Friday, July 16, 2010
Wild Turkeys, Slime Molds, Indian-Pipes and Wood Turtles
Over a decade ago, an individuals with a house bordering a park downstream of the natural area that I haunt released some Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). The turkeys became well established, flourished, and spread downstream and upstream into "my" natural area--and my back yard.
This year was a banner year for poults, and last month three prolific hens gathered their broods together for mutual protection and now patrol the natural area. The combined group appears almost nightly for a birdseed handout, and I'm most happy to oblige. In the wild, turkeys are wary and skittish; here, they are almost pets, though they draw the line at taking food from my hand.
In my previous post, I featured a bright yellow slime mold that reappeared this summer in exactly the same spot on an oak stump where it gathered last summer. By nightfall last evening, only a few hours after I photographed it, the slime mold had ascended to the top of the stump and had reformed itself into what appeared to be a foamy, pale-pink crust. I'm watching for sporulating bodies, but have seen nothing yet. Stay tuned...
This morning, going out for the newspaper, I noticed that Indian-pipes (Monotropa uniflora) had pushed up through the pine straw. I usually associate this saprophytic wildflower that gets its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi with the autumn, but I'm probably thinking of saprophytic beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) whose flowering structures often dry out and persist for long periods, becoming most obvious in the winter after leaf fall. My wildflower guide says that Indian-pipes bloom from June through August, so these are right on schedule.
One of my neighbors sent me these images of a Wood Turtle (Clemmys insculpta) that her daughter found in the creek flowing through "my" natural area this spring. According to the natural area's naturalist, this is their first record of a Wood Turtle, though the species' range encompasses large parts of the northern Piedmont and well beyond. Either we're just too urbanized or no one has been observant enough to record the species before. Incidentally, my neighbor assured me that she and her daughter returned the turtle to exactly the same spot where they found it after they took these pictures in their back yard; I believe her.