September 1, 2011
Why would I write about finding dog's vomit in the North Campus? Because it is, contrary to what you might think, an awesome type of fungus, a slime mold! Slime molds are a type of non-gilled fungi that often appear on mulch. What I find really interesting about them is their unique lifecycle! Most of their lives, slime molds are hidden in rotten logs or buried in leaf litter. However, when it's time to reproduce, they have to move to an appropriate site for spore dispersal. To do this they propel themselves over considerable distances (well considerable for a fungus), up to three feet for Fulgio septica, aka dog's vomit. Unfortunately, this usually happens at night when it is cool and moist, so I've never seen it happen in person. Watch out for a time-lapse video if I can convince Sam Easterson to spend a night in the North Campus. Here are some images of the different stages of dog's vomit we found in the North Campus.
Relatively fresh slime mold, only just starting to put forth spores
Older slime mold, now you can see the black spores
Slime mold after fruiting While we were out and about Sam and I found more fungus. Check out these pics of unidentified fungus. Drop me a line if you know what they are!
May 26, 2011
We've got more bird babies at the Page Museum (you know the one at the La Brea Tar Pits)! We were informed about an Allen's Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin, nest in the atrium about two weeks ago, and jammed over to scope out the scene. When we arrived we found two tiny eggs in a beautifully crafted nest, suspended about ten feet up in one of the plants. This past weekend Sam Easterson captured the footage below. I really like the way you can see the nest stretch as the nestlings move around. This is because the nest is partially constructed from spider webs! When constructing the nest, the female hummingbird collects materials such as plant fibers, moss, lichen, and small bits of bark or leaves. She also collects the spider silk for its elasticity. As the nestlings hatch and grow the nest can stretch with them! Check out the video to see it and then be wowed with feeding time. The first time I watched this footage, I couldn't help thinking about a sword swallowing circus act. Enjoy!
April 29, 2011
New Neighbors A pair of Bushtits, Psaltriparus minimus, just built their nest in the live oak tree behind the Butterfly Pavilion. Kimball Garrett, our resident bird expert, found the nest this Monday and promptly sent me an e-mail detailing the nest's location. As soon as I got into work on Tuesday morning, I headed out to the Butterfly Pavilion to check it out.
Adult Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus Nest Hunt Thankfully Kimball had given clear instructions to find the nest, as it was very well hidden in the oak foliage. The effort was well worth it, as it was one of the coolest nests I've ever seen in the wild. As the picture below shows their nests are woven from dry plant material and hang from branches of the tree. They are small and dainty, this one measures about seven inches from top to bottom. The small opening at the top of the nest, which is only about an inch in diameter, is just big enough for the adults to enter and exit.
Bushtit entering nest Bushtit Behavior After spending a good portion of my morning watching the nest, I realized I had to blog about it. But what is a blog without images, or even better some actual video footage. I ran up to my colleague, Sam Easterson's office to see if he could get some for me. Sam recorded the nest for about an hour, and we captured some interesting behaviors, including removal of fecal sacs! A fecal sac is clean, tough membrane that encloses the excrement of young birds. Not all birds produce fecal sacs, but for those that do sacs are usually produced directly after each feeding and promplty removed by the adult to maintain a clean nest interior. Bushtit cleaning nest Sam Easterson is a video naturalist and also our new Media Producer for the North Campus and Nature Lab exhibits. He's really into implanting cameras into natural environments, and is best known for his animal borne imaging work.