Thursday, December 29, 2011


Yellow-lored Toby-Flycatcher  Source:  Wikipedia

Yellow-banded poison dart frog  Source:  Wikipedia

Yello-spotted river turtle  Source:  Wikipedia

Black and Yellow Garden Spider  Source:  Wikipedia

Note the zig-zag pattern on the right side of the picture.  Here's a better look at the zig-zag pattern it weaves in the middle of its web.

Very cool!

Yellow Lab  Source:  Wikipedia

Flowering broomrape plant  Source:  Wikipedia
Common names:  Johnny Tuck, butter-and-eggs

Colorado potato beetle  Source:  Wikipedia

Yellow Wagtail  Source:  Wikipedia

Eyelash viper  Source:  Wikipedia

Yellow-dotted butterflyfish  Source:  Wikipedia

Spotted cucumber beetle  Source:  Wikipedia

Common toadflax  Source:  Wikipedia
and what my friend Lynne and I know as butter-and-eggs

You can click on the Wikipedia links under each picture for more information.  Have a golden day!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


 Vermillion flycatcher  Source:  Wikipedia

Redback spider  Source:  Wikipedia

Strawberry fields forever  Source:  Wikipedia

Scarlet kingsnake  Source:  Wikipedia

Orangutan  Source:  Wikipedia

Phantasmal poison frog   Source:  Wikipedia

Irish setter  Source:  Wikipedia

Red lacewing butterfly  Source:  Wikipedia

Eastern Red Scorpionfish  Source:  Wikipedia

Red panda  Source:  Wikipedia

Scarlet Skimmer  Source:  Wikipedia

Poinsettia   Source:  Wikipedia

Scarlet Macaw  Source:  Wikipedia

Two-spotted ladybug  Source:  Wikipedia

Happy holidays!  Hope you have a bright, red day!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Funky Fungi

When you think mushroom, what comes to mind?  Portobello?  Common white mushrooms?  Shitake?  There are several edible mushrooms that are not as common, but are edible.  Like the horn of plenty or black trumpet mushroom.  You can see where it got its name.

Source:  Wikipedia

The Funnel Chanterelle or Yellowfoot looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland, but is also edible.

Source:  Wikipedia

The next specimen doesn't even look like a mushroom, let alone edible, but it is - known as the lion's mane mushroom or hedgehog mushroom.  I think you really have to use your imagination to see anything resembling a hedgehog.

Source:  Wikipedia

This next mushroom certainly doesn't look like anything I'd want to eat.  I mentioned shitakes, well, this is a maitake and grows at the base of trees, particularly oaks.

Source:  Wikipedia

Maitake means 'dancing mushroom'.  I don't think it looks like it's dancing.  It's also known as Hen-of-the-woods.  Who names these things?

And here's one that looks like something from Star Trek - a black morel.

Source:  Wikipedia

Morels are especially used in French cuisine.  Nearly every mushroom has many names depending on the area of the U.S. or country you're in.  I've included several for each 'shroom, but certainly not all that are commonly used.   Morels are also known as hickory chickens, merkels, sponge mushrooms, dryland fish, and my personal favorite, molly moochers!

All wild mushrooms should be cooked thoroughly before eating as they are indigestible when raw.  And care should be taken in identifying them if you intend to pick your own because many can look similar to their toxic or poisonous counterparts.  Only a few varieties are actually lethal, but many more can make you extremely ill.

There are some unusual UNedible species as well.  Like ghost mushrooms, which are sometimes confused with oyster mushrooms.  Not sure?  Wait until dark because the ghost mushroom has bioluminescent gills.

Source:  Wikipedia

It almost looks like a rose bud.  Here's what it looks like in the dark.

Source:  Wikipedia

Think this looks like a common white mushroom?  Then you would be gravely wrong because this is one of the deadly varieties known as the Destroying Angel.

Source:  Wikipedia

You can click on the link underneath the above picture to see the entire list of deadly mushrooms.

One of the next pictures is of the jack-o-lantern mushroom which is toxic and the other is a chantarelle mushroom which is edible.  Can you tell the difference?

Source:  Wikipedia

Source:  Wikipedia

The top picture is the jack-o-lantern toxic one.

Mushrooms have uses other than eating.  Some are used in traditional Chinese medicines, and mushrooms are being studied by Western medical researchers to see if they have benefits as well.  In some countries, mushrooms extracts are given as a supplement to the primary cancer treatments.  Mushrooms were also used as dyes for natural fabrics before synthetic dyes were invented.

I've never been much of a mushroom fan myself, but then I've never had the more exotic types.  Mushrooms were just not on the menu when I was growing up unless it was something made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and I can't remember that we had that very often.  I think the texture has something to do with it, plus the fact that I don't think mushrooms have much taste.  I'll leave it up to my chef friends and relatives to prove me wrong!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Close Call

In my Gregarious Gulls post I said that nothing much had been going on nature-wise.  That was NOT a hint to Mother Nature to make something more exciting happen.  Something a little too exciting.  On my way home from work Thursday night I almost hit a deer!  It was dark and I didn't see the small herd crossing the highway until they were right in front of me.  Luckily I was able to stop in time and the deer "caught in my headlights" also hurried to get out of the way, but the look on its face is still in my head.  I must have scared it as much as I scared myself.  The adrenalin was definitely flowing after that close call.

