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Showing posts from September, 2009

Impatiens and Parthenocissus

The time is ripe for the harvest of jewelweed fruit. Jewelweeds, sometimes called Touch-me-nots, are tall succulents that form colonies and have interesting yellow or orange flowers, depending on the species. The one above is Pale Jewelweed, Impatiens pallida. And this specimen has perfectly ripe fruit ready for the picking.

Here's the booty, if you are a careful harvester. Each fruit contains a few brownish rugulose seeds, but one must use special procedures to pluck them. The walls of the fruit are under tension, and when one jostles a fully ripened specimen, POP! Out they explode, as the fruit essentially explodes under pressure, hurling its tiny charges up to several feet away with astonishing speed.
So, just grab the entire container in your hand as if you're seizing a jumping bug that you don't wish to escape. The explosion will then occur within your closed fist and you'll have the tasty seeds. That's right. Tasty. As in freshly shelled walnuts, because that…

Tongue of a flicker

The entrance to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, one of the country's best such museums. If you haven't been, put it on your itinerary.

Last Friday night marked the kickoff of the museum's annual Explorer Series of lectures, and I was honored to be the inaugural speaker. Beforehand, the Native Plant Society of Northeast Ohio had their annual meeting, above. I am a longtime member of this group, and sat in. What a cool room to have a meeting in! The surrounding dioramas depict various North American ecosystems. It takes a long time to fully inspect the contents of this place, visit the planetarium, and do everything else that there is to do.

About 260 people attended the evening lecture, and I gave a program about some of the best remaining natural areas in the state, including one in the Cleveland region. There's a wonderful slate of upcoming Explorer Series programs; if you live in the area or want to devise an interesting trip, consider attending one of the …

Midwest Birding Symposium people

I want to share a few more photos from the recent, fabulous Midwest Birding Symposium. Wish I had more, but I'm woefully inadequate in regards to photo-documenting these events. There is too much going on and I get to having too much fun talking to people and doing all of the stuff that needs done to spend much time with the camera.

The Ohio Ornithological Society, Bird Watcher's Digest, and the Lakeside Association joined forces to pull this 800+ person event off, and we'll be back and bigger than ever in 2011. One of the real positives was the $10,000 that we raised for conservation - $5000 from attendees, and a matching $5000 donated by the Ohio Ornithological Society. Go birders!

There were LOTS of people - a massive gathering of birders from something like 20 states and several countries. Wait - Canada is a country, isn't it...? The above photo is but one of the venues we used, Orchestra Hall, and there are nearly 200 people in there for this talk. Three other prog…

Goldenrod Crab Spider

As perhaps I mentioned before, I have been paying special attention to goldenrods this summer and fall, making many photographs for an upcoming program on the subject of these most interesting of plants.

Pay enough close attention to goldenrods and you're sure to see lots of other stuff. Insects galore are attracted to these yellow beauties, as are insect-eating arachnids.

The beautiful golden pyramidal inflorescence of Rough Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa. I came across a colony of this plant of dry sandy soils in Vinton County, and couldn't resist the opportunity to thoroughly photograph various aspects of the plants.

Although the flowers are showy and conspicuous en masse, each flower is tiny - among the smallest of any of the goldenrods. Thus, it was necessary to whip out the macro gear and move in close.

Whoa! A Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia! These little critters are common but you'll not often see them - no explanation needed! They blend so well with the goldenrod…


"Tis the season for big hairy spiders. I like them; find spiders intriguing, actually. Peak numbers and diversity seem to reach a crescendo in fall, about this time, and a lot of the cool jumbos are easily found now.

Nighttime is the right time for spider-seeking. Most of these eight-legged arachnids are nocturnal, and stay holed up and out of sight during the day. Come the blackness of night, and they emerge to tend their webs, capture prey, and do the things that spiders do. This bruiser is a Furrow Orbweaver, Larinioides cornutus. This one had built its web on a spider-rich stop sign. That hole to its right is one of the perforations in the sign post to which the sign is attached. Bet you'd find all kinds of goodies hiding inside there during the day! I've gotten a bit close here - like two inches away with my macro lens - and she has assumed a defensive posture.

There are two common Neoscona orbweavers in Ohio, and this is one: Variable Orbweaver, Neoscona crucifera.…

Midwest Birding Symposium!

