Field Reports

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Announcement: June 15th Mushroom Foray in Oxford

posted Jun 3, 2015, 12:21 PM by Mariah Meachum

On Monday June 15th, we'll be having a mushroom foray at the Whirlpool/Thacker Mountain Trails at 3pm to kick off the formation of the Oxford Mushroom Club. All ages and experience levels are welcome. Some useful materials to bring include a basket, pocket knife, paper or wax paper bags, and camera. Sneakers, bug spray and sunscreen are also suggested. Please email Mariah Meachum at oxfordmushroomclub@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Listening to White-eyed Vireos & Keeping Notes

posted May 17, 2015, 8:43 PM by JR Rigby   [ updated May 28, 2015, 12:18 PM ]

Common and vocal, White-eyed Vireos are one of my favorite breeding birds around Oxford – not least because they give me the impression of being just a little neurotic. 

Lately I have been listening more carefully to White-eyed Vireos (WEVI). On the morning of May 17, 2015 for example, I came upon a singing WEVI and decided to record his song. More than forty minutes and 462 songs later, the bird took enough of a pause (~30 seconds) that I considered this bout of singing to be complete. In this post I thought I would share a little of what I have learned about the song of White-eyed Vireos as well as provide a few notes on my progression in keeping a journal of my field experiences. 
White-eyed Vireo = White-eyed Intensity (Rowan Oak, Lafayette Co, MS, 4/30/14)

If you delve into the world of learning bird songs, the White-eyed Vireo will be one of the first and easiest songs you begin to recognize.While the White-eyed Vireo voice is easily recognizable, it would be wrong to refer to a single White-eyed Vireo song. In fact, Donald Borror (1987) surveyed over 16,000 recorded WEVI songs from 463 recordings representing almost 400 individual birds from around the country and found that on average an individual had 10-14 different song types in its repertoire. He further found more than three quarters of all songs sung by WEVIs in his study were unique to the individual being recorded. I find it pretty incredible that the vast majority of a WEVI's repertoire could be unique to the individual. This is in part what led me to begin recording WEVI songs. Bradley (1980) found that most of a young White-eyed Vireo's repertoire is borrowed from the father, with much of the rest coming from neighboring males. Could it be that Borror's sample was still very small and that, while perhaps only 25% of WEVI songs are widespread, the vast majority of the repertoire is shared with a minority of other individuals? Largely out of curiosity about shared songs, I decided to try to catalog the songs used by the neighboring WEVI pairs around Rowan Oak. The data below is from the most extended piece of singing I have been able to capture so far. 


THE SONGS
The bird I recorded on May 17 between 7:40-8:20 a.m. fit well within Borror’s results. He sang for 45 minutes with a total of 462 songs representing 10 song types. The songs varied in length from 0.8 to 1.7 seconds with sound frequency from 2 to 8 kHz largely in the 2-4 kHz range. Spectrograms of the 10 song types are shown below. Perhaps the first thing one might note is that it is much easier to distinguish the songs aurally than by looking at the spectrograms! 

Songs_Composite

Below are a few statistics to go with the song types from the recording. Duration is the time from the first note of the given song until immediately before the first note of the next song type. Iterations gives the number of times the song was repeated in the duration. Length is the length of the vocalization in seconds. I originally also had an entry for the mean time between songs. Thus, if Song 1 is only 1.3 seconds in length and is repeated 21 times, there is a lot of dead space to complete the full 2 minutes 10 seconds that the bird was singing the first song. As you might expect, there is a lot more variation in the time between songs than there is in the length of the song. This is not surprising, but does mean that for 21 iterations, there are 21 intervals to measure and record, and for the whole 45 minute recording that's 461 intervals. I haven't gotten through them yet. For Song 1, however, I do have the stats for the intervals between singing: mean 4.8 seconds, stdev 1.55 seconds. 

