It’s Still Summer, But Fall Is In A Hurry To Get Here This Year.

Today started out  cloudy, breezy and cool, with temperatures in the mid 40’s and, even though we still have some Summer left it felt a lot more like Fall.  I decided to again place my macro lens on my camera and take it along on my search for wild mushrooms. brown maple leaf sitting on ground

As I  walked in the mixed pine, birch and aspen woods in search of aspen scaber bloete or red tops, as my dad called them, I noticed a lot of the leaves are now beginning to show some color. bright red blueberry leaves

Many of the blueberry bushes, both low and high bush species, are turning a brilliant red. red blueberry leaf

And some of the leaves on the birch, yellow white birch leaf

and maple trees are also changing into their fall colors. maple leaf turning red

There were a few wild flowers still in bloom,  I don’t know the names of this one,purple wild flower

nor the name of this beautiful white late blooming orchard, white orchard in bloom

but I do know this is a species of ragweed, not well lied by those of us, me included, who suffer from allergies. insect on ragweed flower

I was disappointed I didn’t find any red top mushrooms but I did find a wild crab apple tree,wild crab apples

and sampled it’s very sour fruit. wild crab apple with a bite

I left the birch/ aspen/ pine woods and decided to search for some  hen of the woods or, as we call them, ramshead mushrooms. I didn’t find this one  in the woods. Some friends found it in growing in their yard and let me harvest it . These mushrooms grow mainly on old oak trees so the woods are very different. hen of the woods or ramshead mushroom

I usually hike second growth forests with a mixture of maple, oak, pine hemlock and the occasional ash and hickory nut tree. The ground is usually covered with many species of ferns, which are also changing color early this year. , close up of fern which has tuned yellow

and my mortal enemies,   brambles and thorn bushes,thorns on a thorn bush

and blackberry brambles which have caused me many scratches on my legs and tumbles to the ground when walking into them in the thick underbrush as I look for the old oak trees which may have a ramshead  mushroom growing on it. blackberry thorns

There were some mushrooms growing along paths, 

including what I think is a cauliflower mushroom and,

some old puffballs,

but, unfortunately I didn’t find what I was looking for, a ramshead mushroom. But there is always tomorrow and it is always good to be outdoors in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Macro walk 

Summer ends and autumn comes, and he who would have thought it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.”  –  Hal Borland

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September Hikes With My Macro Lens. More Of Nature Up Close

It’s hard to believe it’s September already. It seems we were just anxiously awaiting the return of the song birds and the first flowers of Spring.  Seasons change so quickly it seems. It is almost fall now and here in Northeastern Pennsylvania late summer brings mushrooms. red top or aspen scaber bolete mushroom

I was out looking for red tops. or aspen scaber bolete,  (a nice specimen shown above)  these past few days. Like most mushroom foragers, I don’t  reveal my favorite spots, so rather than give hints to where I was,  I took took my camera with a macro lens to share some more of nature close up. close up of yellow jacket on leaf

The first thing I noticed, due to the cool weather we’ve been having, it was in the low 40’s a couple of mornings,  was the reduced activity of the insects.close up of wasp on leaf

I found many wasps, bees and yellow jackets almost motionless on the leaves and flowers on my walk. And I noticed many ladybug beetles also almost in a dormant state in the early morning cold. close up of lady bug beetle on leaf

But  many, including yellow jackets  are still active as the day warms up, especially when you step on their nest, as I did and got stung on my shin. Ouch!close up of yellow jacket on leaf

 My search for red tops mushrooms brought me to areas of new forest growth with younger, pine, aspen and birch trees. And, what my dad called  ‘mushroom bushes” also know as sweet fern. Here is a close up of a sweet fern leaf already changing colors as the summer ends. . sweet fern leaf

It has been dry and I was disappointed to find only a few mushrooms growing, mainly pigskin puffballs, or what my dad called, “shoe polish”. This one was too old to cut in half and explain the reason for that name, but, stay tuned, I will demonstrate in a future posts. close up of poison pigskin mushroom

I also found some more unusual objects on my walks, including this oak gall, created from hormones injected by a wasp when it lays it’s eggs on a oak leaf. Pretty fascinating. oak gall

And not sure if I should get into this, but it is part of nature, I found, what I think is bear do do on the ground. Not positive but if any one knows please comment.possibly bear droppings

