Journal archives for January 2022

January 03, 2022

January 2nd trip to Inwood Hill Park, fungi, snails & slugs, moss

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Thanks to the New York Mycological Society, there was an outing to Inwood Hill Park yesterday. My old friend Caterina Verde (whom I first met 40 years ago when we were both living in a loft building on Leonard Street in Tribeca) picked me up on my block and drove me up to Inwood Hill. We spent about 3 hours there until our energy ran out. It was my first visit to that park, so I was totally psyched.

The weather was very warm and dampish, in the low 50s, as it has been now for several weeks, and therefore it was very good weather for fungi. I also asked the NYMS members if they would please look out for snails and slugs, because, in the process of searching for fungi, I knew they would be turning over dead wood, and therefore they would be very likely to find terrestrial gastropods.

As per usual for me, I found several fungi that are plant pathogens. Of course all of us found a lot of "regular" fungi. It turned out that many of the species of regular fungi I found were species that I had seen before elsewhere (Randalls Island and Central Park), but nevertheless, several species I observed were entirely new to me:

Cramp Balls
Warlocks Butter
Witches Butter
Crimped Gill
Auricularia angiospermarum
Little Nest Polypore

I also found an attractive and new-to-me species of moss. This moss was very distinctive-looking, which was a pleasant surprise, as so many mosses are impossible for a beginner to ID:

Common Pocket-Moss, Fissidens taxifolius

As for the mollusks, altogether we found one land-snail species and four land-slug species, thanks to so much generous help in searching by so many of the NYMS members:

Discus rotundatus, the Round Snail
Agriolimax reticulatus, the Milky Slug
Limax maximus, the Leopard Slug -- the first time I have encountered live specimens of that species in NYC
Arion hortensis, the Garden Arion -- orange sole
Hortensis-group Arion Slugs -- juveniles, but the foot mucus was colorless
Mesarion sp. -- the first time I have found Mesarion in the US

And one person found a cluster of gastropod eggs inside a decaying log. The eggs were somewhat large, so I suspect they were from Limax maximus.

All in all I had a wonderful time. It was really great to spend all that time with Caterina and the NYMS folks, and wonderful to visit Inwood Hill Park for the first time.
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Posted on January 03, 2022 14:00 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 36 observations | 6 comments | Leave a comment

January 04, 2022

Elliptical Sportella: a small shell, but a big story

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When I am in Lee County, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I usually stay on the beautiful barrier island of Sanibel, and I often go shelling at the southern end of the island of Captiva, near Blind Pass, on a beach called Turner Beach. These days I visit Sanibel and Captiva for three weeks in early December, my first visit to the area having been in 2011.

During my visit in December of 2017, on Turner Beach I was very fortunate to find a left valve of a small (maximum length circa 10 mm) rare, white bivalve called the Elliptical Sportella, scientific name Basterotia elliptica. The valve that I found was chipped and overall in poor condition, but because it is a rare and interesting species which was previously unknown from the area, the Sanibel Shell Museum curator, Dr. José Leal, wrote a small column about the valve three years later, in 2020:

https://www.shellmuseum.org/post/shell-of-the-week-the-elliptical-sportella

My 1917 iNat observation of that shell is here -- and yes, in reality this valve does have a hole in the middle of it, a hole which had been touched-up in José's photograph of the valve, but which is left visible in my photos:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9235188

I was able to recognize the identity of this shell because I was fortunate enough to have found one valve of the species many years ago, long before I started recording observations on iNat. That was on a small beach outside the capital of the island of Nevis, part of the country of St. Kitts & Nevis, in the Leeward Islands, West Indies.

The Elliptical Sportella is in the same genus as another small white bivalve called the Square Sportella, Basterotia quadrata. That species is also quite uncommon, but not nearly as rare as its sister species. I also know the Square Sportella from having found that species on Nevis. And in December 2015 and 2016, I found a few valves of the Square Sportella on Turner Beach, Captiva, and that was another new species for the area. I also found several more valves of the Square Sportella this past December.

