Tag Archives: Nature

Mushroom walk

I was contacted recently on this blog by a fellow looking for someone to lead a mushroom walk up in cottage country. It’s getting right toward the end of our season here, but I agreed to do the walk on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll find some interesting mushrooms and some tasty edibles. I am not a mycologist. It’s just a hobby for me. I enjoy trying to identify mushrooms and I enjoy collecting tasty edibles for the table. I can identify quite a few species but there are hundreds and hundreds of different species in our woods. I’m sure we’ll find all kinds of things I won’t be able to identify – and a bunch of mushrooms I’m familiar with as well. These folks are pretty smart in seeking out someone to help them ID mushrooms. Even though I’m not a pro naturalist or mycologist, I’m sure by sharing some of my knowledge and experience, I can help a few people begin to learn for themselves.

Quite a number of people have found this blog by searching for info about Ontario mushrooms. I’d like to take a moment to remind people to be really careful about eating any mushrooms you pick in the woods – unless you’re 100% sure you know what you’ve got and you know it’s safe to eat. Also, even mushrooms known to be generally safe can cause stomach upset in some people, and certain edibles are more likely to do this than others. If you have identified a mushroom and you’re sure of the ID and you want to eat it, but sure you first cook up a little bit and eat that, and see how your body reacts – before enjoying more of the mushrooms.


An organization in Toronto called Citizens Concerned about the future of the Etobicoke Waterfront, or CCFEW for short(er), organizes regular birdwalks at Sam Smith Park and at Humber Bay.  There was one scheduled for this morning, so we trundled out in the rain to enjoy it.

wet bird walk
wet bird walk
Intrepid but hopeless birdwaters
Intrepid but hopeless birdwatchers

The rain kept some of the birds down, but still I think we saw 19 species:

American Goldfinch (lots of them, flying around and singing)
Magnolia Warbler (one, which could just be seen hiding in some bushes)
Song Sparrow (a few)
Cliff Swallow (they nest at the water filtration plant….these, like other swallows, have been in decline)
Eastern Kingbird
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Hooded Merganser
Mallards (lots of them)
American Black Duck (hanging out with the mallards)
Mute Swans (the bullies of the waterfront)
Black Crowned Night Heron
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebes
Muscovy (likely an escapee from a farm)

Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebe
Red-necked Grebe

Sam Smith Park is a significant breeding area for Red-necked Grebes. We saw the female in the picture sitting on its nest while the male dove nearby for food (the male isn’t visible in the picture….the other bird in the picture behind the grebe is a cormorant). This is late for the birds to be on the nest. It could be the first attempt failed and this was a second try at raising a family. On another nest, we saw a mother grebe with two young ones. The babies have stripes on their heads.

In spite of unrelenting rain, we had fun on the bird walk. I’d like to go on the next one as well, in early October.

Pilgrim on the Road

Pilgrim on the Road
Pilgrim on the Road

The weather changed quickly from a cool morning with a menacing cloud overhead to a hot clear afternoon, one of several rapid weather shifts I experienced on the Upper Peninsula. This turtle was crossing Country Road 450 where it crossed The Driggs River very slowly in the heat. This turtle had places to go, things to see. I agree with my friend here that the river on the upstream side of the bridge is more interesting than the river on the downstream side.

Here are Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band performing Pilgrim, from the recording “The Mountain”. I listened to this full blast in the car several times while rolling down the highway last week.

Birds, birds, birds….

Tuffy P signed us up somewhere or another to receive emailed birding reports. I thought that might mean an email every few days but it turns out that birders are a very industrious lot and they take their hobby oh so seriously. Here are some sample headers from the emails we’ve been receiving:

Hudsonian Godwits @ West perth…
Hudsonian Godwit- Yes, American Golden Plover – Yes, at West Perth Wetlands
Eared Grebe still present at Townsend Sewage Lagoons
Short billed Dowitchers and 6 Black bellied Plovers over Andrew Haydon Park (west)
Jaegerless day at Van Wagner’s, Hamilton
Toronto Islands fall migration – Blue-winged and Prairie Warblers etc.
James Bay shorebirds — Chickney Point
Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Whitby

We’re getting dozens of birding reports. We have more information on bird sightings in Ontario than I imagined possible.

Dryad’s Saddle

After I posted about oyster mushrooms the other day, someone asked me if there were any other mushrooms I might mistake for oyster mushrooms. In Southern Ontario this time of year, there isn’t much around that might cause confusion (although I say that, I also say that you should never consume any mushroom from the forest unless you can identify it with 100% certainty – always be sure!)

Another mushroom you may see growing from trees in the woods this time of year is the Dryad’s Saddle or Polyporus squamosus.

I usually see these low down on tree trunks. They are much firmer than oysters and have the characteristic brown on them. They also smell kind of like watermelon rind. I understand these are tough but edible, but that said, I know one naturalist who swears he ate some once and they made him sick. I’ve never tried eating these and don’t intend to try them.

A Prediction I Like

The Weather Network has predicted normal summer temperatures this year, but in the Toronto area, higher than normal precipitation. This is good news for the amateur mycologists in the crowd. Last season started off well enough with plenty of morels and plenty of oysters but then a very dry July made it a poor year for chanterelles. Things picked up some later in August and into September. I found my share of hedgehogs, some good puffballs and some milk caps and as usual, plenty of lobster mushrooms.

I missed those chanterelles last year though. I’d love to see a warm wet July this year to get the chanterelles and the summer boletes off to a good start. Just sayin’.


I expected that the last rain would bring out the yellow morels in my area and so today I drove out to a couple spots I know for a look. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Not a morel. Could it be possible that the premature spring followed by colder weather we experienced this year has bolloxed the morel flush? I don’t believe it. Last year I picked morels around May 20 and I got to them towards the end as most of the ones I picked were very big. True, it’s two weeks earlier now, but I believe many plants are early and mayflies are a couple weeks early too.

I did come across a nice patch of young ramps and I brought home enough for a couple dinners. I noticed that fiddleheads are done in my area – the ostrich ferns are a good foot tall.

It’s raining again tonight. I think I’ll wait a few days and see if this rain triggers a flush.


I headed out for the enchanted mushroom forest this morning, along with my buddies Memphis and Ellie Mae. I didn’t find a lot of mushrooms today though.

This is a meager sample of Hypsizygus ulmarius, the so-called Elm Oyster. I say so-called because in Ontario, I’ve only found them on maple trees. I expected to find some better samples for dinner, but nope, this was it.

These are Lycoperdon pyriforme, the Pear-shaped puffball, known in some circles as the “wolf-fart” puffball. These are edibles. The ones in this photo are in various stages of maturity. I should have taken more photos, including close-ups. You can see though, that some of them are a dun colour. These are already in full maturity. If you plan to eat these, pick only the immature ones that are all white. Everywhere you read about the little puffballs, you’ll find a warning to cut them in half to be sure they are in fact puffballs and not immature poisonous amanitas. Never mind that you won’t find amanitas growing on a dead tree – I always take that precaution because the cost of eating deadly amanitas is way too high. In another area of the forest, I found number of samples of another variety of small puffball, known as the gem-studded puffball, Lycoperdon perlatum.

In just one spot near the trail, I came across a bunch of Aborted Entoloma at the base of a stump. These are edibles, and I can say that they’re pretty good. However, they are just so strange, I don’t find them all that appetizing. I expected to also find loads of honey mushrooms nearby, but only found a few.

We enjoyed a great hike on some excellent trails through a forest that has a great deal of variety. And as a bonus for the dogs, we hiked to a big pool in the river where they had a lengthy swim.