Jangly, shimmery summer 90’s music has been on the playlist (thank you dj husband) and doors are open in the studio. Yard fires, bird song, and that awesome musky blooming plant smell keep luring us outside. The tufty back pasture behind our place is a fabulous hunting ground for birds. Poo- and viscera-splattered fence posts are testimony to its attraction, in particular to Red-shouldered Hawks. Snakes, anoles, and little hairy unidentifiable things seem to be the primary prey.
Black Racers prefer the brushy perimeters. This one was cruising the edge of the yard with its head held up like a periscope. Usually these snakes scoot away when approached, but this individual had a cloudy eye and some scarring along its sides, so perhaps flight mode is compromised. Maybe a run-in with a weed-wacker or lawn mower? Black racers have excellent vision and hunt by sight. It watched the camera with its good and gorgeous eye, and rattled its tail when the lens got too close.
What a dumb play on words. But really, we had fun, we saw galls, and some were caused by fungus. It’s true! Last week, an EF1 tornado blew through the neighborhood. It was a scary novelty exaggerated just a teeny bit by excitable local news media and booze-addled neighbors. Hail and huge raindrops pelted the ground before and after, so the ground was saturated – perfect conditions for some weird stuff to appear.
Starfish Stinkhorns, Aseroe rubra, have worldwide distribution, but are apparently not common in North Carolina, and may have been introduced. We’ve never seen them, so it was treated like an alien landing – we pointed, poked, prodded, and smelled. (Indeed, they are stinky.) Thank you Mushroom Expert for identification!
Back at Carolina Beach State Park, also affected by several inches of recent rain, we spotted what looked like giant fuzzy white blueberry flowers. On closer inspection, they appear to be the work of Exobasidium vaccinii, a fungus that infects members of Vaccinium and Gaylusaccia, among others. Evidently, some plant galls caused by this fungus are considered a delicacy. Or maybe eating them causes lunacy? Don’t try this at home. Here’s a link to a hilarious mycology blog, should you want to know more…
During our wanderings, some scaly life forms also made an appearance in the damp maritime forest floor. A Broad-headed Skink scuttled up a tree to avoid getting squashed, making a racket worthy of a much larger scarier creature. And this little Yellow Rat Snake eyeballed us from the path edge, braving some close-up observation without flinching or bolting.
suburban biodiversity in southeastern north carolina