In 2020, Dr. José Leal wrote a note about my Square Sportella valves from 2015 and 2016 here:

https://www.shellmuseum.org/post/shell-of-the-week-the-square-sportella

Both these little clam species are called "Sportellas" because they used to be in the family Sportellidae, and the genus Sportella. The family they are in now is known as Basterotiidae, named after the genus Basterotia. The family Basterotiidae is in the bivalve order Galeommatida, along with another two families: Lasaeidae and Galeommatidae. All of the bivalves in the order Galeommatida are small white clams that most shellers are hardly familiar with at all.

When I visited Sanibel and Captiva in April/May of 2021, Turner Beach was closed off completely for at least six weeks for a major rebuilding of the jetty, and a restoration of the areas surrounding the parking lot, all of which had suffered severely from marine erosion and from too much uncontrolled human use. But fortunately for me, in December of 2021, when I visited Sanibel and Captiva again, Turner Beach was once again open and accessible.

No shell piles formed next to the Turner Beach jetty while I was visiting this past December, so instead I spent a lot of time examining small, sparse lines of drift shells, stretching from about one quarter mile north of the jetty, to about two miles north of the jetty. I wear good-quality knee and elbow pads made of neoprene with gel inserts. That is so that when I see promising-looking patches and Iines of small beach-drift shells, I can get down on my knees and elbows and crawl along, searching really closely, and wearing magnifying reading glasses.

I carry a quart freezer-quality ziplock bag, and also a two-ounce plastic flip-top vial filled with tap water. The tap water is there so that that any small shell that I try to put into the two-ounce vial drops easily off the surface of my finger. I also bring along a tiny 2 ml plastic flip-top vial for any interesting shell I might find that is really microscopic in size.

My hunting for interesting small shells went very well on every visit I made to Turner Beach in December 2021. I was able to find quite a lot of rarities of various species. And on December 9th 2021, at about 4:40pm, I found an adult-sized left valve of the Elliptical Sportella in good shape. I was very happy to see it.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/102790795

And a few days later, on December 14th 2021, at about 4 pm, I found an adult-sized right valve of the Elliptical Sportella in extremely good shape. I was super happy then, and I knew that Jose Leal would be very happy too.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/103157790

José was indeed happy when I brought all my batches of great little shells into the museum to give them to the collection.
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Posted on January 04, 2022 22:19 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 2 observations | 4 comments | Leave a comment

January 14, 2022

Hello everyone!

It is nice to be able to help this very worthwhile project. I have been visiting Nevis every year since 1997, except for last year. I skipped my 2021 visit because of rather extreme Covid restrictions, which are now mostly lifted. I hope to visit Nevis again in spring of 2022, but only if the Omicron Covid-19 variant (or some other new variant) does not cause St. K & N to impose similarly strict restrictions once again.

When I am visiting Nevis, I usually do also spend some time on St. Kitts, although often those are just short visits on foot to Majors Bay via the Sea Bridge, or to Cockleshell Bay via the water taxi.

I would like to say hello to everyone who has contributed to this project so far, whether they live on St. Kitts & Nevis, or perhaps they just visit, or have visited, one or both islands, either on a one-time trip, or better yet the reoccurring kind. And hello and welcome to any iNat person who will end up visiting St. K & N at some point in the future. Everyone who has contributed observations to this project, or will be doing so, please seriously consider becoming a member of the project.

Also, please, if you make any observations of organisms that are "captive" (like the goats or sheep who roam freely over the landscape) or "cultivated" (like for example the Plumeria trees in people's gardens), mark all those observations as "not wild". The Green Monkeys count as wild even though they were originally introduced by humans a few hundred years ago.

It is perfectly OK (even desirable) to photograph weeds, pests, and plant diseases. It is also OK to photograph organisms when you haven't got a clue as to what they are, as long as you get a reasonably clear photo. Sound files can also serve as acceptable evidence of organisms such as birds, frogs, crickets etc.

Please feel free to make observations of organisms from anywhere on, or near, either of the two islands, from the beaches to the mountaintops, and every ecotype in between.

Good wishes to everyone.

Posted on January 14, 2022 17:28 by susanhewitt susanhewitt | 1 comment | Leave a comment