Saturday, January 28, 2017

Random nature

A Black-billed Magpie, Pica hudsonia, cousin to the ravens and crows which are much, much more common in the area.  According to Alaska bird guidebooks, these birds are common in SE AK in the fall and winter but in my experience, they seem to be somewhat less common than common.  I have only seen them during cold, clear stretches of weather in the winter months when the Stikine winds are howling downriver.  This particular bird, with two ravens, was harassing a Sharp-shinned Hawk that was in the area.

This photo really brought home to me what photography truly is - catching a very brief moment in time and hopefully representing that moment accurately.  This red squirrel was very agitated as I was walking by its tree and kept chattering at me to a much higher degree necessary than the threat that I was posing to it.  I wanted to try to get a photo of it but it frustratingly stayed in the shade of the moss and branches.  In an effort to either make it quiet down, go away, or run into the sunlight, I deliberately walked toward its tree while staring at it.  The squirrel's reaction to my action was to run closer to me and luckily right onto this branch in the sunlight and stop just long enough for me to get this photo.  Zooming in on the computer allowed me to see that this is a female.  This little squirrel has some really beautiful colors and interesting facial features like the ring around the eye and the distinct color change on its muzzle.

Back to the fungi and lichens.  This is some sort of shelf fungi, or polypore, I'm pretty sure these are Rainbow Conks, Trametes versicolor.  Its edibility as described in the holy book of mycophiles, Mushrooms Demystified, is "boil for 62 hours, squeeze thoroughly, and serve forth."  Basically the same recipe you would follow if you wanted to partake in a tasty meal of tube socks or old leather wallets.

Remnants of a mink's dinner.

This photo was taken last summer in early June up on the Stikine River delta at the peak of the wildflower season.  This is a Wild Flag Iris, Iris setosa, which grow in groups of up to dozens in an area.  They are much more beautiful in real life but for a photo taken with my smart phone, this isn't too bad.  A large number of wildflowers are edible, whether just parts or the entire plant from flowers to roots, but not this one!  This pretty thing is poisonous if eaten, especially the rhizomes which are like roots.  The most poisonous plant in North America, water-hemlock (Cicuta douglasii), can also be found on the Stikine River delta so if someone serves you a wild salad, make sure you know what is in it. 

Another pretty good smart phone photo I think.  This was another photo from the summer last year.  I rank this as in the top two or three most beautiful mushrooms I have seen in person.  I've seen blue chanterelles that were prettier but there was something about this one that was pretty outstanding.  It looked like a fake mushroom under a giant Sitka spruce.  This is a yellow version of the more well known red and white fly agarics, Amanita muscaria.  The Amanita genus of mushrooms contains some of the most poisonous mushrooms around with names like Death Cap and Destroying Angel (Destroying Angel has to be one of the best names for any dangerous anything - I picture a beautiful glowing winged being wreaking havoc with a flaming sword on your internal organs).  This particular Amanita won't kill you but does have some very interesting effects if eaten.  I do not have personal experience with that but have read interesting accounts of the effects and how it has been used by various cultures throughout history.  The main active component of this mushroom is converted in the human body to a more potent chemical that is passed out in the urine resulting in well, some accounts of certain cultures (like the Vikings) drinking their urine.  I always have to wonder who was the first person to discover things like that?  A really thirsty person or someone getting their freak on?  This mushroom is called a fly agaric because it has been used as a fly deterrent.  Also, according to Mushrooms Demystified, Amanita is an ancient term for mushroom.

Yes, I am a very rich man now.  But no, you can't borrow any money I need it for the island I intend to purchase.  Ok, this isn't really gold but in the light of the morning sun, this looked enough like it at first glance to have made my heart speed up slightly.  It is a pretty cool vein of quartz with this mica or pyrite or whatever it is in it.  I did enhance this photo a little bit to make the gold color more vivid.  This photo made me think about the 1982 Charlton Heston movie, "Motherlode".  That movie was about the search for gold in the headwaters of a river in interior British Columbia so takes place here in our neck of the woods.  I think it was filmed on the Fraser River but it could just as easily be the Stikine.  Kim Basinger is also in this movie.  I haven't seen it since I was a kid but it might be a fun one to watch now.

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