Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Morning Birding

This morning Mr. Johnson and I attended a bird hike sponsored by the local Audubon Society to look for warblers and whatever else we could find. Our destination today was Indian Heights Park, a mostly undeveloped jewel of the Rochester parks system, as we found out this morning. This park is located at the dead end of a residential neighborhood right in the middle of suburban northwest Rochester. After parking our cars in the paved parking lot, we headed up the dirt trail. We were searching for warblers again this morning, but they were mostly absent (except for 1 female American Redstart spotted late in the hike). We did hear the Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-Throated Vireo and Eastern Wood Pewee (my FOY), in addition to the usual chickadees, cardinals, and bluejays.

Shortly up the trail, I spotted something bright yellow on a fallen down tree. "Hmmmm," I thought to myself, "I hope that's what I think it is........" I headed off-trail for a closer look at what turned out to be my first personal discovery of Chicken of the Woods (sulphur shelf) mushrooms. Charlie, another birder with our group, confirmed this ID and on the way back to the car, the mushroom you see on the top left side of this log went home with me for this evening's supper (it was delicious!) I'm thinking I may have to make a stop back here on my way home from work tomorrow to collect the rest for my freezer.

There was a huge abundance of raspberry bushes along most of the trails in this park. I also made a note to myself to return with Mr. Johnson and berry-picking buckets in a few weeks to reap some of that delicious bounty.

We did see a few downy and hairy woodpeckers, but none of the pileated woodpeckers who were responsible for creating the holes in this oak tree.

At the end of the trail, we found this scenic spot overlooking most of the eastern Rochester skyline. In this photo are Mr. Johnson, and our trip leaders, Terry (red shirt) and his wife Joyce (lite blue shirt).

This is a view of Silver Lake.

In the middle of this park is an old quarry. It wasn't a large quarry and probably wasn't used for too long. It's quite overgrown now and we did find some evidence that it's been used in the past for a teen party spot.

Another cool thing we found was this intact skull with some bones and fur nearby. After further investigation of the bones, we decided that this was probably a raccoon. Unfortunately, I didn't have a plastic bag along with me, so this skull stayed where it was (even though I really wanted to bring it home). Maybe tomorrow when I'm fetching those mushrooms.......

There were quite a few wildflowers blooming and here are some of the ones we saw.

False Solomon's Seal

Vetch and Wild Columbine

Black Snakeroot

Another look at the Black Snakeroot (with some flowers blooming)


An unidentified daisy (I should have taken pics of the leaves!)
The flowers were really small - only about a half to three-quarters of an inch across

Here's a busy bumblebee pollinating some raspberries for me!

We were almost back to the parking lot when we spotted this flower. It was one that none of us had ever seen before, but after doing some checking on the internet, I'm reasonably certain that it's a Star-of-Bethlehem. It was a beautiful little plant and I wouldn't mind finding some of these to plant in my own backyard some day.

Haven't seen many butterflies yet this year, but we also saw this pretty little Red Admiral taking advantage of the nectar in this nice dandelion (another reason to save dandelions -- a nectar source for early season butterflies!)

Glad you could come along on this birding hike with me. Even though we didn't see many birds, we saw a lot of other cool things and it just goes to show that time spent outdoors is never wasted.....especially when you keep your eyes open for the unexpected treasures nature has to offer.


Ruth said...

Spring birding ended rather abruptly here about 5 days ago during this odd, warm spring. There are always lots of other discoveries though as you point out. I think your "Wild Ginger" is really Bloodroot. Wild Ginger leaves are heart shaped and not lobed. Don't count me as an expert though.

RuthieJ said...

Yes, Ruth, I believe you're right. Thanks for letting me know.....I'll fix that right away.

Rick said...
The above is a photo of a raccoon skull and I do believe you are quite right. At first I thought it looked more canine but after seeing the other it is very similar. I enjoy you nature and bird adventures I never learned this stuff, it is quite interesting. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Sounds like a fun walk even if it wasn't terribly birdy. What was the mushroom like? Did it taste mushroomy?

RuthieJ said...

Thanks for the link Rick. We weren't exactly sure about the skull, but did find the bones of a foot and knew by the extended digits that it was definitely a raccoon (along with the remaining fur evidence).

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
The mushroom was good -- not mushroomy tasting at all. I minced a few garlic cloves and sauteed everything in some light-flavored olive oil and bread crumbs. The mushroom didn't get very mushy while cooking and I would like to try it again with some alfredo sauce over noodles. I read that you can freeze it after cooking and use it in soups and other sauces too.

Gaelyn said...

Oh yum, chicken of the woods. Such a firm meaty shroom. I'll be interested to hear if they freeze well. I've only eaten them fresh.

Love the skull. Sure hope you go back to snag it.

Great birding hike, even if few birds.

Jayne said...

So the next post will show how you cooked that 'shroom and the description of the flavor?? :c) Looks like it was a great day!

Bonnie said...

Looks like a wonderful time! Love the wildflowers.

Anonymous said...

Good grief~I have false Solomon's Seal in my garden! I've been pulling it out, thinking it's' a weed. My bad!
Your (wildflower ignorant) Sissy

stephen said...

Thank you for taking us along with you on your adventures in Indian Heights Park. Looks as though it was a perfect day for a hike.
As best as I've been able to find, you're correct with the identity of the small star shaped white flowers as being "Star of Bethlehem".
I'd gotten some years ago from my Grandmother's garden and that is the same name that she had referred to them as, (I double check my genealogy notes to be sure that I was remembering correctly).

Taos Sunflower said...

What an interesting day you had. Those mushrooms are just beautiful. Have never heard of they really taste like chicken? Lots of shrooms in Taos in the fall, but I don't know enough to pick good from bad.

Anonymous said...

Just read your last blog, very interesting. Some of those wild flowers we have on the north end of the garage, David planted them years ago, our Jack-in-the-Pulpit are huge. The other stuff he planted is growing very welll too, even the ferns are doing great.


rachel said...

Found you, Ruth! Thanks for sharing! I'll be watching your blog for what's happening in MN while we're galavanting in Japan.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Gaelyn,
You know I never did get back to the park for the rest of those chicken of the woods. Not sure how long they usually last, but I'm sure our recent stretch of hot weather wasn't beneficial for them.

Hi Jayne,
I broke the mushroom up into smaller pieces and pan-fried it in olive oil with a couple minced garlic cloves and some garlic bread crumbs. It had a good texture and not a strong mushroom-y flavor at all. I think it would be really delicious in a creamy mushroom soup!

Thanks Bonnie. It was a fun morning.

Hope you're saving that false Solomon's Seal now Sissy!

You're welcome Stephen. Glad you could come along!
One of my Master Naturalist classmates who's really into wildflowers confirmed that this flower was the Star of Bethlehem. In fact he had some growing in his own wildflower garden and dug a few up for me to plant in my backyard. Yay!!

Hi Martie,
I must say that the mushroom didn't taste like chicken although it did have the same consistency of chicken. I'm no mushroom expert either, but was mostly sure about this one and took the word of the other birder with our group.

Thanks Mom. I'll have to check out your wildflower garden the next time I visit your place. There were always some nice plants there.

Hi Rachel,
Is your trip to Japan going to happen before our classes end? I hope you have a good time! (Lots of cool yarn and knitting patterns in Japan.....or so I've heard)