Birds Tell All

I follow another blog called Cutter Light. It is a chronicle of an extraordinarily adventurous couple’s life working and living in remote locations. Illustrated with high quality photos and good writing, it is always a pleasure to read. I want to share two recent posts here that capture the essence of living in nature (whether urban, rural, or wilderness). Both essays involve birds and what they mean to us personally but also how birds are, uniquely, messengers from beyond the world where we are tethered.

Birds travel, migrate, sing. Their messages to us are as loud as a blaring siren and as obvious as a giant billboard if we tune in. These beautiful essays show us that language at work.

Memory and great horned owls:

2:00 AM: The Owls of Chignik Lake and Clarion River’s Gravel Lick Pool

Climate and species expansion, also limits to our knowledge of species at the edge:

The Week a Grosbeak Landed on my Head, a Chickadee Perched on my Tripod, and I finally got good Photos of Golden-Crowned Kinglets

 

Caddisfly

I did not expect newly emerged winged things to be coming out Oct 31, but here is a caddisfly (Halesochila taylori). One or two came to the house lights. I am still researching their biology. They live in healthy wetlands and near stream and lakes. So, Yay!

I love their elegant antennae and modern-art wing pattern.

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Caddisfly adult 10/31/3016 Gopher Valley OR

This trout fishing page has info on life cycle: http://www.troutnut.com/hatch/12/Insect-Trichoptera-Caddisflies

Creature and Blooms update Fall 2016

A quick post to showcase creatures we are enjoying here in Gopher Valley in NW Oregon.

Note: if you get this post by email, the videos will not show up. So try coming to the blog page to read.

Crickets this year are abundant.Their chirps monopolize the bandwidth of evening sound. We have two kinds: the slow-singers and the fast-singers. Perhaps bush and tree varieties. During hot late August and Sept evenings, one highly successful individual got the volume past the point of enjoyment for us mammals indoors.

In this video below you can hear the fast singer competing with the slow guys in the background. Apologies for the low res, but you can get the idea.

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Snowy tree cricket or maybe another kind.

Evening primroses (Oenothera sp) are not a native flower, but they bloom their hearts out all spring and summer into fall and the extended color, fragrance and nectar is a gift to insects and humans. Crickets perch on the stems, light evening primrose fragrance is released into the air each night when they open after dusk. Flowers open so quickly you can see the petals move! Easy to grow from abundant seed, too.

 

A couple of snakes. Some gopher snakes are very tame, but others are aggressive and defensive. I found a baby on the road that gathered all of it’s 6 inches into a compact spring and leaped toward me as I stepped back from taking a photo. This big one we petted as it toured the patio methodically looking into each and every corner for some dinner, and it hardly noticed us.

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Adult gopher snake

A rubbery rubber boa. They are usually underneath something.

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Rubber boa

 

Despite the heat, good old Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) came up from winter-sown seed in the hedgerow-in-progress, and bloomed by the end of the summer. Thank you, best native plant friend! And that is narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) keeping right up with it. Easier to start this year than the showy milkweed, and still native to our region. Contact me if you would like growing or seed source info.

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The Scientific and the Sublime

Oak leaves with galls

2016: Reposting something from the archives here, because of an article in the news. Forest Bathing has become a tourist activity around the world!  http://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/forest-bathing-a-mindful-walk-in-the-woods-no-getting-wet/

 

2010: Many plants sport growths (galls) caused by insects, and Oregon white oak has some spectacular large stem galls, as well as smaller, more fragile leaf galls. Here’s what the US Forest Service  has to say:

“Many gall wasps are found on oaks; those prominent on Oregon white oak include Andricus californicus, which forms large, persistent, applelike galls on twigs; Bassettia ligni, which causes seedlike galls under the bark of branches that often girdle and kill the branch; Besbicus mirabilis, which forms mottled, spherical galls on the underside of leaves; and Neuroterus saltatorius, which forms mustard-seed-like galls on lower leaf surfaces that drop in the fall and jump around like Mexican jumping beans caused by activity of the enclosed larvae.

Adults lay eggs in the leaves, twigs, or bark and the developing larvae signal the plant to produce the galls. According to A Field Guide to Insects and Diseases of California Oaks

“Adults are small wasps, typically no more than about 4 mm long . Larvae are small, whitish, and legless and develop completely inside larval chambers that form within the galls. Depending on the wasp species, each gall may have either one (monothalamous galls) or many (polythalamous galls) larval chambers.

