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Hanging Around

Bald eagle, Richvale (1/3/19) Robert Kermen

Bald eagles and pintail ducks will be hanging around the marshes, rice fields and wetlands of the Northern Sacramento Valley for a while longer this winter.

Robert Kermen spotted about ten eagles near farmland at Richvale. Nearby, pintail ducks were watchful.

To photograph them, Bob recommends staying inside your vehicle and using it as a blind. Exiting the vehicle will cause the birds to take flight.

Shooting from inside a vehicle is always awkward, but is made easier by setting up before you get to the wetland. One pleasant way to do this is to schedule a stop to fill a Thermos with coffee. While in the coffee shop parking lot, set up your equipment before drive to nearby wetlands.

If you’re with someone else, have one in the front and the other in the back seat (if you’ve got an SUV, van or other somewhat spacious vehicle).

Long lenses can be stabilized by resting them on the upper edge of an open car door window or by using a monopod or tripod inside the car. Occasionally, I’ve opened the sunroof and shot standing in it. Surprisingly, birds aren’t as easily spooked by poking a head out a sunroof or car door window, but as soon as they see boots on the ground, off they go.

Farm roads travel along the edges of the rice fields. Check first for “No Trespassing” signs, but usually these roads are public and open to traffic. A word of advice: levee roads have soft shoulders, so stay in the middle of the road unless there’s a stable turnout.

As reported previously, numerous wildlife refuges are located in the Sacramento Valley. At these, photo platforms get you close to birds that have gotten used to seeing photographers hanging around on them.

Lenticular cloud over Mt Shasta, Lake Shastina (1/3/19) Robert Kermen
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Making Mushroom Merry

Stereum hirsutum, Anderson River Park, Anderson (12/21/18) Gabriel Leete

As the last days of 2018 are waning, mushroom hunters are making merry where winter rains have fallen.

Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete found these fungi while foraging along the Sacramento River in Redding at the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens and in Anderson at the Anderson River Park.

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Walking Right Past Them

Amanita Muscaria, Patrick’s Point State Park, Trinidad (12/9/18) Gabriel Leete

If you’re not attentive, it’s easy to walk right past mushrooms.

However, as Gabriel Leete shows in this collection, when you do, you’re missing a beautiful aspect of late fall color, as their color and form are endlessly fascinating. 

Gabriel works at the California Welcome Center in Anderson (I-5, south of Redding). Just north of the Welcome Center is Anderson River Park where Gabriel often looks down to find mushrooms, though Gabriel also treks to the North Coast to discover them pushing up through the detritus.

Mushrooms appear on forest floors, soon after it rains. They grow quickly because rather than use cell division, as animals and most plants do, they employ cell enlargement, allowing mushrooms to grow as rapidly as they can take in water.

Within hours, a mushroom can grow from something the size of a pinhead to the Cortinarius that Gabriel is holding below.

Gabriel Leete admires a variety of Cortinarius, Patrick Point State Park, Trinidad (12/9/18) Self-portrait

Gabriel has been hunting mushrooms for nearly two decades and knows his fungi. He’s the first to say, that one person’s edible chanterelle might, upon closer inspection, be a poisonous variety of Cortinarius. So, expertise and caution are required when adding wild mushrooms to your diet.

However, he also believes mushrooms have gotten a bad rap. They’re full of B vitamins, gmushrooms.com writes, “especially niacin and riboflavin, and rank the highest among vegetables for protein content. But because they are low in fat and calories, Western nutritionists mistakenly considered them of no food value (a fresh pound has only about 125 calories). Yet in dried form, mushrooms have almost as much protein as veal and a significant amount of complex carbohydrates called polysaccharides. Shiitake mushrooms are among the most delicious & very nutritious.”

Because they grow from decaying matter, they’re all somewhat disgusting, but also things of beauty. And, of course, they can be deadly.

In 2012, The London Telegraph reported that 18 Italian mushroom hunters, “died in just a 10-day period. Many of them had forgone proper footwear, clothing and equipment and died after steep falls down Alpine slopes.” One of them was a 65-year-old woman who fell 40 feet to her death near the Swiss border.

My sordid attempt at humor aside, while there is the hazard of hunting them on wet, slippery slopes, there is also the possibility of eating a poisonous variety. Of one thing is certain, there’s no sitting on a fence when judging a mushroom, even though they often do. 

Here are some of the beauties and beasts, Gabriel has found on recent walks through the woods.

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Water-born Color

Armillaria Mellea, Anderson (11/30/18) Gabriel Leete

Late November rain pushed up mushrooms across Upper California, this past week.

Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete found these fungi near the Sacramento River at Anderson River Park. Gabe reported previously that mushroom hunting had been disappointing so far this autumn, but now that rains are falling, mushrooms are flourishing in northstate forests. 

