Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stop, drop and look: Foraging in the high Sierras

I haven't hunted in ages. I haven't even gone fishing. But Hank and I went foraging at an undisclosed location in the high Sierras yesterday, and while our haul wasn't epic, it was a perfectly beautiful way to spend a Saturday.

Here's what we saw, through my macro lens (click "Read more" below the slideshow for captions):

1. Morel in its habitat.

2. Morels back home in the studio - we collected ten, but came home with nine because my bag tore and I lost one.

3. False morel. Really, who would think that's a morel?

4. Bracken fern.

5. Another fern (some kind of fiddlehead, not sure exactly which kind).

6. Watercress in its habitat (a cool mountain stream).

7. Currant flowers. That bush is going to be loaded later this summer!

8. Bumble bee on unidentified flower.

9. Red ant - moving way too fast for me to catch him in that lighting.

10. Black ant - mercifully not as frantic as the red ant.

11. Baby mountain jay, out of the nest too early. The second I dropped to my knees to peer at him, his parents set up in a nearby tree and squawked at me relentlessly. Hope he makes it, but I doubt he survived the night.

12. These are from a heap of feathers I found while looking for morels. I have NO IDEA what bird they're from. Ideas anyone? (Update: A hurrah goes out to Rebecca O'Connor and Rene Simon for pulling this bird out of a hat: red-shafted flicker!)

© Holly A. Heyser 2011


TenMile said...

#5. Search "Fiddler head", Fiddlers Fern.

grapfhics said...

TenMile got there first, a fiddlehead.

HTTrainer said...

raptor feathers? red tailed hawk?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Tenmile and Grapfhics: We're tying to figure out exactly which species, too. My boyfriend's best guess: lady fern?

HTTrainer: Ah, I'll have to get my falconer friends to weigh in on this. The hard part is that guide books focus on whole birds, rarely showing feathers.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Got an answer on the feathers: Red-shafted flicker! Just updated the post to reflect that.

Ingrid said...

A note of encouragement on the jay photo: I wouldn't be 100 percent worried about the little jay. Unless she is injured, she appears to be fully feathered, a great sign. She's probably just this side of fledgling stage, where it's normal for them to be on the ground. It's amazing to me that baby birds survive at all. But, the parents are nearby, which means they are looking after her and feeding her. Jays and corvids in general are amazing, protective parents. So, Holly, you might be surprised. When I see a nest nearby, I often lift the baby back in. If they're fledglings, you can also lift them to a higher, safer spot, like a good branch or platform in the same area, where the parents can find them. Of course, fledglings will most likely just hop down again. That's what they do.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oh, Ingrid, I'm so glad to hear that. My instincts said "Don't touch," and it sounds like that was a good choice. The bird was actually pretty well-hidden - I only saw it because I was looking for mushrooms. And I have seen fledglings like that survive a day or two without the ability to fly. Yay!

Gretchen Steele said...

Ahhhh - your lovely photos have brought back the memories of spring for me here in Southern Illinois - we are now in the middle of the hot humid high water stage of the game.. but my gut tells me chanterelles are out! I'll be having a look around for them tomorrow !
I absolutely love your artful approach to photographing the wild things.

Blessed said...

I'm longing for a Macro Lens...

I'll second what Gretchen said - I love your artful way of photographing wild things :)

jryoung said...

Can I ask the approximate altitude that you were at? The wet winter and long spring have created some interesting results for morels, I'm curious to see where they are still popping.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Gretchen: Back down here in the valley, it was actually pretty warm - summer has finally arrived here.

Blessed: It is an infinitely fun in vestment. With mine, I can get about an inch away from my subject - that's how close I was to the bee and the black ant.

JR: I'm not really sure, but I'm guessing it was between 3k and 4k. There were a few patches of snow on the ground where the morels were.

Funny, though: It looked really different from last year - the dead grass was pressed to the ground as if a stream had run over it, but I'm pretty sure it was just snowpack. It didn't look that way last year.

Josh said...

Flicker feathers - orange-shafted variety of the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

They hold special significance for some tribes.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Josh, which tribes and why? They're really beautiful, and they fit right in with my found-feather collection, which has a lot of magpie feathers in it at the moment (found feathers as opposed to feathers from hunted birds).

SimplyOutdoors said...


I don't understand how anyone can mistake a false morel for a real one either. But they do it - a few people just became really ill in Northern Michigan, because they ate a few.

Those pictures are great, and they solidify that you had a great day!

Jessica said...

All looks awesome! A (vegan) friend of mine once sauteed fiddlehead ferns with some gnocchi, and I'm pretty sure it was the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.