Mushrooms at Tiny Marsh

While hiking the Tiny Marsh trails we came across a few mushroom species that I wanted to identify.

Dryad's Saddle

These mushrooms were found on dead logs along the trail to the east of the Visitor Center.  I believe them to be Dryad’s Saddle or Pheasant Back mushrooms (Polyporus squamosus).

Dryad's Saddle

Dryad’s Saddle

William Hudson, a British botanist, was the first to describe them scientifically in 1778. It’s current name was given by French mycologist Lucien Quelet in 1886. A mycologist specializes in the study of fungi, their uses and dangers associated.

This mushroom likes dead wood, especially elms, but will sometimes grow on live trees like maples. When we’ve come across them in the Hamilton area they seem to grow more on maples then anything else. Wet areas can have a profusion and they will come back year after year until the tree is completely gone.

dryad's saddle mushroom at Tiny Marsh

They are a common sight in May and June but may be found later in the year. If you read more about them the young mushrooms are considered a good edible. Please be very careful with wild mushrooms though. Many have similar looking deadly counterparts. Your best bet is to find someone who knows before you try any. Mushroom-collecting.com suggests they have a flavour unlike any other.

Unknown Fungus

We also came across this specimen near the Dryad’s saddle. It was much closer to the ground and kind of hidden in the leaf litter.

I tried every search term I could think of to come up with an identification but couldn’t find it. Lots of bats though. “Brown and white fungi Ontario June” apparently means bats.

Mushrooms at Tiny Marsh

If any of you can identify this guy for me I would appreciate it.

Mushroom Resources

If you’re interested in finding out some more information about mushrooms locally here are some good resources.

The Mycological Society of Toronto provides information as well as guided forays in the Toronto area for members. You can take a mushroom identification course and participate in workshops and field trips.

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms

Books I want to Read

Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone

Mushrooming Without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms by Alexander Schwab

The Complete Mushroom Hunter, Revised: Illustrated Guide to Foraging, Harvesting and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff

 

Part 1 Tiny Marsh Hike

Part 2 Tiny Marsh Turtles

Tiny Marsh Turtles

We loved our hike at Tiny Marsh but I did not expect the amount of destroyed turtle nests we saw.

Without realizing what was happening Josh had seen a female laying her eggs the day before. Notice the algae all over her shell. This occurs because she spends most of her time under water and it helps provide camouflage.

Nesting turtles sign at Tiny Marsh

I had missed the sign at the front and first thought that the eggs had hatched. I believe these are snapping turtle nests but I might be wrong.

Snapping Turtles are listed as “of special concern” in both provincial and federal endangered species legislation.  They are Canada’s largest freshwater turtle and won’t start breeding until they are 15 to 20 years old.

turtle nest

Because Snapping turtles can live between 70 and 100 years the turtles we see in our lakes and wetlands may have hatched and started breeding before World War II.

eaten turtle eggs

Snapping Turtle Population Collapse?

Since they live for so long, and take so long to start breeding, the turtles we see now may all be very old. Extreme nest predation could mean that there may come a time when all of the older turtles die off and there aren’t many left to replace them.

Adult turtles don’t have much to worry about other than humans and human related threats. Turtle mortality is high during nesting time when females, forced by loss of habitat, must cross roads and are often hit by cars.

Suitable nesting sites in nature are usually gravelly or sandy areas along streams. Man-made structures including roads (especially gravel shoulders), dams and aggregate pits are being used more frequently because of habitat loss but at a cost.

turtle nest destroyed at tiny marsh

Threat to Eggs and Hatchlings

Eggs are a rich protein source. Raccoons have been observed waiting for a female to lay her eggs and then immediately excavating the nest and consuming the eggs. Other predators such as minks, foxes and skunks do a good job of eating every last egg. Observations around Ontario have shown 100% nest predation in a given area.

Hatchlings have to deal with new predators – herons, bullfrogs and large-mouth bass, as well as invasive species, such as Common Reed grass, which blocks their path to the water.

