Search This Blog

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The first wildflower to herald the New Year!

Everything seems early this season so why should I be surprised to find the first Fetid Adder's Tongue, Scoliopus bigelovii, blooming on the forest floor? It's a treat to see these little brown orchid-like flowers. The leaves of this California native are just peeking up from the ground. Most people never see the flowers as they bloom in the winter, deep in the forest. However the leaves that follow are large, mottled and last for several months.

Greet the New Year and welcome the first wildflower too!

Happy New Year! Jeanne Jackson, Gualala

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lobster mushroom photographed by Linda Bostwick

Lobster mushrooms, Hypomyces lactifluorum, are some of the strangest looking mushrooms I've seen. Well, they aren't exactly mushrooms but are a fungus that has taken over a host mushroom, usually a Milk Cap or a Russula. The technical term for what Lobster mushrooms are is parasitic ascomycete. This fungus envelopes the host mushroom, twisting it into strange shapes and turning it orange, hence the Lobster name.

Many people believe these are among the most delicious of the edible mushrooms. Linda Bostwick found this one growing in Point Arena. The host mushroom is some type of Russula.

Thanks to Linda for allowing me to share her photo with you here!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Pacific Ocean is making itself heard!

Storms to our north are bringing big waves to the Mendonoma Coast. Surfers are enjoying them, that's for sure! I love to hear the waves crashing on the off-shore rocks, beaches and bluffs. Even though I am a half mile back from the Pacific Ocean, the sound carries easily.

John Sperry captured this photo in the Timber Cove area of Sonoma County. He entitled it thusly: "Sea Gods are angry. Gull maintains its grace." Can you spot the lone Gull in John's photo? Many thanks to John for allowing me to share his photo here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Zeller's Boletes - Boletus zelleri - appear on the Mendonoma Coast

This is a new mushroom for me. Zeller's Boletes, Boleuts zelleri, have been appearing on our property in Anchor Bay for the past three or so weeks. Is this just a good year for them or have I not noticed them before? Only time will answer that question.

Zeller's Boletes are edible and they are only found in Western North America, from British Columbia, down the Pacific Northwest and south to Mexico. It is a colorful mushroom with its yellow and red stem. Like all Boletes it has a sponge underneath the cap. The ones on our property have a grayish top when young, browner with age and the sponge is yellow.

Do you see the bite mark on the largest mushroom? That was Huckleberry, our golden retriever. Rick and I try to stop him from eating wild mushrooms.

Here's is the dog in question, posing by a bloom of tiny mushrooms on the forest floor. At least he didn't try to eat these. Who knows if they are the hallucinogenic kind!

If you'd like to learn about our recent mushroom forage with David Arora, here's the link:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sea Lions rafting and a Gray Whale photographed by Barbara Rice

The coast is alive with the sounds of California Sea Lions. In the calm air, their barking calls can be heard for several miles. Juvenile male Sea Lions have recently returned to the Mendonoma Coast. And they are forming rafts in groups of twenty or more. This has been seen off of Anchor Bay, The Sea Ranch and Timber Cove. They roll to one side and hold a flipper up in the air. This helps to regulate their bodies temperature.

Barbara Rice used her camera and her scope to digascope this photo of a raft of Sea Lions with a Gray Whale spouting just behind. Many thanks go to Barbara for allowing me to share this unique photo with you here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Gray Fox took a nap in a planter box on The Sea Ranch

This is a rare sighting. How often does a Gray Fox bed down in a planter box on a deck. It has been cold so perhaps that is part of the answer.

Nancy Fairhurst called her neighbors, Thom Matson and Hank Stuart, over to take a look. The Fox was asleep in a planter box on Nancy's back deck, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean on The Sea Ranch. Thom got a beautiful photo just as the Fox awoke and has kindly allowed me to share it with you here - a wonderful wildlife encounter!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Beautiful sunrise photographed by coastal photographer Craig Tooley

As Craig Tooley put it, the edges of the day are some of the most beautiful. This was how it looked on The Sea Ranch yesterday morning. Perhaps you might consider this an early holiday present.

To see more of Craig's work, here's the link to his web site:

The great Gray Whale migration continues with several pods seen yesterday. We have had little rain and the Pacific Ocean has been rather calm. That seems to be changing as the ocean is speaking of changes to come.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A basket full of edible mushrooms

There is a place on our property with a lot of downed wood that Rick and I suspected might harbor edible mushrooms. Yesterday we had two helpers haul the branches out of there. We showed them a Bellybutton Hedgehog and asked them to pick those that might get damaged or destroyed by their labors. There must have been a misunderstanding because they picked every Hedgehog, no matter how small! They also found Black Trumpets, Golden Chanterelles and a perfect Matsutake. Here's a picture of the haul.