California Welcome Center, Anderson (11/30/18) Gabriel Leete
Sacramento River, Anderson River Park, Anderson (11/30/18) Gabriel Leete
Sacramento River, Anderson River Park, Anderson (11/30/18) Gabriel Leete
  • Mushrooms, Anderson – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Wonderful Walnuts

When bags of fresh walnuts, still in their shells, begin appearing in local markets in November, it’s time to head to the walnut orchards for one of California’s most gilded displays of fall color.

This week, I placed a bowl of plump walnuts and nut cracker on our kitchen counter, while realizing I oughta get cracking north to Chico.

Robert Kermen, who lives in walnut country, beat me to it.

Bob spent #OrangeFriday near Durham, taking this photo of a walnut orchard carpeted with golden leaves. 

  • Walnut orchards, Durham – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Tastes of Chico

Gingko biloba, Esplanade, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

“Smoke from the Camp Fire has lifted somewhat,” allowing Robert Kermen to get out of his northern Sacramento Valley home to do some errands in Chico.

 

Gingko biloba, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

He found gingko biloba in full peak along Chico’s Esplanade.

 

He was moved by an American flag, seeing it as a symbol of Butte County  rebounding from the Camp Fire, where many of Robert’s friends and relatives lost their homes and businesses.

While in town, he stopped to pick persimmons which he plans to turn into  persimmon cookies and jello for the holidays.

Robert recommends using the Hachiya persimmon for cooking, not the Asian or Japanese (Fuyu) persimmon (Diospyros kaki). The latter can be eaten like an apple and are great on a salad topped with vinegar and oil.

Hachiya persimmons must ripen completely before they can be eaten otherwise they are astringent. 

American robin, Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

That doesn’t stop wildlife from getting to them before they’re picked, as the American robin is doing in this picture.

Persimmons are favorite fare for opossums, rodents, white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, black bear and skunks.

The Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources reports, Ozark “Folklore tells us that if you slice a persimmon seed lengthwise, you will find the image of a spoon, knife or fork. Supposedly, the presence of a knife means we are in for a rough, unsettled winter. A mild winter is predicted by the image of spoon. If a fork is seen, our winter is supposed to be medium to bad.”

In Korea, dried persimmon (gotgam) are said to scare away tigers. 

  • Chico (197′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen
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Feather River Reflections

Red Bridge, Feather River (11/15/18) Michael Beatley

Faded glory paralels La Porte Rd from Quincy to the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley found it near Red Bridge, an historic and still active gold mining claim, where clear skies, warm days, low humidity and cold nights have sustained the beauty of river grasses, well past the point that they should have lost their luster.

Though they are truly Past Peak, their reflected beauty is unquestioned. 

  • Feather River – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
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Fun with Fungi

Sulphur Tufts, Hypholoma fasciculare, Trinidad (11/3/18) Gabriel Leete

Late October/early November are usually mushroom months, but with little rain so far in autumn, we’ve not yet seen much fungi photography.

To the rescue comes Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete who drove to find a store of spore-born fungi in Shasta Cascade and North Coast forests.

Gabriel became fascinated with mushrooms when he was 19 (he’s now 46). So, he really knows the fungi he photographs. Leete wrote that he became interested in them when trying to find a certain fungi, then realized it had “deadly look alikes.”

So, he focused on learning how to identify mushrooms which led to exploring what edible fungi he might “take home for dinner.”

A word of caution: many California mushrooms are poisonous. Only if you are expert like Gabriel, should you attempt to dine on them. Not taking such a precaution could have you pushing up daisies.

Leete’s fascination with fungi made him serious not just about identifying fungi, but growing them, and eventually, mushroom microscopy. 

To tune his ability to identify one mushroom from another, he’s joined groups of expert mushroom hunters. They are so knowledgeable, that he’s learned a lot from them.

Mushrooms are both good for the environment and, if edible, good for you (full of nutrients and medicinal qualities).

MushroomShack.com reports that “mushrooms play an important role in the environment, breaking down logs, leaves, stems, and other organic matter in the forest to recycle essential nutrients. Many are vital to the growth and survival of trees. They form a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship, with the trees giving mushrooms glucose and mushrooms providing trees with essential minerals.

“Not all mushrooms grow on wood, though. Some grow from the ground, feeding on humus and organic materials in the soil.”

