Winter Botany Study, Part 7: Mystery Nest

While we continue to get much needed moisture (snow) on our mountain, we continue to enjoy hiking the dry foothills of Albuquerque’s Open Spaces. The 2,000 foot drop in elevation is nudging spring along faster down there too. Already wormwood and globe mallow are sending up leaves from their perennial roots. While bending over to admire these soft fuzzy new leaves unfolding beneath the smooth sumac grove, I noticed that just inches away from my ear what appeared to be an old paper wasp nest! eeeeeeyikes! I hope no one saw me leap about 5 feet sideways!

After my heart slowed a bit, and with an audible sigh of relief at not being swarmed by angry wasps, I realized I had ”leapt” to a mistaken conclusion. Not a wasp nest at all, but a beautifully woven bird’s nest tucked securely in the fork of several sumac branches.

But what bird built this nest?

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Winter Botany Study, Part 6: Hygroscopic Earthstars

While anxiously looking for signs of spring, I was rummaging about under a scrub live oak yesterday just to see if that somewhat warm and protected site was harboring anything green. No luck, yet! But what I did find was small woody star sitting on top of the duff. Instantly I knew what it was (or so I thought). Always curious, the “star” made the trip home where I began poking and prodding and perusing the internet and my collection of mushroom field guides. Prepared to confirm my belief that this was the woody husk of a Puffball, after a few hours research I discovered how wrong I was. How the old adage, close is only good in horseshoes, is very true and that jumping to conclusions is often misleading. Oh really? puffball fungi don’t have woody husks! Time to geek out, again!

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