Migration Distraction

American Kestrel in silhouette

The month of September is almost behind us, a few hours only remain and it’s been a busy month. Checking my wordpress blog, I noticed it has been a few week since I’ve been blogging and you can fully blame that on the birds. Migration is in full swing in southern New England, when I’m not keeping my eyes to the skies for passing raptors, I’ve been looking in the tree tops and underbrush for warblers.

Black-capped Chickadee- winter 2010

While some may be complaining about the weather and how bad it has been for migration in general, the weather has been nice for getting outside. There has continued to be a trickle of migrants moving through the area over the past couple of weeks even if there hasn’t been a major push.

Ring-billed Gull

Out here at West Campus, this has meant that every day we get a new look at some warblers or hawks that are making their way south. This year has been a good one for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on campus as opposed to last year when we hardly saw any.

American Crow- New Haven, Longwharf


I’ve been keeping my eyes open for some other interesting non-birdy things and I will blog about a really nifty fungus I saw out the front door the other day. In the meanwhile, here is a mix of random photos I’ve taken in the past to keep things interesting.

Brown Creeper- 2010

Firey Fiery

Fiery Skipper


During a monarch tagging session at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven this morning a couple other species made an impressive showing. Common buckeye butterflies were in huge numbers at the park this morning. Almost anywhere you went there was a buckeye. Walking across the field I stirred up another one almost every 5 feet.

Common Buckeye

The other species that was unique was the fiery skipper, a vagrant southern species that has been consistently seen at Lighthouse the past week. I’m not quite certain of the total number of individuals but I did see up to 4 at one time. A beautiful bright orange skipper, this was the first time I had ever seen it since I started IDing butterflies 2 months ago. 🙂

Fiery Skipper

Testing the Sticky Post

I’m trying a new layout and I decided to rock the sticky post. This little mushroom was out front at work in August sometime. It’s Laccaria amethystina. What you want to know the common name??? I have no clue. Common mushrooms have multiple common names which confuses things and then most don’t have any. So, if you really get into learning fungi, your best bet is to learn Latin… or for fungi even some Greek. Many scientific names of fungi are derivatives of Greek words.

No it’s not a golf ball!

They are puffballs! As a kid I think we all have done this at one point. You see a small white ball in the yard and run up to it, the leg pulls back and then swings forward, expecting to see a golf ball roll across the yard at amazing speeds and instead a huge dark cloud erupts causing you to run away and leaving your shoes distinctively dirty. You have just liberated thousands of fungal spores into the atmosphere.

Purple-spored puffball

The culprit is a puffball, a type of fungi in the same group (Basidiomycetes) as the normal mushrooms we are used to. This family of that group (Lycoperdaceae) instead forms a ball-shaped fruiting body that’s filled with spores at maturity. There are a few different species of puffballs in the Northeastern U.S. and even a few of those are edible. The trick is to gather them when the time is right and as with most fungi, that’s early.

Purple-spored puffball- bottle for size comparison

There are pictures online of the giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea) which grows as big as a Thanksgiving Turkey. The species I found growing at work the other day however is Calvatia cyathiformis, the purple-spored puffball. When fresh the flesh of the mushroom is a nice clean white color and as they age, the flesh matures into spores that are purple-ish in color.

puffball showing young edible flesh- Yum!

So, I mentioned eating puffballs and I guess I should comment specifically on this species. It is in fact edible and if you want to try eating some wild fungi this is a group that is fairly easy to identify. (insert my usual legal disclaimer about eating fungi- aka. dont if you dont know what you are doing). So here are the steps, 1. identify the mushroom, 2. make sure it’s still young and fresh, 3. cut open each one to verify it isn’t an ‘egg’ of the deadly Amanita genus, and 4. cook thoroughly.

old puffball- notice the purple spores