Did you know that there are over 60 species of deer?  Deer are native to every continent except Australia and Antarctica.  However, Australia has several introduced species and deer occupy only a very small area of Africa.  But only five species are endemic to North America.  White-tailed deer are found in North America, Mexico, Central America and northern South America, although for some reason they don't live in Nevada, Utah, California, or Alaska.  That's the only kind of deer we have here in the east.

Source:  Wikipedia

But there are over 30 sub-species of white-tails, including Key deer.   Mule deer are usually only found west of the Missouri River and black-tailed deer, found in Pacific coastal areas, are generally considered a sub-species of mule deer.  Mule deer are especially common in the Rocky Mountain areas.

My parents used to live in Estes Park, Colorado and we would see deer around the house all the time.  Even though you weren't supposed to, my dad loved to feed them.

As you can see, they loved being fed - too much which is why you weren't supposed to.  One time I was visiting and a herd came through with a beautiful buck.  I nicknamed him Ralph!  Don't ask me why that name came to mind, but here's a picture of him.

It was right before dusk which is why the photo is a little dark.  The other species of deer found in North America I don't think of as deer, but they are - elk, moose and caribou.  We saw elk in Colorado too.  Large herds would come through Estes Park in the winter.  They would come down from the high country and stay in the 'warmer' areas around Rocky Mountain National Park.  Here are a couple photos I took.  I was so excited about being able to get pictures I accidentally locked myself out of my car!  So I hope you appreciate them!  :-)

There are many other types of deer from around the world, including fallow deer found in parts of Europe and Asia..

Source:  Wikipedia

the Common Muntjac found throughout Asia...

Source:  Wikipedia

the gray brocket found in South America...

Source:  Wikipedia

and you can read about the smallest species of deer in my Petite Pudu post.  Deer live in a variety of ecosystems from the tundra to tropical rainforests. Deer are mostly herbivores eating grasses, weeds, herbs, legumes, tender branches, grains, fruit, and acorns.  But they are opportunistic feeders and when food is scarce they have also been known to eat birds and mice.

I'm so glad I didn't hit that deer!  There have been reports of deer very near my house in a cleared electrical easement area between the mobile home park and the park I live next to.  I have yet to see them, but I hope to soon.  They have only been seen late at night though so pictures of them might not be possible.  We'll see.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tractable Tegus

Ever think about having a tegu as a pet?  You probably wouldn't unless you're really into reptiles!  A tegu is a lizard - and one of the larger lizards growing up to over four feet long.

Argentinian Black and White Tegu - Source:  Wikipedia

There are seven species of tegu and they are only found in South America. Tegus are considered very intelligent and the ones that are pets can become quite attached to their owners.

Source:  Wikipedia

Tegus enjoy a mixed diet of fruits and vegetables, insects like mealworms and crickets as well as an occasional mouse or fish.  However, the red tegu is mostly herbivorous and the Argentinian black and white tegu is carnivorous as a juvenile and becomes mostly herbivorous as an adult.  Tegus do hibernate during the winter in the wild and can live 15 to 20 years. Tegus are burrowers and have sharp teeth and claws for digging.

Unfortunately, tegus are a major part of the reptile leather trade, as well as the pet trade.  I prefer seeing tegus in the wild rather than in a cage or as a wallet in my purse!  For a video of a tegu, click here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gregarious Gulls

There hasn't been a whole lot going on nature-wise lately.  Now that it's colder the raccoons and woodchucks have gone into hibernation.  There's no snow on the ground so the only birds that show up at the feeder on a regular basis are those darn house sparrows, along with a few titmice and starlings.  The only thing I have noticed lately is an increase in our gull population.  There were five or six circling over the house a few weekends ago.

They are masters at finding the air currents and just soaring without a single flap of their wings.

They not only have been around the house more, but they have also been showing up in greater numbers in other places - like the neighborhood strip mall parking lot.  Why do they hang out in parking lots?  I can't believe that many people actually feed them, but maybe trash, especially from fast food restaurants, is the draw.

There is one parking lot in particular where they usually hang out - catching a few rays on a cold December morning.  (The first time I saw them I took a quick glance and thought 'why are all those rocks in the parking lot?')  But of course when I went there specifically to take photos none were in sight!  I continued my errands going to pick a prescription at the pharmacy when I saw this bunch and made a quick turn to capture them.  This is a flock of ring-billed gulls, so named because of the black ring around their bill.  Can you see it?

Their normal breeding habitat is around northern U.S. and Canadian lakes and rivers.  They winter further south as far as the Gulf of Mexico and are more likely to head for the coast and salt water then, as well as western Europe.

They are opportunistic feeders eating fish, grain, eggs, insects and rodents.  And, of course, they are not above stealing food from others, including a big Mac or french fry or two!

Come to think of it, there is a Mickey D's in that mall.  They can be considered pests by beach goers, but I don't think they'll find too many folks out there this time of year.  I always enjoy watching their antics and amazing flying skills.