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Showing posts from June, 2012

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck update

The Mount Vernon, Ohio Black-bellied Whistling-Duck that first came to light on June 20, 2012 and that I wrote about HERE, is still present. Many people have been to the suburban pond where the whistling-duck has been hanging out, and have had success in seeing it. And for a number of these birders, the whistling-duck has been a "state bird" or even a "life bird". If you are unfamiliar with birder-speak, the former indicates a bird that one has never seen in a particular state, and the latter phrase means a bird never seen before, anywhere.
But, a possible black mark against the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck's provenance has come to light...
Photo: Judy Semroc
Some friends of mine were recently in the Mount Vernon area, and stopped in for a gander at the whistling-duck. They also found, in the exact same locale, the interesting bird in the photo. It is a Ringed Teal, Calloneta leucophrys. Ringed Teal are native to a fairly small region of South America, as seen …

A trio of moths, all in black

Even plants that get a bad rap as "weeds" can be mighty beneficial. In fact, one could argue that many of these so-called weeds, as long as they're native, support greater animal populations than do most of their rarer and sexier botanical kin. The plant above doesn't have much of a fan club, and is sometimes derided as a weed. It is common dogbane, or Indian-hemp, Apocynum cannabinum, an abundant and widespread species that occurs in every Ohio county, all lower 48 states, and most Canadian provinces. The plants in the photo are bursting through asphalt, a feat I see dogbane accomplishing with regularity. It's tough as nails.

Dogbane always bears watching. The small white flowers grow in dense clusters, and they are insect magnets. It seems like dogbane flowers are never without a complement of pollinators, and that often includes some interesting bugs. A soldier beetle, Chauliognathus marginatus, rests on a leaf of this plant; it had probably just worked over …

Tuliptrees, covered in scales

Tar Hollow State Forest, June 16, 2012. I was down there in the company of Kelly Williams-Sieg and Brian Zwiebel doing a bit of off-road bushwhacking in search of warblers. As a side benefit (?), I got to experience firsthand a phenomenon that I had been hearing about from Kelly, Bob Placier, and others in southeast Ohio.

In Tar Hollow, and just about every other forest in Ohio's hill country, there are plenty of tuliptrees, Liriodendron tulipifera, a large and stately member of the magnolia family.

NOTE: Not "tulip poplar" or "yellow poplar", which are oft-used misnomers for this plant, especially in forestry circles. It's a magnolia - a distant relative of the Salicaceae family, which includes real poplars such as cottonwoods, aspen, poplars and willows.

Now that the nomenclatural theatrics are over, back to the tuliptree, which is the main protagonist of this story. For weeks now, I've been hearing stories about sticky sap raining down from the fores…

Swimming for turtles

This big wetland is only about 40 minutes from my house, and it's full of interesting flora and fauna. When time is short and all-day field trips are out, I love to pop over to this place with cameras in tow. Interesting subjects abound.

I nipped into the wetland for a few hours last Saturday, and damselflies and dragonflies were my primary targets. This is a pair of western slender bluets, Enallagma traviatum westfalli, in tandem. The male, above, has a hammerlock on the female. His specialized claspers lock around her neck, and he'll hold onto her until she drops (oviposits) her eggs. Rather Cro-Magnonlike, but if he doesn't guard her, another male is liable to come along, knock his sperm out, and replace it with his own.

These western slender bluets are tiny, as are most of their damselfly ilk. A close approach is important in order to obtain good images.

So it's into the drink I go. By wading in with my subjects, I've found that I can approach them much easier…

Breaking News: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck!

I just received word late this afternoon, along with the photo above, of a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck that was found in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, which is in Knox County. The bird was found towards dusk on Wednesday evening, and hopefully is still in the area. Vagrant whistling-ducks do sometimes have a tendency to stick, and with luck so will this one.

Here are the directions, as provided to me: "The duck turned up in an apartment complex called The Arbors of Mount Vernon. They are on Yauger Rd., just off of 36 at the east end of town. I hope some folks can find it. As I said, we are close to the Kokosing River, and about 20 minutes south of Knox lake." A map is below:

Note the pond just south and west of the apartments, which are outlined in red. That might be a good starting point in a search for the whistling-duck.

Following is a note from the observer: "Last night [Wednesday, June 20] as I was sitting on my patio, a duck flew over the roof of the apartment, and then…

A highly unusual visitor to the hummingbird feeder!

For such wee sprites, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds sure can suck down the sugar water. Anyone who has catered to their needs knows this. Once the birds get into the drill of visiting backyard feeders, they'll soon be regularly dipping their strawlike bills and wicking up the sweet elixir like a kid downing milkshakes on a hot August day.

Sometimes it's shocking how rapidly the sugar water levels drop. Fill the feeder in the morning, like a good hummingbird steward, leave for work, and return at the end of the day to an empty feeder. How in the world do a few tiny birds that weigh the same as a nickel so rapidly deplete a huge urn of sweet stuff?