Gall wasp larvae can apparently only induce galls in undifferentiated meristematic or cambial cells, [blogger’s note: these cells at the tips of growing points on the plant have not received the hormonal signal to become a particular type of tissue so the wasp larva is superceding the plant’s signal] so female wasps must lay eggs in specific host tissues (buds, leaves, etc.) when the tissues are at the correct growth stage.

Developing larvae produce substances that induce the plant to form a larval chamber of a structure that is unique to the wasp species and generation. The gall wasp larvae typically remain small while they induce the gall to grow rapidly. As the gall nears its mature size, larvae feed on nutritive tissue produced in the center of the gall and begin to grow rapidly. As the larvae mature, they induce lignification of the gall. In detachable galls, lignification may induce the gall to fall off the plant.

Larvae pupate within the gall and adult wasps emerge from the galls to initiate the next generation.

Many oak gall wasp species have two alternating generations; a sexual generation with females and males followed by an asexual generation with only females, which can lay fertile eggs without mating. Each of these generations produces a unique gall, often on different parts of an oak.”

The galls on the leaves in the photo above, formed by egg laying of the delightfully named Besbicus mirabilis are relatively new. At the center is a tiny hard nodule that contains the larva or, at this stage, perhaps the egg. Surrounding this is some white web-like porous tissue, all inside the thick-walled shell of the gall.

I found several large stem galls broken open on the ground recently, as if a bird or squirrel had been snacking on the larva inside. I took a stem gall – the one called an oak apple – from a cluster on an oak twig and opened it up. Suspended in the pithy tissue was a very hard round object. Inside this were two chambers full of wasp larvae you can see here [warning: close up of insect larvae, might remind you of maggots – skip ahead if you prefer!]

“oak apple” gall with wasp larvae

gall wasp larvae (likely Andricus californicus)

Hyper-parasitism – a parasite of a parasite – is not unusual in the insect world; parasites of caterpillars are themselves parasitized by even tinier wasps. So, besides the resourceful animals that know to break open these galls to get to the larvae, there may also be other wasps that lay eggs inside these larvae. Considering the armoring (both the outside of the gall and the chamber), it would be interesting to find out if there are any wasps that have evolved to gain access to these larvae.

You may be surprised by the females’ ability to reproduce without mating – this is also common in the insect world, especially among the species that have large population booms like aphids (born pregnant – not kidding!)

Okay, that was scientific. Now for the sublime:

While we were taking a break from sawing up a pile of slash from the restoration logging, I heard a woodpecker and walked toward the woods to get a closer look. We looked across a ravine at a downy, or a hairy woodpecker (according to Tom, who is the bird identifier) as it vigorously pecked away at the bark of an oak, possibly extracting insect larvae or beetles – organic pest control via the food web.

As we stood there, I was reminded of a great story in the NY Times about a study in Japan on the beneficial chemicals exuded by trees. The unfortunate scientific moniker applied to these wonderful substances is phytoncides, which sounds like something that kills plants, but actually was coined to mean “killed BY the plant”. These protective chemicals, produced to ward off insects and disease, have been found to benefit humans in subtle ways by regulating physiology and feelings of well-being.

Japanese researchers have been quantifying these effects, but the benefits of trees have not been news to the Japanese or many other cultures, which for millenia have recognized and sought out deep tree-connections).

The term for soaking up beneficial effects by spending time in the woods is Shinrin-yoku or “forest-bathing”. To me this is a good description of the sense of well-being and mental relaxation you get from immersing yourself in the forest experience. As Tom pointed out, all the time we spent in trees during our evolution should still influence our biology.

Gazing at a stand of oaks in the summer sun as their mature leaves reflect the light, is a qualitatively different experience from looking at conifers – which are a flat green whose needles seem to absorb light. The reflected green light of the oaks produces a corresponding lightness of being. Savoring this delightful moment, I was glad I had taken that break to get out of the blazing hot sun, and wandered off to look at a woodpecker.

 

It’s late summer – where’s the nectar?

I stopped procrastinating on a mission to crawl under the deck and fill in the ground squirrel holes and barricade them with chicken wire. Afterwards I was rewarded with a moment with the native asters (A. hallii) which were looking floriferous after getting some irrigation.

