Sunday, March 31, 2013
This rarity has a scattered and local distribution, with the Ohio station at its northern limits. Interestingly, I believe that this is the only native plant that was accidentally omitted from th Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada, that I discussed in this RECENT POST.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Imagine peering up into the clear blue ether, and seeing this giant white bird wafting over. You'd do a double take, and a birder would slam on the brakes and hop out for a better look. That's what Kathi Groves did yesterday as she cruised up Frederick Pike in Montgomery County, just north of Interstate 70 near Dayton.
Fortunately, she had a camera handy and the presence of mind to snap a few photos. Bev & Ed Neubauer suggested that she send them along to me, and I'm glad that Kathi did because now I can share them with you.
The Turkey Vultures are in full migration mode right now, and it's commonplace to see them drifting high overhead. But most of these dark undertakers of the bird world don't look anything like this! Kathi's vulture is leucistic, and highly so. This genetic anomaly causes melanins, or dark pigments, to be washed out and pale. Most typically leucism manifests itself in a "piebald" pattern - patchy blotches of white, or perhaps just one prominent white bodypart such as the white-headed American Robin that someone just sent me a photo of. Leucism is a numbers game - the more animals in a population, the more likely that an individual will carry this recessive trait. That's why the most commonly reported leucistic birds tend to be abundant species such as American Robins, Red-tailed Hawks, and Turkey Vultures.
Kathi's vulture may be the whitest one that I've seen, but it isn't the only one. For years, a leucistic Turkey Vulture frequented the vicinity of Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in Belmont County, and became a local celebrity. It's patchy white wings made it stand out from afar, and I saw it on a few occasions. Then there's THIS BIRD, from a few years ago.
As Kathi watched, the vulture cruised earthward and alit in this yard. I can only imagine the surprise of the homeowners, if they happened to glance out the window and notice this thing.
Thanks to Kathi for sharing her discovery and photos! If you're in the area of Frederick Pike and I-70 in north Dayton, keep an eye peeled for this vulture, and please let me know if you see it. The bird may just be passing through, but perhaps it here to stay.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The tattered book in the photo is my original copy, and it was probably one of the first that was sent out. "The Manual" appeared in 1991, and mine has seen a lot of use and abuse in the intervening two decades. A lot of advances in our knowledge of flora occur in 20 years, and it's time for an update.
The brainpower behind the 1991 edition of The Manual was also a botanist housed at the New York Botanical Garden - Arthur Cronquist. Cronquist was a living legend for much of his botanical career, which encompassed most of his 73 year life. Tragically, he passed away in 1992, the year after his epic revision of The Manual was released.
I took this shot a few years ago at the base of the drive to the Eulett Center, which is the Museum's headquarters in the heart of the Edge. Our group was watching a Blue Grosbeak, teed up on that tree in the right center of the photo. Chuck-will's-widows nest just up the hill behind us. A half-dozen state-listed rare plants grow within a stone's throw. A cool katydid, recently described to science, is common in this spot. And the list just goes on and on...
You won't want to miss the Ohio Botanical Symposium, so register soon, RIGHT HERE.
Monday, March 25, 2013
The issue of feral cats - house cats gone wild - has simmered for years. Occasional events trigger seismic eruptions in the "debate" between the pro-cat and anti-cat camps. In fairness, it should be noted that many of the so-called "anti-catters" are certainly not anti-cat. Many are like myself - I own three cats, all of which needed homes, and I have been smitten with felines since I was a tot. And mine DO NOT go outdoors. But I, like scores of others who might be labeled "anti-cat", recognize the massive problems caused by ferals. Conversely, many of the pro-catters also see the need to reduce the populations of cats gone wild, recognizing the damage that they do to native populations of birds and other animals. Many of us would like to see humane and sensible solutions adopted to reduce the millions of feral cats in this country.
The latest major flare-up in the cat wars occurred recently, when longtime writer and conservationist Ted Williams penned an anti feral cat op ed for the Orlando Sentinel. The National Audubon Society, which had run Williams' column "Incite" for 33 years, promptly parted ways with Williams when the cat poo hit the fan over the Sentinel piece.
Audubon's parting of ways with Ted Williams incited all manner of blog posts and other writings about that particular issue, and the larger issue of feral cats. If you want a fascinating insight into the emotions generated by the feral cat issue, read THIS entry that was made on the blog 10,000 Birds. The blog article will point you to Williams' controversial Sentinel article, which provides an overview of the feral cat issue. But what is really fascinating is the comments - about 124 of them! - on the blog. Predictably, the pro and anti feral cat camps go at it, but even people who should be on the same page are at each others throats. Read the blog, and its attendant comments, HERE.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Even though the so-called black squirrels look totally different than their gray brethren, they are pretty much one and the same. The blacks are melanistic Gray Squirrels - they have one or two special genes that rewires their genetics to produce an abundance of melanins, or dark pigments. While most are coal-black such as the fellow in the photo, sometimes individuals with blond, gray, or even white highlights can be found.
