Thursday, September 16, 2010

Owl pellet & Shrew's teeth (don't look if you think bones are gross)

Owl pellet w/ frog skull and shrew's jaw

I can't believe I didn't post this before. How did I skip this?!? We found this in early spring (while looking for mushrooms).

Okay. In case you didn't know, owls eat their prey whole (if they can), and then skip the parts they can't digest. They regurgitate it. But, never mind that part, what's cool is that you can tell what they ate, if you learn your bones (or beetles. Sometimes they eat bugs, if there's nothing better around, and you can see the wing cases etc.). Not quite sure why I think that's cool, but I do.

So, the frog skull was pretty easy (for some reason I knew what a frog skull looked like), but my mind kept wandering back to those red teeth. I didn't give it much attention at first--I just thought, "Oh, look, discolored teeth, something maybe old." But that was no rodent, so what the heck was it? Based on the size, there weren't many options (shrews, voles*, & moles).

*(Oops--voles ARE rodents)

I started to poke around, looking up God-knows-what on the Interwebs, until I finally started typing in things like "red teeth" and "skull ID" and found that there's a whole family of shrews called "Red-toothed shrews"! And their teeth are red because of iron deposits in the enamel! And the iron makes their teeth harder! Which they need because they eat so much to keep going! And they have to eat so much (their body weight every day, or up to triple that in some species) because their metabolism is insanely high! Heart rates measured at 800 beats per minute (a resting hummingbird's is 250)! And they can die from fright (being so high-strung), and they are quite stinky from some kinda scent glands they have (so, cats will kill them but rarely eat them, because they stink, but birds in general have a poor sense of smell so they don't care and will eat them), and they only live about 15 months, can have 2 to 4 litters in that time, hate all other creatures including other shrews, and are great to have around your property to keep the bug population down. All they do is eat, breed, and get mad at other shrews. And stink, I guess. Could be worse.

Oh, wait, there's also toxins in their saliva that paralyze their prey (snails, crickets, etc.) and can really swell and hurt if you get bit.

But really, other than those things, that's all.

I was just curious about the red teeth!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Laetiporus cincinnatus, for real this time

Spilling out of a tree

Laetiporus cincinnatus white pore surface

In between things

A friend called me on the Mushroom Hotline to tell me about some mushrooms growing in his yard (not these--some great Omphalotus illudens, coming soon), and I could see this in his neighbor's yard. 

My friend wasn't home yet and the neighbors weren't home either, so I couldn't ask them if I could have it, and it took a LOT of strength of will for me to not just harvest it and run. But it all worked out--I found a perfectly ripe pawpaw on the ground nearby which I DID take without asking anyone because I've had a long-running issue with pawpaws, namely, that I've heard about them and was intrigued by them and I've never seen one fruiting (I see the pretty blue-green trees in the woods all the time, with blooms) and never eaten one and people keep telling me, "Oh, they had them at the Farmers Market last week!" and I had just talked about them again two days earlier so I decided that pawpaw had my name on it, and I took it. I saw it lying there, wondered what it was, the leaves of the tree registered, the decision was made, it was in my bag. Look, know, take. That's how long it took.

When I got home I called my foodie friend down the street, and we shared it, and it was magnificent. Totally made my day.

And since then, my friend did talk to his neighbors who said I could have the Chicken with their blessing, so tomorrow I'm going back over there to take more pics of the Omphalotus and hopefully those little girls a few houses down haven't messed up the chicken too bad (they got curious when I was taking pics, and by the time I was leaving they were poking it with sticks or something).

Note: this is an atypical form of L. cincinnatus, they usually grow near the base of trees or a little distance from the tree, seemingly from the ground, but really on an underground root. And usually in a rosette pattern, not overlapping shelves like this. Several people reported atypical growths of these this year.

The title of this post is referring to the previous post where I was getting all whipped up about some mushrooms I found that I thought were Laetiporus cincinnatus. I found them when they were quite small and I was tracking them, and on the 3rd visit I harvested them, and even showed them to people at work (oh, great! now people with even less familiarity with mushrooms have been given the wrong information by someone they think knows things!), until I finally realized they weren't Chicken mushrooms at all. I was chagrined (also taken aback, also brought up short. Chicken mushrooms are supposed to be one of the easiest ones. I just need to slow down).

Anyway--how 'bout those shapes, eh?