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Showing posts from November, 2012

Ring-necked Snake, a harmless charmer

In a recent post, I included this photo and made mention of a cool reptile that was on that flat rock and that had captured the attention of the assembled throng. I also said that I'd be back later to highlight the animal, and give it some air time on the vast World Wide Web. So here we go...

A gorgeous animal by any possible criteria, this Northern Ring-necked Snake, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii, is what had us so enthralled. From the outset of this August 18 trip to the wilds of southern Ohio, I had been exhorting my expedition comrades to "find a ring-neck, find a ring-neck, find a ring-neck". We had three topnotch snakers along: John and Vince Howard, and David Hughes. I am NOT much of a snake-finder. I really like them, but get too fixated on other pursuits while afield to devote much time or energy to turning rocks and logs, and doing what is required to produce snakes.

Anyway, the three aforementioned snakists spent a fair bit of time flipping objects, and one of…

Barn Owl and cat hit it off, big time!

I'm on a bit of an owl jag, but one can never get enough of owls! A friend shared the following video with me, and it is amazing. It features a Barn Owl, Tyto alba, that was raised from a chick and trained for falconry, of all things. The owl is named Gebra, and her most unlikely buddy is a black housecat dubbed Fum. These animals live in Spain, and were born in early spring of 2010. They were introduced when only a month old, and as you'll see, hit it off rather grandly.

Sorry, for some reason YouTube won't allow me to embed this video, so just click on the following link to view it:

Eastern Screech-Owl becomes one with the tree

This stretch of bike trail along Alum Creek in Westerville gets lots of traffic - runners, walkers, bikers - just not at the moment that I made this photo. The trail has of late seen an uptick in a new element of user - birders. For some time, there has been an especially cooperative Eastern Screech-Owl, Megascops asio, roosting in a tree in the swatch of scruffy riparian woodland shown in this image. As this locale is only 12 minutes from my office, I've been wanting to pay a visit, camera in tow, for some time. Finally, after seeing another post to the Ohio Birds Listserv about the owl from Ira Shulgin, I had to trot up there yesterday over the lunch hour. Ira was good enough to give me precise directions to the roosting tree, which enabled me to quickly locate the little hooter.

Young riparian, or streamside, woods are often scruffy places, in part due to a proliferation of Box-elder trees, Acer negundo. These gnarled and scraggly maples are often a dominant tree in early succ…

Short-eared Owls at Lawrence Woods

A pair of Short-eared Owls, Asio flammeus, hunt over an old field in the gloom of post-dusk. The other bird is in the background, bottom righthand corner of the photo. Don't expect award winning owl photos in this post - the short-ears didn't take to the wing until it was nearly dark and it was all my camera could do to make any images at all.

Short-eared Owls can be curious and this fellow suddenly materialized over my head. It's always a treat to watch these owls hunt the grasslands and meadows, barking and scuffling with neighboring owls and occasionally plummeting earthward to Whack-A-Mole (or vole). I saw four, and possibly five, owls tonight. A Northern Harrier was working the fields earlier, and a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk was also nearby.

This was the place of the owling - Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve in Hardin County, Ohio. We're looking east down Township Road 190, with the preserve lands on the right, and a big prairie/grassland on the left, the …

Those hard-working Beaver (with video)

A Beaver, Castor canadensis, at his work station. I photographed this individual a few years back in Delaware County, Ohio, as the animal busily girdled huge Eastern Cottonwood trees along the shoreline of a lake. If a tree is too large to gnaw through and drop, Beaver will often girdle it, which eventually kills the tree. Beaver are the consummate mammalian engineers, and their labors modify their environment to a degree that is probably unmatched by any other among our mammals (excepting Homo sapiens). These animals are clever, and hard-working to a fault. I've had the good fortune to see them on many occasion, and see the fruits of their labors many times. But few of us will experience the views of a Beaver at work that is shown in the trail cam video later in this post. David and Laura Hughes have been at it once again, and outdone themselves with this clip. We should be grateful that Beaver are still around and making wetlands. The pelts of these animals have long been highl…

The moths' last hurrah

One of the many plume moth species at rest under your blogger's porch light, tonight. It's certainly cool outside, but a chill 50 degrees is warm enough to bring out the last of our straggling moths. Plume moths - at least some of the species - seem to be among the last of the moths to survive into late fall and early winter.

