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Showing posts from April, 2009

Cranberry Glades

Today was my day to co-lead a trip up to the West Virginia high country, and Cranberry Glades. This spot within the sprawling Monongahela National Forest is one of the coolest places in the eastern United States, and is lush with diversity. It's nearly 4,000 feet up here, and these mountain crests are often dipped in cloud, as they were today. But constant moisture and cool temperatures makes the world work here, and creates the conditions for a fantastic assemblage of flora and all of the animals that go with it.
Like bonsai gone mad, twisted, gnarled Red Spruce dot the landscape. It is a birder's paradise, and boreal species that one normally would have to go much further north to see can be found here.

A territorial Dark-eyed Junco keeps watch on our group. Other northern breeders include Hermit Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Canada Warbler, and many more.

Perpetually cool, waterlogged peaty soil spawn all manner of fa…

Mountain Birding

The New River, West Virginia, as seen from the high bluffs of Hawk's Nest State Park. Paul Shaw and I led a trip in this area today, and had some absolutely fantastic birding. We had about 70 species, and were only in forested habitats.

The day started before the crack of dawn, and as I was driving up to the meeting place, I saw this gorgeous Luna moth. He - it is a male; note the large fern-like antennae - was probably only a day or two old and as fresh as you'll ever see one.

Our group, birding the Sugar Creek mountain. A picture-perfect day down here, and the birds were insane.

Worm-eating Warbler trilling his heart out. We had perhaps a dozen today.

Female Black-and-white Warbler, gathering nesting material. We found her nest, way up the slope, and were able to watch her work on it through the scope. This species nests on the ground, in a leafy cave-like structure.

Rather poor digiscope of a Yellow-throated Vireo building its nest. We had plenty of these, as well as Red-e…

West Virginia!

I'm down in what's probably my favorite place in eastern North America: Fayette County, West Virginia. This area is most famous for the New and Gauley Rivers, where rafters can experience some of the roughest whitewater to be found.

But the New River gorge and vicinity also supports some of the richest biodiversity in North America, and late April and early May are unbeatable here. I'm here for the New River Birding Festival, and the people in the above photo - from this morning - are ecstatic about an up close and personal experience with a Northern Parula.

We have a ton of fun at this event, and I'll stick up some more photos as the week progresses. If you've not been down here, and like birds and nature, put the New River Birding Festival on next year's calendar.

Western Meadowlark

While in billiard table flat Wood County recently, I got the opportunity to drop by and check out a cooperative territorial Western Meadowlark. Not long ago, I blogged about Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels and shared maps of that species and a few others. The squirrels and the others that I mentioned are examples of western prairie species that expanded eastward, probably during the hot, dry Xerothermic Period of approximately 5,000 years ago.

The Western Meadowlark belongs to that list of long ago prairie immigrants. This beautiful blackbird is quite rare in Ohio, with only a few reported each year. This is about as far east as they make it, too. Go west, and they become the common meadowlark once one reaches the Great Plains states.

Western Meadowlark gurgles his bubbly melody from a roadside wire amongst a sea of corn, beans, and wheat. Once, extensive prairies covered this part of Ohio, and that's the habitat this bird would have originally been associated with. Our original pr…

Golden-crowned Sparrow and Canada Plum

Golden-crowned Sparrow madness. If you are an active Ohio birder with any sort of penchant for listing, you’ve heard about our first state record Golden-crowned Sparrow. This western species was long overdue here, and our inaugural visitor has been in residence for about three weeks. The site is a very rural residence in Hancock County, and circumstances are not conducive to uncontrolled mobs descending on the place to sate their thirst for this yellow-capped beauty.

So, in a remarkable display of congeniality and cooperation, the homeowner opened the place up on Wednesday and Thursday so that all who wanted could come see the bird. And many dozens have, and nearly no one has been disappointed. I was there bright and early yesterday, and got to see the sparrow. Now, I am not much of a lister. But, insofar as my Ohio list goes, I am fairly rabid. The Golden-crowned Sparrow was #359 for me, just a tick shy of the magical 360, and I suspect only a few have eclipsed that milestone.

Got one…

Earth Day Darters

I've been wanting to swim a few more darter shots into the blogoshere since a successful fishing mission to Big Darby Creek on April 10. And what better day to float these than Earth Day? Although relatively few people will ever get to see a darter firsthand, these colorful little perch family members speak volumes about our water quality, and how well we've cared for our streams.

Capturing darters using the "kick-seine" method. Holding the seine in the fast-flowing riffles in which most darters occur is a challenge, and the effort is increased by the need to move upstream and shuffle the rocks about with one's feet. This spooks the bottom-dwelling darters into the net.

All goes well, and you're in a good spot, and this is the result - a net full of fish.

We quickly transport our captures to streamside aquariums, and drop them in. After the paparazzi do their thing, the fish are released unharmed back into the stream. This day was challenging, as leaden skies…

Cedar Bog Open House

The Ohio Historical Society and Cedar Bog celebrated a huge milestone last Saturday. That day, the new interpretative center was officially dedicated. Having a modern, well-equipped center onsite has been a long-term goal of many Cedar Bog supporters, and people within the OHS such as Bob Glotzhober and former site manager Terry Jaworski worked very hard for very long to make this day and the building a reality.

The center will be a wonderful jumping off point for visitors. It is filled with informative displays and exhibits that help to interpret the complex world of the bog (which is really a fen). Restrooms will be a welcome amenity for guests, and there is even a conference room that can seat up to 75 people. I can already see some potential opportunities for putting that to use!

The packed 'em in! In the several hours that I was there, several hundred people must have stopped by. There were probably over one hundred present for the official remarks offered by various dignitar…

Spring Wildflowers

We are nearing peak bloom for woodland wildflowers, and I visited a fantastic place to see them today. This show doesn't last long - vernal woodland herbs flourish before the overaching canopy leafs out and shades them out.

The photos below are a sampling of what I saw today, and I downloaded them at a higher resolution than I typically do. If you click on an image, they should enlarge to fill the screen.

Daniel Boone on a steep mesic slope covered with an amazing diversity of flora. This site is in Hamilton County, west of Cincinnati and almost to Indiana. The day was cool and drizzly, which makes for some great conditions for photography but is tougher on the photographer. Dan - that really is his name - is one of Ohio's premier field botanists, and he showed me some very interesting sites and some great plants.

One of the first plants we stumbled into was Fern-leaved Scorpionweed, Phacelia bipinnatifida. A rarity in Ohio, this species just nips into the southwestern corner o…