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Showing posts from October, 2009

Amazing jumping spiders!

I don’t often use other people’s photos on this blog, but I just had to share some of the coolest macro-work being done, anywhere. Following are some utterly amazing shots courtesy of Thomas Shahan of Oklahoma.

I came into contact with Thomas early this summer, in the course of working on a spider project. After seeing his work, I contacted him and he was very gracious in agreeing to work with our team. You can see a broad range of his photos RIGHT HERE.

Other people have noticed Thomas’s photography, and this attention led to his recent appearance on the Today Show. Check THIS LINK to see it.

Below are a few of Shahan’s stunning images of jumping spiders, one of his favorite subjects. All of these species are among the 76 species of jumping spiders known to occur in Ohio. Enjoy!

A male Habronattus coecatus (most of these spiders haven’t yet been branded with formal common names). Quite the charmer, this little guy. Looks big, ferocious, and deadly, but at the same time just about as cute…

A blue forest cat

I like cats. Always have. I'm a dog person too, but circumstances don't allow for one now. Besides, I probably relate more to a cat's attitude. Dogs essentially live to please their owners. Cats essentially live to manipulate their owners into pleasing them. So, who's cooler?

Anyway, I've got a neat cat. His name is Oscar and he's a 20 lb. Norwegian Forest Cat. These beasts are sort of the malamutes of the feline world, and in addition to their jumbosity, they are very friendly and like people.

But, as you've heard, a cat's curiosity can get them in trouble.

My home is at present in a state of upheaval. Nothing bad; I'm just having the place painted from stem to stern, ceiling to floor. The guy I'm working with, Vincente, is doing the job while I'm at work and it's looking good. Of course, I'll be glad when it's done and everything is back in its correct place, but temporary chaos comes with major renovation.

Oscar the forest cat. T…

Duck Stamp!

This beautiful painting of an American Wigeon graces the brand new, 2010-11 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, less formally and more commonly known as the "Duck Stamp".

The wigeon was painted by Robert Bealle of Waldorf, Maryland, and he beat out a formidable pool of talent to win. Having one's work chosen to grace the stamp is one of the highest honors a wildlife artist can claim.

I was glad to see a wigeon, or "baldpate" in hunter slang-speak, win. It isn't the first time wigeon have appeared on the duck stamp; the 1942-43 and 1984-85 stamps featured them. But this is a great duck, and it's good to see them in the limelight once again.

Duck stamps are available at many post offices, or even more easily, RIGHT HERE!

Buy one, if you like protecting the environment and want to help. Few if any programs are more effective than duck stamps for the protection of habitat. Ninety-eight cents of EVERY dollar raised goes back on the ground in …

A license to bird

Some birders like to wear their passion on their plates. For some time, I've been snapping shots of various bird-related license plates, and have a amassed a fairly vast assemblage. Not just birds, either - anything related to natural history.

Hanging out at birding hotspots, like Magee Marsh, Cape May, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and the like greatly increases ones odds of finding a "life plate". Below are a few from my collection, nearly all from my home state of Ohio.

One of my favorites. It's clever. And in code. A birder will know it's meaning, though - sort of like a secret handshake.

Various iterations of chickadee are popular.

A sleek plate featuring a slick bird. Note: it's a double-whammy. That cardinal plate raises funds to support Ohio's non-game program, and the money is used for all sorts of good stuff, including those popular bird CD's and booklets, produced by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Get a cardinal plate!

Ah, a fan of the hook…

Insect Symphony: Final Movement

The eves are growing cool, and around here we've been flirting with frost. When the curtain drops on fall and freezing nighttime temperatures become frequent, our insect songsters are silenced.

This, to me, is a bummer. Kind of like when the last of the Neotropical warblers and other migrants wing south to their tropical winter haunts, and we're deprived of their beauty and song for another long, cold winter.

But, the toughest of the crickets are still producing their melodies. The three below are the ones that I'm still hearing every day, and they'll continue on into November, at least in warmer microclimates. Enjoy 'em will you can!

Allard's Ground Cricket, Allonemobius allardi, female. Note her long needlelike ovipositor sticking out like a cactus spine from the rear. This is an extremely common species, and like the next two, is in your yard if you live in Ohio or this part of the country.

Ground crickets are little; less than half the size of the large black …

House Centipede

Not long ago, I was at my desk in my office when a shadowy movement flickered through the corner of my eye. I glanced over to see this wraithlike leggy arthropod shimmer up the wall at lightning speed. Rather than disappear into a crevice or cranny as they so often do, it paused. My lucky day! With camera at hand, I was able to get some shots.

House Centipedes, Scutigera coleoptrata, are the House Sparrows of the Arthropod world. They are native only to the Mediterranean, but have been spread far and wide across the globe. Like the sparrow, they are not often found far from human dwellings, at least in this neck of the woods. They were first found in the States in 1849, and have since colonized much of the continent.
Kind of hard to tell which end is which, eh? The term for that - head looking like tail - is automimicry, and the idea is to fool predators into snapping at the wrong end. The centipede's head is at the bottom in the above photo. Fooled me - took the Sentimental Sapsu…

Big Sit 2009!

Dawn breaks yesterday morning on a ridge high over the burg of Whipple, Ohio. Located in the southeastern hill country, the burbs of Whipple also are home to the farm of Julie Zickefoose, Bill Thompson III, and their kids Liam and Phoebe. I was there to participate in the annual Big Sit, an effort to tally as many bird species as possible within 24 hours. The rub? You can't leave a designated 17 foot diameter circle, or at least of you do, you can't count any birds seen while AWOL.


I've made this scene a number of times, and arrived about 6 am to catch the last call notes of migrant songbirds passing overhead. There always seems to be a flurry of activity just prior to sunrise, and seeing the sun's first glimmers from this location is worth the early-bird travel in its own right.

The all-time record is 69 species, and with wonderful weather predicted, we had high hopes for smashing it. Thanks, as always, to Bill, Julie, Liam, and Phoebe for their always gracious hospita…

To the Fringed Gentian

A lonely, remote stretch of Lake Erie shoreline, completely unsullied by development. I recently had the good fortune to visit this area courtesy of John Pogacnik, and witness an incredible botanical spectacle.

On this day, brutal westerly winds whipped the lake into a chocolate froth, making for some spectacular scenery but difficult photography. This long stretch of shore, in northeast Ohio's Lake County, is covered with rocky cobble and piled with driftwood.

We had come primarily to investigate these steep bluffs, their most clayey soils overlooking Lake Erie.

There! Our targets, and we were not disappointed. All of those flecks of blue are Fringed Gentians, Gentianopsis crinita. This photo is but a tiny snapshot of the bounty that these banks supported. So many were the gentians that an accurate accounting seemed impossible, but I thought that there might be as many as ten thousand. I attempted to more or less thoroughly count the number of plants in one particularly verdant …