urbpan: (dandelion)
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The day before Halloween we had an Urban Nature Walk at good old Mount Auburn. Among other things, we saw North America's most massive bird species.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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The edges of the thallus of this fungus suggest hammered metal, or at least they did back when such things were common, and lichen common names were up for grabs. Anyway, this is called "hammered shield lichen," Parmelia sulcata*

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Most of the visible part of it, and the part that we call Parmelia sulcata, is a fungus. The color comes from a green alga called Trebouxia, which is safely cared for within the flesh of the fungus, protected from drying out and blowing away. Or perhaps it is a prisoner, prohibited from living a free life apart from it's symbiont (there are free-living Trebouxia out there, apart from the lichen symbiosis).

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The fungus depends entirely on the algae living inside it, to photosynthesize and make food for both organisms.


* Little shield with grooves
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I was leaning my bike up against a cement wall when I detected the tiniest movement. This male zebra jumper (Salticus scenicus*), all of 4mm long, took my presence as a threat and was dancing to and fro and waving his folding pedipalps at me.
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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One of the wonderful things about lichenized fungi, like this Porpidia albocaerulescens, is that it can be found even when there's seven feet of snow on the ground. The algae that make the food for the lichen are well-protected within the flesh of the fungus. Lichen are found on the rocks of Antarctica and on the rocks of the Sahara Desert--a bad New England winter is nothing.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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I canceled February's walk on account of we had more snow on the ground than any other time in history, and I didn't feel like walking through it more than I already was. We had a fair amount of melt in late March, and I was feeling good about seeing what creatures were out on the last Sunday of the month. Then on the Saturday before, it snowed again. In the Blue Hills, where the walk was planned, they got about 3 more inches. A friend and once-frequent Urban Nature Walker was going to be working at a maple sugar festival at Brookwood Farm in the Blue Hills, so that's where we went.

Above you can see the grounds of Houghton's Pond Recreation Area, complete with fresh blanket of snow and incongruent obsolete technology. We parked here and took a shuttle bus to the farm.

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This time around [livejournal.com profile] mizdarkgirl suggested that we walk in the Blakely Hoar Nature Sanctuary in Brookline. We had twice as many people participating as we did January 2014. I took about a million photos, of which I've posted 20 or so:
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Here again I'm testing the camera's macro ability--these are lichens and mosses growing on the surface of a storm drain. I'll have to assume here that the mosses started it, and then the lichen fungi found the moss covered metal to be close enough to earth to colonize. My field guide doesn't have a section on lichens growing on steel. These are probably Cladonia sp., but again I'd love input from the real experts.

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This crustose lichen on smooth tree bark is probably something in Lecidela, Lecidea, or Porpidea.
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:

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Porpidia crustulata, Concentric boulder lichen.
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urbpan: (dandelion)
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I took a walk with Charlie yesterday in the Stony Brook Reservation. With my camera out of commission I've been using my phone to take pictures. I got a self-timer app to take photos like this. Since it was overcast and raining with very low light conditions, most of my pictures are terrible.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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I saw many partial fairy rings (fairy arcs?) in Florida. I saw lots of mushrooms in general, which I consider to be a huge factor in Florida's favor.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Disney's Coronado Springs is a hotel and conference center complex composed of a dozen or so buildings surrounding an artificial lake. There are many plantings of palms and other exotic tropical plants, in well-maintained mulch bed. The week I was there the weather was hot and humid with almost daily downpours in the afternoon. I thought I might see some mushrooms. I was right.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Wilson Mountain Reservation is a protected patch of woods on a stony hill in Dedham. The main entrance has a parking area which is almost always packed with cars full of dog owners taking their pets for a quick ramble up the path, often off-leash. My good friend [livejournal.com profile] dedhamoutdoors knows her town well, and took me to the back side of the Reservation, where we didn't see another human or canine soul. Perhaps the persistent light rain helped.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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Then we went and found Six Mile Cypress Slough, not far away. It's all boardwalks through cypress swamp. This great egret was right by the gate, sort of a wildlife emissary for the place.

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urbpan: (dandelion)
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I am indebted to my friend Ale (pronounced Allie) for suggesting the Cedar Grove Cemetery for our October Urban Nature Walk. It's large, beautiful, and unique. It borders the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester on one side and the Neponset River on the other. It is well-planted with sugar maples and other plants that are aglow with autumn colors (including the Boston ivy shown here).Read more... )
urbpan: (dandelion)
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On our way to the Urban Nature Walk at Malibu Beach I saw Turtle Pond and made a snap decision to pull over. The red maples are changing color and it's starting to look pretty amazing.

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Along one edge you can see the smaller understory trees yellowing up too.

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But for beautiful fall color I only had to look at the top of a wooden post, where British soldier lichens matched the nearby shrubs red for red.
urbpan: (dandelion)
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As luck would have it, when it was time to take yesterday's snapshot I was hanging out of my second story window (trying to fix a loose piece of siding that yellow jackets nested under last year) and I had my new camera with me.

What might I take pictures of with a new camera? Dogs? Lichen? Drainage conduit? Urban Nature? Click to see! )
urbpan: (dandelion)

The view out my office window pretty much always includes juncos this time of year.


Yet another snapshot that looks like a horror movie still.


This is a stick blown down by the storm. The bluish green growth was there first, lichen soaking up sunlight while perched high in the tree. Then a wood-decay fungus invaded, eating the branch from inside, eventually producing the reddish-brown fruiting bodies fighting for space alongside the lichens. Weakened by the fungus, the branch fell to my curious hands.
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I took Charlie on a rambling walk in the Stony Brook Reservation on Sunday. I tried to find paths that were new to me, and was happy to find some mushrooms! These swampy trees have some reddish-orange polypores on them. I had to get out feet a little damp to get closer. Luckily once I was at the right angle to take this picture, I found the same mushrooms growing out of the tree I was standing next to!

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Yesterday the predicted 4 inches of snow was nowhere to be found. Light flakes melted as the struck the warm ground, and it was actually quite pleasant to be outside. I'm actually too nervous, almost superstitious, to say that I'm happy about this winter's weather--it seems partly like tempting fate and partly like celebrating the good side of something really awful.
But the weather made for a dark but attractive palette. The reddish browns of the leaf litter and the greens of the mosses and lichens were damp and unusually vibrant.

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