Invasive phragmites or common reed grass
Invasive phragmites or common reed grass

turtle eggs eaten at tiny marsh

A female will lay an average of 20 to 40 eggs per nest, 1400 in her lifetime, just for one of her offspring to survive to adulthood.

Studies have suggested that even a 10% increase in adult mortality in a snapping turtle population would result in the disappearance of half of that population in less than 20 years.

dug out turtle nest at tiny marshFun Fact: The sex of hatchlings varies depending on the temperature that eggs are incubated at. Eggs that are kept at a temperature of 23-28°C hatch male turtles. Eggs incubated at other temperatures hatch into females.

What can you do?

  • Watch for turtles while driving, especially between May and October. They are slow, they can’t get out of your way.
  • Submit your sightings to the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas www.ontarionature.org/atlas.
  • Protect any wetlands and surrounding natural vegetation that you already have on your property and perhaps add some more.
  • Adopt a Pond through the Toronto Zoo www.torontozoo.com/Adoptapond

Books I Want to Read

The ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario by Ross McCulloch and the Royal Ontario Museum

 

Part 1 on the Black Tern in Tiny Marsh

Part 3 on Mushrooms in Tiny Marsh

Tiny Marsh Hike and Black Terns

While visiting my family up in Collingwood we decided to go check out Tiny Marsh.

Tiny Marsh entranceTiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area

Josh wanted to try again for the Marsh Wren and they also have a breeding colony of Black terns. Both would be life birds for us.

black tern nesting location at tiny marsh
Students out in a canoe checking on nesting Black Terns

We ended up hearing the Marsh Wren and seeing about 10 Black Terns. 250 different species of birds have been reported in the Wildlife Management Area.

Black Terns and Tiny Marsh

Unfortunately Black Terns are a provincially threatened species.

That is one reason why the Important Bird Area and the conservation plan at Tiny Marsh were put into place, as well as to protect its populations of resident and migratory birds.  Birds here can be monitored, studied, and enjoyed by scientists and us.

Tiny Marsh consists of marshes, open water, bog, and upland forest, where the headwaters of the Wye River start. This is a perfect place for the terns to feed and nest.

woodland section at tiny marsh
Upland forest
Tiny Marsh Panorama
Panorama view as you enter the marsh
birding tiny marsh
Viewing the Black Terns

A threshold of 50 pairs for significant colonies has been used in a Canadian regional study and records indicate hundreds of Back Terns breeding here. This makes the breeding population at Tiny Marsh nationally significant.

Tiny Marsh panorama

In August, when the babies are big enough to fly, the terns spend several weeks at feeding sites on bays and open water of the lower Great Lakes. From early to mid August you’ll be able to see significant numbers in the western basin of Lake Erie.

Then they migrate inland, either by themselves or in small groups, through the United States to marine habitat along the coasts of Central and South America. Here they lead a pelagic (spending a significant portion of their life on the open ocean) lifestyle while wintering.

Tiny Marsh water plants

Black Terns in Trouble

Since the 1930’s the number of Black Terns in Ontario has declined.

This species breeds in cattail and bulrush marshes with good stretches of open water. They live in small colonies and usually return to the colony in which they were born in order to breed. Because these wetlands are being drained for agriculture and urban and industrial development there aren’t as many locations now to feed and nest.  Also the nest is virtually at the water’s surface, meaning that it may easily be destroyed by wind, wave action, or changing water levels (Ducks Unlimited Canada manages the water levels at Tiny Marsh ensuring that the Terns are not stressed during breeding season.) Usually only one chick is raised for each nest of two to three eggs.

Another possible factor, effecting everything in the natural world, is pesticides.  Black terns have been observed foraging for insects behind ploughs and over grain fields on sprayed agricultural land. It has been suggested that reduced hatching success may be due to agricultural contaminants.

Part 2 on the Tiny Marsh Turtles is next.

Part 3 Mushrooms at Tiny Marsh