Truth or dare: things you are embarassed to admit that you THOUGHT were living matter

We had so many neat stories in the ‘Trash Talk’ topic about garbage that was initially mistaken for some kind of specimen or specimen proof, that I thought this common scenario deserved its own topic.

I’ve actually been considering starting this for a while, but was reminded the other day when I came across a couple of recent ‘reminders’ of the topic:

Blue exotic lichen? Actually, at one point on this trail (like decades ago) they used a blue paint for trail markers. [sigh]

Golden pupae? My best guess is a glob of resin. Though to be fair, the closest conifer was at least 50 ft away. (I guess there’s always wind)

Okay, enough blushing. Your turn.

Truth or dare!


When I collected road-killed birds for museum specimens (with the necessary permits!) I got really good at telling a dead bird from other trash at 55 mph. Except. I kept turning around and going back for what turned out to be gloves or banana peels. (OK, the banana peels were formerly living, but they certainly weren’t my targets.)


A few come to mind:

Foam is particularly tricky because it gets more orange and brittle with time and UV exposure, making it look more like Fungi.

Also, I think these observations are more fun than embarassing, reminds me of these related things:


As @vreinkymov linked it, there’s a cool topic about this!

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If I go out into the garden before coffee, I inevitably will take a photo of anole poop thinking it Bolbonata.


Banana peels are a classic blunder for roadcruising herpers. We used to prank friends/other researchers by throwing banana peels on the road, and, after just a day of baking in the sun, they would routinely fool lots of people into slowing/stopping…ah the good old days…


A wad of gum stuck in a shrub had me thinking it was an amazing gall.


I thought maybe I’d found an unusual moth, perhaps a poisonous one, that I dare not disturb.

Nope. Just … some fuzzy pieces of fibers.


Kind of opposite to that but I’ve almost missed recording some moths because they mimic bird poop very convincingly.



I also followed the sound of a bird only to find out it was some lady’s squeaky flip-flop.


My mom was telling me about a beautiful birdsong she’d been hearing outside. When I was visiting, she had me come outside because the bird was back and she wanted me to hear it.

The song was actually a contractor working on a house across the alley; he’d been prepping it for sale for a few weeks. To be fair, he only whistled the same four notes, same pattern, at the same pitch (I have perfect pitch) over and over, so his whistling was rather bird-like.

We had a good laugh when I figured out what it was.


Hmmm…. I may have a similar situation here:

Dark eyed junco or car alarm? Dunno


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