Field Journal: 03 - 09 March 2019 - Signs of Spring Edition

I hiked the full length of Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail this week, which I don't usually do because much (most?) of it passes through grassland and chaparral - fascinating ecosystems in their own right, but not my personal cup of tea. On the southerly portion, there are two new landslides that cross the trail. The dirt has been cleared off the trail, so access isn't affected. The southeast corner of the trail is under 2-3 inches of water.

It was worth it for the bluebird alone.

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a harbinger of spring. Western Bluebirds are year-round residents of Marin County, thanks in large part to mild winters and plenty of bountiful berry-bearing plants. I was excited to see this one because they're birds of the grasslands and chaparral, so I don't see them very often. Also, blue happens to be my favorite color to spot in the wild.

Redwood Violet (Viola sempervirens)

A surer sign of spring is the sudden appearance of Redwood Violets blanketing the alluvial flat and the east- and north-facing slopes. I call them Yellows, and I doubt I'm the first person to do so.

California Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus)

California Buttercups are a common flower here, and I'm always excited to see them emerge in the spring. They'll be dotting the grassy hillsides with their signature yellow for the months ahead.

Cherry-Red Waxy Cap (Hygrocybe laetissima)

The little "hat" of upside-down gills on the cap of this mushroom is something I've seen before in other species. I don't know what goes askew to make this happen, but I squeal with delight every time I see it.

Waxy Cap (Genus Hygrocybe)

This is my new favorite shade of yellow.

Scarlet Cup (Sacryscypha coccinea)

I was surprised to see the white stipe on this mushroom. The Scarlet Cup is a new species for me; I mistook them for the stemless Scarlet Elfcup (S. austriaca,) which I'd previously found nearby.

Elfin Saddle (Genus Helvella)

Elfin Saddles are sturdy, long-lasting mushrooms.

Coral Tooth Fungus (Hericium coralloides)

This exquisite fungus was about 10 yards (9 m) up a snag (standing dead tree.) We spotted fresh Coral Tooth on the same snag during the OneTam Fungus Bioblitz on 26 January 2019.

Candlesnuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Candlesnuff isn't as easy to find now as it was in early winter. These knobby little antlers are stout and persistent (for a fungus,) but they do eventually wilt and desiccate.

Unidentified Lichen

Beautiful sticks continue to fall from the canopy.

Emery Rocktripe Lichen (Umbilicaria phaea)

This Rocktripe took me by surprise. They've colonized a scant two square yards on the north-northeast face of a trailside boulder, and most of that is obscured by tall grasses; I had to brush them aside to get this photograph.

Hanging Slime Mold (Badhamia utricularis) Sporangia - 03 March 2019

These sporangia are the fruiting bodies of the Badhamia plasmodium I photographed last week.

Hanging Slime Mold (Badhamia utricularis) Sporangia - 04 March 2019

This is the same sporangia on the following day. The lighting looks different here because I used artificial lighting. My usual practice is to use natural lighting, because I'm trying to accurately share what I see as I encounter it, but this is a ridiculously difficult location to photograph. They're on the underside of a log and about 20 inches away from a tree.

Unidentified Slime Mold (Myxomycetes)

Slime molds have taught me an important life lesson about not having to identify everything. Sometimes it's just not possible without microscopy and/or DNA analysis. Sometimes it's not possible at all. These sporangia are too early in their development for me to even attempt an identification, and I didn't make it back in time to witness their final form. But I felt lucky to see them at all, on their face-down square-inch patch of sloughed-off bark alongside the trail. I don't have to know their name to appreciate them.

California Turret Spider (Antrodiaetus riversi) Burrow

The east side of Roy's Redwoods Loop Trail is a good place to find California Turret Spider burrows. They like to build their murder-holes on shady banks along trails.

California Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus)

Happy to report the continued omnipresence of Slender Salamanders.

Yellow-Eyed Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica)

This is a classic Ensatina threat-response posture, which is understandable, since I've just (temporarily) removed this salamander's log "roof."

Yellow-Eyed Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii xanthoptica) Juvenile

Same fierce posture in a (literally) dime-sized juvenile. I find baby salamanders under the tiniest bits of wood - sometimes under leaves, too. They remind me to walk carefully in the woods, because you never know whose home you might be stepping on.

Previously: 24 February - 02 March - After the Flood Edition

Next: 10 - 16 March 2019 - Under-Log Edition

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