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Showing posts from May, 2012

Encountering the giant leopard moth

An agreeable tiger moth, Spilosoma congrua. This snow white beauty appears as if it is adorned with a big feathery boa.

I spent some time yesterday meeting with Dave Horn, who is an entomologist and expert on moths. We're working on a project involving moths, and the resulting publication should be pretty cool. As an offshoot of the meeting, I learned a ton of new info about moths from Dave.

Thanks to Dennis Profant for giving me the correct ID of this little beauty - it is snout moth, and most likely Hypena palparia - not a horrid zale, as I thought.

I had a stack of "mystery moth" photos that I've taken over the years, and Dave was able to quickly pin names on nearly all of them. I enjoy the process of running down identifications of unknown organisms, but it is a lot faster and easier to trip the camera's shutter at a much speedier clip than one can sit down and try to identify everything. Thus, the mysteries can accumulate.

Moths are very cool, and I've …

Sparrows: underrated

One of the highlights of exploring Presque Isle County, Michigan, where I do my now annual NettieBay field expeditions, is the sparrow diversity. Sparrows all too often get short shrift, and are sometimes bemoaned as "LBJ's" (little brown jobs) that are tough to identify. They're really not great identification challenges, though, and under careful inspection all of them are quite showy in an understated way. Sparrows also don't generally get their due when it comes to the big picture ecological services that they provide.

We had a total of 12 species of sparrows in Presque Isle County this time around, and I managed photos of a few species.

ASIDE: I once read where some time management expert said a person should only spend an hour a day dealing with personal email. I wish. After ten days away, and almost no dealing with such correspondence, I returned to a boatload of messages. If you read this, and sent me something, and I haven't responded, sorry. I'll…

Buy a bird - now!

If you live in Ohio, and are a birder, you undoubtedly know all about the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II. For six years, ending last season, the Atlas organizers toiled to see that every nook and cranny of the Buckeye State was thoroughly canvassed for nesting birds. Many of the readers of this blog have contributed data towards this effort, yours truly included.

Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II was preceded by the inaugural statewide census, which collected data from 1982-87. That initial effort makes Atlas II all the more important, as we have a three decade old benchmark to compare the current state of affairs. Of course, distilling and publishing the vast reams of data generated by Atlas II requires publication of a book, and I know it'll be cool. But books, they are not inexpensive to make...

That's where your help can work wonders. Buy a bird! The atlas chieftains have cooked up a great scheme to help raise the necessary funds to publish a richly detailed chronicle of the breedi…


Everyone loves a warbler. These colorful sprites are, to many, the avian highlight of spring. I am not impervious to their charms, and one of the great things about visiting northern Michigan's Presque Isle County is the numbers and diversity of warblers. During the nine days I was there, my groups and I tallied 25 species, nearly all of them breeders.

Following are a few shots that I managed to click off, all with my new Nikon Coolpix P5100. When leading groups or otherwise engaged, I like having a higher end "bridge" point and shoot around my neck. Toting the SLR and its accouterments just isn't practical in such situations. The P5100, by the way, is AWESOME! It has an incredible 42x zoom that actually holds up well at its higher ranges, and the camera does well with macro, landscapes, and video. Hard to beat if you're looking for a versatile non-SLR camera (no connections with Nikon, me!).

An adult American Redstart, in a rare moment of repose. These animals a…

Northeastern Pine Sawyer

Stately and columnar, a grove of red pine, Pinus resinosa, towers over the sands of Presque Isle County, Michigan. Pines  - jack, red, and white - comprise a large and important part of northern Michigan forests. All three are native, and form natural stands, but all species are also planted, such as the grove above. Pines harbor lots of life; everything from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Pine Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches to all manner of interesting insects.

Our party had stopped for lunch at a campground that was liberally grown over with all three native pine species. While eating our lunches, we were pleased when a female Merlin flew over, scolding heartily. It turned out that she had her nest nearby, and off some of us went for a discreet look. Upon our return, I was quite pleased to see that other members of the expedition had captured a most interesting and showy beetle.

It turned out to be a northeastern pine sawyer, Monochamus notatus, which is a wood-borer that specialize…

Northern Michigan in pictures

Great plains puccoon, Lithospermum caroliniense, provide colorful punctuation to the white sands of Lake Huron dunes.

Finally, after nine days on the road, I find myself back in Ohio. The time away was well spent; I was exploring what may be the most beautiful and most biodiverse county in Michigan's lower peninsula, Presque Isle. Following are a few pictorial highlights.

Cool sheetwater flows onto limestone pavement along Lake Huron, forming a spectacular fen. Many rare and unusual plants grow here, including carnivorous pitcher-plants and sundews. Wilson's Snipe nest here, and the males deliver their incredible aerial courtship displays overhead.

 A brilliant dash of orange, courtesy of an Indian-paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea. This plant and many others grew in an interdunal swale along the Lake Huron shoreline. Many species of breeding warblers occur in the buffering spruce-fir-cedar-tamarack forest.

Common as spring-beauties in Ohio, lovely fringed milkworts, Polygala p…

Bad hair day for Belted Kingfisher

This female Belted Kingfisher must have just emerged from a fishing expedition. She looks to be badly in need of a hairdresser. Photographed in the wilds of Presque Isle County, Michigan.

A lady's-slipper trifecta

A lone pink lady's-slipper, Cypripedium acaule, stands sentinel in a dry northern Michigan woods.

We've been exploring far and wide in the incredibly diverse habitats found within Presque Isle County. This may be the most varied of lower peninsula counties - it has it all. Beaches, alvars, and fens along the Lake Huron coast; cold spruce bogs; dry jack pine forests; cedar swamps; marshes and much more.

Yellow lady's-slippers, Cypripedium parviflorum, framed by white cedar. Along with all of the habitat diversity comes a great variety of plant life; staggering in places. The lady's-slipper orchids are always a hit. From my experience, pink slippers - such as in the first shot - are rather local, and a bit hard to find. Not so with the yellow slippers; get yourself in the right spot and they, dare I say, can practically be weedy.

The slippers in this photo are especially noteworthy as they are two "doubles" growing side by side. Most yellow lady's-slippers…