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Showing posts from August, 2007

Mississippi Kites Nest Successfully!

Wow! Without a doubt, the highlight of the 2007 breeding season in Ohio was the discovery of a pair of Mississippi Kites nesting at the Brass Ring Golf Course in Hocking County. First discovered back in June by Rick Perkins, a skilled birder who just happened to be there on a golf outing, the kites have become avian celebrities and many birders have come to visit.
When Rick first found them, he saw two birds and even watched them copulate - always a good sign of potential breeding :-) Word soon got out, but relatively few people were able to spot both birds with certainty.
For a lengthy period in July and into August, only one individual was seen at any one time, and it appeared that either the other adult had left, or it was sitting on eggs. Because telling the sexes apart is not easy, it was hard to tell if everyone was seeing the same bird or both adults, just at different times.
Fortunately, the bird(s) could almost always be observed from Keller Rd., which runs adjacent to the cour…

Painted Lady

I gave a program on fall warblers last night in Darke County, at the nature center at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. This is an interesting place, and many prairie plants have been planted around the building.
As I walked into the place with my gear, I couldn't help but to notice a number of one of our showiest butterflies, the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. They were nectaring primarily on sunflowers in the genus Silphium, and lucky for me I'd thrown the camera in the car.

Painted Ladys don't do well trying to overwinter in cold climes, and ours are probably all immigrants from the south. Some years, there are very few; in other years Painted Lady can be fantastically abundant. There are historical descriptions describing tens of thousands seen in Ohio in boom years, but that's not the norm. This species resembles the American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis, but differs above in having more black markings among other characters.
Painted Lady is especially striking on the underwing…

Butterfly Extravaganza

I spent the day in Adams and Scioto counties in southernmost Ohio with a nice bunch of folks. We were led by naturalist extraordinaire John Howard, who knows the area as well or better than anyone. Our mission? Great Purple Hairstreak. An exceptionally showy butterfly, the hairstreak's host plant is mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, which is almost entirely confined to the Ohio River Valley in Ohio. There is only one old record from Ohio, although it must be down there somewhere. While we failed to find the hairstreak, we found thirty-nine species of butterflies in total, including many interesting ones. Included in the total were many Cloudless Sulphurs and Little Sulphurs, both immigrants from the south. Until today, I had seen only one Cloudless and no Littles this year.

Below are some shots taken today.

Pipevine Swallowtail. A challenge to get a good shot, as they are very jittery feeders and in constant motion. This one is nectaring on Field Thistle, Cirsium discolor, one of …

They Only Come Out At Night...

A whole new world emerges after nightfall. Creatures that lay in hiding during the day emerge, and do their thing. I went out for an hour or so tonight to a local patch of woodland, mostly to hone my insect songs ID skills. And I heard plenty. Those that I felt pretty good about recognizing included: Texas Bush Katydid, Sword-bearing Conehead, Narrow-winged Tree Cricket, Fall Field Cricket, Carolina Ground Cricket, Broad-winged Tree Cricket, Snowy Tree Cricket, Common True Katydid, Greater Anglewing, Lesser Anglewing, and Oblong-winged Katydid. Thee were others, too.

Nighttime insects create an interesting symphony, and once your ears become somewhat attuned, more individual players than you might suspect make up the band. Birds no doubt drive this abundant nocturnal insect activity, at least in some part. After all, there are no insect-eating birds out after dark, and it's safe to come out if you are a bug. So not only do the seemingly harmless and sometimes melodic insects become…

American Snout

Some butterflies, particularly skippers, can be tough to identify. The American Snout, Libytheana carinenta, is not one of them. Anyone could identify this distinctive species. In fact, when spotted for the first time, a common exclamation is "Look at the nose on that butterfly" or something to that effect.
I helped lead a group of people around Cedar Bog last weekend, and we had the good fortune to come across a snout. Or, more accurately, it came across us.
Maybe it was attracted to the flowers on one of our participant's shirt. Probably not, though - like some other butterflies that use Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, as a host plant, snouts can be pugnacious. This one boldly confronted the group, landing on various people and permitting close inspection of one of our stranger butterflies.

The undersides of the wings are not very showy, resembling dead leaves, but the palps (snout) is very distinctive. There's nothing like it.The upper wings are quite showy, if you a…

Aullwood Bird Workshop

Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm presents -

Mark your calendars for a very special workshop on Aug. 30 , 2007 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.

This fascinating workshop provides naturalists, volunteer teachers and others involved with non-formal education an opportunity to explore complex global and local environmental issues that are impacting neotropical songbird migrants and Audubon’s ten watch-list bird species. Nationally recognized experts such as Kenn Kaufman, prolific author and legend among bird watchers, Jim McCormac, author of Birds of Ohio, Kimberly Kaufman, education director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and Patty Rickard from Flying Wild will share their expertise on these critical issues.

Each speaker will provide different perspectives on ornithology, illuminating the problems facing birds along with actions that individuals can take to alleviate these problems. You’ll learn about the decline of neotropical migrants, anthropogenic changes in habitat and climate affecting bird…


Thanks to Ethan Kistler for pointing out my misidentification of the alleged Greater Angle-wing. It is actually a species of Round-headed Katydid (genus Amblycorypha). There are a dozen or so of those around, and they are apparently tough to ID to species. Angle-wings lack the brownish coloration on the haed/nape area.

