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Showing posts from December, 2009

Waterfowl Symposium!

Walk, swim, fly, or waddle your way to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center this February. The Ohio Ornithological Society, partnering with Columbus Audubon, will present a Waterfowl Symposium, the weekend of February 26-28, 2010 at GIAC along the Whittier Peninsula in downtown Columbus. Through lectures and speakers, we’ll travel to the marshes of Iraq, visit the breeding grounds of the Arctic, fly above the stopover habitat of Lake Erie, and look inside nests to learn about the secret life of waterfowl. Just $80 for the entire weekend (Friday-Sunday) if you are a member of OOS or CA/GIAC.
The weekend swings into action Friday evening with a special performance by The Swinging Orangutangs featuring Julie Zickefoose and Bill Thompson III. The event is a special fundraiser for Nature Iraq. Question: will they play "Disco Duck"? Bring your dancing shoes, leave your hiking boots in the vehicle, and find out! We’ll serve beer, wine, and appetizers including a taste of the Middle E…

Some winter oddities

It was a whirlwind weekend of Christmas Bird Counting. First, it was off to Portsmouth and the magnificent Shawnee State Forest to participate in the Portsmouth CBC along with some friends. That was Saturday; Sunday was the Cincinnati CBC were I was able to connect with a number of Cinci-area birders and help scrape up some decent stuff. Four Cackling Geese were nice finds on the latter count. These pint-sized geese are the Mini-Me's of the Canada Goose world; elfin in the extreme.

Shawnee produced some nice finds, too, not all of which had feathers. A few of those are below.

Foreboding terrain, a reverting few decade old clearcut is tangled with young saplings, down trees, and thorny greenbrier. Tough going for humanoids, but the favorite haunt for that most tasty of birds, the Ruffed Grouse. We had stopped along a forest road, and soon heard the whuf-whuf-whuf-whuf of a male grouse drumming. To me, they rather sound like a distant lawn mower firing up, but in a VERY deep pitch. O…

Christmas counts

Rural Jackson County, December 19, 2009
Winter in Ohio, at least what it ought to look like. I snapped the above photo last weekend, while searching out birds on the Beaver Christmas Bird Count. Some of the narrow gravel roads were snow-covered and impassable, but all of the white stuff made for pretty scenery. Today, Christmas Day, it's all gone, having been melted away by a strong cold rain.

Maybe because I grew up in the north, where things do get chill and snowy, I've always liked winter and all it brings. And Christmas Bird Counts! I probably formally participated in my first around the age of 10 or 11, and have done 'em ever since. I'll probably do six this winter.

Along the way, one learns some things about ferreting out birds in the bleak of winter, when most neither sing nor eagerly reveal themselves. The photo above is of a grove of Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, its long persistent fruit clusters burnished with white tufts of fresh snow. One of our most secreti…

Bare-throated Tiger-Heron in U.S.!

Ohio's own Rick Nirschl, along with Rick Snider, found the most exciting bird in the U.S. right now - a Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Tigrisoma mexicanum. Rick & Rick found the bird yesterday, in the legendary Bentsen State Park in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, a locale in which many a tropical rarity has been found.

Adult Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, photo by Rick Snider. This is the first United States record. The multisyllabically monikered, heavily hyphenated heron ranges from northern Mexico all the way south through Central America and into northern South America. Rick Nirschl's shot of the bird flying away. Let's hope, for the sake of all the rabid listers, not for good. Last I heard, no one had relocated it.

Here's an immature Bare-throated Tiger-Heron that I took in Costa Rica earlier this year. They are very cool birds, and it's hard to imagine what a thrill stumbling into one in Texas, north of the border, must have been.
Not only are they striped in a manner…

Dragonflies at sea

Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens, image courtesy of the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab.

The Wandering Glider, perhaps better dubbed the "Globe Skimmer", is a common species here in Ohio. And many other places throughout the world.

Somewhat lackluster in the looks department, at least when compared to their more colorful brethren, this species may be the most fascinating of the lot. Capable of lightning speed reproduction - egg to flying adult in a scant few months - gliders are aerialists supreme. Bolstered by proportionately enormous wings, they are capable of incredible journeys, and are highly migratory.

Up until recently, it was presumed that the Monarch butterfly engaged in the longest migration of any insect.


Check out this fascinating video of a presentation given by biologist Charles Anderson, who ferreted out the mystery of masses of Wandering Gliders appearing each year in the Maldives islands, well out in the Indian Ocean and far from any possible bre…

Return of the yellow cardinal

Last January, Tom Ruggles of Zanesville sent photos of a very interesting Northern Cardinal. A jaw-dropper, actually. I posted photos of the bird HERE, along with an explanation of why the bird would be yellow rather than its normal coat of crimson.

Well, Tom's odd bird has returned, and he just sent along these photos. This "yellowbird" would certainly catch one's eye!

While on hiatus wherever it is that yellow cardinals from Muskingum County go, the bird seems to have become even yellower. This is a very cool effect! I'm thinking we should dye more cardinals this color.