Pacific banana slug, Ariolimax californicus, devouring a Russula atroviolacea, Trinidad (11/3/18) Gabriel Leete

Friends, following is more fun-filled, factual fungi filler:

  • (Above) Sulphur Tufts are mildly poisonous and prolific, found throughout California. When fresh, the clustered caps are bright yellow to greenish-yellow, as are the gills and stem, though cap colors vary widely.
  • Russula atroviolacea, a type of fungi known for its bright color (Russula means red) is seen being devoured by a Pacific banana slug, Ariolimax californicus. Banana slugs are the mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz (The university’s chancellor had chosen the Sea Lions, but the student body persisted in supporting the lowly mollusk as the school’s mascot. It has since been judged, on numerous occasions, as the nation’s best college mascot). Though banana slugs were a food source for North Coast Yurok Indians, their slime deadens tastebuds. Celebrated on a UCSC t-shirt, Sammy the Slug is identified by its motto, “No Known Predators.” Wikipedia advises, “Even when fed corn meal to purge them or soaked in vinegar to remove slime, the slugs’ flavor is not always well regarded.” Gabriel says their acrid flavor “gets worse the more you taste.” I guess the t-shirt got it right. 
  • (Below) Bracket Fungus, Ganoderma applanatum, also called shelf fungus is called “the artist’s fungus” due to its white to gray pore surface and brown bruising. It retains the brown bruising for years when picked and brought indoors.
  • Amanita muscria, var. guessowii buttons grow to be spectacular mushrooms, but are unigue and beautiful as buttons, as well. The Amanita muscaria are typically red with white dots on the cap and have been placed on many stamps, postcards, in books and cartoons. They vary from scarlet to yellow and are lethally poisonous. Look, don’t touch.
  • Postia ptychogaster, commonly known as the powder puff bracket, is a species of fungus in the family Fomitopsidaceae. The fungus resembles a powdery cushion that fruits on stumps and logs of rotting conifer wood.
  • The King Bolete, Boletus edulis is a world traveler, called the Cep in France and Steinpilz in Germany. This is a well-known, large mushroom favored for use in cooking pots by mushroom hunters. This example was small, young with a greasy/tacky, bald brown cap and a meaty swollen stem with fine reticulation (netting). The pore surface is usually white, with tightly spaced or “stuffed” pores, becoming more and more visible as it ages.
  • Stropharia ambigua are fairly large and at first bright yellow, fading with age. They become semi-slimy and adorned with drooping white veils. They are both beautiful and prolific … so much so that they’ve been called weeds due to how many grow along the coast.
  • Peppery Bolete, Chalciporus piperatus, are not something to eat, “losing their peppery flavor when cooked, and with so many other edible mushrooms growing in the same habitat, why bother?” Gabriel advises. 

#ParadiseStrong

Nelson Family Vineyards, US 101, Ukiah, Mendocino County (11/9/18) Walt Gabler

A year ago, we were writing about Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and how they had recovered from then-recent wildfires.

The above image is of Near Peak color in Mendocino County vineyards near Ukiah. Proof that things do get better with time.

Today, our thoughts are with the people of Paradise whose Northern Sierra foothill town, ten miles east of Chico, has been ravaged by wildfire.

At least for now, luck seems to have run out for a town that a popular local legend says was named in the late 1870s after the “Pair o’ Dice Saloon.”

However, if California gold rush history tells us anything, panning out isn’t a permanent condition. Good luck will roll again in Paradise, even if hard times are now afflicting many good people hurt by this disaster.

And so, we’re #ParadiseStrong. 

Post Note: Walt reports that “The last few days have been unusually cold with the temps the high 50s.  The forecast for this week was supposed to be for sunny weather and temps to be in the high 70s.  These low temps and heavy smoke (just like last summer with the local fires) has had an effect on the seasonal color of the vines.  The heavy smoke is keeping the sunlight out and daytime temperatures cold.  Some vines are still turning, but today (10/11) I noticed that many have suddenly dried up and have turned brown or dried green.  I don’t know how long this will last.”

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Past Peak at Potem Falls

Potem Falls, Burney (11/4/18) Laura Jean

For a guy who’s traveled every byway in California and lived within the sound of Yosemite Falls, I’m constantly amazed to see a waterfall I didn’t know existed or get a report from a route I haven’t driven.

Laura Jean accomplished both with her report from Potem Falls (Montgomery Creek) and Stand By Me Bridge (off CA-89) in the Burney area of the Shasta Cascade, scoring double First Reports.

Blackberries, Potem Falls Trail (11/4/18) Laura Jean

The color is definitely Past Peak near Burney, though bright spots of orange and yellow can be seen across its rolling landscape.

The hike to Potem Falls, is what one reviewer describes as “short but sweet.” Just .4 miles and lightly trafficked, it gains only 98 feet and has the bonus of a beautiful, 69-foot waterfall at the end of the trail. In summer, it’s a popular swimming hole. 

  • Potem Falls, Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Stand By Me Bridge, Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
Stand By Me Bridge, Burney (11/4/18) Laura Jean