Ethan is rapidly becoming one of Ohio's premier entemologists, birders, and overall naturalists. You've maybe seen his posts on the Ohio Birds listserve, but his depth of interests goes way beyond birds, obviously. See his blog here.

Two Interesting Insects

Bugs are cool. Actually, I must be careful about that "bug" term; they are really insects. And I saw a few interesting ones while out and about this weekend. The first is a wicked-looking critter, the Great Black Wasp, Sphex pensylvanicus. I bet you've seen these, too - they are hard to miss at over an inch in length, with shiny irridescent bodies. Rather showy, actually.

Two Great Black Wasps nectaring on Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. Although here's a pair, they just happen to be drawn to the same plant. This species is one of the so-called solitary wasps and generally are loners. Like butterflies, they are drawn to palatable nectar such as is produced by milkweeds. another name for them is "katydid-killer". They make subterranean burrows with small chambers at the end, and after stinging and immobilizing a katydid, haul it back to the burrow and drag it within. Presumably eggs are then laid inside the katydid's tissues. Better to keep the host …

Bigelow Cemetery

Hi all, and it's good to be back and have some time for posts! I have been more than busy of late finishing up a book, and just handed in the manuscript to my publisher last Friday. Oh, what a relief it is :-) Wasted no time getting afield, and in a twist of good fortune, my route today took me right by Bigelow Cemetery in Madison County. Doing anything other than stopping was out of the question, and I picked up my dusty camera and photo-documented this wonderful micro-prairie.
Bigelow is a pioneer cemetery in the middle of the former Darby Plains, one of Ohio's great prairie ecosystems. Blanketing parts of Franklin, Madison, Fayette and other counties just west of Columbus, this tallgrass prairie would have been a sight to behold to the first pioneers. Stands of Big Bluestem and Indian Grass grew so luxuriantly that a man on horseback could scarcely see over them. Prairie fires regularly swept the landscape; horrifying spectacles to prioneers, no doubt.
Dr. Jeremiah Converse, …

Fall Warbler Symposium

Yes, indeed, those confusing fall warblers are guaranteed to drive a birder batty. Not! Roger Tory Peterson did many great things in a long and storied career, but coining the phrase "confusing fall warblers" may not have been among them. It's catchy and has stuck, and now many birders think warblers in fall are as hard to learn as advanced calculus.

Sure, some species do look similar, and pretty much none of them are as vibrantly colored as in spring. And they sure aren't singing in fall, either. But on the plus side, there are more warblers to chase around in fall migration, as their numbers are bolstered by youngsters fledged that summer.

In any event, the Ohio Ornithological Society, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and Toledo Naturalists' Association is pleased to host a Fall Warbler Symposium September 8 & 9 at Lakeside along the shores of Lake Erie. We'll have a star-studded cast of speakers on Saturday, and wonderful trips afield on Sunday. That weeken…

John Gallagher, 1924-2007

John Gallagher, the feisty environmentalist who lead the fight in the late 1960s to stop U.S. 68 from being extended next to Cedar Bog, died Tuesday afternoon in Community Hospital. He was 83.
By profession an insurance agent, Gallagher was passionately Irish and passionate about nature, founding the Clark County Audubon Society in 1964 while taking a bird-watching class from then Wittenberg University Professor Louis Laux.

"About three-quarters of the way through the course, it was John who got up and said, 'We can't end here,' " Laux said for a 1998 story. "Once John got this on his mind, we had an Audubon Society."
Fearing noise and pollution would ruin Cedar Bog's ecosystem, Gallagher brought the same determination to fight a plan to run U.S. 68 beside the nature preserve. The grass-roots battle "lasted nine years, and I spent almost full time on it," Gallagher said in an interview with the News-Sun. "I just couldn't give up.

Killer Frog!

Bullfrogs are the bruisers of the amphibian world. A whopper can tape out at eight inches. Lotta frog leg to an animal like that. Their voracious appetites and gaping maw are a bad combo for anything smaller that wanders near. They'll eat big dragonflies, large butterflies, crayfish, small snakes and little turtles, mice, salamanders, and other frogs. Even birds. I've heard of a few reports of bullfrogs snapping up Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, and several species of songbirds are recorded as sliding down the gullet of big frogs.
Well, today Gina Buckey sent along a photo that her friend Mark Eller took in a Clintonville - suburb of Columbus - backyard. Apparently this guy hangs out in a small ornamental pond and patiently awaits opportunity. Mark finally caught him in action - a juvenile Northern Cardinal fast in the jaws of the killer bullfrog. And it is a male; they have larger tympanums - eardrums - than do females. He reports that this particular frog makes a habitat of catch…

Rare Beach Stuff

I went up to the International Headquarters of Black Swamp Bird Observatory today, to join in with the 1st possibly annual Artists and Authors Event. A great time, met some nice people and saw many more that I know but don't often see. Thanks to all who assembled this event and made things flow so well.

There was a bit of time on either end of the event to poke around the vast marshes of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area. Many know this place is a beacon for birds, and it is. But there's much more. The big marsh on the east side of the causeway road as you head out towards the legendary bird trail is the second best marsh in the entire western Lake Erie basin - at least in Ohio - in my opinion. There are a number of very rare plants growing here, and other more common native plants that have been in a downward spiral in other marshes.

Then, there is the beach. Not the one associated with the state park to the west; the one at the end of the causeway road where it jags sharply to the lef…