When I pick Hedgehogs I bring a knife and clean as much of the dirt off right away so dirt doesn't get lodged in the "teeth." Oh well, the fellows were very proud of themselves and I couldn't help but thank them. But next year I'll be picking them myself as that's half the fun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Winter Solstice

Suzie Chapler captured the last sun rays yesterday afternoon that ushered in the Winter Solstice. My thanks to Suzie, and her mom Gretchen, for allowing me to share her evocative photo here.

Today we celebrate the first full day of winter. Gray Whales continue to be seen. I saw a pod of five Gray's headed south from my home in Anchor Bay.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Young Cooper's Hawk photograhed by Hal Fogel

Cooper's Hawks, Accipiter cooperii, move into the Mendonoma Coast in the autumn and over-winter here. They are a little smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk and can be identified in the air by their flap-flap-glide motion. They are amazing, agile fliers. They hunt small birds. Sometimes one will show up near a bird feeder. That's the time to take down the bird feeder so the Cooper's Hawk isn't given a free lunch.

Hal Fogel recently photographed this immature Cooper's Hawk. If it were an adult it would be blue-gray on top instead of brown. Many thanks to Hal for allowing me to share his photo with you!

To hear the call of a Cooper's Hawk, here's a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A beautiful Fly Amanita Wreath created by Carol Kozal

What a creative way to use Fly Amanitas! Here is what Carol Kozal did, in her own words. "As I was walking the other day I noticed there were several Fly Amanita mushrooms growing everywhere. In their varying degrees of growth they looked to me like Christmas ornaments. So, I thought why not pick some and make a wreath? After several attempts and a box of toothpicks later, I managed to make the wreath I had envisioned. I plan to make another one and display it at Studio 391 during the holidays."

Carol's husband, Paul Kozal, photographed this unique wreath. The Kozals have an art studio in Gualala. You can learn more at: And to see more of Paul's photograph of wild mushrooms, click here: Paul's photographs are wonderful to behold!

Monday, December 19, 2011

One of my favorite edible wild mushrooms is up - Hedgehogs are here!

Hydnum umbilicatum is the Latin name for the Belly-button Hedgehog. It's considered a beginner's mushroom because it has no bad look-a-likes. Instead of gills, it has slender teeth. Lucky for us lovers of fungi, it doesn't bite!

 Rick and I enjoy these mushrooms with egg dishes. Delish!
 When I got close to the Hedgehog below to photograph it, I found the first Winter Chanterelles, Craterellus tubaeformis, growing next to it. Surprise!  This edible mushroom is also called Yellowfoot, Funnel Chanterelle and Winter Mushroom. These are babies and they will grow in the days to come.
Wild mushrooms are a treat from Mother Nature!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A great place to watch the sunset is Anchor Bay Beach

Anchor Bay Beach is a wonderful place to watch the sun begin to set. David Wayne Floyd did just that recently and look at what he saw. Beautiful! Thanks to David for allowing me to share his photo with you here.

Anchor Bay Beach is accessed through the private Anchor Bay Campground. To learn more about the campground, here's their link: It is one of the jewels of the Mendocino Coast.

Gray Whales, two of them, were seen today heading south, according to Adrian Bennett. Tomorrow I will share two edible mushrooms that just made an appearance on the Mendonoma Coast!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New edible wild mushrooms, and a not-so-edible mushroom, make an appearance on the Mendocino Coast

Pig's Ears, or Gomphus clavatus, grow on our property under Douglas-firs, Tanoaks and Redwoods. They are usually on a steep hillside, causing us to just note their presence. They are edible but not choice and some people have trouble digesting them. As with any new food, you should only try a little bit the first time. Some people, poor things, are allergic to chocolate!

 And here is a Fly Amanita, Amanita muscaria. It is just emerging from a bank along side our road. This toadstool is usually a brighter red. Perhaps our cold, mostly dry weather has made the color a little pale. It is a hallucinogenic mushroom and was thought to be poisonous. However, people in various parts of the world eat this mushroom. According to mushroom expert, David Arora, if you boil it twice the hallucinogens will be removed and it will be safe to eat. It is a fascinating mushroom just to observe, as it changes shape dramatically as it ages.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yesterday morning was filled with rainbows and wild mushrooms are appearing

A small storm moved in overnight, leaving us with beautiful rainbows Thursday morning. These rainbows appeared just north of Fish Rocks, near Anchor Bay. I took these photos from our deck.

