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Shawnee Photo Workshop!

A gorgeous pastel sunrise colors the foggy waters of Turkey Lake in Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio. Debbie DiCarlo and I conducted our 6th Focus on Photography workshop on the weekend of September 1 & 2, based at the beautiful lodge within this park, which is imbedded within the 65,000 acre Shawnee State Forest, with easy access to various photographic hotspots in nearby Adams County. For more on our workshops, and next year's schedule, GO HERE.

We had a great group of eight people: Dan, Molly, Suzee, Dan (another one!), Charlie, Patty, Michele, and Eric. Lots of interesting subjects presented themselves, and we got lots of practice in shooting a wide range of plants, animals, sunrise, sunset, and even conducted nocturnal work.

Day Glo orange fungi, the fan-shaped jelly fungus, Dacryopinax spathularia, adorns an old red cedar log. Just one of myriad wee things we found. Macro photography was a major part of this photographic foray.

A big timber rattlesnake, Crotalus …
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Bird program: This Thursday night, 7 pm!

A great egret displays its aigrette feathers - the showy plumage that nearly led to its demise.
I'm giving a free program this Thursday evening, commencing at 7 pm, at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, at 505 West Whittier Street. All are welcome. The talk is entitled Bird Conservation: Ups and Downs, and will be an Ohio-centric look at some of the winners and losers, why species have plummeted or increased, and some of the ongoing challenging conservation issues. Lushly illustrated with imagery, of course.

Speaking of images, I have a gallery of 30 bird images opening in the Audubon Center that very evening. Please feel free to come early if you'd like to peruse them. The gallery features photos taken throughout eastern North America, and each one is accompanied by a brief description about the bird. Doors open at 5:30 pm.

Registration is required, but it's easy and free. Here's a link to the Audubon Center and more information, and registration info: h…

Zombie Fungus rides again!

A female Carolina leafroller cricket, Camptonotus carolinensis, emerged from its lair and exploring leaves at night. I made this image last year in a southern Ohio forest. While these exceptionally long-antennae'd crickets are not rare, they are furtive and secretive. During the day, they hole up within rolled up leaves, hence the name. Come nightfall, they roam about on lower-lying foliage, and are quick to hop away with tremendous leaps if disturbed.

Here we have another female Carolina leafroller, but things have not gone swimmingly for the beast. Indeed, one of the worst possible fates imaginable has befallen the cute little cricket.

Laura Hughes, I believe, spotted the zombified orthopteran on a field trip to an Adams County, Ohio hotspot last Saturday. Never one to miss a chance to photo-document an attack of the zombie fungus, I took the opportunity to shoot some images of this fine example of a fate worse than death.

We look into the dead white eyes of the cricket, which …

Nature: Latest bird atlas shows species rebounding, declining in Ohio

Double-crested cormorants at Lake Erie/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch September 2, 2018
Jim McCormac

Early in my birding years back in the 1970s, a double-crested cormorant was a big deal. Most years saw fewer than a dozen reports, and any birder would brake hard for cormorants. DDT, a pesticide once sprayed with impunity, had caused a precipitous decline in their population.

The fish-eating cormorants are an indisputable winner among our avifauna. Following the 1972 ban on DDT, cormorants adversely impacted by the pesticide began a slow ascent out of the abyss. Today, they are again abundant.

In 2016, a book titled “The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Ohio” was released. It summarized mountains of data generated during a statewide survey conducted from 2006 to 2011.

Two of the most interesting tables are found on pages 48 and 49. They show species with the largest increases, and decreases, from the first atlas, which took place from 1982 to ’87.

It’s no surprise that two of the…

An epic Adams County (Ohio) foray

Anyone who has checked in with this blog on any sort of regular basis over the years (1,811 posts over nearly a decade, thus far!) has probably noticed two recurring names: Adams County, and John Howard.
Adams County, Ohio, is an Ohio River county lying between Cincinnati and Portsmouth. It is also one of the most biologically rich regions in the entire midwestern United States, which is why I've reported on finds from that area so often, and make so many trips there.
John Howard is a friend who has lived in Adams County for decades, a superb naturalist, and few if any know the natural history of Adams County and vicinity as well as he does. Flora or fauna, it doesn't matter - John knows hidden nooks and crannies and where to find the coolest of the cool like no one else.
Last year, John and his wife Tina set about constructing what would become the Ohio Star Retreat Center just outside West Union, the county seat of Adams County. The building can lodge up to a dozen or so pe…

A bizarre aspect of the gray hairstreak

A week or so ago, I visited a place I seldom see, Erie Sand Barrens State Nature Preserve in Erie County, Ohio, which is not far inland from Lake Erie. The place abounds with biodiversity, including many rarities, especially plants. It was there I was finally able to photograph a very unusual feature of a common butterfly, as follows...
One of our showiest - and commonest - hairstreak butterflies, the gray hairstreak, Strymon melinus. These tiny butterflies are widespread throughout Ohio, and beyond, but can easily be overlooked unless you're paying attention to the little stuff. A fresh animal, such as the one above, could win a lepidopteran beauty pageant. They're sleek in a smooth coat of dove-gray, ornamented with black and white dashes and orange dots. Orange-tipped antennae are banded like a barber pole.

Perhaps most interesting is the aft end. A peculiar pair of pseudo-antennae jut from the hindwings like tails. These appendages are the trademark of most, but not all, …

Cannibal flies among fiercest insect predators

Red-footed cannibal fly, Promachus rufipes, with paper wasp/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch August 19, 2018
Jim McCormac

This is the summer of the cannibal flies. For people fascinated by the boundless diversity of insects, that’s a good thing. For subordinate bugs, the cannibal-fly bonanza is very bad.

Cannibal fly is a colloquialism applied to robber flies in the genus Promachus. They’re big, beefy insects, and you won’t miss one if it comes near. The name stems from their decidedly uncivil habit of occasionally eating fellow robber flies.

These robber flies are entomological warriors. It’s a good thing they aren’t the size of eagles, or we humans would have great reason to fear the outdoors. Fortunately, the biggest cannibal flies measure only 1 1/2 inches, but that’s still a big bug.

Although there are 22 species in the U.S., only two are regularly encountered in Ohio.

To most people, a cannibal fly would look quite creepy. Huge eyes gaze inscrutably at the world; limpid inky p…