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Mandible Man!

I went for an early evening hike on Friday to one of my favorite local waterfalls, Latourell Falls, on the Columbia River Gorge.  It's a ridiculous short hike, but it's only 20 minutes from where I live.  And it's beautiful!  I could sit there for hours and just take it all in.

I didn't capture too many photos, but I wandered around, looking at details.  Sometimes it's good to just take it all in rather than being glued to a camera. I found this little weevil just hanging out on a leaf.  I never noticed how gnarly their mandibles were until I captured this photo.  It's like something out of a sci-fi movie!

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Foraging for mushrooms

After 3 years of living in Oregon, where foraging for mushrooms seems to be a right of passage, I finally had my initiation last weekend....and again today.  A friend and I ventured outside of Portland in search of chanterelles.  I admit, I don't care for them myself.  It's a texture issue.  And really, I'm not completely crazy about mushrooms in general.  But learning about the mushrooms, seeing the amazing variety that exists in these forests, and searching for the edible chanterelles was like a treasure hunt.  I HAD A BLAST! 

Teaching this old dog some new tricks is really great motivation.  And now I'm learning to identify mushrooms, which is super fun even if I don't eat them!  I'm basically just a geek that likes identifying all living organisms.  It's fun!  I like to know what I'm looking at when I go hiking.  I like being able to share my knowledge with others who aren't necessarily familiar with it...or perhaps they don't spend nearly as much time staring at the ground like me.  After all, I'm short.  I'm closer to it.

Anyway, last weekend, we landed a goldmine of chanterelles.  The amount that we collected probably would have cost a small fortune (or about $80) in the grocery store.  Today's collection was really only a small fraction of that, but it was still fun!  I saw different species today that I didn't see last weekend.  

The weather has been abnormally dry this last week and we found quite a number of dry mushrooms today.  So maybe more fungi will rise when the rain returns.  And now I'm hooked!  I keep wanting to return to the forest to crawl around on the ground to look at these tiny little beast-looking organisms and capture tons of photos of those that I see.

I feel like I also need to throw in a word of advice for those who have not foraged for mushrooms.  GET A FIELD GUIDE.  I particularly recommend All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora.  It's basically the mushroom hunter's bible for the Northwest.  It not only includes the edible mushrooms, but non-edible lookalikes that are poisonous.  A simple mistake could be a deadly one so take caution!  Be smart about it and don't take chances to eat them if you aren't 100% sure what they are.

Here are a few photos from today....

 

Today's bounty of edible chanterelles

Today's bounty of edible chanterelles

While also a chanterelle, this is a species of Scaly Chanterelle ( Gomphus floccosus ) that isn't necessarily edible as it makes many people ill.

While also a chanterelle, this is a species of Scaly Chanterelle (Gomphus floccosus) that isn't necessarily edible as it makes many people ill.

Another species of Scaly Chanterelle (vase chanterelle). Not exactly edible because it makes many people ill. The plant is Oregon grape.

Another species of Scaly Chanterelle (vase chanterelle). Not exactly edible because it makes many people ill. The plant is Oregon grape.

Didn't collect it. Didn't identify it, but I thought it was pretty.

Didn't collect it. Didn't identify it, but I thought it was pretty.

A species of Coral fungi. Most are poisonous.

A species of Coral fungi. Most are poisonous.

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Bread Crumb Sponge

BreadCrumbSponge.jpg

When I was a wee child, my grandma gave me a sponge skeleton that she brought back from vacation. That was my introduction to marine sponges.

Since moving to Oregon three years ago, I've been familiarizing myself with the many species of EVERYTHING that surround me...including the many species of organisms that inhabit the Oregon coast tide pools.  If you haven't visited any tide pools on the Oregon coast, or even on the Pacific coast in general, you're really missing out.  There are so many species that you may miss because the tide pools are just LOADED with life.

One of my favorite tide pool spots is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area just north of Newport, Oregon.  I had written about it not too long ago.  That's where I was when I captured this photo of a Bread Crumb Sponge (Halichondria panicea ).  This is one of the more common sponges found on the Oregon coast.  At first glance, you might think that it's algae.  It clings to the sides of rocks in the intertidal, looks a little slimy, and can be a variety of colors - green, orange, tan - and the yellow color as seen in this photo.  But upon closer inspection, you will notice little holes upon a tiny bump.  These are the pores of the sponge.  

So when you're checking out tide pools in the future, try to spot these beautiful overlooked organisms!

 

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