Then I noticed that they were alive with pollinators. Many small flies and bees, also a butterfly that showed up recently which is a skipper, probably a woodland skipper since those are common. This is why we need to leave some undisturbed ground and vegetation, since many pollinators are ground nesters or use vegetation to pupate or stow their eggs.

See a video of the action on my Taylor Gardens Facebook feed https://www.facebook.com/TaylorGardens/

See How Native Plants Deal With Drought: Two Native Plant Walks in August

For anyone within shouting distance of Yamhill County, Oregon (Portlanders out for a day of wine tasting, I’m talking to you), make your trip to wine country memorable and instructive by attending a Taylor Gardens native plant walk on August 27. Or, if you work near McMinnville, take a stroll with me in the evening at Miller Woods, the Soil and Water Conservation District property just outside town. That’s on August 29.

Here’s why it will be fun: you will learn to recognize 10 native plants that you might see in a landscape, or on a hike, even if you can’t tell a nasturtium from a petunia. You will find out how these plants can be used in your garden, and why they are great for wildlife!

Please come with us and enjoy the native flora up close. Oh, there are birds too – have you ever seen an Acorn Woodpecker? The plant walk at Winter’s Hill Winery on Sat, August 27 offers a chance to see and/or hear these birds of oak woodlands that look like clowns and sound like one of the Three Stooges. At Miller Woods, there are hawks, harriers, Pacific Slope Flycatchers, swallows, and red-winged blackbirds galore.

Did I mention wine? The Saturday, August 27 walk is at a winery famed for its luscious Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Rose, among others. They will let you taste for a small fee. Picnicking is free. And the view, well, you have to be there to believe it.

Here is a link to sign up for both or either of these walks. They are $10 each, and the kids are free.

Sign Up Now!

The year in birds

Birds make us free. In their comings and goings, they vocalize and perform the turning of the year and the seasons. We imagine the journeys of migrants to and from exotic places, and when they come back, we are complete. The ones who stay with us are our constant friends.

A few days ago, Black-headed Grosbeaks were heard. Shortly thereafter Western Tanagers chirped. Today, May 9, 2016 I heard the spiraling song of the Swainson’s Thrush in its usual place in the woods. Aahh, spring can begin.

There are a couple not yet seen or heard – I saw on the Mid-Valley birder’s list that Western Wood Pewees have returned. I think I heard a Pacific Slope Flycatcher, but not the Pewee yet. Still listening for a  Wrentit and Chipping Sparrow (probably here but not seen yet). Hermit Thrushs may have stopped off, but they are very low profile.

As one group moves in we hear or see them constantly. Then the chorus changes to another. Such a delight!

The lineup so far:

House wren

American Goldfinch

Evening Grosbeak (one of the first returnees)

Common Yellowthroat

Orange-crowned Warbler

White-crowned Sparrow

Golden-crowned Sparrow (may have moved on to higher altitude or latitude)

Purple Finch

Rufous Hummingbird

Black-Throated Gray Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Hutton’s Vireo

Cassin’s Vireo

Residents:

Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (?)

Western Scrub hay

Red-Breasted Sapsucker

Oregon Junco

Winter/Pacific Wren

Song Sparrow

Red-Shafted Flicker (finally moved out of the veranda by the shop into the snags in the woods)

Steller’s Jay (not hogging the feeders anymore)

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

Mourning Dove

American Robin (always the last to bed, and the first up)

Great-Horned Owl

Pygmy Owl

Western Screech Owl

Saw-Whet Owl

Brown Creeper

White-Breasted Nuthatch (not seen this year yet)

California quail (have been here in the past, at the neighbors’ this year)

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (moved on)

Golden-Crowned Kinglet (moved on?)

Bushtits (moved on?)

Varied Thrush (moved on)

Red-Tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture

Cooper’s/Sharp-Shinned Hawk (occasionally hunting at the feeders)

Fly-overs

Barn Owl

Common Raven

Geese – Cackling, Greater White-Fronted migrated recently northwesterly

Crow

Mallard – visited our pond, then left. It never measures up

In the neighborhood, or at the neighbors

American Kestrel

Northern Harrier

Eurasian Collared Dove

Great Blue Heron

Western Bluebirds

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Snags

Snags are standing dead or dying trees. In natural forests in the Pacific Northwest, there are usually a number of trees that have died from lack of light, overcrowding, competition and whatnot. Forests older than 150 years are heading into old growth status and by then some trees in these forests have been killed by fungi infecting the roots or trunk (the diseases they cause go by colorful names like stringy butt rot or laminated root rot). Wind is a big creator of snags. There may be some broken tops in trees with sound roots but weak trunks (windsnap) or if the roots are rotten or the ground soft from rain and snow, blow downs (windthrow).

