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Showing posts from August, 2012

Long-tailed Skipper alert!

A long-tailed skipper, Urbanus proteus, rests in a garden in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. I took this photo on November 8, 2006, and there were plenty of the iridescent-backed tail streamers. One expects to see this tropical butterfly in South Texas and Florida - the northernmost limits of its massive range, which extends south to Argentina.

Photo: Pat Deering
One does not expect to stumble into long-tailed skippers in Ohio, but it happens occasionally. These butterflies are powerful flyers, and like some southern birds they'll stage periodic northward movements far beyond their normal haunts. Pat Deering was inspecting the field behind her Licking County, Ohio house last Sunday, August 26, when she was floored by the presence of a long-tailed skipper nectaring on tall ironweed.

Photo: Pat Deering
Fortunately Pat had her camera handy and was able to make these excellent images, thus documenting another record of this southern immigrant. We don't see many records of lon…

Brown Pelican update

Digiscoped photo: Bruce Glick
The Brown Pelican reported here yesterday at Atwood Lake continued through today, and numerous observers made the trip and successfully located the bird. Bruce Glick kindly sent along the above image of the little fellow stretching his wings.

I appreciate John Hoopingarner of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District for bringing this bird to light, and providing additional details. It turns out that the first sighting of the pelican was around 3:00 pm on Friday, August 24th. It probably was not present much before this, as several of the early observers spend lots of time on or around the lake, and probably would have noticed this eight pound behemoth with a 6 1/2 foot wingspan.

With luck, the pelican will stay for a while. For regular bulletins on sightings, and where on Lake Atwood it is being seen, follow the Ohio Birds Listserv. This is a major Ohio rarity; the sixth record, I believe. The first was not until 1990, and the occurrence and increase …

Brown Pelican on Atwood Lake!

Photo: Amy Marie Wahl
I received a report today of a Brown Pelican on Atwood Lake, which is a large reservoir in northeastern Ohio that straddles Carroll and Tuscarawas counties. The one photo that I've seen was taken from some distance, but shows the bird to be a juvenile. I later received the following note from one of the observers:

"The pelican was first spotted on Friday afternoon, August 24. It was seen on Saturday and Sunday also. The photo was taken on Saturday afternoon near the midpoint of the lake, near the island. It was observed on Saturday morning early "fishing" by making repeated dives. These observations were made by numerous persons over the weekend."

I believe the "island" referenced in the note above is the peninsula that juts from the southern shore of the lake at its mid-point. The area outlined in red is the general vicinity of where the sightings have occurred. Good luck if you go for it.

Chinese Mantis, on catnip

A chinese mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis, commands a lofty lookout atop a spikelet of catnip, Nepeta cataria. Neither plant nor beast is native here, but both have their uses. These mantids can attain an almost frightening size, and the field that I found myself in last night was full of them.

I'm not a huge fan of nonnative mantids, which probably haven't helped our native insect fauna. Some people think that they've detrimentally impacted populations of native mantids, such as the beautiful Carolina mantis, Stagmomantis carolina (CLICK HERE). On the upside, chinese mantids can serve as a spark to trigger interest in insects, as people are naturally fascinated by the huge alien-looking bruisers.

Catnip, of course, has plenty of fans too. Most of them tend to have four legs and meow. This intoxicating mint is a fairly common weed, although more along the lines of an occasionally encountered curiosity rather than a full-blown invasive, at least in these parts. If you…


We ran across this gray treefrog, Hyla versicolor, on a recent outing. It sits, green and gargoylelike, on a leaf. While the animal matches its background fairly well, it seems to have been misnamed - it's hardly gray!

However, when the frog clambers up the bark of a tree, it slowly shifts its coloration to match the woody substrate. Very effective camouflage, I'd say.

Dainty Sulphurs continue

Back on July 12, I wrote HERE about an unprecedented invasion of dainty sulphurs, Nathalis iole, into Ohio. In most years, just a smattering of reports - if that - are made of this southern species; this year, scads of the little flutterers have been reported from all over the state. If you look at the range map from the post cited above, it's apparent that many a new dot will have to be added to the state map. Numerous county records have been made this summer.
I'm keenly interested in the invasions of southern immigrant butterflies such as the dainty sulphur, and dragonflies, too. Such insects, with their well-developed powers of flight, may well prove to be hyper-responders to global warming. It'll be interesting to see if the 2012 irruption of dainty sulphurs was just a fluke, or if such invasions of southern insects becomes an increasingly regular occurrence. I'll bet we see more of this sort of thing.
Our crew of last Saturday ran into several dainty sulphurs al…


Perhaps the most striking shade of red in nature; the blossoms of cardinal-flower, Lobelia cardinalis. It is also a favorite nectar source of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. This specimen was photographed along a small stream in Scioto County, Ohio last Saturday.

