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Showing posts from June, 2009

Beautiful flora

I've seen scores of interesting plants on this trip, a run through the upper reaches of the Great Lakes. If you are from down my way, Ohio, it is a real treat to see these northerners, many of which are very rare down that way. Following are some of the species that I've photographed over the past two days.

North shore of Lake Michigan. Buffered by impressive sand dunes, filled with impressive plants. I was excited to find the plant in the bottom center of the photo.

Lake Huron Tansy, Tanacetum bipinnatum ssp. huronense, confined to sandy dunes bordering lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior.

Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonicus, another beach dune specialist.

A truly elfin dogwood, Bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, which can carpet large areas of cool woods.

Teaberry, Gaultheria procumbens.

Northern Blue Flag, Iris versicolor. It is abundant in wetlands around the upper Great Lakes.

I was delighted to see this patch of a truly remarkable wildflower.

Twinflower, Linnaea borealis, named fo…

Kirtland's Warbler

This is one of North America's true warbler Meccas: the sandy jack pine country of the upper lower peninsula of Michigan. And for one reason, the federally endangered Kirtland's Warbler. At a glance, it doesn't look like great warbler country. Dwarf pine carpet dry sandy soils, and there's scarcely a broad-leaved deciduous tree to be found.

We visited a promising area near Grayling, and it didn't take long to score. The birds are quite finicky about their habitat preference, utilizing Jack Pines from 5 to about 15 feet in height. Kirtland's Warblers are not exactly shrinking violets, and have loud rollicking songs that almost sound as if they run the tune through a Marshall amp with a tinge of reverb.

A bit of poking around and perseverance and we were rewarded with good looks at a singing male. There were at least three others in earshot, too.
By the 1970's, numbers of this exceedingly rare warbler had crashed. Less than 200 singing males were present. A b…

Sandy, piney places

I am not in Ohio. The above sign offers a clue as to my whereabouts and as an added bonus, the place that the sign advertises is on the market.

Perhaps this is the world's only hotel named for a warbler? It's the only one that I can ever remember seeing. But, it is the real McCoy that interests us. And we had major scores on the rarest of warblers sometime after seeing this hotel sign. Pics coming soon!

Midwest Native Plant Conference

Hey all,

This'll be the last plug for this - promise! - but we are excited that the price could be dropped. Some very supportive sponsors have stepped forth, enabling organizers to lower the price which is a very helpful deal in this economic climate. And everyone who had already registered gets a check for the difference - also a nice surprise! More details below:
Midwest Native Plant ConferenceJuly 24, 25 & 26, 2009Hope Hotel Dayton, OH

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, we are able to reduce the registration fee for all 3 days for just $130.00 and You are able to attend a conference that will stimulate your passion for native plants and connect you with nature! Count the reasons to attend:

One – new price of $130 thanks to the very generous support of our sponsors!
Three – nationally recognized keynote speakers.
Four – tracks for break-out sessions on Saturday.
Five – conference meals plus snacks.
Nine – native plant vendors! In addition to many others. Vendors will b…

A spangle of fritillaries

While surveying breeding birds last Saturday in the outback of Morgan County, I was struck by the numbers of butterflies coursing about. I saw many species, but it was the following two that really grabbed my eye, is it was the most I had ever seen of either in one day.

A Mourning Cloak, wings up and looking much like a blackened leaf. They really blend well when in this position. I saw dozens; seemed like every fifty feet I’d flush one from the back country gravel roads.

When a Mourning Cloak flashes its wings to the open position, they transform into a thing of great beauty. The dominant dorsal color is a rich velvety purple-black, trimmed with gilt and dotted with blue flecks of the richest azure. No wonder the Brits refer to Mourning Cloaks as “Camberwell Beauties”. They get around; it’s got one of the widest distributions in the butterfly world, occurring throughout North America as well as in Europe and Eurasia.

Their host plants include elms, willows, and some of the poplars, all …

Creatures of the Night

I was out late into the night last Friday night, in the hinterlands of Morgan County. A team of us were surveying breeding birds for the Breeding Bird Atlas II project, and this very rural hill country region still needs a bit of work.

So off I went, to see what nocturnal goodies could be produced. The best sighting was non-bird; I saw my second Bobcat and at much closer range than my first, which was just a few weeks ago. This was more of fleeting glimpse, as the cat popped out on the road perhaps 30-50 feet in front of my car as I idled along, took a look at me, and sprang across the road and into the undergrowth.

