Feral Bends Forest Farm Leaf Litter Phenology Journal

A spring walk through a riot of wildflowers …

Althea and I spent several hours yesterday morning stomping around Feral Bends Forest Farm to see what’s happening in the understory. Long story short: It’s stunning. Here are a few photos.

There are large white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) everywhere, and some are becoming pink as they age.
Althea with a large white trillium.
Parts of the woods are carpeted in mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) and they’re blooming.
Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)


Fire pink (Silene virginica)
I’m finding fire pink (Silene virginica) in multiple locations. It really pops.
Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is everywhere. I never get tired of seeing it.
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
Rattlesnakeweed (Hieracium venosum)
Inspired by the Athens Conservatory’s Bluebell Preserve along the bikeway

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, Laura-Sue and I planted some Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) above the creek area where we plan to locate a bench. It’s already a location with a lot of trillium and other wildflowers.

I love the way beech trees cling to the dry, sandy soil on the southwestern slope of the ridge. Feral Bends was heavily logged a few decades ago and they left behind most of the beech. At first

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, I saw that as a bad thing, but I’ve grown to love beech trees …


A morel shrine that we’ve created long the ridge. Laura-Sue is working on a scheme to create altars to forest deities throughout Feral Bends.
During my walk, I found another specimen of the crane-fly orchid (Tipularia discolor). It doesn’t flower till late summer.
And a reminder that nature is metal. Not sure who this squirrel pissed off, but whatever it was basically ate his face and left the rest to rot. He’ll make good fertilizer for the mayapple and wildflowers surrounding him.
Assorted Bob Leaf Litter Phenology Journal

This is a shit post …

I woke at about 5 a.m., head swimming with a strange, detailed dream. I grabbed my phone and start recording the details before they could dissipate. Suddenly, my tapping was interrupted by a single, sharp noise, somewhere in the near woods. Owl? First thought. Then yips and yaps percolated up as a group of coyotes moved through, very close based on the cacophony rising into my cabin.

Scat I found recently on my trails. Perhaps coyote or fox ...
Scat I found recently on my trails. Perhaps coyote or fox …

Downstairs I could hear Althea snoring

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, oblivious to the intrusion. I made a note to exercise my fledgling tracking skills later when I took Althea out for her morning ramble. I’ve found scat recently that I’m pretty sure is coyote, maybe fox. I was hoping to find fresh samples to confirm the former, or maybe tracks. I recently attended Appalachian Understories’ Uncovering Animal Mysteries, where the incredible Joe Brehm patiently and expertly led a group of us along the Hocking River to identify signs of raccoon, fox, and other creatures.

After that workshop I ran home and dug out my barely used copy of Mammal Tracks & Sign by Mark Elbroch

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, determined to absorb as much of it as possible and start learning to track wildlife. As luck would have it, I found scat in two locations on my trail system in the following days, and based on the guidance in the book I suspect it’s coyote, possibly fox. I didn’t have a tape measure when I took the photos so it’s tough to tell for certain, but the animal fur in the scat makes it pretty clear it’s from one of those. Hearing coyotes this morning made me think I might be able to find a fresh sample to confirm, or maybe even prints that would help. But I was thwarted on both counts. No fresh scat. And there was a dusting of snow that was too diffuse to capture prints, and the ground was too frozen to retain them.

Scat I found recently on my trails. Perhaps coyote or fox ...
Scat I found recently on my trails. Perhaps coyote or fox …

Althea did manage to startle three or four white-tail who ran along the ridge trail above the north hollow, and she also alerted on (read: tried to consume) some scat on the trail that runs along a bench farther west down the hollow. I couldn’t ID what was left of it but if I had to guess, I’d say it probably was her favorite delicacy: raccoon poop.

A scarlet elf cup (Sarcoscypha coccinea) shouting for attention in the leaf litter. I love finding them on dreary winter days ... Every bit as cool as coyote poop.
A scarlet elf cup (Sarcoscypha coccinea) shouting for attention in the leaf litter. I love finding them on dreary winter days … Every bit as cool as coyote poop.
Leaf Litter MycoBob Phenology Journal Uncategorized

The rain delivers on its promises …

One of my favorite mushroom field guides is “All that the Rain Promises and More,” partially because it’s a great resource, even if the focus is on Western fungi, and mostly because the cover photo is awesome.

The rain made a few promises this week, and it delivered today. We had several days of relative warmth and rain, so I had high hopes when I went out to forage this morning. I was rewarded with this beautiful flush of oyster mushrooms on a downed poplar branch in Hermit Hollow.

I took a chance and left these guys, hoping they’ll get a bit larger over the next day or three while avoiding the rapacious white-tail deer who seem to be my main competitor for oysters.

I also came across a flush of what I believe are common bonnets.

On the non-fungi front, I found bones from the white-tail deer that died late last summer. They were covered in leaf litter so I suspect some predator/scavenger dug them up hoping for more than was there.

I also found some native orchids , putty root, hunkered down for the winter.

And finally, it looks as if the woodpeckers have been busy. In all, it was a great walk in the woods. If the deer leave my oysters alone I’ll be feasting on this this weekend.