Folklore & Nature: Fairy Butter

In Little Langdale the Busk and the Forge, the latter place only separated from our parish by the Brathay, were regularly visited by fairies — harmless little beings it would seem, of the house-goblin class, for their principal occupation seems to have been churning butter after the family had retired for the night. They were, however, rather thriftless little folk, for near the Forge it was common to find bits of butter scattered in the woods, dropped, it would seem, by the uncanny churners in their morning flight.

Hawkshead: the northernmost parish of Lancashire by Henry Swainson Cowper

There are many reports of fairy butter from around the UK and Ireland in folklore. In Scandinavia the same phenomenon was known as ‘troll’s butter’ while in Wales it was called ‘Menyn Tylna Teg’ and was…

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Surprising Slime Mold and New Beetles

To say this has been a weird summer would be an understatement. Because of the pandemic, there was no annual trip abroad to explore new landscapes and nature, and I haven’t done a good job getting out locally either. Part of the reason for that is with nothing else do do, and being cooped up so much, people have been packing into parks and nature spaces since the spring and trails and parking have been overly crowded as a result. Going into nature with crowds is worse than not going at all to me, so I’ve spent a lot of time at home.

That’s not to say I’m not going out at all though! I try to select the quieter weekday times when places are less busy, and so it was I found myself at one of my usual haunts in Sammamish to…

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How to Create a Slime Mold Moist Chamber

Searching for slime molds in the forest is a lot of fun, but what if you could bring slime molds to your desk and watch the fruiting bodies develop? Creating a moist chamber for slime molds, also known as Myxomycetes, is very easy and offers the potential to not only observe the development of slime molds, but to preserve the mature specimens as part of a collection. In addition it can be done year round when slime molds may not be present in the field.


PETRI DISH: You’ll need a large petri dish with a lid. Plastic dishes work best in case the slime mold grows onto the container, it can be cut apart to preserve the mature specimen. But any clear, shallow container with a lid or cover can work….

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Field Journal: Slime Mold Diversity + Dragonflies

There is one constant about being a naturalist, it is always surprising. A couple of weeks ago I went to the beach for low tide and was surprised when I found no sign of the shaggy mouse nudibranch, or their eggs, which I commonly find this time of the year under rocks. On the other hand, I went looking for slime molds this weekend, not expecting to find many because of the long, dry spring, and yet I found them everywhere.

I have not had good luck taking photos of slime molds before because they are usually found in the forest, which are quite dark here. Compounding the challenge of photographing something small, in a dark landscape, my lens is long and filters out even more precious light. But I prefer to travel light and so I don’t carry a flash system, tripod…

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Field Journal: Spring Slime Molds at Seward Park

When it rains, it pours. It’s been pretty dry recently, which gave me little hope at finding any slime mold at Seward Park. But it had been a while since I’d walked through the inner forest at the park so I decided to see what I could find, and if nothing else, it’s still a soothing, beautiful walk through one of the last remnants of ancient forest in the city. I have usual logs I check when I walk and at my very first stop I found not one, but four different patches of slime mold on it.

One was nearly divided in half, the top part was a mass of shiny, black spheres while the bottom half of the mass had exploded into tan colored fluff. My best guess for this one was a Metatrichia species, but I can’t be sure. A…

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365 Nature – Day 333

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…

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