Well, sometimes other animals with a sweet tooth have figured out the system... Scroll down...

Hmmm... This is Tim Fairweather's hummingbird feeder, and he had been experiencing a case of Mysteriously Vanishing Sugar Water. That's his dog Skittles, a clever Husky mix. DNA testing was inconclusive in revealing her exact lineages,…

Midwest Native Plant Conference!

A gorgeous painting of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting royal catchfly, Silene regia, is the official artwork of the 4th annual Midwest Native Plant Conference. The piece was created by Ann Geise, who also produced the previous three conference artworks (see below). Royal catchfly is this year's conference plant.

The Midwest Native Plant Conference will be held July 27th thru 29th at the Bergamo Center in Dayton, Ohio. Conference facilities are fabulous, and sited in the center of a diverse 200-acre landscape of forests, prairies, shrubland and other habitats.

Queen-of-the-prairie, Filipendula rubra (bottom) was last year's conference plant, and the year before it was rattlesnake-master, Eryngium yuccifolium (top). Not only can you see any and all of the above plants in living chlorophyll at the conference, you can BUY them, too! A diverse panoply of native plant nurseries will have lots of stock on hand, including species you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. And …

Hooded Warbler on nest

A well-concealed female Hooded Warbler, Setophaga citrina, tends to nest duties. Her abode was constructed a few feet off the ground in a young red maple sapling, and was astonishingly difficult to see.

Along with Brian Zwiebel, I was able to spend some time with Kelly Williams-Sieg last Saturday in southern Ohio's Tar Hollow State Forest. Kelly, for several years now, has been studying the nesting and foraging behavior of several species of wood-warblers, including the Hooded Warbler. It is eye-opening to spend time in the field with her, as she - and her crew members - have become very proficient at finding nests, and that's not an easy task.

We were close enough that Senora Hooded stayed hunkered down on her eggs, but not so close that she would flush. Note all of the leaf detritus used to construct the nest - from afar, it looks just like a clump of dead foliage. Nonetheless, black rat snakes, chipmunks, Brown-headed Cowbirds and other predators are adept at finding such…

Bobolinks at Byers Woods

Bobolinks are perhaps our coolest, most interesting blackbird. Everything about them is fascinating, from the bubbly R2-D2 songs of courting males to the incredibly long migrations that this black, gold, and white songbird undertakes twice annually. I wrote a brief essay about Robert of Lincoln a while back; you can see it HERE.

Now's your chance to go see some of these songsters in the flesh, in the company of other enthusiasts, and with many other entertainments available should you become sated with Bobolinks. This Saturday is the annual "Bobolinks at Byers Woods" event, hosted by the Greater Mohican Audubon Society. Bobolinks shun woods, of course, but much of Byers Woods is grassland, which the Bobos share with other grassland birds such as Grasshopper and Savannah sparrows. You'll probably rack up a pretty good list at this site, actually, and experts will be on hand to help you find things.

So, plan on visiting scenic Ashland County this Saturday, June 23rd, …

Some cool bugs

Well, what bugs AREN'T cool, when you get right down to it? A number of us met this morning at Cedar Bog, a magical place that I have written about many times before. Our purpose was to have a bit of fun, and perhaps make some photos, before meeting about an upcoming conference.

I managed to click off the shutter at some interesting insects on a few occasions, and a smattering of pictorial highlights follow...

The grass-pink orchids, Calopogon tuberosus, were plentiful and at peak bloom. This orange sulphur, Colias eurytheme, was busy flitting from flower to flower in an attempt to extract nectar.

Looking right down the barrel of an American snout, Libytheana carinenta. The small butterflies seem to be cyclical in numbers from year to year, but are being widely reported in large numbers this year.

Snouts often perch with wings folded, and they look every bit the dead leaf. Occasionally one will flex its wings and pose, though, as this one did.

I'm always watching the foliage f…

Cranberry Island, a "floating" bog

A while back, I was asked to create a field trip, which would then be raffled off with the proceeds supporting Operation Feed. Stephen, who works in another agency of my department, placed the winning bid, and he and seven of his friends joined me yesterday to visit a truly unique site.
We met at the docks at Buckeye Lake State Park, and boarded this vessel. The Queen of the Lake II is owned by the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society. Their director, J-me Braig, very graciously arranged to deliver us to our destination, which requires the use of a boat. Several excellent GBLHS volunteers accompanied our expedition, and they were a wealth of information about Buckeye Lake, and the special place that was our targeted destination.

Here it is - the place that requires water travel across one of central Ohio's inland seas to visit. Cranberry Island State Nature Preserve, which lies just off the north shore of Buckeye Lake, in Licking County. Cranberry Island is often referred to a…