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Showing posts from October, 2012

River Otters, family unit

Score another one for the fantastic videography of Laura and David Hughes, who brought us the fabulous Bobcat video of the previous post. Their Monroe County, Ohio game trail is truly a magical place, and there they also captured footage of one of our most interesting animals, the River Otter, Lontra canadensis. The following video shows what appear to be two adults, and two juveniles. What I assume is the adult male makes his departure from the video first, and then we can see the two youngsters, which are slightly smaller than the adult female, apparently attempt to nurse, but they are rebuffed.
River Otters are rather hard to observe in the wild, and few of us will ever get to see a scene such as shown in this video.
Video: Laura and David Hughes
Like the Bobcat of the previous post, River Otters did not fair well with the onset of European colonization of the Ohio country. By 1900 or so, unregulated trapping and habitat loss had extirpated them from Ohio. Beginning in 1986, the Oh…

Bobcat baby, caught on video!

Now this is just too cool! Laura and David Hughes, who have an almost surreal knack for finding interesting and unusual things, have scored once again and big time. They spend a fair bit of time over in eastern Ohio's Monroe County, and during their wanderings noticed a well traveled game path. So, they set up a Wildgame Innovations trail camera, switched to video mode, and achieved some awesome results.

The following clip shows an adult Bobcat, Felis rufus, ambling down the path shadowed by a kitten. And boy-o-boy is that one cute (and fierce) kitten! To our great benefit and viewing pleasure, the baby Bobcat pauses in front of the camera and roots around a bit before trotting off to catch up with mama.

Video: Laura and David Hughes
It's encouraging to see the comeback of Bobcats in Ohio and adjacent regions. In 2011, there were 136 verified sightings in Ohio - an increase of 30 over 2010. It's thought that these little cats - a big male might weigh 40 lbs. - had become ext…

Bald-faced Hornet nest

While cruising the roads at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area last Thursday, I came across many interesting things, as is nearly always the case at this vast place. The verges of this road were loaded with migrant sparrows, mostly White-crowned and White-throated sparrows. When working such bird-rich sites, I usually have the big lens clipped in place on the camera, so as not to miss a good bird shot if one presents itself.

At one point, I glanced over to see this papery football-sized contraption nearly at eye level. A Bald-faced Hornet nest! Naturally, I was pleased to make this find, as the hornets normally place their nests much higher in trees than this, and thus make good photos harder to obtain. I skidded the car onto the road's edge and hopped out, the Canon already rigged with the Sigma 150-500 lens. Such a telephoto is a good idea when dealing with potentially dangerous animals such as these hornets - the smart person can remain at a safe distance, yet still get decent imag…

Red-headed Woodpecker granary tree

"I would not recommend to any one to trust their fruit to the Red-heads..." [John James Audubon]
An immature Red-headed Woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus, regards your narrator from his lofty perch in the crown of a massive White Oak. Note the beginnings of his namesake scarlet head-feathering coming in. By next spring, his noggin will be aflame with satiny ruby-red feathers.

While wandering about Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area last Thursday, I heard the raucous kwerrs of a Red-headed Woodpecker coming from a patch of oaks. The calls continued from the same general area for some time, while I focused on sorting through a passel of sparrows along a nearby field's edge.

After a bit, I abandoned the sparrows and wandered over to the vicinity of the woodpecker, with an idea as to what might be afoot. Mr. Red-head was fixated on these two large trees - a sprawling White Oak in the back, and a tall Pin Oak up front.

Many limbed and quite gnarly, the big White Oak was full…

A beautiful Indian Summer day

This Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, was one of many enjoying the beautiful Ohio weather today. Skies were sunny and temperatures climbed to the high 70's - possibly our last such day of the year. I did something that, believe it or not, I rarely do - take the day off! Camera gear in tow, I headed up to Killdeer Plains and vicinity to see what I might find.

I wasn't disappointed. Lots of interesting things surfaced, and I made photos of nearly all of it. Got whacked - twice! - by Bald-faced Hornets as I photo-documented a low-hanging nest; shot images of a Great Blue Heron hunting grasshoppers in a field; and watched a Red-headed Woodpecker building his granary.

Too tired to put up anything more right now, but more will follow.