I do know this is deer do do and deer droppings

and this white substance on this leaf was droppings left by an unknown bird.bird dropping on a leaf

Well onto something more appealing, some left over blueberries,close up of blueberries

and some chokeberries. I just learned these berries, which we were taught were poisonous,  were one of the staple foods of Shoshone Native American tribe. chokeberries up close

And the oaks also had plenty of acorns this year. close up of acorn

As I wrote in my post from my hike last week, there were still some flower in bloom or about to bloom.    close up of wild flower bud

I didn’t find a lot of mushroom but it is always nice to roam the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania with my eyes peeled, you will always uncover some of the beauty of nature.  It is raining as I type, hopefully there will be more mushroom pictures in my next post. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hikes. Macro photographs. 

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” –Albert Einsteingrass up close

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Mushroom Hunting With My Macro Lens

It’s August, and we have had plenty of rain this past month, and that means mushrooms,  here,  in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  king bolete mushroom

My dad taught me and my bothers how to pick two species of bolete mushrooms from an early age. I was about three when he first took me searching for red tops and cozie mushrooms.  Some of my most cherished childhood memories were on these mushroom yellow or bi color bolete mushroom

I  have continued the tradition,  and hope to write more about it in a future blogs, check the archives search for past blogs about mushrooms. Today I will just quickly share some photographs of mushrooms I found, on my hike last weekend.  Some of which like this old man of the woods bolete mushroom I can identify. old man of the woods mushroom

I now eat over 50 species of wild mushrooms but will not identify which are edible and which are not here on my blog since many mushrooms are poisonous and can make you very sick or even kill you. These jack ‘ o ‘ lantern mushrooms are very poisonous.jack o lantern mushrooms

I would advise you not to eat any wild mushroom unless you are 100% it is edible.  Having provided that warning I not only enjoy eating them, I love the many colors, shapes and sizes that are found here in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This is a milker or milky mushroom,milker mushrooms

so named because of the white latex like substance that oozes from the mushroom when cut or broken. milker mushroom

Some, like these coral mushrooms are shaped differently then the common mushroom.coral mushroom

The color range from bright reds like this species of russula mushrooms rusulla mushrooms

to the bright yellow chanterelle mushroom chanterelle mushroom

or the black trumpets. black trumpet mushrrom

I also came across some jewel weed or touch me not flowers and, as always is the case the insects found them too. bee in jewel weed flower

I again spent more time that I had planned photographing the many colorful insects attracted to the flowers.  beetle on jewel weed leaf

Like mushrooms, I am always amazed by the many  species, and their different sizes and color. macro of fly on jewel weed leaf

I also came across this tiny toad,young toad

this newt or red eft newt or red eft in leaves

and found this late season recently hatched egg shell but I am not familiar with the  birds that would best this late in the season. 

I gathered a nice variety of wild mushrooms , and enjoyed them for dinner. I love the summer and my hikes searching for wild mushrooms. Here is a link to some more photographs of mushrooms, insects and some other stuff I observed on my hike. Sorry but I am not going to tell you where I hiked, mushroom hunters don’t share that information. lol

Falling in love is like eating mushrooms, you never know if it’s the real thing until it’s too late.– Bill Balance

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Late Summer: Mushrooms, Spiders, Toads And Other Cool Stuff In Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog lately . There are two reasons, the first, I have been busy at the office and with some other matters and the second, it is mushroom season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.muchroom-hike-14

When it’s mushroom season I am out in the forests and woodlands looking for wild mushrooms. And, as anyone who has searched for edible wild mushrooms would tell you, we don’t share our secret spots. So I don’t take  landscape photographs which may give them away.mushrooms-30

I was fortunate to have had a Polish  father who knew a few edible species and who loved taking my brothers and I into the wooded strip mining areas and teaching us how to identify them.  I took the skills I was taught  and continued to learn and identify many species of edible mushrooms. I will not attempt to identify them  in this blog since an improper identification can lead to sickness and even death. Yes, many species are deadly, so please don’t try to identify any wild mushroom without the help of an expert. The mushrooms here are shared for their beauty only and please do not think the are edible. some, like this destroying angel will kill you.muchroom-hike-12

I did take my camera and macro lens on  a few of my mushrooms hikes , although it is hard to look for the wild mushrooms and take  photographs at the same time.  It has been a hot and  very dry Summer here, and the mushrooms are not as plentiful as they are some years, when we get plenty of rain,  but I still found many species on my hikes.  And I am proud to say with the help of my nephew Mikey, we have enough to keep alive my dad’s tradition of  drying some “red tops”, a species of bolete mushroom for  soup on Holy Supper on Christmas Eve, This is an old Polish tradition which brought so much joy to our family over the years.  Here is a link to some more  of the many species of mushrooms I found on my hikes these past few weeks.

