23 January 2010

I Like Lichen

I took a trip down to nearby Huntley Meadows Park. This is the largest county park in Fairfax County, with 1,425 acres of "majestic forests, wildflower-speckled meadows and vast wetlands for some of the best wildlife watching in the Washington metropolitan area." I wanted to review the winners of the center's annual Photography Contest, including a photo of Kingbirds entered by a bird-watcher good friend.

A walk through the wooded trails and along the wetlands boardwalk yielded a surprising amount of interesting wildlife for a drab Saturday afternoon in winter. A King Rail was spotted munching in the cattails, with its tiger-stripe orange back and zebra striped belly. Others loafing around included abundant Canada geese, mallards, gulls, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatch, and crows. The more interesting included the downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, and rare (in this area) red-headed woodpecker. My favorite sighting was the Eastern bluebird, standing out in a background without color.

With my tiny Canon Power Shot in hand, a few interesting photogenic features were found growing in the wood trails: lichen and fungus. The colorful lichen were growing in their symbiotic relationship with with algae and moss, as usual. However, there were a few areas where fungus instead seemed to be its mate. Lichen usually rely on the sugars produced by green algae, so with no algae or moss, I don't know what these little beasties were up to.

The same lichen on trees appeared to be two different colors - pale green and a pale greenish-blue. I wasn't sure if this was the same lichen in a different stage of growth, or a slightly different species. The lichen was so pervasive that the trees looked like a paintball game just finished.

The interesting fungi that were found resembled clamshells with the horizontal stripes, popcorn on the log, and bite-sized caramels on the fallen branch. I believe I was hungry that day, affecting the way I saw things. At least the birds didn't look like chocolate-covered marshmallow peeps.


jodi (bloomingwriter) said...
It's nice to see others appreciate lichens, because so many people think they are nuisances, fungus, mould, etc. It was fun finding out about this park, too, because my hubby's last name is Huntley. I now have a craving, however, for chocolate marshmellow peeps. ;-)
Swimray said...
Thanks for visiting. I learned a lot about lichen while putting this post together. (I don't have an aversion to them.) They are very interesting little lifeforms.