I have several videos in this post, and be sure to carefully check out the second, of Cope's Gray Treefrog calling in the dark. Something very strange enters the video right at the end. If anyone has any idea what that might be or what causes such effects, please let me know.

One of my primary targets was Whip-poor-will, and if you click the video above you'll see tha…


If you have been spending any time outdoors lately, you'll probably have noticed the above. It's a can't miss shrub of early summer, Elderberry, Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis. The white flower panicles are conspicuous, and glow brightly from fencerows, ditches, and woodland borders.

I have fond memories of this plant, as my parents would take me out to pick elderberries with my grandmother in the countryside. Even as a wee lad, I was interested in nearly everything to do with the outdoors, and enjoyed those berry-picking forays as it allowed me chance to explore.

Elderberry is in the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae), a group renowned for their aromatic, showy flowers. Each Elderberry blossom is so small it'll likely go unadmired as an individual, but their collective masses are stunning and noticed by all. Here's a trick you may not know. Take one of the larger branches, which tend to be very straight, cut it to length and remove the soft inner pith. Bingo - yo…

Juvenile Common Nighthawks

Last year, Dan Adamski sent along a wonderful series of photos documenting the successful nesting of Common Nighthawks on a rooftop of one of the University of Toledo buildings. They're back, Dan's back, and once again he's a gent for allowing me to share his photos. CLICK HERE and you can revisit one of those posts;use the blog's search engine and you can find them all.

Mrs. Bullbat sits tight on gravel rooftop of the University of Toledo Medical Center. This, now, is the preferred nesting substrate of nighthawks over much of their range. They will also use large river gravel bars, extensive burned over forested areas, and sparsely vegetated gravelly soil areas. "Bullbat" is one of their unusual nicknames.

Front on view, showing the bold horizontal striping characteristic of Common Nighthawk. I think she's got something to hide...

This great shot by Dan shows the conspicuous white wing flash.

OK, here they are - two tiny nighthawks! Yes, they are cute. T…

Painted Mudbug

A most remarkable beast follows; something one certainly doesn’t see everyday. For most – maybe all! readers, I bet this would be a “life crustacean”.

Many thanks to Mark Dilley for not only finding these critters, but letting me share his stunning photographs.

I’ll bet you’ve seen these in your wanderings. Small chimney-like structures of mud, surrounding the entrance to a subterranean cavity. They are the work of crayfish, and there are a number of species that create these dwellings. Crayfish burrows typically are found in more less permanently muddy areas; oft-flooded fields and meadows, wetland margins, springy areas, floodplains and the like. The inhabitants spend the day in the cool, moist confines of the den, emerging at night to lurk at or near the entrance, grabbing any small animal unlucky enough to happen by.

Once in a while, one gets very lucky, as Mark did, and finds one of the armored troglodytes out and about. Bet you’ve never seen a blue crayfish! This is the Painted Mud…

Jumping Spider Jumps!

After a meeting in Dayton last Sunday, several of us paid a visit to the legendary Cedar Bog, near Urbana. There, we saw many interesting and rare things, both plant and animal. And if you've not been to Cedar Bog lately, or at all, GO! The brand spanking new visitor's center is incredible, and you'll be assured of having a good time.

The boardwalk, which winds through an entrance meadow and on into Ohio's only fen - not a bog! - dominated by White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis. At the time the first settlers colonized Champaign County, the cedar fen sprawled over some 7,000 acres. The preserve encompasses about 435 acres - that's all that's left of this fabulous ecosystem.

The marquee plant this time of year is North America's largest orchid, the Showy Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium reginae. Some enormous clumps dot the meadows, such as the old plant above.

Another beautiful albeit much more diminutive orchid was just beginning to flower, the Grass-pink, Cal…

Shinleaf and Vireo

Circumstances found me in the immediate vicinity of Mohican State Forest last Saturday, and I had a few hours to explore the woodlands. Mohican, for those of you who don't know it, is one of Ohio's richest forests, characterized mainly by the steep hemlock-cloaked Clear Fork Gorge that bisects the area. Providing the sound track on my foray were the likes of Veery, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Green, Kentucky, Hooded warblers, and many more.

But the flora is incredible, too, and I saw many interesting plants. Chief among them was the above; a diminutive little beauty that almost defies description. It is Shinleaf, Pyrola elliptica. While widespread and scattered throughout eastern Ohio, this species is not usually numerous and always a treat to stumble across. Such are its looks that many a gardener would probably kill and maim to have it growing in captivity, but I suspect that this is not a plant that lends itself well to being corraled.

Note the thick bed of pine needl…