Parasitoids: Disneyesque, they're not

While exploring a streamside woods in Scioto County last Saturday, our crew happened along this stunningly marked little beetle. Needless to say, we were all quite interested in the animal, and many photos were made. None of us recalled seeing one before - and how could one forget such a stunner! - but we suspected it to be in the genus Calligrapha, so named for the calligraphic-like markings on the carapace.

Sure enough, we had pegged the genus and from there it wasn't hard to determine its identity as the ninebark beetle, Calligrapha spiraea. Going by the scientific epithet, it would seem that the creature was misnamed - its host is the shrub ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, which was growing in profusion where we found the beetle. But there is a rational explanation for the apparent misnomer - back when the beetle was originally described and named, ninebark was placed in the genus Spiraea, which is another group of shrubby rose family members.

The beetles lay their eggs on …

Timber Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus

Yesterday was the annual "Great Amorpha Borer Expedition". This has become an annual quest to find what is inarguably the world's most handsome beetle, and a beetle that seems to be quite rare in these parts. And it proved to be rare indeed yesterday - we, for the first time in the history of these expeditions, could not find any of the animals. But our failure may have been operator error - based on the condition of the beetles' favorite nectar plants, we may have been about a week too early.

But as I tell all GABE participants, they'll not despair if we choke on the beetle. These expeditions turn into natural history free-for-alls on a Grand Scale, and yesterday was no exception. There were scads of interesting finds, and I made 1,736 images during my 19-hour day. Of course, I only ended up keeping about 1/20th of that number but some of the keepers are doozies and of things one doesn't often get to see. I'll be tossing some of that stuff out here over …


Claude Monet liked water-lilies, and painted them with a fierce passion. It isn't hard to understand why the French impressionist artist became smitten with these plants. Water-lilies embody many of the best traits of nature: the calming influence of quiet waters, large showy blossoms, often colorful, and big leaves of interesting architecture.

I've been looking at water-lilies a lot this summer, having spent much time wading about in wetlands where they grow. There are four and a half native species in Ohio, and the one above is by far the rarest. It is the state-endangered bullhead-lily, Nuphar lutea ssp. variegata. Bullhead-lily is a northerner, barely reaching as far south as Ohio. Small populations occur in the western Lake Erie marshes, including the fabled Magee Marsh. I made this image in northern Michigan, where it is the dominant water-lily.

This is our smallest water-lily, the water-shield, Brasenia schreberi. Its little oval leaves tend to form dense carpets in qu…

Dragonfly Symposium - September 15!

A stunning female Autumn Meadowhawk, Sympetrum vicinum, regards your blogger with her inscrutable, beautiful bicolored eyes.

Dragonflies and damselflies - the Order Odonata - are among the world's most successful insects. They're on every continent but Antarctica, and have outlasted the dinosaurs. "Odes" are also aesthetically stunning, masters of flight, and rabid predatory carnivores. What's not to like?

On Saturday, September 15, the Midwest Native Plant Society and Grange Insurance Audubon Center (GIAC) will be hosting a workshop entitled: "Dragonflies and Damselflies: the fascinating world of Odonata". It'll take place at the gorgeous new GIAC, from 9 am until 3 pm. The cost is only 30 smackers, and that includes lunch. To register, just pop off an email to GIAC's own Ann Balogh at or ring her up at 614-545-5481.

We'll learn lots about these interesting six-legged beasts, because two experts will be in the house and…

Bugs with bayonets

The Orthopterans are in fine fettle right now. That big "O" word refers to our "singing" insects; the chitinous six-legged sound machines that create the beautiful nighttime melodies that reach a crescendo on late summer evenings. Crickets, katydids, coneheads, trigs, anglewings - these bugs create wonderful songs by rapidly rubbing their hardened file-scrapers together.

At least the males do - the females don't sing. They've got more important tasks. The beautiful little cricket above is a handsome trig, Phyllopalpus pulchellus, and it's total insect art. Burnt red and deep ebony, it looks as if the cricket was waxed and then shellacked. They're common, too, singing right now in a bush near you. But note the posterior end of this particular animal. It looks like someone mounted a sword to it.

Whoa! Here we've got a sword and a half; a true bayonet! It looks like this round-tipped conehead, Neoconocephalus retusus, could run a man through. Fear…

Rare plant found at Meadowbrook Marsh

A relatively "new" place that is getting much attention these days is Meadowbrook Marsh, on the Marblehead Peninsula in Ottawa County. It's not new, of course - I remember stopping regularly to scope out its wetlands many years ago, when driving along the south side of the massive limestone archipelago. But what IS new is that the forward thinking Danbury Township trustees have secured much of the land that comprises the Meadowbrook wetlands, and made it accessible to people in a way that it never was before.

Meadowbrook Marsh really got on the birding community's radar screen during last year's Midwest Birding Symposium at nearby Lakeside. Thanks in large measure to the efforts of Cheryl Harner, MBS raised funds for Meadowbrook and the site was one of our primary MBS birding sites. Meadowbrook is now much better known among the binocular-toting set than it was pre-September 2011. Through a creative carbon offset program sponsored by the Ohio Ornithological Soci…