And here is another link to some more photographs of wild mushrooms I found this Summer

In addition to mushrooms I also find so many other things on my hikes. I feel like a child every time I leave my house, not knowing exactly what I will find. Yesterday, was a good day to be in the woods. It was hot again, it may be our last hot weekend of the year, and I first noticed the increasing number of acorns on the ground. A sure sign the seasons will soon change. macro-walk-22

The leaves on the trees are now showing their age and some are already donning their Fall colors. macro-walk-23

Since it was a dry Summer, there were not a lot of mosquitoes and other flying insects, and not nearly as many spider webs as there are some years, but I did run into a few. Spiders and their webs have always intrigued me, and as a child I would spend hours watching them, as I threw unfortunate ants onto their webs. Yesterday I was more kind and tossed some plant seeds but it sure fooled this orb spider, who thought it was a meal.  spiders-8

I also saw a few of these spiders, daddy long legs, we called them, on my hike. Here is a link to some more photographs of the spiders I encountered on my hike.

There are not many flowers in bloom now, but the ones that are, including this late blooming thistle, still attract bees and other insects. macro-walk-8

I also saw quite a few toads on my hike. I have seen many of this species  of toads before. macro-walk-14

But I have never seen one of these fellows, who was smaller and had a more reddish color. They sure can jump faster than their larger cousins. This one was actually about one third of the size of the one above. macro-walk-18

I found very few mushrooms growing yesterday, it is just too dry this year. macro-walk-16

But, I did spot this unusual creature sitting atop a log. At first I thought it was a leaf but, after taking a closer look, I noticed it moved! I had no idea what  it was at first but, after watching it for awhile, I decided it had to be some type of caterpillar. monkey-slug-caterpillar-3

I  learned, when I got home that it is a monkey slug caterpillar, and develops into a hag moth. I have never seen one before. Here is a link to a youtube video I uploaded of this  strange creature

After spending some time watching the exotic caterpillar I headed back to my car. I didn’t find any edible mushrooms yesterday, but I was, once again, happy to enjoy some of the many wonders of nature found in the  woodlands of Northeastern pennsylvania, including one I never saw before. Well, it’s  time to take another hike today, and, hopefully, I will find something new again. But, even if I don’t I  will be happy seeing  some of the  ‘old’ and familiar  critters, plants and mushrooms I have come to know and love. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike yesterday.



“Nature is my manifestation of God.
I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.”
Frank Lloyd Wrightmuchroom hike -26




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Better Late Than Never: Mushrooms Are Growing In Northeastern Pennsylvania.

photo (4)We got plenty of much needed rain here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past week and, although it  is very late in the season, it has brought out some of the edible mushroom species.

Yesterday, a cool and overcast day, I hiked in the aspen/birch/ pine woods looking for the bolete species that my dad taught my brothers and I to pick when we were very young children. Only found one and I think it may be too late for this species of mushroom this year.

I then hiked into some oak woods and found a few young hen of the woods (or ramshead, as they are know in my area) mushrooms. I also found a few honey mushrooms, know around here as stumpers or popinkies.Mushroom hike two 023

After a cool and cloudy start it turned out to be  was a beautiful day here and I headed into some oak and maple woods , now beginning to change color, to look for some more mushrooms.Mushroom hike  (7 of 16)

It was  windy day and the ground was now littered with multi-colored leaves that had fallen in the rain or which were blown off from the wind.  It was a refreshing day to be in the woods.Mushroom hike  (12 of 16)

The woods are quiet now,  the birds, frogs and insects are gone. I heard a few blue jays and crows and the constant thudding of the heavy acorn crop falling to the ground. The sun shinning through the trees lit up the many colored leaves, each leaf having a unique color pattern.Mushroom hike  (1 of 16)

I love photographing the many shades of colors on the different leaves, and could have spent the entire day taking photos. but I was looking for mushrooms and wanted to get back for some afternoon football.

