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Winter Berry Hike – Fungi Too!

toyon berryWe had a chance to hike to the river this week to look for winter berries. The only ones we observed were the bright red toyon berries that lined the trail in certain spots. This is a shrub that we have studied in depth in the past and although it is not in the Handbook of Nature Study, we used the internet to discover what birds or animals eat the berries.

I found information that says that there are many birds,  coyotes and bears eat the toyon berries which help to disperse the seeds.

Here is my Toyon Berry (or Christmas Berry) entry from last year.

This hike though was all about the variety of fungus that we have emerging from the ground in our area since the rainy season has officially started.

IMG_8820So these look like Emetic Russula that my field guide says are present in all western forests. In the comments in the guide it says that they are usually regarded as poisonous and have an extremely acrid taste that would discourage you from eating them anyway. I will just enjoy their bright pops of red on the forest floor as I hike along.

Here is a glimpse into some of the other more interesting fungi we spotted as we hiked. It was actually a little overwhelming to try to see them all…it was a perfect fungi walk!

IMG_8795 IMG_8791 IMG_8790 IMG_8785 IMG_8781 IMG_8777This is my favorite…the trametes versicolor or turkey tail. Don’t you just love it?

The woodlands of our area are coming alive right now as the rains bring on the green grasses and beginnings of the early wildflower plants. As we pass the first day of winter and the days gradually get longer and longer, I feel the pull to be outdoors again even in the cold temperatures. This is actually one of the best times to be outside in our area if the sun is shining. Hats and jackets are required to keep warm but as long as you keep moving or stop only in the sunshine, it is a glorious time outside.

As this year draws to a close, I am reviewing my Nature Study Goals for 2014 and anticipating those for 2015. Stay tuned for those posts soon!

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Family Rock Study – Looking for Mica

Mica has been our rock seeking list for the past two years. Remember when I was trying to find, collect, and journal about all the rocks in the book Rocks, Fossils & Arrowheads ?

This was part of my Nature Study Goals in 2013.

Rock study book journal list

I wasn’t completely successful in 2013 and now in 2014 I finally pushed us to get out and find some mica close to home. It is actually muscovite which is abundant in California and in the county where I live. I can’t believe how much time I have spent looking into this rock. I am just not a confident rockhound.

Here is a glimpse into our mica rock study.


So some sources said we have muscovite mica and some say mica schist. I am not completely sure what the difference is between the two (if any). I will just call it mica.

winter cattails

We visited our cattail site and took a look at the changes to the plants during the past few months.  You may wish to start or continue your own year-long cattail study. Make sure to mark your weekly planner for a date coming up soon.

bracket fungi 1

We were able to spy some cool bracket fungi.. a little late for our official bracket fungi study but still so very interesting.

bracket fungi 2

There was water collected in the top that was shaped like a cup.

Well, that was our mica rock walk and study. I am still trying to come up with a better way to identify rocks without taking hours and hours. Any suggestions are appreciated!


Just a note to all my faithful readers.

I will be sharing how my Nature Study Goals for 2014 turned out and posting my 2015 goals soon. Look for a printable for your to use to record you nature study goals here on the blog soon.

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Our Attempt at a Fungi Study


Honestly, we have had very little opportunity to view any kind of fungus lately. The weather has just not created conditions needed to allow for much fungal growth. This means our bracket fungus nature study and our stinkhorn nature study will just have to be postponed.


I have looked in all the normal places and still no bracket fungi or stinkhorns to observe for this Outdoor Hour Challenge.


Does that mean we couldn’t learn anything? Not at all. Reading the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study help prepare us for future opportunities to see these amazing structures up close. I am confident that we will find some bracket fungi and some kind of stinkhorn to see in person in the near future.


In the meantime, we enjoyed a great afternoon of hiking on a beautiful autumn day. I am thankful today for being able to see the wonderful and amazing creation around us with open and appreciative eyes.

Have you found any fungi to study yet?


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Fungus – Beautiful Polypores and Jelly and the Outdoor Hour Challenges Featuring Mushrooms

3 16 11 Fungus

We always enjoy finding a beautiful fungus when we hike….yes, I said beautiful. They come in such interesting shapes and colors. There is no denying that the bracket fungus above is beautiful in its design.

3 16 11 Witches Jelly

Now identifying fungus with a specific name is not always easy for me so when I do learn a name it usually sticks. This fungus is called Witches’ Butter.

If you live in California, this is a good website to bookmark:
California Fungus-Simple Key.

3 28 11 Fungus on stump

This one was truly unusual and I don’t think we have seen it before on our hikes. It only lasted a few days and I am really glad we stopped to take some photos so we can remember the way it grows.

3 28 11 Fungus

Here it is on another stump. At the bottom of the image you can see that something has knocked part of it off the stump and you can take a good look at the gills.

3 28 11 mushrooms

This one was just an interesting shape….don’t have any idea what it is exactly but I can still appreciate the way it is part of the habitat and that it is just fun to look at as we stopped to observe it along our trail.

Here is a link to another fungus entry I wrote last year: The Joy of Fungus. In this entry I share some of notebook pages and a couple of interesting links for you to check out.

Also, you can check out two of the Outdoor Hour Challenges featuring mushrooms in the Handbook of Nature Study:

Autumn Series #9 Mushrooms