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In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.

After a little more than a week away, I was back in the arboretum for my walk. Things have changed little, the trees are a little more bare and the weather is a little cooler. But looking closer there are always signs of change. There are fewer freshly emerged mushrooms now and the fungi I did find were mostly in stages of decomposition. They all looked like they were melting slowly. I did find a few new mushrooms, one patch I spotted from the road as I dropped my daughter off at her forest preschool. I walked back to look at it and from a distance they looked like huge marshmallows. When I got closer, I changed my mind because the texture and cracks in the cap looked more like fresh-baked rolls.

As I looked at the mushrooms I heard an explosion of crows behind me and I turned and realized it was the same group of trees from Day 320 where the crows led me to a Barred Owl. Today I followed the siren call and discovered, yet again, a Barred Owl in the trees. The crows almost immediately left, flying to a nearby field to forage under fallen leaves. The owl turned its attention to me and stared down at me with its dark eyes and feathers fluffed into a scarf. Once in awhile a crow or bird would attract the owl’s attention before it returned its gaze to me. I watched it several times open its mouth wide and turn its head upwards.

I left the owl and walked only a short distance before I found some slime mold. One large patch was growing on a fence post with orange teardrops dripping down the wood like melted cheese. A couple of feet away, bright yellow slime mold covered branches, leaves and cones, tendrils running between points. I found four separate patches of slime mold, all within a five foot space. Usually when I find slime molds they’re only in a single patch and I don’t find more nearby. This time was unique and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence there were so many close together. I suspect there was a great deal under the leaves and soil that I couldn’t see, connecting it all together.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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