During my search i found a cranberry bog and there was. like the acorns, a very heavy crop of large cranberries. I am thinking we are in for a long Winter this year.Mushroom hike  (6 of 16)

I did find a few  older hen of the woods or ramsheads mushrooms which were now ruined by the heavy rains. And I found a few  just  starting to grow so I left them. I was just about ready to head home when I found this nice hen of the woods mushroom.Mushroom hike two 023

ANd after that found quite a few honey mushrooms or popinkies. These are one of my favorites.Mushroom hike  (7 of 12)

I just wish to caution everyone that NO  ONE should pick a wild mushroom unless you are ABSOLUTELY positive that it is safe to eat.  There are many that look alike and some can make you very sick and even KILL you. So please be careful and only pick those you have had absolutely identified.

i headed home with a nice batch of mushrooms in the photograph above. I made a nice meal of ramsheads and popinkies sauted in olive oil and onions.

photo (3)

It is late but I’m hoping,   with some warm weather this week, I can find more of these lowly, and great tasting fungi. And even if I don’t it is still a nice time of year to be in the woods. This is a link to some more photographs I took on my hike today.

Mushroom hike  (2 of 16)




“I love like a leaf in the wind. Please, hold your applause until the end of the performance (the last day of fall).”
Jarod Kintz,

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Picking Mushrooms Is No Picnic, But We Love It Here In Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Searching for and picking edible mushrooms has long been a tradition here in the “coal regions” of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Each ethnic groups had it’s own traditions and picked different species of the many edible mushrooms that grow in our woodlands and countrysides.

Today I decided to look for the hen of the woods (known around here as a ranshead or sheepshead) mushroom and chicken mushroom.    That is a chicken mushroom pictured above. These species of mushrooms grow mainly on oak trees in these parts and looking for and finding them can be quite an ordeal. 

Since mushrooms usual grow in the same area year after year we mushroom pickers are very secretive about where we find them so there will be no photographs of where I hiked today but just some of the mushrooms and things i found on the way, such as this older milky cap or milker  mushroom.  They also grow in oak woods but they are just about out of season now.  mushroom hike  (18 of 31)

I always check trees where I found mushrooms before and some of them are  growing on old oaks or oak stumps in thick woods. Today I had to crawl through a lot of brush and thorns  on my search. and have plenty of cuts and scratches to prove it. mushroom hike  (17 of 31)

Another obstacle  is the numerous spider webs that hand in the underbrush. A spider web to the face is not a pleasant experience, especially if the spider is on is very hard to get the sticky threads of the web off your skin. mushroom hike  (7 of 31)

Mosquitoes, wasps, bees, gnats and ticks are also an annoyance that I  have just gotten used too.  It has been dry here so there were not as many mosquitoes as earlier in the Summer and I was lucky to not have to pull any ticks off today. The bees and wasps usually leave me alone, unless I accidentally step on a nest which hasn’t happened for a while now. The biggest annoyance today were the swarms of gnats that flew into my eyes, ears and nose. mushroom hike  (1 of 31)

It got warmer today so i was pretty hot but, despite all of these annoyance I still love to be in the woods. So peaceful and you never know what you may find. Last week I encountered a bear in a tree but today all I saw where a lot of frogs jumping into the ponds, a few chipmunks and a lot of birds. They are starting to migrate now and I saw a lot of robins gathering together to prepare to head south. I only had my macro lens with me so no photographs but did find this feather. mushroom hike  (21 of 31)

I walked out about three miles and didn’t find any chicken or ramshead mushrooms but did find a few species growing despite the dry conditions in the woods.mushroom hike  (6 of 31)

I was lucky to find the mall, but fresh, chicken mushroom, pictured above,  growing on an oak stump. They get woody and tough very quickly but this one was perfect. I headed back with my treasure still  checking any oak tree i came across. No mushrooms but plenty of signs Summer is ending, including an abundant crop of acorns on the oak trees. mushroom hike  (20 of 31)

On the way back I walked the much easier path and enjoyed walking in the woods. I noticed a few leaves already changing colors . mushroom hike  (8 of 31)

It was a long and tiring walk but I  love the woods and i will have a nice meal of fresh chicken mushroom tonight.  I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow. Here is a link to some more photographs I took on my hike today.