In an old-growth west side conifer forest (250 – 1000+ yrs) diversity abounds: openings where giants have fallen let in light to allow shrubs and seedlings to grow better, there is wood on the ground, standing dead snags, trees growing out of nurse logs, a mossy zone with perennials and groundcovers, a shrub layer, a lower understory tree layer, intermediate to very tall trees. This is all great from an ecologist’s perspective.

An oak woodland has a different character. If a woodland or savanna was burned, it might have an open character. If no fire killed the young trees and brush, it will be crowded with skinny trees reaching over each other for the light, maybe one or two legacy giants that were seedlings 150 to 300 years ago, overtopped by douglas firs; dappled shade, poison oak shrubs, and vines climbing the trees, grasses, a few shrubs (serviceberry, snowberry) and flowering bulbs (camas) and perennials (checkermallow, strawberries) persist in the low light. There will be dead standing oaks in either case, many with dead branches and brittle broken limbs among the live ones. And lichens: many species and a great biomass of lichens.

In a managed forest, the forester does the thinning in order to grow fatter trees for market, like a row crop. When these trees – all the same age – are eventually cut, like giant broccoli, there will be some green trees left and some dead standing snags because the Oregon Department of Forestry requires it.

Why? Why do we value snags enough to write them – however few and inadequate in number – into the forestry regulations? Life. And diversity. A dead tree has arguably more life in it than a live tree. The diversity of fungi, bacteria, and wood decay organisms is enormous. Beetles, termites, ants, and others feed on the dead wood and fungi. These are the base of the food web, the decomposers and recyclers that return nutrients stored over decades or centuries, to the forest.

There are plenty of birds (woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches) who visit the snag to find food, and excavate nest cavities in the softening wood. Others (owls, bats) who can’t excavate a hole, use those made by woodpeckers, in a grand circle of beneficial re-use and mutual aid. A dead tree is a great place for a raptor like a hawk or osprey to nest or sit and watch for prey, possibly a douglas or flying squirrel. Snags are so important to wildlife that getting rid of them endangers species that rely on old growth and dead wood.

Next time you drive through the Oregon Coast Range on the way to the beach, observe the difference between a national forest and adjacent tree farms owned privately or by the BLM. Instantly the trees get bigger in the national forest, the ground level cooler and more diverse, the depth of the canopy is higher and the light changes. Streams look like real streams. This you can tell at 55 miles per hour.

We had a tree next to the house made into a snag. A dougfir that needed to be removed for safety. Our arborist Brian French (that’s him up the tree in photo below) took off the limbs, topped it and crafted a new jagged top – an outstanding fake lightning strike to accelerate fungal invasion. (Final touch was a birdhouse built by birdman Tom Brewster, volunteer with the Yamhill Conservation District, local woodworker, and possessor of the best Willamette Valley accent/drawl ever.) Brian also hollowed out a section of trunk behind a carefully cut piece of bark, then replaced the bark so the birds could move in right away without waiting for the snag to soften up.

Just in time for nesting season, a tree swallow pair scouted it and pronounced it livable. The rest of the flock looks on in envy. For the first time we have tree swallows careening over the house grabbing insects in the new, more sunny and open space. Yay snag.

Birdbox time! Help the cavity nesters. Buy one from YSWCD this weekend in McMinnville.

This just in from the Wildlife experts: this is a good time to CLEAN bird nesting boxes or put up new ones. See all the details below. And if you need a grand nesting box, you can’t do better than the Yamhill County Soil and Water Conservation District plant sale Thurs – Sat 2/4 – 2/6/2016 at the Heritage Center on Hwy 18.

They are made from Oregon white oak and other wood, solid and built to last. They are the next best thing to tree cavities, fast disappearing in our valley.

