Saturday, August 4, 2007

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 left. This beach is undisturbed and always has interesting flora and fauna.
A view of the "good" beach. Interesting plants occur here, some quite rare. That zone of low grass is an example.
It's Purple Sand Grass, Triplasis purpurea, which is threatened in Ohio and only known from Lake Erie beaches.
This one's even cooler, and an equally rare denizen of Lake Erie beaches. Prostrate, it's adapted for life on the outermost limits of a beach, where waves regularly pulverize it. Seaside Spurge, Euphorbia polygonifolia, is an Atlantic Coastal Plain disjunct. About ten tousand years ago, it migrated eastward into the Great Lakes via interconnected bands of lakes and wetlands that were present following the retreat of the Wisconsin glacier, and was eventually stranded inland.
Blue Dashers galore in the Staghorn Sumac thickets on the back side of the beach. This male was one of probably hundreds - thousands if one looked far and wide enough. This beach seems to attract droves of dragons, and is a great place to watch for rarities, like the state record Striped Saddlebags that Rick Nirschl found here last year.
I found this plant growing in dry sandy soil around the entrance to the bird trail. It's not one I've seen in Ohio and threw me at first. I thought it might be a Potentilla, but when I got back and had a look at the digital images the lightbulb clicked and I remembered seeing it elsewhere - Puncture Vine, Tribulus terrestris. It's in the Caltrop Family, Zygophyllaceae, and is native to Eurasia. The only member of this family found in Ohio, it is known from only a handful of counties, but is considered a troublesome weed elsewhere. You may recognize the genus name, Tribulus. It is commonly sold in health food stores as an hebal medicine, touted for improving sexual function among other things.

The day ended with a bang. A bunch of us were standing around, getting ready to leave, when in came a call from Larry Rosche, who along with Judy Semroc had just discovered a Piping Plover on the beach in nearby Port Clinton. This was pretty much on the way home and I'll always make an effort to look at a Federally Threatened species, so off to the Port it was.No disappointments on arrival, either. Larry and Judy were still there and had the bird in sight. It's a juvenile, just born this summer, and had a band on its leg. Dave Lewis, Judy and Jen Brumfield all got great shots - this one is mine - and we might be able to see the legs better in one of theirs. If so, we'll send a pic off to the Federales and see if we can't find out where and when it hatched. A beautiful little beast; very pale and showing the scaly feather edgings of a juvenile, it also was very vocal. Piping Plovers emit a pleasant, mellow two-toned whistle.

Managed this pic of the bird in flight. It's at right, showing a bold white wing stripe sandwiched by extensive blackish areas. That's an adult Sanderling, in obvious molt, leading the way.

We appreciate Larry using a telephone - just like the olden pre-Internet days - to tip everyone off so we could get there in time to see this rarity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim thanks so much for your lay-friendly articulate short articles on what is happening in our Ohio natural world tom sampliner, cleveland