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Showing posts from May, 2009


Blogger is being obstinate. Or, is it "blogstinate?" Anyway, the digital forces that be refuse to allow me to upload any photos. But, like all blogger-related problems this too will pass.

And when it does, I will share the experience of seeing my first wild Bobcat. And I've got pics - bad, find the sasquatch in the forest types of pics, but they offer proof. Seeing this cat was a very cool experience, and was shared by all my compadres at this weekend's Birding by Ear event at the Wilds.

Check by soon. Ciao.

Save a Turtle

I am an unabashed rescuer of Eastern Box Turtles. Rarely if ever have I missed the chance to potentially save one of these fascinating tortoises from being pancaked by a Chevy pick ‘em up or whatever. You see, turtles are not exactly the Mario Andrettis of the animal world, and a bit of help in times of need are possibly appreciated by the turtle gods, not to mention the turtle itself.

Eastern Box Turtle on a forest road in Shawnee State Forest last Sunday. I moved five of them off the road that day. It was warm and rainy, and the turtles had the spring friskies and were roaming about the landscape as they do in spring. They are especially fond of moving about during wet spells, and this day fit the bill. I risked grievous bodily harm by boldly diving into the road, snaring the turtle and deftly rolling away, just milliseconds before that speeding car would have shattered the turtle into mere fragments of its former self. It was just like a scene from a Jackie Chan movie. Yeah, I know,…

Chuck-will's-widow on nest!

I recently got a tip about an active Chuck-will’s-widow nest, and simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to see it. So, following two days along Ohio’s north coast – Lake Erie – I then drove to the other end of the state to go chucking.

Mucho gracias to Mark Zloba and Chris Bedel of the Cincinnati Museum for clueing me in to the chuck nest. Seeing it was a fantastic opportunity, but I must keep the exact locale a secret other than to say it was in the sprawling 14,000-acre Edge of Appalachia preserve in Adams County.

An Adams County barrens prairie. These habitats harbor tremendous diversity of flora and fauna, including many endangered species. The breeding birds are spectacular, too. From this spot, I could hear Blue Grosbeak, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, and many others. Come here at night and you’ll hear the loud incessant onomatopoeic song of our target: chuck-will’s-widow, chuck-will’s-widow! The nest was along the margins of a barrens opening like this one, slightly back …

Eyed Click Beetle

The famous Magee Marsh bird trail wasn’t exactly hopping with the feathered crowd last Saturday, but many of us did get a “life beetle”. Thanks to the sharp-eyed Dan Sanders, who noticed the following bug as it lay camouflaged on the boardwalk hand rail. At one point, you’d of thought we had a Connecticut Warbler, such was the assembled throng. Indeed, at least one birder rushed over excitedly asking about what we had, only to deliver a somewhat disappointed “oh. a beetle?” They perked up when they saw this thing, though – it is a cool bug indeed!

Eyed Click Beetle, Alaus oculatus. And what eyes. You could get lost staring into those mysterious pools of loveliness. Except they are not eyes at all! The large spots exist to fool would-be predators into thinking something eminently more savage and dangerous is at hand, and this clever beetle has one more trick if all else fails, as we shall see.

This is not a small critter. In fact, we searched around feverishly for a size scale to provide…

More hens

I've been on a roll lately, with many wonderful experiences in natural history. These experiences, they are piling up like withered leaves after an October windstorm. So many, indeed, that I must do a very rare two-blog day. Without much effort, it could be a Three Blog Night, in fact. And if you missed the charming little murderous chap in the preceding post, be sure to check the Lilliputian furry pyscho out a bit of the way down the page.

And wait until you see the click beetle and the Chuck-will's-widow on its nest!

But none of those things are why we are here, now. We are here to look at an odd chicken-like bird that skulks in the reeds and booms out very loud jungle-like sounds.

This is a Common Moorhen, and I am not alone in lamenting its name change of some time back, robbing the bird of the moniker "Common Gallinule. But whatever you call it, the bird stays the same. The one above was haunting the wetlands at Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, and proved surprisingly coope…

Mink kit

The birding was a bit slow this weekend past at Magee Marsh and vicinity, at least compared to the prior two weekends. But as always will be the case when there are thousands of acres of marshes to explore, other interesting flora and fauna came to light. One of the cutest, albeit most savage, of those finds is featured below.

I was driving down the entrance road to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, when I saw a tiny tubular fur-bearer from the corner of my eye. “Weasel!” shouted I, and stopped for a look. I was hoping it was a Long-tailed Weasel, Mustela frenata, which is fairly common throughout the state but devilishly hard to see well and photograph. But, with a better look the true identity quickly became apparent: the beast was a VERY young Mink, Mustela vison, another member of the weasel family.

