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Showing posts from July, 2008

Hitler Pond

Wow! The resiliency of seedbanks never ceases to amaze me. Not far from Circleville, in Pickaway County, is a small former prairie slough named, at least by botanists, Hitler Pond. That's the name of the family that settled the immediate area. Legendary Pickaway County farmer/botanist Floyd Bartley is the one who put this postage stamp-sized wetland on the map, when he discovered a number of rare plants there long ago. Foremost among them was Rocky Mountain Bulrush, Schoenoplectus saximontanus, a prairie sedge normally found much further west; Floyd's Pickaway County record is by far the easternmost station. I think he discovered it at Hitler Pond in the 1940's. No one has seen it at this site in three decades or more.
The former prairie around Hitler Pond has long been converted to beans, corn, and wheat, and miles of subsurface drainage tiles works to siphon water promptly. I've been dropping by Hitler Pond annually for over a decade, and until last year it was dry as…

Bullbats Nest in Toledo

I've always liked the nickname "bullbat" for the Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor. They do look rather batlike as they gracefully course high overhead hawking insects, in an odd stumbling stutter-flutter flight. This is a species to keep an eye on; all indications are that Common Nighthawks have been in a nosedive in terms of numbers. Part of the reason is likely due to a diminishment of suitable nesting sites. Nighthawks favor gravel-covered rooftops, where they make a small scrape and place two camouflaged eggs. It seems that rooftop technology is moving increasingly away from gravel, though.

Dan Adamski, who works at the University Medical Center in Toledo, recently sent me some outstanding photos of a nesting nighthawk on the roof of his building, and I couldn't resist sharing them.

Straight on with a bullbat. Look closely to the adult's left; your right. A micro-bullbat!The tiny nightjar stays close to the adult female. In spite of just having pipped its way…

The Gulf Fritillary invasion continues

I just received a report and photos of yet another Gulf Fritillary from Gary, who lives in Pike County. On July 22, a Gulf Fritillary graced their yard, and his wife Sylvia was able to snap some nice photos. This certainly has been an unprecedented invasion of this southerner!

Gulf Fritillary, Pike County, Ohio, July 22, 2008. This is at least the fourth record for the state in the past two weeks. That's at least as many records as have EVER been reported in Ohio!Sylvia managed some excellent photos of this vagrant long-winged fritillary. In the butterfly world, those are wings made for traveling! Lots of wing surface to body ratio, creating a strong flier that can really cover some ground. Look along the trailing edge of the wings. See how beaten up this individual is? It's probably been around for a while, and covered lots of miles.Thanks to Gary and Sylvia for reporting this Gulf Fritillary! I'm always interested in reports of unusual flora and fauna.

The Wild Ones in Adams County

There are few better places in Ohio to be during mid-summer dog-days than the prairies of Adams County. These tiny ancient openings abound with life, and an incredible diversity of flora splashes every color of the rainbow across the barrens. Perhaps because of ample rain earlier in the season, the prairies look about as good as I've ever seen them. Prairie-dock carpeted many areas, sending luminiscent yellow beacon flowers high into the air, pulling in scads of butterflies. Blazing-stars (Liatris) of four species striped the landscape in swaths of purple, and if there is a crack cocaine for butterflies, it's this stuff.

Yesterday was hot, but nearly picture-perfect for exploring prairies, and John Howard and I met 20 members of the Greater Cincinnati Wild Ones and guests for a field trip ably put together by Kathy McDonald. The prairies certainly didn't disappoint and we saw far more plants and animals than could ever be touched on in less than a telephone book-sized blog.

More Gulf Fritillaries!

This is shaking out to be a good butterfly season. One of the star vagrants are the always exciting Gulf Fritillaries, Agraulis vanillae. I blogged a little while back about one that Steve Willson found in Adams County. Then, I picked up my recently arrived Toledo Naturalists' Association newsletter and see that another was documented in the Oak Openings. Then, just today, John Howard sends along photos of one that he found today in Adams County. These records nearly double the previous Ohio records EVER of this rare stray from the south. However, "stray" may not really be the correct term for this species, as we shall see...

Gulf Fritillary, today, on John Howard's aptly named Butterfly-bush, Buddleia davidii, in Adams County. John notes he was "excited" to come home from work and see this beauty in his yard. Who could blame him! I'll be with John in this very county tomorrow, leading a field trip for the Wild Ones, and with luck we will see another Gul…

Return of the Raven

If one could beam themself back in time several hundred year, to the pre-settlement wilds of Ohio, the Common Raven would have no doubt been an obvious part of the landscape. The harsh, guttural croaks of this fascinating member of the crow family would have been ubiquitous, and our first settlers were certainly well acquainted with ravens.
These jumbo croakers did not fare well with the coming of white men and the resultant wholesale landscape changes. By 1900, they had essentially vanished from now-populous Ohio, and many other areas in the eastern part of their range.
But these big black birds are resilient. About a decade ago, reports starting trickling in; some indisputable, others less so, but all contributing to a growing body of evidence that ravens were continuing their recolonization of former Appalachian breeding haunts.
2008 will go down in history as a milestone for these fabulous birds in the Buckeye State. It was this spring that Common Ravens were finally verified as bree…

Glade Mallow

Hot summer days make for excellent field work, with many interesting plants and animals out and about. It's sometimes tough to drag one's self into the muggy conditions, but there are always rewarding finds to be made. In the plant world, summertime dog days are tough on the botanist. Most of the good stuff is going to be growing out in the open under the scorching sun. It isn't like spring with its cool mild days, when much of interest can be found in the forest, with its as yet to be leafed out canopy. By summer, dense shade prevails within woodlands, and most of the flowering plants jump out into the open.

I went up to Holmes County last Saturday, along with Ann Oliver, to meet the folks at Carlisle Printing and some other people involved with publications of the Ohio Ornithological Society. We took a scenic route that passed through scenic Coshocton County. Not far out of the city of Coshocton, I saw a statuesque plant with small white blossoms out of the corner of my e…

Clayfield Sparrow?

Thanks to the outstanding atlasing efforts of Ethan Kistler, a potentially outstanding record has come to light. On July 3, Ethan was working successional habitats in Lorain County when he happened upon what appeared to be a Clay-colored Sparrow at first blush. This species, which is one of the characteristic brushland sparrows further west, is a great summertime rarity in Ohio. But something seemed amiss with this one.
Our mystery bird peeks over its shoulder at photographer Aaron Boone. "What am I?" it may be saying.So, last Wednesday Aaron Boone, coordinator for the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas and Andy Jones, curator of ornithology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, set out to really get the scoop on this odd Spizella sparrow. And did they. Aaron managed a number of shots of the bird in the field, as above, and just as important, made a pretty good recording of the bird's song.

Then, they were able to net the bird and collect detailed information on plumage charac…

Vagrant Butterfly!

Just like birds, butterflies sometimes turn up well beyond their normal ranges. Some species, especially larger ones, are powerful fliers and quite capable of traveling far distances in short periods of time. Because of their high degree of mobility and apparent fast response to warming average temperatures, butterflies are important to monitor in terms of population movements.

Steve Willson, of Adams County down on the Ohio River, must have been excited when he recently found a Gulf Fritillary. This is the species that graces the cover of Jeffrey Glassberg's excellent field guide, Butterflies through Binoculars: The East. As you might guess from the name, this species is a real southerner, and there are very few Ohio records. Steve's find would be comparable to, say, finding a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher if you are a birder.
Steve's photo, which by his own admission will not be found anytime soon on the cover of National Geographic. Still, there's no doubt what it is, and…

Artful Dragons

The Oak Openings is always a fascinating place to visit, and last Sunday didn't disappoint. I visited some of the best areas along with Rick Nirschl and Cheryl Harner, seeking birds mostly, but also other flying objects. We scored lots of the former, including a cooperative singing Clay-colored Sparrow, and what surely must have been his mate, although she was quite hard to pinpoint amongst all of the shrubs and dewberry. A Blue Grosbeak was still warbling his rushed Purple Finch-like song, and counter-singing Summer Tanagers serenaded us. Maniacal family units of Red-headed Woodpeckers chortled and kweeaad everywhere.
But one of our targets was something very rare and non-avian, big and golden. And we saw it.
But first, a few of the lesser lights that crossed or paths that hot, sunny day.
Starting with the Lilliputian and proceeding up the scale to the gargantuan, this is an Azure Bluet, Enallagma aspersum. Nearly all bluets are showy and worth a look; this one especially so. It'…

A Very Rare Butterfly

I had the good fortune to go along on an excursion into a Michigan fen the other day, to help tally numbers of one of North America's scarcest butterflies. Thanks to Mike Penskar and Daria Hyde of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory for allowing me to come along.

Your blogger in a habitat that not all would find overly alluring. I'm smack in the middle of a boggy tamarack fen, loaded with Poison Sumac, Toxicodendron vernix, and nasty deer flies. Of course, for a lot people I know, they'd love the place. The soil is waterlogged and can be very much the quagmire, and dense tussocks created by clump-forming sedges further hinder one's ability to navigate. A misstep can easily put you to your waist in muck, if not deeper. That happened to several people this day. Twice I went in nearly to the top of my hip waders, and the only way to get them out was to remove my foot and pull - hard! - with both hands. Slowly and with a giant sucking sound I could eventually extract th…