A gentle prod with a finger stimulated the animal to splay its legs and antennae. I believe this is a female, going by the narrow wiry antennae, and I will take a semi-educated guess that it is the Morning-glory Plume Moth, Emmelina monodactyla.

Plume moths are very distinctive as a group. When at rest, their tightly inrolled wings and cylindrical body form a T-shape. As you may have guessed from the common name, the caterpillars of this moth feed largely on members of the morning-glory family, although they also apparently eat a number of other low weedy plants.

Taking photos at night, and/or of macro-type objects is always a tricky business. Thanks to …

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Lisa holds a Northern Saw-whet Owl, Aegolius acadicus, shortly after it was captured in a mist net near Chillicothe, Ohio. I was down for my annual visit to this banding operation lasat Friday night, and this was one of two birds caught that evening.

Until the mid-2000's, no one had any clue as to just how common Northern Saw-whet Owls were in Ohio. If one were to go only by the relatively few reports made by birders who lucked into roosting birds, you'd have had to assess their status as rare, or uncommon at best. Of course, it stands to reason that such a secretive animal would largely go undetected. In my guide, Birds of Ohio, which came out in 2004, I made the statement: "...the vast majority of Northern Saw-whet Owls no doubt go undetected in Ohio".

Such opinions are speculative, however - concrete research is needed to prove or disprove such things. Well, 2004 was the year that the Chillicothe banding station whose work is featured here got fired up. Since tha…

Long-tailed Salamander

A crew consisting of (L to R) Cheryl Harner, David Hughes, John Howard, and Vince Howard fixate on a very cool reptile perched atop that rock slab. Said reptile is not the subject of this post, but I do intend to get to the beast at a later date.

This photo was made back on August 18, and we found a veritable treasure trove of intriguing flora and fauna along this rocky little Scioto County stream. Such excursions into habitats rich in biodiversity generally net me far more blog material than I can get to in any sort of prompt manner, if ever, so sometimes I like to go back in time and revisit overlooked items.

A beautiful Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda, peeks coyly at your narrator from the streambed. We were understandably quite pleased to find not one, but two of these charming amphibians hiding amongst the rocks of the creek.
It takes little imagination to infer the reason for the "long tail" part of the animal's name. Long-tailed Salamanders are incredi…

Common Feeder Birds: The Rest of the Story

Brash and bold, a Blue Jay swoops in to disrupt the ebb and flow of lesser birds at the feeder. Cut these extroverted corvids some slack, though - the avian Johnny Appleseeds play a major role in reforesting our oak woodlands.

I'm at least mildly tardy in giving up this plug, but should you find yourself in striking range of Westerville, Ohio tomorrow evening (November 14), I'm giving a talk in that fair city at 7:00 pm to the Herb Society of America. Said program is as follows:

Common Feeder Birds: The Rest of the Story
Bird feeding is big business, and brings birds up close and personal to people who might not otherwise notice them. Nearly everyone who tacks up suet blocks or sprinkles sunflower seeds have seen the Top 10 most common feeder birds in Ohio. It’s an interesting list, and each of these birds has a story to tell. Their roles in our lives go far beyond brightening the backyard, and in this talk we’ll explore the rest of the story.

The venue is the lovely Inniswood G…

Cape May Warbler in November!

Photo: Tom Sheley
Tom Sheley, who is the proprieter of the Wild Birds Unlimited store on Riverside Drive in northwest Columbus, brightened my email inbox by sending along two photos of an unexpected November feeder visitor.

This male Cape May Warbler, Setophaga tigrina, is visiting feeders in a Worthington, Ohio backyard well after most of his compadres are back in their Caribbean wintering haunts. Given that the weather here today was in the 40's and rainy, I would think this little tiger-striped beauty may be lamenting his decision to linger, if he is still about.