Source: Crossing Paths – Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Native thistles for hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and birds

LOVE the native thistles. I have purchased some beautiful western thistle seeds to plant in Gopher Valley as ornamentals and nectar plants . Wa-hoo! I hope they germinate and grow well.

Klamath-Siskiyou Native Seeds

Swallowtail butterfly on western thistle Swallowtail butterfly on western thistle (Cirsium occidentale) Photo: Marvin Keller

Despite their beauty and value for pollinators and birds, native thistle species have long been undervalued. I often hear people make condescending remarks about thistles when I table at events. Someone may see that I have native thistle seeds for sale and make a comment along the lines of: “Thistles are horrible, why would you want to plant those?” What they don’t realize, however, is that native thistles play a critical role in native ecosystems. Native thistles get a bad rap simply because of people’s association with their weedy, invasive relatives like bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense).

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 8.22.24 PM Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on a non-native, invasive bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Bull thistle was introduced into Oregon in the late 1800s,  and it now occurs in every county in the state. Canada thistle has been around for about the…

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Worth the price of the paywall to view this story

It would be great if ecosystem managers could bring Indians in to help with Traditional Ecological Knowledge to maintain meadows w/ fire. Grazing could be helpful too, because volunteers get worn out doing everything by hand. Long story short: noble firs on Mary’s Peak, relict population from more widespread extent during cold post-glacial times, are invading the meadows on the peak (no more grazing + fire suppression; climate is more conducive now because less snow). So firs are being manually removed and will be hand weeded in future. Otherwise, the biodiversity of the meadows would give way to thick forests. Trees will remain in the historically forested zone. We’ll still have a nice view, native plants will be happy.

Source: Climate change triggers triage in Northwest forests — High Country News

Fires on the Malheur

Appropriate commentary here on a current event unfolding in eastern Oregon. Arsonists do not represent the best face of residents in Oregon.

There is a lot of good collaborative work going on between US Fish and Willdife managers at Malheur NWR and local ranchers to cooperatively manage for best practices and maximum value to ranchers and wildlife. See more on the benefits to the local economy here http://www.gorp.com/weekend-guide/travel-ta-oregon-sidwcmdev_068696.html and here https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/double-o-habitat-management-plan-malheur-national-wildlife-refuge

NDNHISTORYRESEARCH | Critical & Indigenous Anthropology

 

In an earlier article, I wrote about how anthropologenic fire-setting by Native American peoples was good for the land. I suggested that even the fires set by the Hammonds on leased BLM lands which burned onto the Malheur Wildlife Refuge may be seen as positive for the land.

malheurnationalwildliferefuge

However, I have now read through the details of how the Hammonds went about setting their fires, the source of their court convictions, and the reason they lost their lease. This conflict has nothing to do with the cost of their lease. After reading their Grazing lease application decision (denial), the way they went about setting the fires was not in any way positive towards the land.

First they seemed to want to take no responsibility for setting the fires. They originally set the fires to eliminate juniper so more grass would grow for their cattle. In fact the BLM…

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It’s Raining – But Only Under This Tree

I had an arresting experience when I went out into the woodland the other day. It has been extremely dry this winter in Oregon, but there is often a lot of fog. As I walked under one of the larger Douglas firs there was a sound of dripping rain on dried oak leaves and yet, it was not raining.

I’m not sure if I have ever experienced fog drip first hand in quite this way. I learned about it many years ago as a very significant (in the statistical meaning) source of ground water and soil moisture in the western Cascades.

Have I ever been in the woods when they are dripping? Yes, but standing under one single tree, that is collecting and dropping water is kind of eerie when everything else is quiet, the ground is dry, and it’s just very foggy. Being present as a tree essentially waters itself and channels the water into ground storage, reveals how trees = water = more trees and life.

So, come along with me and experience it for yourself. You might be able to see the raindrops falling in this cellphone movie:

Here, stand in the open where no rain is falling, and look back toward the mixed oak and the big Doug fir in the ravine. These trees were left behind when the forest was logged the first and/or second time in the last century. We left them too, when we thinned trees to revive the oak woodland. They protect a riparian zone of seasonal streamflow – the source of some of that flow is now apparent! That’s a Steller’s Jay imitating a Redtailed Hawk in the background.