“what it is…is a place where I can return to myself. It’s enough of a scramble to get to…that the energy expended is significant, and it translates into a change in my body chemistry and my psychological chemistry and my heart chemistry…”
Jay Salter



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Sorry For The Absence, But So Much To Do In The Summer, And Mushroom Hunting Is One Of Them.

We had a lot of rain here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year and the mushrooms keep growing. I had a busy week and didn’t get a chance to post any blogs but I did find time to get out and find some mushrooms.macro   (5 of 9)

The woods are filled with many species of mushrooms of all colors and shapes. I love finding the edible ones but also enjoy seeing the beauty of  the species that are growing  in our woods. macro mushrooms (21 of 23)

And I always take my camera along to see if I can find anything else that may make for a good photograph. Yesterday I found this slug on a mushroom and had him do some posing for me. I will have to admit it’s hard to try and find a lot oof beauty in these critters. macro slug 085 (1 of 1)

The forest floor is also strewn with these unusual plants, indian pipes. They are often mistaken for a fungus but they are not.  They are white because they have no chlorophyll. macro indian pipes (1 of 1)

And of course it is still blueberry or swamper season and i was able to eat a lot of berries while looking for mushrooms.


I sure do love the summers. This is a link to some more photographs of the many mushrooms and a few  insects I found on my hikes this macro   (7 of 9)week.




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Mushrooms, Huckleberries And My Macro Lens.

We finally got some summer weather here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Mostly sunny skies and warm temperatures have a lot of folks  enjoying some outdoor activities.

I did some swimming on Friday but spent the weekend enjoying two old time outdoor traditions, picking mushrooms and huckleberries. And I was able to engage in my new hobby be bringing along  my camera and macro lens  and  photograph some of the many wonders of nature I encountered in the woods.

We had a lot of rain here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year and this has resulted in many species of mushroom appearing almost overnight, including aspen scaber bolete mushrooms, which my dad and the Slavic folks called “red tops. macro aspen scaber 159 (1 of 1)

I never found them this early before and have been picking them for a few weeks now.  We would usual find them after Labor Day but not this year. I found quite a few growing yesterday. Gave most away to family but will be cooking some up shortly. Just a warning. there are many deadly mushrooms out there so don’t eat any wild mushrooms unless you know what your picking or had an expert identify them for you. macro butterfly 281 (1 of 1)

And although I was lucky and found some yesterday, I always say, it doesn’t matter if I do, have the fun is being in the woods looking for them. So much to see. Yesterday I saw red tail hawks, a green heron and  many song birds all of which were out of range of my macro lens but where now part of the many pleasurable memories I have of my hikes in the woods. macro bee and tansy 438 (1 of 1)

I was able to photograph many of the smaller, but just as  beautiful inhabitants of the woodlands and ponds. macro moth 335 (1 of 1)

The daises, queen anne’s lace, thistle and other wildflowers attracted all kinds of wasps, bees, butterflies and bugs.  The complexity and beauty of these tiny creature never ceases to amaze me.  I wish I had the time to identify all of them . Any help would be appreciated. macro wasp  240 (1 of 1)

And then there the damsel flies and dragonflies again truly amazing creatures when looked at up close. The intricate design of the dragonfly wing is just incredible.macro dragonfly 334 (1 of 1)


And how about these damselfly lovers and the heart they made.  It was a perfect summer day. macro damselfly 405  (1 of 1)




And today I headed out with my macro lens again but this time in search of wild blueberries. Known in these parts as huckleberries, I went looking for the high bush variety,  which we call “swamper” since they grow in swamps and wetlands. Again it is a bit early but I was able to pick around four quarts.


I heard many frog croaking in the water around the “swamper” bushes and saw many jump in the waters ahead of me as I trudged through the brush. I was only able to get one photograph, this tiny toad that i was able to catch. macro toad (1 of 1)

And again was able to capture a number of insects, butterflies and wasps on my hike.  I love the Summer. Now time to enjoy some of those mushrooms I picked. This is a link to some more photographs I took on my hikes this weekend. Please feel free to comment or add an identification, like this beautiful spider. macro spider 376 (1 of 1)






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