The city of Kent, Ohio is especially famous for its abundance of black squirrels. Supposedly, the original stock of 10 squirrels was imported in 1961 from Canada and they've since spread like wildfire. But melanistic Gray Squirrels occur naturally and most populations have probably long been present and were not assisted by people. The black squirrels are most prevalent in Ontario, Canada and the northeastern United States. One theory has it that the black form of the Gray Squirrel dominated prior to European settlement, when forests were still primeval and their dark coats helped the squirrels better blend with the shady old-growth woodlands. As the forests were opened up and hunting of squirrels increased, gray forms were favored as they blended better with the changing habitats.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
David Wagner, will be a major part of the scene. That's Dave, far right, in the midst of beating interesting caterpillars from the foliage of those stunning Marsh Rose Mallow plants. Dave is a whiz when it comes to moth ID, too. Rich McCarty and Pete Whan are to Dave's left. They work for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and manage the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, and both will be helping with Mothapalooza. To the rear and sporting a headband is John Howard, an extraordinary naturalist whose photos I've shared many times on this blog. Nothing will escape detection and naming by this crew.
Ohio Lepidopterists onboard with Mothapalooza, Dave Horn. This is Dave, standing in one of Adams County's prairie barrens. These sites are loaded with RARE THINGS, and we'll be checking them out. There are many other topflight experts working with Mothapalooza - too many to name in this blog without creating a small telephone book. Check the Mothapalooza website to see who's who.
Cheryl Harner, who will also be helping, we've enticed lepidopterist Jaret Daniels up from Florida. Jaret knows butterflies - he literally wrote the book, Butterflies of Ohio. We'll not only be out after dark moth-seeking. Daytime trips will venture into some of the richest butterfly habitats north of the Ohio River.
National Moth Week. Be sure and visit their site, HERE. Moths play an incredibly important role in earth's ecosystems, and education about the value of moths and their caterpillars is a huge part of NMW and Mothapalooza.
We are also indebted to our other sponsors: The Ohio Division of Wildlife, Flora-Quest, and Midwest Native Plant Society, as well the vital support of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Cincinnati Museum Center.
If you're looking for an out-of-the-box experience that will be jampacked with interesting critters and plants in one of the most beautiful regions of Ohio, Mothapalooza is for you. See all of the details and registration info RIGHT HERE.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I carefully slogged around the pool's margins, and saw no spermatophores (the male salamander's sperm packets), or egg masses. There were probably were some, but nothing like there should be had the salamanders arrived in full force. I think they'll get to the vernal pools eventually, but this spring's crazy cool weather with barely a warm rainy night has delayed the migration of the salamanders. If you are not acquainted with the spring migration of mole salamanders, which is one of Nature's fantastic spectacles, CLICK HERE.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
A Ruffed Grouse in the brush or woods can be a devilishly hard bird to spot. I've seen hundreds of them over the years, but most were blurs that exploded under my feet and rocketed off through the forest. We can tell that this bird is a male, so we may be in for some action as it is the amorous season for grouse. The thick blackish terminal tail band on a female is somewhat broken and incomplete at the apex of the tail.
Ah! Out struts the grouse, to put on a display that is guaranteed to wow the grousettes! You can see how this species was dubbed the "ruffed" grouse - check out those manelike feather boas surrounding the bird's neck. When male grouse strut their stuff, they puff these ruffs up to incredible dimensions, flare the tail to its full glory, and stalk about in the manner of a displaying tom turkey.
Friday, March 15, 2013
All of the big optics companies will be on hand: Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski, Vortex, Celestron, and more. I am especially pleased that Midwest Photo Exchange will be in the house. They've got the coolest camera shop around, and that's where I get all of my photographic gear. They are a treasure trove of everything photographic, and the employees know everything there is to know, it seems, about photography.
The venue is the sleek and slick Grange Insurance Audubon Center, just south of downtown Columbus. It's worth the trip just to see this place!
CLICK HERE for an article that I wrote about this site, last fall.
Admission is FREE! Just come on down between 9 am and 4 pm on Saturday, or between Noon and 4 pm on Sunday. The complete lowdown is RIGHT HERE.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Thanks as always to Laura and David for sharing their stuff!