Shorebirds: Piping Plover

Photo of Piping Plover

Piping Plovers are on the short list of birds who nest directly on the sand of New England beaches.  Given the high human traffic on most beaches during their breeding season and the outright loss of habitat due to shoreline reshaping, it’s a wonder that some of these tiny shorebirds manage to eke out a living and successfully raise young each year.  Maine Audubon reports that in the entire state of Maine in 2013 there were only 44 nesting pairs, not all of whom fledged young.  Please take care when sharing the beach with these threatened creatures.

–> Event Notice: On Sunday, April 27, 2014, I’m leading a free bird walk at Emmons Preserve in Kennebunkport, ME.  (We won’t see Piping Plovers at this inland location, but we will observe a variety of songbirds.)

Quiz #96: Mammal

A friend of mine noticed this mammal hide-out in the center of a cluster of tree trunks just off trail at a local conservation property.  Given the clues present in the area, who would you say has spent time here?

Photo of Quiz #96: Mammal

Here’s a closer look at some of the clues.

Photo of Quiz #96: Mammal

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This is the den of a North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum).  The trunk on the left is hollow at the base and has scat spilling out into the center area.  Several quills are also visible.

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Josh’s Foraging Tip #1

Start in Your Own Backyard

Photo of Scotch Pine barkIn order to begin gathering wild edibles, you must first learn to identify plants, whether edible or not, as positive identification is an essential foraging practice.  Luckily, there is no better place to get started with plant identification than where you live.  Chances are there are some plants, shrubs and trees growing near your home. Get to know them.  (I’d be willing to bet that some of those plants have edible parts.)

Start by learning to identify the trees who live near you. Just pick the five most common species. Borrow a good tree book if you don’t have one, or ask a knowledgeable friend for help. Similarly, learn five wild shrubs. Then, five herbaceous (non-woody) plants — Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide is a great resource to help with this. Learning to identify these fifteen species will go a long way toward helping you develop a discerning eye, but don’t stop there. Get to know all of the common plants of your yard and neighborhood.  At this point, I recommend checking your identification skills with a forager or plant expert in your area.

Once you are certain of your ability to accurately identify plants, consult an experienced forager and/or a variety of trusty foraging books (I highly recommend Samuel Thayer’s books) and slowly but surely add to your wild food repertoire.

This post is the first in a series of tips for foragers of wild plant foods.  For my core gathering practices, see Josh’s Guidelines for Foraging.

Quiz #95: Fungus

Name the following hand-sized, multi-year-old fungus I found on a decaying Oak (Quercus sp.).

Photo of Quiz #95: Fungus (a)

Photo of Quiz #95: Fungus (b)

(Photographed in Kennebunkport, ME on 3/29/14.)

A. Birch Polypore

B. Artist Conk

C. Hemlock Reishi

D. Tinder Conk

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A is… incorrect. Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) fruiting bodies grow for only one season are are found on Birch (Betula spp.) trees.

B is… Correct! This is a fruiting body of Artist Conk (Ganoderma applanatum).  The tree was covered with many more of these hard shelves who were easy to spot from a distance.

C is… incorrect. Hemlock Reishi (Ganoderma tsugae) is closely related, but is typically red on top and grows on dead or dying conifers, especially on Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).

D is… incorrect.  Tinder Conk (Fomes fomentarius) is typically hoof-shaped and most often grows on Birch trees (Betula spp.).

I invite you to support Josh’s Journal by sharing this or any other post with friends, by leaving a comment below, or by making a donation.  Thank you for reading!