You can just see the moon at the top of this photo. I thought this was a rather unique-looking rainbow.
 I had to take two pictures to get this big arching rainbow.

What a lovely sight to wake up to!

Tomorrow I will show you photos of two mushrooms that just bloomed on our property - Fly Amanita and Pig's Ears, Gomphus clavatus.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another spectacular sunset, this one photographed by Robert Scarola

Just when it seems like the sunsets couldn't get any more beautiful, last night's proved we were wrong. Robert Scarola captured the sunset in all its glory and I thank him for allowing me to share it with you here.

We had some overnight rain, so perhaps the wild mushrooms will begin to pop. One Gray Whale was seen heading south from the Gualala Bluff Trail yesterday. And this morning there were know you are going to have a good day when you start if off with rainbows!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Surfing at Black Point Beach and a day of unusual visibility in the Pacific Ocean

Black Point Beach is located in The Sea Ranch in Sonoma County. It is a lovely stretch of beach with big curling waves when the surf is up. It has dangerous undertows and no lifeguard. I can't think of a beach on the Mendonoma coast that has a lifeguard! Two excellent surfers were out last Thursday. Rick and I, with Huckleberry our golden retriever, enjoyed watching them.

To see another perspective of this beach, here's a link to another post:

And then we saw something we have never seen before - the underwater portion of a rock. Visibility here on the north coast is usually not very good, making it a challenge for abalone divers and other underwater fishermen and women. But Thursday the visibility was like a dream come true. Oh, my abalone diving friends bemoaned the fact that the season is closed for the winter but one diver friend found a 7.5 pound Rock Scallop. I will share that photo soon.

My best to you today! Jeanne Jackson, Gualala

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Northern Right Whale Dolphins photographed by coastal photographer Ron Le Valley

Ron Le Valley recently photographed several Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Lissodelphis borealis, off the Mendocino Coast. These are small, slender Dolphins found in the North Pacific Ocean. They have no fins or ridges on their smooth, curving backs. They are quite shy and usually avoid boats. They travel in groups of two to two hundred but much larger pods have been seen. In the open ocean, they can travel fast, making low leaps together. These Dolphins are just a little bigger than a grown man. One of their favorite foods is Squid.

To see much more of Ron's work, here's a link to his web site: And I thank Ron for allowing me to share his beautiful photo with you here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Another beautiful sunset, this one photographed by Debra Mundt

With the clear weather we've been experiencing on the Mendonoma Coast, the sunsets have been awe-inspiring. Debra Mundt recently captured a lovely photo with sunbeams streaming through the clouds and I thank her for allowing me to share it with you.

We had also had Gray Whale sightings from my spotter on The Sea Ranch, Adrian Bennett. A Gray Whale was seen on Friday, the 9th and two on Saturday the 10th, all headed south, presumably to warmer waters.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lunar eclipse photographed by coastal photographer Mel Gerst

Many coastal residents were up early on the morning of Dec. 10th to witness a total eclipse of the moon. Skies were clear. Every once in a while a meteor from the beginning of the Geminids meteor showers streaked across the sky. The lunar eclipse was a spectacular show. Mel Gerst photographed this event in front of The Sea Ranch Lodge.

The photo below was taken at 5:23 AM.
 This next one was taken at 6:04, two minutes shy of totality
 And the eclipse photographed at 6:43 AM
 This last one was taken just before 7 AM. The bright light is a fishing boat.
Thanks to Mel Gerst for allowing me to show his photos here!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Horn of Plenty, Craterellus cornucopioides, has made an appearance and a Gray Whale sighting

Yesterday on our morning walk with Huckleberry, our golden retriever, Rick noticed the first Horn of Plenty mushrooms growing at the base of a redwood step. They are also called by the rather ominous name of Trumpet of Death but that is because of their somber color. These are growing under Tanoaks, a hardwood. They are deliciously edible and their appearance is most welcome!

On Thursday Rick and I were having breakfast at The Sea Ranch Lodge. It is one of the premium places to whale watch as the Gray Whales come in close just in front of the bluffs there. Sure enough, a large Gray Whale appeared, as close as we've ever seen one. It stayed on the surface for several minutes before diving and disappearing to the south.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Point Arena Pintos - a new photo of Chie and a guest blog by Jacqueline McAbery

Several of you expressed interest in learning more about the herd of wild horses just south of Point Arena. A filly, Chie, was recently born there. Here's a photo of the newest addition to the herd.

