Archive for October 13th, 2010


Autumn is a beautiful time to take a walk in the woods. The trees are dressed in their most brilliant colours. The mosquitoes and deerflies have finally disappeared. The lush undergrowth that catches at your feet has died back. It is quiet and serene, just the crunching of the fallen leaves underfoot and the occasional cry of a jay. The wildflowers and dragonflies and other more conspicuous attractions are gone too. But there are still interesting things to see, although they may require a more careful eye. Birdgirl and I went for a walk on Sunday, and here are a few of the things we saw.


It’s a good time of the year to look for fungi and lichens. Shown above is a Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) that we found nestled amongst the leaves. This fungus is common and widespread, found on forest floors. Pretty, isn’t it? However, it’s also poisonous.


This Pear-Shaped Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme) was close by. These little puffballs fruit in clusters on rotting logs or stumps. Puffballs produce their spores inside the fruitbodies, where they mature as a powdery mass. There is a pore at the apex of the puffball and when rain strikes the outside wall of the spore sac, the pressure forces a puff of spores out through the pore, to be carried away by the wind.


We saw a number of sizeable clusters of Pholiota malicola, another common fungus that fruits on or near stumps.


Rotting stumps are a good place to look for mosses and lichens such as these red-tipped British Soldiers (Cladonia cristatella), always fun to find.


The weeping sap of a fresh excavation on a nearby tree shows where a Piliated Woodpecker has been working. On the other side of the tree there were several larger cavities created by the woodpecker’s drilling.


We saw a number of ladybugs on several trees. Birdgirl identified them as a native species based on their more oval shape than the typically rounder Asian Ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis). The Asian beetles were introduced to North America to control aphids on commercial crops and are now considered an invasive species, threatening the 450 to 500 species of ladybugs native to the continent.


These little guys were really cute. What look like little bits of bluish lint on this tree are Woolly Aphids. The “wool” is actually a waxy substance that the aphid secretes to form long projections. The fuzz is thought to aid in protecting the aphid from predators and may provide some insulation benefit. There are a number of kinds of woolly aphids. To see close-up photos and learn more about these insects, you can visit a post by Birdgirl over at The Marvelous in Nature.

After a pleasant stroll, we headed back to the house. Our progress as we walked up the field was scrutinized by two curious donkeys, Louis and Teddy, who keep an eye on local comings and goings.


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