The little fellow (young ones are known as kits) was only the size of a large bratwurst – and about that shape – but wasn’t scared of nuthin’, man. Here, he lets me know my place. The gra…

Golden Swamp Warbler

I spent a third consecutive weekend at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and vicinity, and once again saw many interesting things. The action was much dissipated from the prior two visits, but there was still plenty of birds to go around. Lots of other good non-bird stuff, too, and I managed some interesting photos of some pretty cool and seldom-seen critters. Wait till you see the baby mink!

This is a female Prothonotary Warbler, Protonotaria citrea. Sometimes known as "Golden Swamp Warbler", a fitting moniker most would agree, after seeing the luminescent yellow of one of these swamp-dwellers glowing in the gloom of understory thickets. Even the females glow!

But there is no need to create fanciful alternate names - the real one is interesting enough. The scientific name tells the story. The specific epithet, citrea, means golden or yellowish-orange. Protonotaria, the source of the common name prothonotary, is a term of ancient origin referring to certain orders of clerks or notari…

A few rare "weeds"

I had a couple of great botanical expeditions to southern Ohio back in April, and the following are some shots for the botanically inclined readers of this blog. Of course, we should ALL be of a botanical bent; the birds and other animals that we enjoy depend upon vegetable matter.

A tip of the vasculum is in order to the one and only Daniel Boone, who put me onto these populations.

A weedy roadbank along U.S. 52 in Adams County, skirting the north bank of the Ohio River and a mere stone's toss from the old hills of Kentucky. Not a habitat to stir the soul, at least at a casual 60 mph glance from the sedan.

But the sharp-eyed plant seeker might screech to a halt after spotting these tiny gleams of snow-white jutting from the Kentucky Fescue. And this is no weed, like its roadbank fellows. It is the rarest of Ohio onions, a plant known as False Garlic, Nothoscordum bivalve. Listed as endangered in our state, it occurs in an extremely limited area of Adams County, with one curious po…

Oak Openings field trip!

Last Sunday, following the OOS conference, groups of birders radiated out to about ten different sites in the Oak Openings and the western Lake Erie marshes. Sunday dawned cool, sunny, and perfect. Above, the most birders that I have ever seen along Girdham Road in the Oak Openings Metro Park congregate. Their main target is the Lark Sparrows that breed here, but those harlequin-faced seedeaters got trumped when a group of thirteen Red Crossbills dropped into the distant pines along the left side of the road, top of the photo. Not everyone got to see these erratic X-bills, which have been confounding birders in this area for the past three days.

Peter “The Desert Fox” King scans the sand barrens. We could hardly see him, and only when a sharp-eyed birder shouted “Hey! That pile of sand just moved!” did we realize what we had. We then wondered how many other Peter Kings might be concealed amongst the dunes.

As is often the case when I am put in charge of a field trip, it degenerates into…

Birds, Birders, and the Bird Trail

Holiday Inn – French Quarter, Perrysburg. The hub of last weekend’s Ohio ORNITHOLOGICAL Society conference. Many attendees drove right by after seeing this marquee, thinking “Oh wow, looky there. The OTHER bird society must be meeting in Perrysburg too”. In all fairness, I can’t spell our name right half the time, either.

A great number of us who went up for the conference hit the famous Bird Trail at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area on Saturday morning, prior to the conference. We weren’t disappointed, nor were the rest of the binocular-clad throngs. Birds called and sang everywhere; at times it was tough to know where to focus attention. And this, I know from experience, was not even a “great” day at the boardwalk.

I like to keep an eye peeled for birdological license plates, and have a massive digital pile of them. But, several “lifers” were added Saturday. With thousands of birdermobiles cruising the area, finding new plates wasn’t hard.

In addition to good birding, meeting lots of people …

Mega-rare Vegetable Matter

After spending an enjoyable Sunday morning in the Oak Openings with lots of attendees from the Ohio Ornithological Society conference, I had the opportunity to mine a botanical treasure trove. Eric Durbin, naturalist and Oak Openings authority, agreed to take me to see two of the rarest plants in the state. I was sworn to secrecy and threatened with severe flogging if I revealed any locational data, so I won’t. But I did my best to document the plants with photos, and I hope you enjoy them. And I very much appreciate Eric taking me to see them, and for sharing some of his wealth of knowledge about the Oak Openings.

Tiny – really tiny – but incomparable. This is Fringed Milkwort, Polygala paucifolia, an endangered species known from but a few Ohio locales. It forms small colonies, and this patch covered only a few square inches. The plants grow low and flat, basically hugging the ground, and it’d be easy to pass by.

Upon close inspection, this milkwort is a thing of beauty. Too bad it is…