Name

Duration

Iterations

Length

Start Time

Comments

Song 1*

0:02:10

21

1.3

0:00:00

Singing was already in progress when the recording began

Song 2

0:04:16

53

1

0:02:10

 

Song 3

0:04:39

48

1.4

0:06:26

 

Song 4

0:06:15

57

0.8

0:11:05

Alternates songs before settling on new one

Song 5

0:04:50

47

1.2

0:17:20

 

Song 6

0:04:38

48

1.2

0:22:10

 

Song 7

0:07:33

69

1.7

0:26:48

 

Song 8

0:03:44

44

1.1

0:34:21

 

Song 9

0:04:13

51

1

0:38:05

Alternates songs before settling on new one

Song 10

0:03:27

24

1.7

0:42:18

 

 

 

 

 

0:45:45

End singing


LOCATION AND BEHAVIOR

I encountered the bird singing from a location near a nest site from the previous season. I have not located a nest in the same area this year, but one is probably nearby. The area in question is a little spit or peninsula of brush bordered on two sides by lawn and on the third by a walkway connecting the two lawns. It is one of the better birding spots on the grounds and is where Nashville and Golden-winged Warblers have been found in the privet while Ovenbirds skulk along the forest floor and grosbeaks and orioles frequent the treetops above. Meanwhile the White-eyed Vireos set up domestic shop and defend their little territories. 

The bird was initially singing on the eastern edge of the this southward jutting peninsula. I walked carefully through the canopied walkway to get as close as possible before I began recording. He sang from this perch for several minutes before flying toward me and perching directly over head. He worked his way along the perimeter of the brushy peninsula westward for about 10 meters before reversing his course and returning to his original spot. At times he would perch in the same location for minutes at a time while singing. At other times he would move somewhat frenetically (as though foraging though I did not see him take any prey), usually singing only once from any perch. In the duration of my time with him he worked his way west, then east, and once again westward before I left him near the westernmost extent of his movement. Vertically he occupied a zone typical of WEVIs approximately 1-4 meters from the ground, and most typically at about 2-3 meters. 

During this time I noted the presence of no other White-eyed Vireos, male or female, and only a very distant White-eyed Vireo song could be heard. 

ON KEEPING NOTES

Virtually all of the above was taken directly from the day's entry in the Field Journal in which I keep track of my rather modest natural history activities. For the natural historian, since so much of the full picture (such as the life history of a species) is gained only through episodic encounters which are pieced together over wide expanses of time and space, keeping a detailed and orderly Field Journal is a must. It also seems to be a dying art among amateur naturalists. In fact, many professional scientists these days also have very poor documentation skills in terms of disciplined field notes. 

I have done some research on different modes of record keeping for natural history with the Grinnell System being the standard by which most others are measured. There are some very good references, if hard to find, associated with the Grinnell System (see references below) that deserve reading and rereading. I have experimented with keeping a Field Journal using the Grinnell System, which in its purest form is a paper system. While I find the system a worthwhile discipline for the order and consistency it imposes, I find the commitment to paper the most challenging component. With that in mind, I have experimented with basic software programs in hopes of finding a system with which I could work comfortably. For example, I tried creating MS Word templates with page sizes changed to standard field book sizes. This proved clunky in a number of ways. After several such failed attempts (including native Apple products), I have most recently settled on Microsoft Onenote with great success. Onenote is free, cloud-based, allows easy drag-and-drop compatibility with images and tables, and has three levels of organization: the notebook, the section, and the page. Thus my Field Journal is a OneNote notebook with three sections currently: Journal, Habitat Descriptions, Species Accounts. The Journal section includes a page for each outing. The species accounts includes pages for each species for which I am keeping a species account. The material above was included in my WEVI species account.

This is just to share what I have come to find is a satisfactory digital means of keeping a field journal. It's not the only means, but it has proved convenient particularly for the easy incorporation of multimedia. The fewer barriers to getting the material into the journal, the more likely I am to write. Despite the digital means, I still work at a paper journal as well, and keep in mind an ideal day very much like that described in Alexander Skutch of his time in Guatemala, 

"Before dawn I was on my way to the woods, with my breakfast... in my knapsack, and my lunch as well as I frequently passed the whole day afield. In the evening I usually watched some bird retire for the night, as I was eager to learn how the feathered inhabitants of these heights protected themselves from the nocturnal chill. After supper I worked at my notes until I could write no more, then went to bed with the alarm clock set for half past four or five o'clock in the morning."

White-eyed Vireo (Rowan Oak, Lafayette Co, MS, 4/14/15)

REFERENCES

Bradley, R. A. 1980. Vocal and territorial behavior in the White-eyed Vireo.Wilson Bull. 92:302-311.
Borror, D. J. 1987. Song in the White-eyed Vireo. Wilson Bull. 99:377-379.
Remsen, J.V. 1977. On taking field notes. American Birds. 31:946-953 (http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/1977AFN.PDF)
Herman, S.G. 1986. The naturalist's field journal: a manual of instruction based on a system established by Joseph Grinnell. Buteo Books. 200p. 

