I spent a few hours on Sunday hiking an area of the valley that I haven't hiked in a while. It was good to explore that area again and see one of my favorite waterfalls, although it was choked full of leaves and other debris so the pictures did not come out very good. And fall is in full swing so the leaves covering the forest floor are thick right now, even hiding the trails at times.
Chestnut Oaks are known for their especially big acorns, but they also have very large leaves. The oval-like outline of the leaf reminds me of Hickory trees, and their oblong shape is very different than most of the other Oak leaves I am familiar with.
Paper Wasps mix their saliva with fibers from dead wood and plant stems to make the characteristic "paper" they construct their nests from. This paper is actually water resistant and can be gray or even brown with some species. This nest in particular was about the size of a volleyball and was only visible because the leaves on the trees had fallen and exposed it. The nests are only used for one year and most of the wasps will die during the winter, except for the queen, who will survive by nesting under bark or even at the center of their now empty nest.
Once I identified Common Green Shield Lichen a year or so ago, I was amazed how often I find patches of it on trees, rocks, and everything in between. I don't know too many Lichens, but Common Green Shield Lichen is fairly easy to recognize and I mostly see it with yellowish-green color, but I have come across specimens that are more grey than green.
There are many Ferns that are native to our area and they, like some wildflowers, still give me a hard time identifying them. But I am fairly certain that this specimen is in fact Spinulose Wood Fern. Interestingly, ferns first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago, but this and other species in our area probably did not appear until much later, roughly 145 million years ago. So they've been around for a long, long time.
The 5 or 6 Poison Ivy vines attached to this tree's bark nearly covered entire sections of the trunk and were very well established. But it was the reddish "rootlets" that anchor poison ivy vines to the bark that caught my eye. And when the vines overlapped, the zigzag lines created by the rootlets created some interesting geometric patterns.
Beech Aphid Poop Eater Fungus is busy feeding on all the poop that the Beech Aphids have been producing lately. This rather large clump was covered in the black fungus, which will most likely feed on it for a few more months until the sugars are all gone and the mass becomes dry and crusty.
I found this White-tailed deer skull laying on a fallen log covered in moss. The skull is showing years of weathering and even some green algae, but most interesting of all to me was the fissures on the top of the skull. The lines are cut very cleanly and you can even see worn down "button" antlers at the top and bottom of the photo.
This little Eastern Screech Owl has taken up residence in an Owl box I made for my nephews a few years back. They've had plenty of critters in and out of the box over the years, but this is the first Owl. This Owl is a Grey Morph, where the predominant color of their feathers is grey, but Screech Owls can also display a red color (Rufous Morph ) in certain parts of their range.