like--if you'll pardon some zookeeper earthiness--a pile of deer scat. But it was levitating near the rim of the hollow stump, so I stopped and angled my camera down to look at them from below. I will guess that these are Mycena mushrooms, pending confirmation from the experts.
urbpan: (dandelion)
Buying a new lichen field guide and then going out to try to identify as many as possible was amazingly humbling. I'm gonna need someone to hold my hand through this process, because it's more difficult than I thought. If you are good at this, I need your help--it might be good to know these are all on Great Blue Hill, on a wet day. Ready? Here goes:

lichen01 photo P1010125_zps57207bb4.jpg
Porpidia crustulata, Concentric boulder lichen.
Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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This moth by my porch light is one of two species: either a winter moth, Operophtera brumata, or a Bruce spanworm O. bruceata. Bruce spanworm moths are more likely to be flying in autumn, but there's a chance that this is a winter moth flying early. The field marking that distinguishes them is a small spot on the underside of their hind wings.

This is a male moth, by the way, females of both above species are flightless.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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We saw lots of mushrooms but I only brought home three photos. This one's scaly yellowish tops (not pictured), crowded brown gills, and habitat (growing from a dead hardwood) suggest Gymnopilus sp., but the lack of a distinct ring on the stem says otherwise. File as unknown.

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Colors look like Ganoderma lucidum complex, but matte finish texture is all wrong. File as unknown polypore.

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Coral mushrooms need microscopy to positively identify. Color, habitat (growing from deadwood), and degree of branching strongly suggest Artomyces pyxidatus.

We found a group of blewits, too--but instead of the expected purple they were a faintly pink buff color. All other field markings including odor and spore print fit perfectly.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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Like most of the things in this post, these mushrooms are unidentified. They are polypores--which is a bit like saying an animal is an arthropod.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I was frankly dreading today's Fungi Field Walk, because we're in the middle of a drought. I don't think it's rained in over 2 weeks. I expected to find maybe some polypores and perhaps some little forest mushrooms like this one--probably Dacryopinax spathularia.

Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
Every year there's a sudden drop off of visible biodiversity in the North, as cold weather arrives and many of the insects disappear. This year was especially hard on me, as I spent one of the last weeks of the summer in Florida, where insects and spiders and large wading birds and giant reptiles are loose everywhere, all the time as far as I know. Then I came back to Boston on a change of weather day--everyone in Boston thought it was pretty cold compared to the day before, but it was like a 30 degree drop for me. I looked around my yard and it looked like I'd been away for months: the grass was brown, all the sunflowers had come and gone, the perennials and wildflowers had all gone to seed.

I just posted this on tumblr, with a mopey caption:
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It's terribly blurry, but the wing veins are nice and visible, in case any entomologists want to identify it. I know it's a carrion fly but beyond that who knows?

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