Our photographers have been busy exploring the intricacies of outdoor Missouri. See if you can guess this month’s natural wonder.
Q. My husband found this mushroom or fungus growing out of this old log recently and neither one of us has ever seen anything like it. It was beautiful and reminded me of frost. What is it?
A. This branched, whitish mushroom is commonly known as a comb tooth (Hericium coralloides).
It’s considered a choice edible mushroom by collectors. However, it is only tasty when young and fresh. It gets sour and bitter as it over-matures.
The fruiting body, which can range in size from 3 to 6 inches across when fully developed, typically is found on tree wounds, decayed branch stubs, or the ends of fallen, decaying deciduous logs in the autumn.
The fleshy branches of the mushroom, covered with hanging, tooth-like spines, are its most defining feature.
Comb tooth mushrooms are occasionally confused with bearded tooth mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus), which are also edible. Both share similar habitats and are whitish to cream-colored mushrooms when fresh.
Q. This bird, and another, flew into our sunroom. His friend got out quickly, but he remained, flying into the windows several times. I was able to pick him up gently and sit with him in my hand for a few minutes. He seemed dazed, but regained his composure and flew off. Can you tell us what kind of bird this is?
A. This is a Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).
These common, hardy birds have been wintering farther north in recent decades and can be found year-round in Missouri’s forests, woodlands, and residential areas.
Their small size and streaky brown plumage makes them hard to see outdoors, but certainly not hard to hear. With loud teakettle exclamations, Carolina wrens defend their territories and scold away interlopers. If you follow their call, you might catch a glimpse of their cinnamon plumage, white eyebrow stripes, cocked-up tails, and slender, down-curved beaks. To hear their familiar call, visit allaboutbirds.org and type “Carolina wren” in the search bar.
Unfortunately, window strikes are all too common. However, there are steps homeowners can take to prevent and reduce them. To learn more, visit bit.ly/1Moh3l9.
Turkey vultures are commonly seen in the southern half of Missouri during winter months. They hold their wings in a V position when soaring, and they frequently tilt from side to side when in the air. They are especially fond of bluffs, where they can catch rising warm air currents. These raptors roost in large colonies, generally in large, bare trees. Breeding occurs in spring, and turkey vultures lay eggs in caves, cliffs, crevices, hollow trees, or brushy thickets. There are usually two chicks per clutch. The helpless young hatch in 30–40 days and are fed by the parents for 10–11 weeks. Families stay together until fall. Turkey vultures forage individually and are highly specialized carrion feeders, locating their food by smell as well as by sight. They are often attracted to road-killed carcasses. As scavengers, turkey vultures perform a valuable service by cleaning up the woods, grasslands, and roadsides.
—photograph by Noppadol Paothong
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Art Director - Cliff White
Associate Editor - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Circulation - Laura Scheuler