Photo: Tom Sheley
Tom made these images on November 8, and normally the last straggling Cape May Warblers are gone from Ohio by mid-October. It'll be interesting to see how long this bird toughs it out.

In spite of their primarily insectivorous diet - although Cape Mays do eat lots of fruit in fall and winter - these warblers can be surprisingly hardy. There are probably 15-20 early winter records, and a few Cape Ma…

Lark Bunting, Take 2

Pastoral Holmes County, Ohio, which is near where the Lark Bunting of the previous post was found. Old meets new at the intersection at the base of this hill: a pickup truck rolls up, as does a horse-powered buggy. The latter is the primary conveyance of this area's large Amish community.

Photo: Hallie Mason
Two-wheeled pedal-powered modes of transportation are also common. These bicycles were probably hurriedly cast aside as their riders rushed off to look for the Lark Bunting detailed in my PREVIOUS POST, as this is the scene of that great rarity.

Hallie Mason dropped me a note with more details of this buntiferous find, and also allowed me to share a few of her photos of the scene. Leroy Erb was the bird's finder, and did it in spectacular style. He was strolling along this very road when an unfamiliar call note reached his ears. Hmmm. He tracked down the bird, which was unfamilar to him, but before even reaching home and his guides, Leroy had sorted through the possibiliti…

Lark Bunting in Ohio!

Photo: Dane Adams
Bird of the moment in the Buckeye State is a western vagrant, the Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocrys, which has occupied some brushy tangles in Tuscarawas County since last Saturday, November 3. I'm not sure who exactly discovered this easily overlooked bird, but Bruce Glick, Ed and Leroy Schlabaugh, and Leroy Erb were mentioned on what I think was the first email to announce the bird. It's a fabulous discovery of a very rare species (for us) that could have easily been overlooked.

Dane Adams made the scene a few days ago, and sent along some of his characteristically excellent photos. In the above image, the bird peers from the dense thorny shelter of a hawthorn tree; apparently it is fond of lurking in dense growth such as this.

Photo: Dane Adams
Lark Buntings belong to the sparrow tribe (Emberizidae), and just about anyone might guess that by looking at this bird, which appears to be a juvenile male. But if you were to see this animal next summer, you'…

Evening Grosbeaks (sort of) invade!

Lest you've been thinking about what to return as in your next iteration, avoid choosing a sunflower seed. One of the giant black-white-and-yellow seed destroyers that follow might get you. Your fate would be crushing: ground between the robust and powerful mandibles of our most powerful grosbeak, your tattered remnants to be unceremoniously expelled later from the bird's aft end.
But if you're not going to be a morsel for one, an Evening Grosbeak is just about the coolest, baddest, most eye-catching songbird that can grace one's feeders. Some years ago, these showy grosbeaks of the North Woods made regular southward incursions into wintertime Ohio. Up until the early 1990's, fairly large-scale invasions could be expected every few years. And even in the off years, there would be a smattering of grosbeaks to be found.
For newer Ohio birders, some of whom may not have even seen an Evening Grosbeak in the Ohio Territory, some of the counts of yore are nearly unimagi…

Brant invade Lake Erie

The wildly swirling edges of Hurricane Sandy rolled through Ohio last week, and really put the wallop on Lake Erie. This storm is probably the strongest hurricane fallout that we've experienced, at least in recent memory. With hurricanes often come wayward birds, blown far off course, and I most definitely planned to take off a day and try to get to Lake Erie. Last Tuesday was just too rough - waves pushing 20 feet!!! were slamming the Lake Erie shoreline, and the rough seas in conjunction with driving rain and high winds wouldn't have made for good viewing conditions.
So, I waited until Wednesday before jumping in the car at 5:15 am and heading north to Lake County. My first stop was John Pogacnik's house, which overlooks the lake and offers a commanding view of a nice swath of water. Because of his location, and the fact that John stocks his yard with scores of feeders, and he watches the lake closely, his yard list must be the largest in Ohio. I think he's seen ove…