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Showing posts from July, 2011

Hickory Horned Devil

I braved the 90+ heat and humidity, and bushwhacked for about three miles through some of my favorite hidden spots today. A primary objective was spending some quality time with my Nikon D7000, which I am still very much learning. So, as I slogged through fens and woodlands, I was especially on the lookout for tiny stuff, as I really wanted to use the 105mm macro. I found lots of suitable subjects, and more on some of those later. But, the following beast was a huge bonus and a macro lens was scarcely necessary!
One of the spots I visited has a grassy parking area, and I wheeled the VW into the shade cast by a handy bitternut hickory. I'm always on the watch for caterpillars, especially the one that follows, so before leaving the car I gave the hickory's foliage a good once-over. Bingo! I think this was Mother Nature's reward for me, for working with the Columbus Dispatch to develop a story that appeared in today's paper on the importance of caterpillars. READ IT HERE.


Elfin rock ledge plants

The delightfully politically incorrect "Fat Woman's Squeeze" at Cantwell Cliffs State Park in Hocking County. I'm sure there's a story behind its naming. This narrow fissure between a massive sandstone cliff and a huge slump block that calved from the cliff's face long ago is the quickest way to get to the park's namesake cliffs.

Hocking County is the next to smallest of Ohio's 88 counties, but probably generates the most ecotourism traffic of any county. The primary reason people come is because of gorgeous scenery. I like Cantwell in part because it is somewhat off the beaten path for most visitors and isn't as heavily visited as iconic sites such as Old Man's Cave.

Once one has successfully navigated Fat Woman's Squeeze, this is the view: an enormous sandstone overhang. A waterfall cascades from the summit, varying in intensity depending on rainfall. It was just downstream of this point that I observed the tiger spiketail that I recently…

Nighttime critters

I love to get out at night and look for critters that one doesn't ordinarily see during the day. Tonight afforded an opportunity to slip off to an interesting patch of woods just a stone's throw from my house, and the following photos were made during this brief foray.
A wheel bug nymph, Arilus cristatus, stalks the leaves looking for victims. An army of predators emerges under cover of darkness, and the nighttime forest can truly be a dangerous place.

One can often find "sleeping" creatures such as this beautiful long-legged fly that are normally active by day. Assuming you can adjust your camera's flash correctly, it can actually be easier to photograph animals such as this fly at night. During the day they are hyperactive and often tough to approach.

A flatid planthopper at repose on a stem. Planthoppers are stipule mimics; they resemble the little flap of tissue where a leaf petiole joins the plant stem. During the day, planthoppers will nestle into the base of …

Tiger Spiketail

A well-shaded sandstone gorge in Ohio's Hocking Hills - perfect habitat for one of our most interesting - and rare - dragonflies, the tiger spiketail, Cordulegaster erronia. The small stream at the gorge's bottom essentially originates at the upper end of the photo, where a falls plunges over an impressive several story tall sandstone cliff. Overarching hemlock, birch and other trees insulate the stream from direct sunlight, keeping its waters cool. Hillside seeps add a constant infusion of cold groundwater, and decomposed sandstone forms plenty of saturated soft sandy margins to the stream.

I was in this gorge the other day looking for rare plants, specifically the tiny triangle grapefern, Botrychium lanceolatum. There is a small population here which I hadn't seen for about seven years, and I was able to refind it. This elfin fern only stands perhaps two inches in height - at least these plants - and one can scarcely see them in the gloom of the forest floor when standin…

Black Rat Snake eats chicken egg

I suppose I ought to put this caveat right up front: if, for some reason, you detest serpents you probably won't like these photos. In fact, I'm sure you won't. So if you are a ophidiophobe, surf no further - turn back, I say! Chances are, you already picked up on the snakiness of this post from the blog's title, and haven't even made it this far. Your loss. This is cool stuff.
My friend Ann Bonner, who is a forester living in Athens County, sends along the following photo. What's more, she thinks this is very cool, and the snake is in HER chicken coop! I love it. Here's what she told me: "Since this guy has been hanging around the last 2 yrs, no rats in the coop. That is worth a few eggs now and again".
When I asked for permission to share this photo, Ann made me guarantee that I wouldn't make the snake out to be a villain. Silly girl! Of course I wouldn't! And I love her mentality regarding the animal. Your average chicken farmer would pu…

Mississippi Kite update

I was able to stop in at Hide-A-Way Hills briefly yesterday morning, and check out Ohio's only currently known nest of Mississippi Kites. I recently wrote about these kites HERE, and HERE. As previously reported, there is one chick in the nest, and it is continually being stuffed with cicadas and other goodies by the adults. As a consequence, Junior is growing like a weed, but is still heavily beset with white down and is still a ways from making its inaugural flight. It appears that we are still on track to aim for Saturday, August 13, for the 2nd annual Kite Day.
Thanks much to Melissa and Elizabeth for getting me into the high security Hide-A-Way Hills compound so I could make these photos and issue this update. And please forgive the lack of crisp frame-filling photos. My biggest lens is a 300 mm, and we really need the big boys and their 500 and 600 mm's to adequately deal with these high-flying kites.
An adult Mississippi Kite launches from its favorite sentinel tree, just…

Wall lizard

The mausoleum of Fred Lazarus and family members, Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. I was down at the cemetery last Wednesday, and snapped this photo as Lazarus is central to this story. Fred was the son of Simon Lazarus, who founded the now extinct F & R Lazarus & Company stores. Fred served as president of the company, and like many of the Lazarus family members, lived part of his life in Cincinnati.

Lazarus later became part of Macy's, which of course still goes strong. I took this photo last Tuesday at a downtown Cincinnati intersection, and the Macy's empire is a dominant fixture of the scene.

Anyway, back in 1952, a then young member of the extended Lazarus clan named George Rau lived in Mt. Lookout, a Cinci suburb. While visiting the area of Lake Garda near Milan, Italy in 1952 on a family vacation, George took a shine to the local lizards and stuffed some in his luggage, importing them back to the Queen City. Upon return to the Mt. Lookout compound, he libera…

Piping Plover update

Photo: Dane Adams
I recently posted about two Piping Plovers that spent a few days in mid-July at Lorain, Ohio. That post is RIGHT HERE. Well, Dave Slager made the effort to run down the band information and received the following information from Alice Van Zoeren, a researcher at the University of Minnnesota. All or nearly all Piping Plovers that breed along the Great Lakes are prominently marked with combinations of colored bands that can be used to identify the individual. Thanks to Dave for posting this information to the Ohio Birds listserv:

*Bird 1 (the bird with no leg flag, an orange band, and a light green band)*

"I can't be as specific for this report since the band combination is one
used for chicks. We reuse these combinations in subsequent years. Breeding
adults, like the other plover you reported, are given unique combinations of
colors that individually identify them for life. This plover was hatched in
07, 09 or 10 at Gulliver, MI in the upper peninsula or possibly …