Snakes!

 

Crotalus viridis 2

Crotalus viridis oreganus, the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

by Brady Raymond

Rattlesnake 

Yes, snakes.  “isn’t this a mushroom blog?” Yeah, it’s a mushroom blog but Deviating From The Norm can be a good thing once and awhile especially when you find yourself in drier regions with few mushrooms around.  Snakes have certainly been on my mind lately and I hope they will be on your mind too this spring.  I grew up in Michigan, (southern lower peninsula) and every summer I would catch snakes, almost exclusively Garter Snakes, but I did see a few Water Snakes, Racers, and Hog-Nosed Snakes.  Once I even found a small Milk Snake.  I was young but I remember being extremely excited, they are such beautiful snake and rare in at least my experience.  My dream snake, however, was always Rattlesnakes.  I had dreams of the South, more specifically the Southwest.  The desert seemed so exotic compared to my Midwestern home and that is where as a youngster, I imagined all the Rattlers were.

Ironically, there are Rattlesnakes in Michigan.  My Grandfather and other old-timers I knew would talk of the little buggers being under piles of hay around the farm and near to swamps, which is what Michigan mostly was a century ago.  The Rattlers found in Michigan are the Massasauga Rattlesnakes and I have only seen the shed skin of one brought to school by a classmate.  I imagine they were mostly wiped out by the farmers as more land was converted to agriculture and then to housing.  If there are any in Michigan now, they are most likely confined to the thickets, marshes and swamps where folks rarely venture.

I’ve spent some time down in the Southeast and Southwest too, yet I have never stumbled across a Rattlesnake, and trust me when I say I was looking for them.  I’ve turned over plenty of rocks and logs in my day (always turn them back the way you found them) but I was never lucky enough to spot one of these beauties, until now.

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Morel Count, I’m at two

Salixland Morel 2

My second Morel of the year.  At this rate I expect to find five or six total this season.

By Brady Raymond

Things were looking good at the end of winter, sufficient snowpack, and some late winter rain but then a dry spell.  Over here, east of the Cascades the last couple of weeks have been warm and dry.  Dry enough ironically to put a damper on my mushrooming mood. Today, however, the rains did come and it looks like they will extend into next week. I got myself a bit of a good omen and stumbled across another Morel only a few feet away from where I had found my first Morel of the year.  I snapped off a few shots then decided to snoop around a bit and see if I could spot a few more.

As I circled around some brush I saw a yellow laser streak in front of me across the damp ground. My mushrooming focus now tuned into snake vision, I reassessed my naturing priorities and the hunt for the serpent was on.  The snake, small, only a youngster really, caught cover under the corner of a large concrete chunk.  I thought I had lost it but with a little gentle prodding and the snake emerged from its shelter.  I captured it and after a few seconds of squirming and discharging a foul-smelling musk, it decided I wasn’t a threat and calmed down.  I was deep in shade and as if on cue, a gust of wind blew on the canopy of Willow above, allowing the evening rays of the Sun to penetrate down to the snake in my hand.  Lighting went from bad to good in an instant, I took advantage of the situation and snapped the photo below.  Look for an article about my adventures snaking to follow this story soon.

Garter Snake 5

Newborn Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi.  Garter Snakes give “birth” to live young.

My second Morel of the year and an encounter with the beautiful Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi left me giddy and with a touch of the fuzzies.  Then I remembered spotting some mushrooms the day before, just up the trail on the exposed roots of a wind-toppled Willow tree. I had to bushwhack my way through standing dead to reach the specimens, which from across the creek looked to be Coprinellus micaceus, and upon closer inspection that is the name I gave them.

It was kind of a difficult shot, which had me lying prone on a mat of sticks and twigs and below that was a black soupy muck.  If I applied too much pressure to a knee or elbow seepage of this muck into my clothing was inevitable.  The image isn’t a wall hanger but it is good enough as evidence that this species occurs both on my property and on Willow.  I haven’t identified anything down to species but so far I’ve spotted Agaricus, Pholiota, Psathyrella, Galerina, Xylaria, Morchella, and fairy rings in my lawn, evidence left presumably by Marasmius.

Coprinellus micaceus SL

Coprinellus micaceus, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  DNA studies suggest however-blah, blah, blah.

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