Skip to main content

Flora-Quest goodies

I spent last weekend in southern Ohio's Shawnee State Forest, helping lead field trips for Flora-Quest. This was the fifth year for this great event, and you can't go wrong by putting in your 2012 calendar. As always, event leaders Cheryl Harner and Paula Harper did a fabulous job with logistics and all aspects of the event. The plants cooperated as well, and all groups saw lots of great stuff. A few highlights follow.

A Blue-headed Vireo expertly crafts its nest, which is woven finer than a Longaberger basket. This vireo nearly always sites its nest at the fork of two spindly branches, far out from the trunk. It would be quite difficult for any tree-climbing predator to reach the nest, such as black rat snakes. This one was in a sugar maple, and 20 or so feet off the ground. Thanks to Chris Bedel, who spotted the nest and tipped us to its location.

Blue-headed Vireos are northerly breeders of cool, often boreal forests, but they seem to be expanding southward. I know of several sites for nesters in Shawnee, although one isn't often so lucky as to stumble into the actual nest.

There must have been an excellent emergence of luna moths, as a number of people found them. I was talking with some birders along a forest road when I glanced up and saw this beauty hanging from a plant. In short order, we found another, mating pair. This lime-green moth is an outstanding twig and leaf mimic. Notice how the purplish bar along the forewings resembles a twig. The rest of the wings look like a green leaf hanging down, and the two tear drops coming off the purple "twig" even look like tree buds.

This luna is a male, as evidenced by the broad, fernlike antennae. He uses them to sense the pheromones released by females, and can detect these chemical lures from a mile or more.

Pink lady's-slippers, Cypripedium acaule, always a crowd pleaser. It seems to be a great year for orchids, as we saw large numbers of many species - far more than in lean years. The sight of dozens of pink lady's-slippers is a spectacle not soon forgotten.

This is a bizarre orchid we were really hoping to show Flora-Quest attendees, and luck was with us. It is whorled pogonia, Isotria verticillata. These scarce oddities apparently don't even surface in some years; rather, they live in the subterranean as rootstock. In good years, whatever causes those, the weird little orchids burst forth and put on a show.

It'd be quite easy to walk right by a whorled pogonia. They only stand perhaps six inches in height, and blend well with the dappled light of the forest floor. Once seen, they encourage prolonged inspection, as the sum of the orchidaceous parts creates an artistically stunning arrangement. Most conspicuous are the long deep purple sepals, spanning outwards like the blades of a windmill. The waxy green leaves form a whorl that caps the thick whitened stem.

The actual flower? Well, it's rather overshadowed by the orchid's other parts, but like every other orchid I have come to know, it is ornately intricate upon close examination.


This post screams spring with these beautiful orchids and the Vireo building a nest. What fun finding the nest. This is how we should see nests in a book to help figure out who builds them. Most nests in books show them from the top where one rarely gets a peek.
pambirds said…
I enjoyed the Longaberger reference, having been slightly addicted to them many moons ago. I also didn't realize this bird made such a wonderful nest.
Wally said…
Isotria are always a treat. I found some several years ago in Perry State Forest, but they were in one of the areas that they recently clear cut.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…