Birding Rowan Oak: Warblers

posted May 1, 2015, 7:53 PM by JR Rigby   [ updated May 2, 2015, 9:44 AM ]

Over the last couple of years a few of us in town have gradually discovered just what a great birding patch Rowan Oak can be during migration. The first eBird list for Rowan Oak was submitted in January of 2006 and comprised a whopping six species. The next checklist wasn't submitted until April 2013 by our own Jason Hoeksema. His twenty-four species included five warblers and was apparently good enough to suggest returning. In early May 2013, I stopped by one afternoon and caught a glimpse of a relatively rare Black-billed Cuckoo. Jason saw my eBird report and managed to relocate the cuckoo the next day (verifying my identification in the process). I think that cuckoo put Rowan Oak on the birding map. Since then, about 160 checklists have been submitted accounting for 123 species. 

More than a quarter of those 123 species are from a single family of birds: the Wood Warblers (Parulidae). In its short eBird history, Rowan Oak has posted 32 species of warbler. Since the Black-billed Cuckoo was only spotted in May of 2013, Rowan Oak really has had only two full spring seasons to generate those numbers. Already in 2015 we have logged 29 warbler species and have a good chance to hit 31 or 32. This includes local breeding birds such as Hooded and Kentucky Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and Northern Parulas. Common migrant species that show up only in passing to more northerly breeding grounds include the Ovenbird, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, as well as less commonly encountered Golden-winged, Bay-breasted, and Cape May Warblers. 


Warblers truly are the special pleasure of birding at Rowan Oak, and I think word is getting out that Rowan Oak is more than holding its own as a birding patch during migration. It is difficult to predict the timing of a good contingent of migrants dropping in on Rowan Oak, but when they do it can be an unforgettable experience with 20 species, or maybe more, present in a single morning. 

So, where do you find all these warblers at Rowan Oak? There seem to be a few spots that are consistently good places to look. In general, something good can show up anywhere along the edges of the grounds around the house. I generally walk the perimeter of the grounds on each visit. That said, the west lawn, the western edge of the north lawn, and the patio area on the east side tend to be where the best activity occurs. Keep in mind that warblers can be found at all heights. Ovenbirds will typically be on the ground and, as one of the larger warblers, their olive back and white breast with dark spots could easily fool you into thinking you got a glance of a thrush. Look for the rusty crown stripe. Common Yellowthroats, Hooded, and Kentucky Warblers all forage near the ground and in thick brush. Many of the warblers can be seen at any height from about eye-level to the top of the canopy, and a few (such as Ceruleans) seem to prefer the top of the canopy. So, be sure to scan the full vertical range. I find it helps, particularly later in spring as the leaves come out, to scan by fixing my gaze on a point for 1 to 3 seconds at a time before moving a little further on and repeating. That brief stop gives a hidden warbler time to create a tell-tale rustle in the leaves. Often a continuous scan of the area will miss this.

In addition to the grounds, Bailey's Woods Trail can be very good. It is almost never good at all points on the trail. One seems to encounter the birds in one of three or four typical locations. By far the most consistent is at the foot of the steps leading up to the University Museum and the privet-lined walk at the top of the steps (the most distant point from the Rowan Oak grounds along the trail). The next best is probably near the bridge over the creek bed, usually on the side nearest the baseball stadium. And then occasionally there will be a few (like the Blackpoll I saw today) in or around the large white oak tree at the top of the ridge just before you turn to go down to the creek when coming from the house. Along the trail the warblers tend to be much higher and harder to see than around the edges of the grounds, but they're there.  

The best time of day to bird Rowan Oak for warblers is in the morning. Typically the warblers don't reach peak activity until after 8am and continue until near midday, and sometimes the best birding is around 10-11am. It drops off fairly dramatically in the afternoon and, despite many trips, I'm not sure I have ever had a great afternoon or evening looking for warblers at Rowan Oak.

Typically, if someone posts a stellar list of warblers one morning, most or all of the species will be present for a day or more, particularly if the wind is out of the north. If, on the other hand, the overnight wind is a strong southerly breeze, the next morning may find Rowan Oak bereft of virtually all migrants as the diversity of the day before was carried north in the night.

