Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Surreal Raccoon

He didn't want to be photographed, but he definitely wanted the leftover cat food on our front deck.  I made several attempts to get a conventional photograph of the action, then gave up and shot through a window.  I rather like the effect.  The flash didn't phase him.  He kept coming back until the cat food was gone. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

More than meets the eye

 I'm back.  A month has gone by since my last post.  This is my first in 2015.  What provoked me to break away from my too-busy schedule was the appearance of a beautiful Turkey Tail Fungus on a Birch stump in my front yard.  I walk by this stump often and usually do not pay it due attention.  But on this day, the connection between the fungus and the emerging Republican candidates for the presidency jumped out at me.  Thus, "More than meets the eye."  [To be continued after the biodiversity event about to take place in downtown Quincy.]
Like most fungi, the part we see and name is only a fraction of the whole organism.  The "caps" or "shelves" [physically, this is a kind of shelf fungus] are all connected by a very thin membrane called a mycelium that is invisible, or at least hidden within or below the bark.  Whenever you see widespread caps of a fungus living on the ground, chances are you're looking at a single fungus and all the caps are connected by one mycelium.  There are a few cases where a single mycelium is suspected to extend over an entire state and be a rival for the title of world's largest single organism.
Getting back to my theme - it seems that lots of noisy or flamboyant people, such as newly-elected Tea Party congressmen, or many of the dozen or so contenders for the Republican nomination for president have this quality: more than meets the eye.  They are noticeable, but you are not seeing the whole person. 
To me, the crucial difference is that when I look closer, look beneath the surface, and try to get an understanding of the whole organism, in the case of the fungi I like what I discover.  In the case of the politicians, I usually do not.
As always in this blog you may click on any photo to see a closer view.  The colorful patterns on this fungus are quite beautiful.  The Latin or scientific name is Trametes versicolor which means thin and of many colors.

Next to this stump of a Birch that died a couple of years ago is one that is still clinging to life.  The lichens growing on the branches caught my eye,  Lichens are a symbiotic coupling of fungi and algae.
To use up-to-date language, I call a lichen a fungus with a photosynthesis APP.
The photo below shows why this species of Birch is sometimes called Paper Birch.
After photographing the fungi and lichens on my Birches, I attended a nice Biodiversity celebration combined with acknowledgement of the Martin Luther king Jr. holiday.  I took some pictures and will report on this event on Wednesday.  There was some interesting discussion of the endangered Yellow-Legged Frog.  When I first came to California in 1965, Yellow Legged Frogs were very common in the northern Sierra foothills.  Now they';re nearly gone.  More on this story on Wednesday.