An Explosion of Crane Flies

Charles Alexander was a Crane Fly connoisseur without parallel. Over the course of his career as an entomologist, Alexander did his darndest to delineate the members of the Order Diptera - flies - with an especially tight focus on Crane Flies. By the time he died in 1981, at the grand old age of 92, Alexander had described over 11,000 species of flies, including some 3,000 Crane Flies. That is a truly remarkable accomplishment, and the good Doctor must have been a whirlwind of productivity.
Here's a Crane Fly. I took this photo this evening, by the front door of my house. I'm sure you've seen these insects; they are quite conspicuous, looking somewhat like mosquitoes on steroids. A female of one of the larger species, such as this specimen, can have a leg span of three inches. Many a Crane Fly illiterati has panicked and then pancaked these interesting bugs, thinking them to be super mosquitoes when in reality Crane Flies are utterly harmless and don't bite or sting.

Eastern Yellowjacket, quite close

Eastern Yellowjacket, Vespula maculifrons. These insects are much despised for the nasty punch they pack, but when seen well without fear of a sting, they're rather showy.

I haven't had much chance to get intimate with my new Canon 5D with the L-series 100 mm macro lens bolted on, but so far I love this combo. This yellowjacket was one of several that landed on my warm car on a recent outing, and I just clicked off a few photos before moving on to bigger and better things. I was pleased with the outcome, and see potential for this camera.

As always, click the photo to enlarge for better detail.
Bet you never noticed all of the "fur" that ornaments a yellowjacket - most of us are too busy running away to take in such details. This shot was made at f/10; 1/100 shutter speed, and ISO 400 with fill flash from a hot shoe mounted speedlite, with the camera's lens less than two feet from the subject. No tweaks other than cropping, either.

Can't wait to get into some…

Scorpionfly in a beautiful landscape

I found myself in one of my favorites places yesterday, Shawnee State Forest in southernmost Ohio. Some of us were down there for a meeting in the morning, but we managed an afternoon of exploration. The scenery is stunning right now, with colorful fall foliage painting the landscape in vivid primary colors.

A fall trip to Shawnee would not be complete without a climb to the top of the Copperhead Lookout fire tower. You can't access the cabin at the top, but it is possible to scale the steps to the next level down, and that's high enough to get one's head above the leaves.

Shawnee's picturesque landscape goes on and on - hard to believe that this is Ohio.

Many woody players contribute to autumn's palette of colors, including Black Maples, which turn a nice lemony-yellow splashed with a tinge of burnt-orange.

We were after some rare plants, and whatever else we could find, and our crew did indeed stumble into some interesting flora and fauna. One of the coolest cre…

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The world of cameras and photography can be a vortex that can suck a victim in deep. Their wallet, too. My addiction has been a steady progression, but with this latest acquisition, my disease will hopefully be arrested. For some time, anyway.
I suppose my experience isn't that atypical for someone who really gets into photography. It all started with point and shoots - many of which are amazingly competent these days. I've still got two really nice ones. But there's only so far a P & S can take one. So then come the DSLR cameras and their multitude of interchangeable lens and considerably greater processing power and adjustment capabilities. I began with a couple of really nice DSLR's, but towards the lower to middle end of the range. And all was good for a while.
Then I ran into someone with something better. A Canon EOS 5D Mark III, to be exact.
After handling their 5D Mark III and seeing its capabilities firsthand, I was totally impressed. So much so that I im…

Like a bird dropping...

You, I trust, would not want to look like a bird dropping. But plenty of organisms do. Well, they don't really "want" to look like goop that was just expelled from the aft end of a Blue Jay, but they do anyway. Evolution has wrought all manner of fantastic camouflage over the eons, and the suite of bird dropping mimics are but one small facet of the myriad masters of disguise in the animal kingdom. If you're small and edible, it can pay big dividends to look like something so nasty and unpalatable that even a cockroach might pass you by.
A recent experience with this spring-legged little critter steered me into blogging about the admittedly weird subject of bird dropping mimicry. I exited my house the other night, and as always, cast an appraising eye over the walls in the vicinity of the porch light. Lots of moths and sometimes other interesting insects are lured to the light's sphere, and I never know what I'll see. On this night, it was this thing. At fir…

Last call for fen flora

About a week ago, a post complete with a photo of one of our most beautiful wildflowers came across the Facebook airwaves, courtesy of Andrew Gibson. He had just visited an interesting and off the beaten path little fen, and made some of his characteristically stunning images of its rare flora. Check Andrew's blog, The Natural Treasures of Ohio - it's loaded with great stuff.
Andrew's photo reminded me of the 90-acre Betsch Fen; a place that I had not visited in well over a decade, and only once ever. I would think about it a lot, as the fen lies near U.S. 23, which is a major north-south conduit that I often travel when headed to points south. When I saw Andrew's beautiful photo of fringed gentian in full bloom, I knew it was time to finally carve out another trek into Betsch Fen. Last Saturday was the day, and a pictorial essay of the trip follows.
Betsch Fen, which is owned by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, is near Blackwater Road. This small stream is…