The yellowish coloration apparently results from an imbalance of carotenoids, a condition known as xanthochroism. Apparently more normally dominant pigments are suppressed, allowing less dominant pigments to shine through.
As birds uptake carotenoids through food that they eat, it may be that fruit - probably from some non-native shrub - has caused the shift in this cardinal's coloration.


More hummers - from far, far away!

My recent post on Allen's Hummingbird - Ohio's first record - prompted an e-mail from my cousin Paul, who lives many miles away. Four thousand and thirty two miles, to be exact. That's twenty one million, two hundred and eighty eight thousand, and nine hundred and sixty feet. A long way by any reckoning, and Paul dwells in a land of sometimes midnight sun, offset by short dark winter days high in snow. The Aurora Borealis dazzles with an unbelievable laser light show, and there are far fewer people where he lives.

They've got Sarah Palin up there, should you need a blatant hint about where it is of which we speak. And Paul, my cousin, who leads an interesting life. And likes birds, as we shall see.

Paul Rupple, standing near Seward, Alaska. He's a long way from the cornfields of Ashland County, Ohio, and has been up in the Great White North for a long time. I become envious whenver I see pictures of Paul/Alaska. My first big independent travel adventure was the summ…

Props to Ned Keller!

Ned Keller, in a rare state of repose with three furry friends. The animals appear to be looking to Ned for guidance, as so many of us bipeds do.

A Big Congratulations are in order for Ned, who is the 2009 recipient of the Stewart Welsh Conservation Award. This honor is bestowed by the Hamilton County (Ohio) Park District, and goes to individuals who have made a profound difference in environmental protection in southwest Ohio. 2009 marks only the second year that the award has been given, and it is fitting that Ned would be one of its first recipients. Stewart Welsh was a longtime advocate for the environment and was instrumental in establishing the park district's land management program, ultimately helping to make Hamilton County Parks one of the finest park systems in Ohio.

Ned, an attorney by trade, touches lots of people in Ohio, whether they know it or not. Our Ohio Birds listserv, which carries thousands of posts annually and is one of the largest in the country, is aptly m…

Allen's Hummingbird - Ohio's first!

The Ohio birding news is now dominated by a tiny 3 gram feathered dynamo known as an Allen's Hummingbird. And with good reason: this is the first documented record of this westerner for the state.

Coincidentally, Pennsylvania's first Allen's Hummingbird record came almost simultaneously, when in a remarkably similar situation to the one described here, Scott Wiedensaul banded and documented one at a Keystone State feeder.

Pastoral Holmes County countryside makes for scenic drives. That's a horse and buggy way down the road - a common conveyance in these parts.

State firsts really get the listers apoplectic with twitcher's disease, and I must confess to suffering from the affliction. When I hear about a bird in Ohio that I've not seen in the state, a restless discontent settles in that is only cured by the chase. For me, it's only this way with my home state list. I generally have no yen to chase New Jersey Ivory Gulls or East Coast Pink-footed Geese - most of …

Word of the day: Seiche

Photo: Laura Moore/Flickr
Waves batter the Lake Erie shoreline. Ohio's north coast is an inland sea - Erie is the 4th largest of the Great Lakes in surface area. And it is the shallowest, with an average depth of just 62 feet.

Because of its shallowness, Lake Erie is prone to vicious wave action generated by storms pushed along by high winds. Conditions on the lake can go from placid to savage in the blink of an eye, making it one of the world's most dangerous water bodies. Many a ship has been unwillingly moored in Davey Jones' locker, on the floor of the lake. Indeed, one of the highest densities of shipwrecks anywhere on the globe rest on Erie's bottom.

Stretching 241 miles from stem to stern, Lake Erie is bookended by the port cities of Toledo, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York.

As anyone residing in these parts knows, we've had some roof-shaking, limb-cracking, umbrella-obliterating high winds the past few days. This front roared out of the west, and barreled down the …

Things that lurk in the basement

Spiderlings hatch from eggs.

Each one has eight tiny legs.

A spider has more eyes than you. Most have eight, and you have two.

A spider has two body parts. Across its web it quickly darts.

From a spider's spinnerets, sticky spider silk jets.

Spiders feel the frantic tugs, Of their favorite food; it's bugs!

Janet Bruno

Ah, the shady recesses of a corner of my basement. And a very cool spider web. To the average Joe or Joette, this would be an undesirable cobweb to be swept away.

Not me. I like spiders. And, within reason will keep them around. Why not? Look at it like this: most of these house spiders are going to stay in their webs, and their webs are pretty obvious. So, you know where the spider is.

But not so with all the little critters they are capturing and purging from the house on your behalf. All manner of tiny invertebrates hole up in nooks and crannies during the day, and emerge at night to explore your home. But they'll explore no more, once they bumble into the spider&#…

Wonder what the kids'll look like?

The following photos are the work of German photographer Tanja Askani, and as might be expected, they're rapidly migrating around the globe courtesy the World Wide Web.

Wild animals sometimes form odd pair bonds, and this one ranks high among strange couplings. But a deer and a rabbit?! What would the offspring be? A "deerbit"?

You can read a bit more about this odd couple here; one of the comments explains the situation more fully, including how deer and rabbit met.