So, why fog drip under conifers and not oaks (I asked myself)? I believe that the answer lies in leaf architecture. Moisture runs off the vast surface area of thousands of needles intercepting fog. Oaks are leafless in winter, but besides that, they support a huge biomass of lichens and mosses, which are designed to soak up nutrients and water from the air, as it’s their life support. Hence, lichens and mosses may tend to increase the humidity around a tree, but they sponge up rather than repel moisture like fir needles. Fir needles don’t need the moisture – they send it to the roots where they can use it.     Wow.

Looking back at some posts you may have missed

Beginning this week, I’ll post a few of my old favorites from months and years gone by.

It’s winter 2013 here on the edge of the Oregon Coast Range, the fog has rolled in after unseasonable cold weather, and now the skies are dripping – a good time to look at our beautiful lichens.

Mostly dormant during the long dry summer, any bit of moisture brings the neon greens of nitrogen-rich Lobaria pulmonaria (lungwort) popping out of the background, inviting us to look closer at all the clothing on the trees and logs, ground and rocks. Lobaria and Usnea lichens make a nice orange to orange-brown dye for wool which imparts a distinctive fragrance and, usually moth proof characteristics!

Here is my short look at some of the charismatic lichens of our woods, originally posted in December of 2010.

Lichens are so…likable!!

Although very important, they are under-appreciated. The spongy, moist, fungus-friendly winter is dark and depressing to us mammals, but it’s high season for lichens.

That grey-green color of the oaks in the GVJournal masthead?   Lichens!

Here’s are galleries with some fun facts.

Oak branch with a load of assorted lichens

  • Biodiversity.

Lichens are incredibly diverse and able to grow in extreme environments. Their chemistry is important to the ecosystems where they grow. For example, they are an important source of nitrogen in forests, and in arid lands, they conserve valuable topsoil. But to do their job, they need undisturbed substrates to grow on.

They also provide an environment for many organisms to exist – tiny arthropods and invertebrates that keep nutrients cycling in the ecosystem.

Why away from cities? Because lichens absorb all their nutrients and moisture directly from the air, they are sensitive to air pollution. This quality is so specific, scientists use them to map air quality and pollution levels. They can also concentrate some metals and radiation and be hazardous to consumer.

In cities pollution-tolerant lichens predominate, some less tolerant ones are distorted or rather small compared to lichens in fresh, clean air. Several of the lichens on the tree branch above, and the two below are very sensitive to pollution, and also need very moist air so they can function. The high humidity in the coastal NW promotes the growth of large showy lichens in clean air zones like mature and old-growth forests.

Lobaria pulmonaria – “lungwort”

Pseudocyphellaria anomala – “netted specklebelly”

  • Some people are under the impression that the “load” of lichens is damaging to trees and shrubs, but this is not the case.

They use plants as a place to grow but there is no evidence of damage. In fact the massive increase in surface area may be one reason why forests are able to extract and transfer appreciable amounts of moisture from “fog-drip” to watersheds even when it’s not actually raining.

  • The colorful common names of lichens indicate their longstanding interest to us. Many are important to a number of wildlife species, and to humans historically and in modern times.

Food, camouflage, dyes, and antibiotics are among the uses that other life forms have for lichens. The long strands of Old Man’s Beard and other Usnea species are collected to extract its chemicals which have antibiotic properties. It also protects animals that use it for nesting material.

Some medium long Usnea longissima

The alga is able to photosynthesize, producing carbohydrates which are then channeled to the fungal partner. Interestingly, if the algal partner is cultured separately, the carbs hardly “leak” at all. The fungus makes it possible for the alga(e) to live in places it normally would not survive. The fungi and algae each look completely different individually, and only take on their lichen form when together.

Although the association is termed symbiotic, it appears that it’s not an equal partnership. Lichenologists consider the fungus to be the controlling partner “farming” the alga or algae.

Even though we’ve used them for millenia, there’s always something new to learn about lichens. Scientists are studying some extra fungi present whose exact function is unclear.

This can happen very quickly. If you spray a dry lichen with water, it will  absorb moisture and change color immediately. This is a sign it is active.

In fact, lichens need alternate wetting and drying to cycle carbohydrates back and forth between the fungal and algal partners.

Dry Summer Lichens – bumpy leafy one is Lobaria pulmonaria

The same Lobaria species when it’s moist

-A Gallery of Gopher Valley Lichens click to view-

A Gallery of Gopher Valley Lichens

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Thanks to lichenologist Katherine Glew (Univ of Washington) for teaching me about lichens. I can remember some of it.