Good Birding.


Bay-breasted Warbler (Ansley, Hancock Co, MS, 4/29/15)

Morels in northern MS, 2015, update 1

posted Apr 15, 2015, 10:26 AM by Jason Hoeksema

I found lots (25+) of large MORELSat a reliable spot in a privet hedge in Oxford on April 3, and it seemed like exactly the right time to pick them.  The following day, I checked a couple of spots in bottomland forest (near young sweetgums) where I had found them occasionally in previous years, and only found 1 small one at one site.  Today, April 15, I received a report from a friend who found 5 medium-sized morels in a forest site in Oxford (at the Whirlpool or Thacker Mountain Trails area). So, they are still out there!

Make a Meal Out of Mushrooms!

posted Nov 19, 2014, 1:13 PM by Barbara Van   [ updated Nov 19, 2014, 1:15 PM ]

On November 18th, the Ole Miss mycology class learned about various types of edible wild and cultivated mushrooms. Cultivated mushrooms that one may find at the grocery store typically belong to the AGARICUS BISPORUS species, commonly known as white buttons. baby bellas, and the portobello. Hence, today's food demonstration involves a basic recipe that one can repeat with various mushroom varieties. Dr. H. sauteed portobello mushrooms with good quality olive oil, salt, black pepper, and crumbled blue cheese. Top a cracker with this sizzling, cheesy mushroom mixture and we have a delicious bite of mushroom goodness!

BUT wait, that's not all! There is much more out there than what hides among the shelves at the grocery stores. In class, we discussed various wild mushrooms that would serve as a neat treat. Some common ones are chanterelles, king boletes, and fresh puffballs. If you're lucky, you'll run across a delectable Perigord black truffle. While you may find these in stores at a remarkably high price, it may be worth your while to take a leisure walk over to the Whirlpool Trails to find dinner instead. 

There are also many uses of fungus that make other food around you. Some prime examples would be Saccharomyces (yeast), Penicillium (soft cheeses), and Aspergillus (soy sauce). Most of these are commonly found on the shelves and you didn't even know it! 

All in all, be sure that the mushroom you are eating is edible! Try to consult a knowledgeable mycologist.   "If you're UNSURE, throw it away for SURE."

-Post by Barbara Van and Michelle Ha.


Amanitas!

posted Oct 27, 2014, 5:23 PM by Ariel Dauzart   [ updated Oct 27, 2014, 5:25 PM ]

On October 15th, the Ole Miss Mycology class took a field trip to a fellow student's house. There was plenty to collect. A large number of LACCARIA  were found throughout the yard. These mushrooms can be easily seen because of their bright purple caps. SUILLUS was abundant. These mushroom caps are often viscous on top and have a jelly like annulus left over from the immature mushroom's partial veil. The most exciting find was the very young AMANITA MUSCARIA. We found this beautiful mushroom emerging from its amanita egg. Our hostess and fellow student, Pat, followed its development and updated us on the process.

Younger A. muscaria -http://i62.tinypic.com/x6h44n.jpg



Older A. muscaria - http://tinypic.com/r/2colx8o/8

Mycorrhizal and Mealy Mushrooms

posted Oct 2, 2014, 8:06 AM by Barbara Van   [ updated Oct 2, 2014, 8:48 AM ]

    On September 30th, the Ole Miss Mycology class hiked through whirlpool trails in search of possible mycorrhizal mushrooms to cultivate. Everyone was able to spot and collect fleshy amanitas that scattered under the pines. One particular AMANITA we collected has a distinct minty-cheesy smell, and it was covered with white bits like a powdered donut. Also obvious was the large size of the mushroom having a stem of 18 cm long! Still a mystery, we are in the process of keying its identity.


    Another good find was the HYDNUM species known for teeth underside its cap and its edibility! A LACTARIUS INDIGO stood out in the leaves with its unique blue color, and it is also edible if you're into the spice! Lastly, a SUILLUS species characterized by granules on its stem and viscid cap was an exciting find!

PICTURED: LACTARIUS INDIGO


PICTURED: HYDNUM SPECIES


    
    To end our field trip on a satisfying note, Jason found delectable persimmons for the ride back!
PICTURED: Jason shaking off persimmons!
Jason shaking off persimmon!