To see Chie with her mom, Polka Dot, click on this link:

And here is Jacqueline's guest blog:


I first saw the pintos proudly roaming my neighbor’s hills above Highway One near the ocean in Mendocino County, California.  Many times I looked out my window and could see them in the distance, their silhouettes outlined against the sky.  I admired them from afar.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that they would become a very important part of my life.

One night in December of 2007, I started a remarkable and unexpected journey. I woke up and heard what I thought was a baby crying … I reminded myself that we live in a remote area where there are no people nearby.  The sound occurred again and this time it was an unmistakable neigh.  I went outside with a flashlight and discovered by the garage six horses lined up eating grass. I am not sure who was more surprised them or me.

I stayed up the rest of the night watching them.  At dawn I went out again and took a closer look.  I began photographing the first of many images of these delightful creatures.  After that evening, the lead stallion periodically came over for a visit, occasionally followed by the rest of the herd.

I eventually learned the horses lived on the 200 acres next door where the fence was down, allowing them to roam the neighborhood and sometimes get into trouble. They had basically been neglected, and were wild, with little human contact. For twenty to thirty years according to local lore, they survived on wild grass and several natural springs for water.  I started feeding them carrots and hoped they wouldn’t continue to roam on the highway.

After a period of time, I adopted or rescued the herd.  My relationship with them deepened.  About that time the property next door sold and the new owner fenced in his land. We put a gate between the two properties, which when we opened it allowed them to roam freely.

Much has happened and many transitions have taken place since I first met the pintos on that fateful night.  Since I wasn’t sure if anyone had given them names, I had fun choosing names for them. Originally the herd consisted of Thunder, the lead black and white stallion; another stallion, Buster; Lady, the old mare; brood mares—Mama and Polka Dot; and two colts, Sweetie and Little One. Soon after I met the herd, Buster found a new home with Eve Larson.

Since then, five foals have been born—a colt Suki, and four fillies: Moonbeam (aka Missy), Splash, Little Lady (aka Lilly) and Chie.  Sadly, Lady, the old mare passed away last March — some locals believe she was over forty.

Moonbeam is all golden brown – she is still a pinto since her parents are pintos but she’s referred to as a “breeding stock pinto.” This term means a solid colored horse who can give birth to any combination of pinto or paint.

Since we adopted the horses, in the past year and a half, I have fenced our property, built a corral (a gift from friends), a holding pen, and had three stallions gelded : Sweetie, Suki and Little One.  My original intention was to always let them run free and just supplement their food.  But since then four horses were kicked out of the herd by the lead stallion for different reasons.  (Little One, Suki, Moonbeam and Sweetie.)  When Moonbeam was kicked out she broke through the fence, cut her leg, and ended up at a very nice neighbor’s. With the help of friends we got her back home.  After that incident it became apparent we should start to halter-break some of the horses so that if they escaped in the future or were hurt, a vet could take care of them. So far Suki and Sweetie have been halter broken and enjoy getting lots of hugs and occasionally being groomed.

The parents and/or grandparents of the stallion, Thunder, and the brood mares, were registered paints.  Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to get their papers so these horses are not registered. (Pintos cannot be called Paints unless they are registered).  They all come from solid stock; their line goes back to the quarter horse and they have been in this country for many generations. Three of the horses have one blue eye and one brown eye, which is genetically common among pintos.

Over the past several years we’ve had many adventures with these gorgeous animals.  Since we knew very little about horses when we rescued them, they have stretched our learning curve about their behavior, needs, and care.  Most importantly they have touched our hearts in the most profound ways.  I simply adore them.

You can read more of their story and escapades at The Point Arena Pintos blog

Thank you, Jacqueline, for sharing your story with us here!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dolphins were seen yesterday!

My neighbor to the east, Emily Nelson, called and said, "Jeanne, I think there are Dolphins out there!" I immediately could see the dark streak in the ocean.

This is the anomaly you look for - a dark line indicates a school of fish or even perhaps Humboldt Squid. I trained my scope on the dark line and, sure enough, there were dark dolphins leaping out of the water.

The Dolphin were at least two miles out in the Pacific Ocean. I wish the photo was better but it will at least give you a feel for what we were seeing. Any day you see Dolphins is a good day!

And, as a bonus, here's a photo from last night's beautiful sunset.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Al, the Laysan Albatross, returned yesterday!