Lichens of North America, by I.M. Brodo, S.D. Sharnoff & S. Sharnoff, and Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest, by B. McCune and L. Geiser

Western Oak Looper – Beginning A New Generation

If you missed the news this late summer about the patches of oak devastation near Sheridan and other places in the Willamette Valley, here’s a hyper-local update (our property). When the damage is in full spate (i.e. the larvae are making oaks and doug firs look dead and blighted) it’s all about the caterpillars. Right now (mid November) I am seeing these moths everywhere flopping around on the ground. Their diaphanous wings seem hardly up to the task of finding a mate and laying eggs, particularly when they are rain-soaked. However, I’m sure we’ll be seeing their leaf-chewing offspring soon enough. By the way, there is a nice description of life cycles in that first link above. I highly recommend.

Perhaps these adults arrived from Dupee Valley or even as far as Red Prairie, where the oaks looked blasted last summer, carried on the wind of fall storms? They seem to be weak flyers so it’s hard to imagine them making the trip under their own steam.

It will be interesting to see whether our oaks get the same treatment next year, having escaped till now. See previous post for a good control method: our beloved brown creepers.

Western Oak Looper Used with permission:Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org Lambdina fiscellaria somniaria image #2252041

Western Oak Looper adult
Used with permission:Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Lambdina fiscellaria somniaria

Oyster Yard 2013

It’s oyster mushroom season here in the Pacific NW. This is the domestic variety on our Oregon white oak logs. Soon it will be time to cut and inoculate a new batch. I think the next one will be combo logs of both shiitake and oyster. Should it be warm or cold weather shiitakes? Vote early and often using the contact form!IMG_4609 OystersOct2013 OysterYard2

Wild Trout and Salmon Make a Landscape More Beautiful: 10 Reasons We Use Our Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend to Support Trout Unlimited

Had to share this because it is articulate, beautifully photographed, and seasonally (and in so many other ways) appropriate!

CutterLight

orca baby and mother n

Reason #1: Because baby orcas need milk, and this mother needs a healthy diet of wild salmon to produce that milk. (Orca mother and offspring, Gulf of Alaska)

monica at samon creek n

Reason #2: Because Monica’s pregnant and eating for three. (Brown bear affectionately named Monica by local park rangers, Salmon Creek, Hyder, Alaska)

currants wild n

Reason #3: Because the ocean is full of nutrients which salmon embody as they return to their natal rivers and streams, and salmon forests thrive on salmon fertilizer courtesy of all the bears, eagles, mink, crows, ravens, otters, foxes and other animals that eat salmon. (Wild currants, Ptarmigan Creek, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska)

merganser common

.merganser chicks swimming clear water n

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Reason #4: Because this merganser needs to find fresh salmon eggs to keep her brood well fed and growing. (Common mergansers, Salmon Creek, Hyder, Alaska)

camp meal on Deschutes n

Reason # 5: Because a meal cooked under starlight after a day of fishing with your best friend tastes better…

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The Rains Descend

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hazelnuttruck_2

Fall means fresh hazelnuts and walnuts, still lots of produce from local farms

Suddenly, the fall rains are here. From our weather station record I see that:

  • Last Sept (2012) the total rainfall was 0.01″
  • So far this month 5.89″ have fallen out of the sky. The storm began on 9/20 and is still dumping rain – currently at a rate of 0.12″ per hour, but occasionally much heavier.
  • Another fact from the weather station archives: it was 96 degrees F. 3 weeks ago on Sept 10, 2013. Crikey!

The oaks will be slow to turn brown and drop their leaves, but acorns on the ground are cracking open with new sprouts already taking advantage of the wet.

Rather than waxing on about the weather and seasons, I defer to a very nice post by Verlyn Klinkenborg of the NY Tiimes, [this excerpt will take you to the main page – that’s all the copyright I could afford]

The Silence of the Leaves

By VERLYN KLINKENBORG

…I’ve been thinking about the way autumn has stolen upon us. When the first leaves turn — a roadside maple in August — it’s easy to ignore the coming season. But now all the trees are turning in concert, rushing to a foregone conclusion. I’m struck by how silently it happens. The pastures have gone quiet at night. … more