A Walk in the Valley at the End of May

This weekend I went for a walk in the valley, for the first time in a long time.

I had about an hour before I needed to get to work on some things around the house, so I figured it was now or never... grabbed my camera, and headed out through the park into the valley entrance.

A few weeks ago we had terrific wind storms and a report or two of a tornado in the Toronto region. Entering the valley, I could see the outcome of these high winds. Trees had fallen across the path all over the place - mostly older, unhealthy trees. Someone had put up a wikiup shelter in the woods - a large elaborate structure.

This gave me a chance to take some pictures of Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus).
"The mushroom's shape and lateral stem make it look suitable for woodland spirits, the dryads of Greek mythology, to ride."
The young polypore (note the pores comprising the yellowish-white underside of the fruiting body) fungus is soft and white on the inside, not unlike a puffball. It is edible, and you can fry it up in butter for a nice snack or bake it and add to a casserole or lasagna. As it gets older (and bigger of course), they get bitter and tough.

I suppose this applies to some people as well... Hopefully I'm immune to this condition.

In some of these photos, you'll see both the older and the younger forms. The younger ones have a more tubular shape, some bifurcating into wonderful looking structures. The older ones are more plate-like. Polypores excrete enzymes that break down the lignin in trees, causing a white rot that slowly releases the tree's nutrients out to other organisms.

Small flowers I saw belonged to Garlic Mustard, Soapwort (I think), Violets, and Johnny Jump Ups.

The river is bounded by banks covered in Horsetail (Equisetum).
"Equisetum is a living fossil, as it is the only known genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was very diverse and dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests. Some Equisetopsida were large trees reaching to 30 m[verification needed] tall; the genus Calamites of family Calamitaceae for example is abundant in coal deposits from the Carboniferous period."
As I was walking out of they valley, I interrupted an America Robin having a bath. He flew away briefly, but then returned, and generally ignored me crouched on the ground 5 feet away with my camera.

I was out for a walk later on and watched Robins hunting earthworms. They hop about and stop and start and I've always assumed they were listening with cocked heads to the sound of scurrying worms under the soil. But apparently they hunt visually, and not by hearing. Go figure. But then again, if you think about it most worms wouldn't exactly make a whole lot of noise.

Hope you had a nice weekend - I did.



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