Yesterday was a day full of happiness. One of the main reasons is that Al - or Alice, we don't really know - returned to the waters off of the Point Arena Pier for its 19 season. The Laysan Albatross arrived around 1 pm yesterday, Dec. 5th, and the news quickly spread. Al was late arriving this year so we were worried. But our worries were in vain, as this unique bird with a fondness for surfers has blessed us once again with its presence.

Mel Smith took this photograph of Al and I thank him for allowing me to share it with you here.

As if Al's arrival wasn't enough, we had a beautiful green flash last night. And a pod of Gray Whales was seen off Gualala yesterday headed south. Lots of exciting sightings here on the Mendonoma Coast!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three wonderful photos of juvenile and adult Brown Pelicans by coastal photographer Allen Vinson

If you happen to be lucky enough to have Brown Pelicans flying overhead, do you know how to tell if they were born this past year, the year before or if they are adults? Allen Vinson knew! The juveniles have white bellies and dark heads, while the adults - three years and older - have dark bellies and white heads in winter.  A second year bird has a white belly and white head. And I haven't even mentioned the adult males' breeding plumage, which is seen in the spring. Who knew birding was so complicated?!

 This young Brown Pelican looks like it was just learning to fly!
 Allen wrote that it was losing altitude as he took this photo.

I hope these last two photos made you smile. I smile every time I look at them!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Brown Pelican photographed by coastal photographer Siegfried Matull

Siegfried Matull captured the moment a Brown Pelican landed in the Gualala River, with its reflection clear in the water. It's a lovely photo and I thank Siegfried for allowing me to show it.

Brown Pelicans are migrating through the Mendonoma Coast, heading south for warmer waters to spend the winter. They are one of my favorite birds, just wonderful to watch fly by in formation - another privilege of living on the Mendonoma Coast!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Beautiful clouds photographed by coastal photographer Craig Tooley and a look at unobtainable Oyster Mushrooms

Craig Tooley recently took this photo of beautiful clouds from the bluffs of The Sea Ranch. And the Pacific Ocean abides. Just lovely.
 Thanks to Craig for allowing me to share his photo here.  To see more of his work, here is a link to his web site:

And on a recent walk Rick and I could only look from afar at these Oyster Mushrooms at least twenty feet high on a Tanoak snag. We were wishing we were able to levitate so we could harvest some for our meal.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The first Sweet Tooth Mushrooms are spotted and last night's beautiful sunset

There are two varieties of Hedgehog mushrooms that grow on our property and I love to eat both of them! The first Bellybutton Hedgehog, Hydnum umbilicatum, is up but needs some time to grow. Also spotted were several Sweet Tooth Hedgehogs, Hydnum repandum. I have never spotted Hedgehogs this early.

I thought I had a chance to photograph the green flash last night but no luck. There is a good reason people call it the "elusive green flash!" The sunset was beautiful, though, all yellows and oranges with the dark Pacific Ocean underneath.

To see a photo of the green flash posted earlier on this blog, click here:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kelp and a Sea Star photographed at Bowling Ball Beach by Emily Nelson

South of Point Arena, Bowling Ball State Beach and its neighboring partner, Schooner Gulch State Beach, are wonderful places to visit, especially at low tide. The trail down to Bowling Ball is closed due to erosion but the trail to Schooner Gulch is easily hiked. At low tide you can cross the gulch and explore Bowling Ball Beach. That's what Emily Nelson did on Thanksgiving Day. Here's what she photographed:

Storms have brought bull kelp onto the beach and one beautiful Sea Star, also called Star Fish.

BBB is a wonderful place to beach comb. The rocks catch treasures tossed up by the sea. One time Rick and I were exploring and we found opalescent abalone shells shining in the sun. There are unusual round rocks exposed at low tide that look like a bunch of bowling balls. It is quite unique!

Here's a web site to learn a little more about this jewel on the Mendocino Coast:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Candy Cap mushrooms have made an appearance in forests on the Mendonoma Coast and a look at what the rain does to Coccoras

It's a small wild mushroom but it packs a punch. It's the Candy Cap, Lactarius fragilis. On Monday Rick and I found the first of these delicious mushrooms blooming under Tanoak and Bishop Pine. This mushroom is only found on the Pacific Coast and the Southeast so other parts of the world will have to imagine the heady aroma it has. When dried Candy Caps smell like maple syrup.

 When the gills are brushed they ooze or bleed a white milk, letting you know you've found Candy Caps. Yellow bleeding Milk Caps are to be avoided, according to David Arora.
And as promised, here's a look at what happens to a Coccora after some rain. It looks like a science project!
Here's a link to see what the Coccoras looked like before the rain caused this mold: