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Showing posts from May, 2008

An Interesting Tiger Beetle

Tiger beetles (genus Cicindela) are among our most interesting insects. They have have ornately marked carapaces (shells), which lend them a beautiful, almost showy appearance, and some species are blindingly iridescent. Bold and adept hunters, most species are active during the day, and thus are somewhat easy to observe. But, just as their sharp vision aids them in spotting prey, it also keys them into us and tiger beetles can be hard to approach closely.

Which makes the following photos all the more amazing. Sent to me by naturalist extraordinaire Warren Uxley, they are of Cicindela formosa. Too bad no one yet has made the effort to give all of these charismatic beetles - there are only about 100 North American species - interesting common names. But I don't know of one for this particular beetle. However, formosa means "handsome", and that would be an apropos moniker: Handsome Tiger Beetle.
Cicindela formosa, a creature adapted for life on the run. At slightly under an …

Screech-Owls of varied hue

Eastern Screech-Owls are everywhere. Because they are so strictly nocturnal, few people other than knowledgeable birders see them. But, the uniformed often hear these small owls. Their weird, quavering whistles are certain to catch any ear, especially at close range, and the listener won't be able to help but to wonder what the source is.
Suburbia or wildlands, it makes no difference. There'll likely be screech-owls nearby. In fact, it's likely that no one reading this is further from a mile away from one of these eared owls, and probably much closer than that. For instance, participants on the 1981 Toledo Christmas Bird County tallied 112 owls in the 24-hour count period. This in only a 15 mile diameter circle!
Jim Dolan from up in Columbiana County sent along a few fascinating photos of some Eastern Screech-Owls. The photographer was Kathy Dyke, and I'm grateful to her for letting me use them here.

This is one of the coolest photos I've seen of this species. They ha…

Our rarest plant?

I've spent some time the past few days searching for one of the coolest plants in Ohio. I'm lucky in that the only known populations are within 15 minutes of where I live. Spreading Rock Cress, Arabis patens, is an outstanding little mustard that is an obligate saxicole; it must grow on exposed rock faces. And therein lies the rub. Invasive plants like rocky ledges, too, but more on that in a bit.
Spreading Rock Cress is only known from a few limestone gorges along the west side of the Scioto River in Franklin County, and the populations are tiny. I think I've seen them all, and even found one or two, and I'd say that the total number of plants in the Franklin County gorges numbers maybe one or two dozen. Two days ago I visited a site that had several dozen ten or so years ago, and couldn't find any. This plant is slipping away before our eyes.
Fortunately, a few years back Mark Dilley and I located a population just over the Franklin County line in Delaware County, …

Swallowtails and the pipevine

The area of the New River Gorge Birding Festival is among the most biodiverse in the eastern U.S. Flora and fauna abound, and at at times on a nice spring morning one hardly knows where to look. We had some utterfly fantastic field trips this year, with lots of great birds.

It wasn't only birds, though. My trip participants tended to be interested in nearly everything, so we took time to admire and learn about non-bird stuff, too.
Dutchman's-pipe, Aristolochia macrophylla. This high-climbing vine draped the timber in one of the mountain forests that we visited to a degree I've not seen before. This area, known as Sugar Mountain, was packed with birds. We had great looks at Worm-eating, Kentucky, and Black-throated Green warbler as well as many more, in addition to Scarlet Tanager, various thrushes, the ever-popular Cerulean Warbler, several species of vireo, and on and on.In between all the avian action, our party saw scads of Pipevine Swallowtails - more than I've ever …

OOS 4th Annual Conference

A smashing good time was had at the OOS's fourth conference, held at the magnificent Mohican State Park Resort. The festivities began last Friday, and we wrapped everything up yesterday. In the process, all of the birders on various field trips radiating out through the region picked up about 140 species, including many a life bird for many a person. I want to thank everyone who does such a wonderful job making these enjoyable and memorable events, particularly Jen Sauter, who truly is masterful at orchestrating these affairs. A big thanks to all who so generously donate their skills and time; you know who you are, and so does everyone that was there.
A pastoral scene near Mohican. Although this conference is mostly about forest birding, we hit other habitats, too. In the habitat above, we found Grasshopper, Savannah, and Vesper sparrows.
At the other extreme, we hit dense shady hemlock gorges littered with massive sandstone slump blocks calved from towering cliffs. Many excellent b…

Appalachian Butterfly Conference

Common Wood-Nymph
Appalachian Butterfly Conference
Saturday, August 9th & Sunday, August 10th

Shawnee State Forest and the Edge of Appalachia Preserve
Adams and Scioto counties, Ohio

Mark your calendars! If you like butterflies, you’ll not want to miss this first-ever conference. Shawnee and the Edge of Appalachia preserve offer some of the best butterfly-watching north of the Ohio River. Racking up a list of over 60 species during the course of this weekend isn’t out of the question, and many species will be found in huge numbers. In addition to an abundance of common species like Spicebush Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, and Great Spangled Fritillary, much rarer butterflies can be found. These include Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Gemmed Satyr, Juniper and White-M hairstreaks. This region of southernmost Ohio can also be great for finding good numbers of southern immigrants like Cloudless Sulphur, Little Sulphur, Sachem, and Checkered White.

We are pleased to have Jaret C. Daniels, author …

Red Eft

Many a person has been shocked to spot a brilliant orange-red salamander boldly stalking about the forest. After all, most salamanders are shy and retiring in the extreme; some of our most seldom seen animals. Turning over rocks and rotting logs is the usual modus operandi for finding these secretive beasts.

So, what gives?
Why would a salamander shun the wallflower ways of their brethren, sport a coat of flashing crimson, and bravely march about during the day, every bit as conspicuous as Liberace in full regalia.
Eat a Red Eft and you'll find out. Most things that are brightly colored and conspicuous are unafraid, and with good reason. Efts are protected by toxins, and most potential predators know it. Thus, no fear. This works to our advantage, as non-eft-eating humanoids can admire Red Efts up close and personal.

Efts tend to be most active during and after showers, when the forest floor is damp, as it was in West Virginia where I took this shot. The Red Eft is but one stage of th…

Cranberry Glades

Just getting back in the swing of things after romping all over Appalachia for the past ten days, with a visit to Lake Erie for International Migratory Bird Day yesterday. Internet access has been spotty, which was no problem as I didn't really have time to be posting/e-mailing/blogging anyway. A break from the "net" is a really nice thing, anyway. It's amazing how reliant many of us have become on techno-geekery.
Following a fantastic time at the 2nd annual (we hope) Flora-Quest, I dashed straight off to what has become perhaps my favorite locale in eastern North America, the New River Gorge and vicinity of West Virginia. There, I participated in the New River Gorge Birding Festival. This event is possibly the best of its type that I've been to, and I highly recommend it. Mark your calendars for next year - April 26th is the starting date, and it runs through May 2nd. Do the whole thing, or just part, you won't be sorry.
I had one free morning, and took full a…


Last weekend marked the second of what we hope becomes an annual event. Flora-Quest is a botanical extravaganza held at Shawnee State Forest, with field excursions ranging throughout the forest and into the Edge of Appalachia preserve in adjacent Adams County. This year's event went exceptionally wel, I thought, in so small measure because of the hard work and skillful planning of Cheryl Harner and Paula Harper. Huge kudos to Kevin Bradbury and Jenny Richards at Shawnee State Park, too - we couldn't do it without their active support and participation. Likewise for all of the other volunteers, including many of the state's finest botanists.
Scads of plants, including many great rarities, were found, as well as scores of birds, butterflies, and other organisms of interest.
Not much time to blog now, I'm down in southeastern West Virginia for the New River Gorge Birding Festival, and have the pleasure of leading trips down here all week. Stunning by any standard is the sce…