Wow! What a last four days it has been! We just wrapped up the 2009 Midwest Birding Symposium today, and the whole affair couldn't have come off any better than it did. Major props to all of the organizers and the legion of people who volunteered on tasks too numerous to describe. It is a TON of work to pull off a multi-day event for over 800 birders. To everyone with Bird Watcher's Digest, the Ohio Ornithological Society, and the Lakeside Association, thanks for coming together to make MBS '09 a reality. And thanks to everyone who attended.

A particularly fortuitous happening was the discovery of a Kirtland's Warbler ten minutes away from MBS central, discovered by Jim Lindway and crew. They got word out quickly, and over the course of Friday, many dozens of birders got to see it; a lifer for many. Yours truly also bagged the bird, after my second run over to the site. Number 360 for Ohio and a real milestone for me, reaching the 360's. And what a bird to get there…

Riddell's Goldenrod

Everyone should have a favorite goldenrod. I certainly do, and it is unequivocally Riddell's Goldenrod, Oligoneuron riddellii, a true star of the prairie.

A note before we move on: if you dabble in botany on any serious plane, you'll note that I use Oligoneuron as the genus - not good old Solidago, which is what you've likely learned. The large catch basin of Solidago has been sliced and diced, and a few "new" genera have spewed from the taxonomists' spout. Most of our species are still Solidago, but we've got to learn about Oligoneurons and Euthamias, too.

On my way up to Lakeside today, it was impossible to pass right by Caledonia Prairie and not stop by. This long, linear strip of unplowed virgin prairie sod is bookended by a set of railroad tracks and a country road. If left unmolested, and particularly if the soil is not disturbed, native prairie does a remarkable job of fending off invading plants that don't belong. Caledonia Prairie, although sm…

A stinger and a looker

A recent foray to southernmost Ohio resulted in many nice finds of both animal and vegetable matter. Two organisms that fall in the former category are detailed below.

Impossibly cute, as caterpillars go, is the Saddleback Caterpillar, Acharia stimulea. Looking like a tiny sea slug draped in a lime-green horse blanket, the little beasts march about the foliage boldly, even in broad daylight.

You see, they have an effective defense, and know it. All of those columns of bristles may look cool, but this is heavy artillery. The bristles are called urticating hairs (Urtica = a genus of stinging nettle), and they pack a whallop. Handle one of these things and you'll get a big dose of experiential learning that'll probably stick - you won't grab another one. Should you suffer this fate, it is allegedly a good idea to find some sticky tape and plaster it over the stinging hairs that are lodged within your flesh. Then rip the tape off and with it perhaps the hairs. The tape-ripping …

Magnolia Warbler boards ship!

Fall male Magnolia Warbler takes a cruise nine miles out on Lake Erie, off Lorain. Mike Durkalec sent along the photos and story of this feathered hitchhiker that sought a free ride south.

While out on a fishing expedition a few days ago, Mike and his buddies were surprised when the warbler flitted aboard and promptly made itself at home. Migrant birds alighting on boats is nothing new, but it is always a cool thing to experience.
This bird is headed out of the cool conifer-dominated boreal forests of Canada, to a very different wintering habitat. "Maggies" overwinter throughout much of Central America, and in the Caribbean, and are far more general in their habitat preferences down there than on the breeding grounds. Crossing the open waters of Lake Erie is nothing for a bird that is headed 1,500 miles or more to get to where it's going. There'll be much more arduous water crossings than this along the way, but you can't blame the guy for stowing away and gettin…


On a recent foray into the deep woods of Zaleski State Forest, jumbo horseflies of the genus Tabanus were the most conspicuous of the insect crowd. That's because they're huge, and roar around you in circles all the while making tremendous, intimidating buzzes. These things are like insectian F-4 Phantoms, latching onto mammalian targets and relentlessly dogging their prey until they've extracted their pound of flesh.

But horseflies are interesting. And beautiful, in their own way. In my ceaseless quest to bring you cool info about astonishing beasts, I didn't immediately swat these savages away. Yep, I took one - quite a few, actually - for the team in order to get some shots. That'd be my leg, above. Denim is no barrier for the rasping swordlike mandibles of these purveyors of pain. I still have welts. But to truly learn, one must experience. Go out and get yourself bit by a gigantic Tabanus horsefly. You'll come to understand them better.

This is a female. T…