Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Birds and the Mushrooms: Some of Mother Nature's Manna

I may have multiple vices but I don’t think anyone would call me a birding snob.  I love to bird watch—literally just stand or sit and watch birds. I love to study and learn about birds; and I love to talk and spend time in the field with other birders.  I also enjoy taking non-birders out in the field, sharing an extra pair of binoculars, and hopefully sparking their interest in my feathered friends.  But I’m not a birding snob. 

It’s not only that I know several birders that are MUCH more knowledgeable than I (with much longer life lists). It’s not only that I know several birders that are also great naturalists, with detailed understanding of habitats and other, non-feathered specimens of Mother Nature’s creatures.  It’s quite simply that when it comes to my vices, being a factoid snob isn’t really one of them.  There are simply too many facts that I know that I don’t know; and, as the saying goes, there are way too many facts that I don’t even know can be known.
No, I am not a factoid snob which pretty much prevents me from being a birding snob.  But I admit, when a good friend or family member says “Look at that amazing-looking bird!” I will respond with some phrasing that clarifies the species name of the Aves in question.  “Yes, isn’t that a beautiful Great Blue Heron?” 

Or a friend will say, “Goodness, look at that!”  And I’ll reply, “Doesn’t the Great Blue Heron have an extraordinary neck?”

My taxonomy clarification of a “bird” is not based on snobbery.  I simply believe that saying “bird” does not pay homage to these feathered beauties and their unique species attributes.  I prefer to be called by name—shouldn’t they?

And so this past week found me walking my neighborhood (in between torrential rains).  I was not chasing birds but looking for photographic opportunities to practice depth of field techniques with my 180mm macro lens.  A friend called me to suggest that I check out a colony of mushrooms sprouting against the trunk of one of our neighborhood’s beautifully-canopied Live Oak trees.
And even though my depth of field technique needs work, I was pleased to sight and photograph these lovely mushrooms:  


Those mushrooms:

What kind of mushrooms?  I really don’t know.  But aren’t they pretty?

My best guess is a hypholoma fasciculare, or sulfur tuft mushroom.  But this guess reminds me of a beginning birder spotting a fairly large white bird and guessing a Snowy Egret, only to learn it is a juvenile Little Blue Heron.
And so I think of one of my favorite words that carries a meaning not commonly understood:  manna (as in “manna from heaven”); my understanding (confirmed by an online search engine) is that the Hebrew definition of manna quite literally means “What is it?”  So those 40-year wanderers would sight some cache from heaven, run over to it and wonder:  “What is it?”  I can’t help but picture a great cartoon series of the “What is it?” kind.

So next time you sight a bird, a mushroom or some other natural wonder, ask yourself “What is it?”  A bit of manna from Mother Nature…
(And if one of my blog readers happens to know the “What is it” answer for these mushrooms, your non-snobbish factoid knowledge would be greatly appreciated.)


  1. I have no idea what type of mushroom that is! But I love to look at mushrooms. Do you know about fairy circles? When a mushroom or perhaps it is a toadstool spreads its spores in a circle. I think it is so cool, and I actually like to think that there are fairies dancing within that circle of mushrooms or sitting in the shade of the mushroom.

  2. The Great Blue Heron is probably my most favorite bird. I love watching them stalk there prey. I was treated to a wonderful site one day at Busch Gardens in Florida. For years I would sit at the Hippo exhibit and watch the goings on. The pool was filled with many colored fish, turtles, ducks, and other aquatic creatures. Often times fishing birds would try there luck at this pool. Most would be unsuccessful since the fish seemed to know enough to stay far enough away from the edge of the pool. This day a Great Blue's patience was rewarded and snagged quite a large fish that I was sure he could not swallow. I was wrong and it was a thrill to have been at the right place at the right time. Who knows what sites we miss by mere seconds or by focusing on something else. Continuing to enjoy your posts.



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