October 4 – dry ’round here

And October continues onward, hot and dry.  As the month progresses, the temperatures have actually been increasing.  Last night, I went to play music with my band in Richmond, and at midnight it was still 75 degrees.   The weather forecast for today (Saturday) has us getting up to 88 degrees.  And still no rain.  When I first started this journal, I promised myself that I wouldn’t spend the whole summer complaining “it’s so hot, it’s so hot, complain complain blah blah blah,” and for the most part I’ve stuck to that promise.  But I didn’t promise anything about October, so here goes: “It’s so hot! Damn, it’s hot!  What’s up with all this heat, isn’t it supposed to be fall now?!?  Why was September hotter than August?  Why has October been hotter than September?  Did they change it all around when I wasn’t looking?  And when is it going to rain?!?”  OK rant over, moving right along…

On Friday afternoon, I put my work aside to spend an hour walking through the woods to see what I would see on this hot dry afternoon.  And here’s some of what I saw:

The changing foliage of fall has definitely begun at Twin Oaks, earlier than usual it seems, probably because of the heat and dryness.  There is still less color than I saw earlier this week in Charlottesville, and the trees in the forest always seem to stay green longer than trees in a park or yard, but it’s defnitely beginning.Image

Given the current weather conditions, I didn’t expect to find any mushrooms at all, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were around, although not overwhelmingly plentiful.  With one exception– early in my walk, I came across a one-acre or so patch of forest where the ground was literally covered with one species of mushroom, which I think is the edible honey mushroom, a species which is quite tasty for some people and mildly poisonous for others.  I have eaten it in the past, and will probably go out later to collect some from this patch.  From these photos, you can get an idea of just how plentiful they were over one small patch of forest:

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and here’s a photo of a close-up of one of them, showing the scaly, hairy pattern on top that identifies it as a honey mushroom

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While I was walking around the patch, taking pictures of all the mushrooms, I came pretty close to stepping on this snake.  I’m not sure what it is, don’t think it’s a copperhead, but I’m still glad I didn’t step on it.

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As it has been so dry, I decided to walk along the damp areas near the streambed, to see if there is any moisture left in the ground and to see if Tupelo spring is still flowing, even in these conditions.  As you can see below, there is still water coming out, although not so much as there was before when we were having more rain.

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Exploring around the surprisingly damp, soggy ground near the spring, I encountered many spider webs, as is usual in the woods this time of year.  I usually walk with a ‘spider stick,’ waving it in my path in front of me so that I’m not walking through webs with every step, pulling spiders off of my face.  Usually, the webs belong to one of a few familiar species of small spider, but I also saw one large web with this big unusual spider right in the middle of it:

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I also encountered many many frogs taking refuge in the damp part of the woods, leaping out of my way as I bashed through the woods, and also this turtle, one of three (!) that I saw today.

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I walked through a patch of woods where I remember finding a lot of puffball mushrooms about a year ago; I was curious to see if they would come back in the same place on the same log, and they most certainly did.

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These puffballs are one of the most easily identifiable edible mushrooms, and a great place for people to start if they only want to try out one wild species; they’re nearly impossible to confuse with anything poisonous, and they’re good when white on the inside and not good when they’re not.Image

passing through an unusually pretty part of the forest, you can see that the general aspect of the woods is still quite green and summery.Image

There is a little bit of fall color high up on some of the trees, but not so much down below the canopy.Image

Another odd thing I encountered; masses of Beech Blight Aphids, all stuck to the small branches of beech trees.  They cover the branch in a dense mat, and wave their white cottony strands so that it looks like the whole branch is white and dancing.  I remember early this year finding black fungus that grew on the ground underneath last years’ infestations, and on this day I saw several ‘colonies’ of this odd-looking bug.Image

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When I crossed the creek, I didn’t know if there would be much, if any, water in it.  Although the water level is quite low, it is still flowing.Image

here are a few more random pictures of mushrooms I found on the walk.  As you can see, although I found far fewer than you would normally expect to find at this time of year, there were some out there.

like this attractive purple russula, which, like so many Russulas I encounter, I can’t figure out exactly which species it is.Image

This little brown mushroom was pretty nondescript, but was the most widespread type I saw today, probably saw a few dozen, 2 or 3 at a time.Image

Here are another couple honey mushrooms growing from a fallen branch.  They were part of another stand, much smaller than the first one I encountered, but still about 20 or 30 in a small area.Image

not sure what this one is, but it was the only bright yellow mushroom I saw on my walk.Image

and, most exciting of all, the first blewits of the year!  Last year, I started finding them in September, but hadn’t seen any so far this year.  I’m hoping that if (when) we finally get a good rain, I’ll find lots of these, because they’re one of my favorite edibles. Image

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2 responses to “October 4 – dry ’round here

  1. Hi Ezra,
    I think that snake is a King Snake. They eat copperheads for breakfast (or lunch, or Wednesdays, or whenever it is that snakes eat)
    Pam

  2. And the spider might be the Marbled Orb Weaver, or a similar Araneus species. Nice photo!

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