    
  Mealy Mushrooms:
    On different note, plenty of edible mushrooms were found last week including the CANDY CAP, BLACK TRUMPET, and CHANTERELLES. There are simple methods to make a meal out of these mushrooms. I sauteed the mushrooms in butter, olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and creole spice. The most dutily part is washing the mushrooms. The trick is to soak them for five minutes and rinse until the water runs clear. Not washing the mushrooms properly will leave gritty texture of dirt and sand after its sauteed (an experience I unlucky had in the past). The CANDY CAP had a distinct nutty taste. The BLACK TRUMPETS and CHANTERELLES were both equally savory.

PICTURED: Upper left: CANDY CAPS, Upper right: BLACK TRUMPETS, Lower left: CHANTERELLES







Dirty Decomposers

posted Sep 24, 2014, 8:41 PM by Michelle Ha   [ updated Sep 25, 2014, 10:26 AM ]

On September 23rd, the Ole Miss Mycology class ventured out to Bailey's Woods! Today, we were focused on finding evidence of white rot and brown rot fungi. We were definitely not disappointed! In the picture below, you will see evidence of a brown rot fungi. If you look closely, the log looks blocky and is dark brown. This means that most of the cellulose has been decomposed and the lignin has been left behind. 
 
In contrast, we also found some evidence of white rot fungi! In this image, the log looks brittle and white due to the lack of lignin.


We also found other great examples of fungi today such as the Candy caps (Lactarius camphoratus) and a plethora of Black Trumpets (Craterellus cornucopioides).
The Candy caps were small and they had a faint smell of maple syrup. When they are dried, the smells becomes much more apparent. The Black Trumpets grew in small clumps however, due to blending in with the forest floor they could be hard to spot. 


If you want to get a glimpse into what our class does on our daily field trips, you can click on the link below!

Fungi of Rowan Oak

posted Sep 23, 2014, 10:19 AM by Mariah Meachum   [ updated Sep 23, 2014, 10:20 AM ]

On Sept 16th, the Ole Miss mycology class explored the grounds of Rowan Oak and the fungi of Faulkner's homestead did not disappoint. Our first stop was a huge patch of nidulariales, or BIRD'S NEST FUNGI, that our prof, Jason Hoeksema, had discovered on a prior visit. These saprobic Basidiomycetes produce spores in small 'egg'-like cases called peridioles, that are eventually washed out of the 'nest' by rain. Next, we investigated a large branch with BROWN JELLY FUNGI and some FAIRY CLUBS (Clavaria vermicularis) growing beneath a magnolia tree before we dispersed into the woods to see what we could discover on our own. Barbara found a neat Pulveroboletus with it's powdery veil still intact and Michelle collected a couple young specimens of Amanita rubescens. Pat found the first Cortinarius we've seen this semester and my interesting find was a cluster of Craterellus cornucopioides. Meanwhile, Jason was having fun with a blue-staining Boletus!

We also encountered a large skink and a minute box turtle, along with the rare find of a PURSEWEB SPIDER (Sphodros rufipes). These arachnids reside inside a unique tunnel-shaped web that the weave along the base of a tree or standing upright attached to vegetation. As insects such as ants crawl up the outside of the web, the spider reaches through the web to capture it's prey.
But the greatest fungal find of the foray was a patch of stinkhhorn eggs that we stumbled upon. The picture below shows one cut in half. Come to find out, they stink even before they hatch!
 

Mounds of Mushrooms at Whirlpool Trails

posted Sep 18, 2014, 3:04 PM by Mariah Meachum   [ updated Sep 18, 2014, 4:36 PM ]


On the third field trip of the semester for the Ole Miss mycology class, we headed into the forest surrounding Whirlpool Trails. We were met with gobs of fungi and were quickly put to the test to discern how many fungi is too many fungi to collect! By far, the most popular fungus of the foray was Boletus frostii, seen above. This astounding mushroom can easily be identified by its red cap, its deeply netted or reticulate stem, and the amber colored droplets that are exuded by its red pores. Other interesting finds included JELLY BABIES (Leotia lubrica), beautiful Amanita jacksonii seen below, OLD MAN OF THE WOODS (Strobilomyces floccupus), and a large quantity of CHANTERELLES, which Barbara and Michelle later enjoyed for dinner.

Back on campus, we investigated a large cluster of Agaricus pocillator growing in the mulch outside Carrier Hall, and a couple mysterious, blob-like polypores growing in the Circle.

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