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Showing posts from July, 2013

Bizarre tube of goo spawns stunning moth!

Bizarre and alienlike, a last instar Cecropia Moth caterpillar, Hyalophora cecropia, is adorned with colorful spined spikes. I lucked into this animal last Saturday, at the Midwest Native Plant Conference. One of the attendees, moth expert Kevin Clark, had brought some of his caterpillar livestock along, including this beast. And as further luck would have it, ace photographer David FitzSimmons was also in the house with all of his gear.

Dave wanted to image the caterpillar, so he set up his white box, which is essentially a small white tent that allows him to display subjects on a clean background under controlled conditions. While I'm not used to shooting this way, Dave was kind enough to allow me some time with the caterpillar and white box, and the above photo is one of the results. Displaying an animal in this way makes for interesting images, and details really pop. This is how Dave shot all of the images for his award-winning Curious Critters book - check that out RIGHT HE…

Midwest Native Plant Conference: Brief Recap

Last weekend, July 26-28, marked the 5th annual Midwest Native Plant Conference, held at the Bergamo Center in Dayton, Ohio. Bergamo is positioned in the midst of 150 beautifully landscaped acres known as Mount St. John. This is an especially apropos setting for a native plant conference, as Mount St. John is heavily landscaped with native plants. One only need set foot out of one of the buildings, and the flora and fauna get interesting, fast.

A staple of the conference and a key component of the event are vendors who specialize in native plants. Saturday is the big day for plant selling, and nurseries hawk all manner of cool plants along the entrance drive. In spite of damp weather, plenty of people came, saw, and bought. By now, there are many more native plants roots down in gardens around Ohio and beyond than there was prior to the conference.

This is an important room - the dining hall. One of the great things about conferencing at Bergamo Center is that everything is nearly se…

Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels in cemetery

Your narrator's car, in a Madison County cemetery. My travels of last weekend put me within minutes of a fairly expansive graveyard, that's smack in the middle of one of Ohio's former prairie regions. The prairie is largely no more, having been converted to beans, corn, and wheat, but some of the prairie denizens continue on, including an interesting little mammal.

A Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, stands sentry duty. Distant as I was, the animal was on to me and ready to whistle a warning to his mates if need be. I've written about ground squirrels before, and I probably will again. I've invested many an hour watching them, and trying to make images, and consider it time well spent.

13-liners love short grassy areas, and adopt cemeteries readily. As the animals are colonial and dig extensive underground labyrinths, their presence doesn't always sit well with cemetery managers and they sometimes are eradicated. I hope that doesn&…

Snowberry Clearwing

Not too long ago, I lucked into a good photo op with a semi-cooperative Hummingbird Clearwing moth, Hemaris thysbe, above. I wrote about the animal and that experience HERE.
The hummingbird moth godz have been smiling on me, as last Saturday our group lucked into the other common species in the genus Hemaris, the Snowberry Clearwing, H. diffinis. I was co-leading an expedition into the fascinating Castalia Quarry Metropark in Erie County with Rick Nirschl, when the animal above darted in and began to work a patch of Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. Needless to say, the group was enchanted with the performance of the little speedster, which along with the other clearwing are occasionally referred to as "hummingbird mimics".

But why would they imitate hummingbirds? To say they are a mimic is to imply that for some reason evolutionary processes have decreed that these moths gain some sort of survival advantage by resembling hummingbirds. I'm not sure this is a case of mim…

Jumping Spider!

Not long ago, I came back to my car, and this little guy darted out from between two body panels. Yes! A jumping spider (species unknown)! He ran over to look at me, and I stared back just as intently. After telling it to wait a sec, I bolted the macro lens onto the Canon, and took a shot.

If ever a spider could be called "cute", it would be a jumping spider. After the shoot, I coaxed him onto my finger and liberated the spider into some vegetation. Hopefully it is still out there wreaking havoc on the lesser beasts.

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

A rare plant and Google Earth

An aerial view, courtesy Google Earth, of the intersection of U.S. Route 33 and Clear Creek Road in Hocking County, Ohio. I recently met someone here for a field trip, and suggested the gas station on the corner as a rendezvous point. Not remembering which type of gas station it was and wanting to tip them to the name, I ducked into trusty Google Earth.

Google Earth has made great strides since its introduction eight years ago. Motorized Googleians have driven nearly every road in the Americas, it seems, and this has allowed for an extremely cool feature known as "Street View". Clicking that allows us to come down to the ground and see relatively high resolution images of the roadway and its roadside attractions.

By entering Street View, I quickly saw that the gas station rendezvous site was a Sunoco, and could pass that info to the other party. I was also interested to see that the imagery, which is probably a year or few old, was made in summer.

Knowing that a rare plant,…

The Cleveland "Crib Cam"

This strange-looking structure is the main water intake for the City of Cleveland, and it lies about three miles out in Lake Erie (although it's labeled "Five Mile Crib), offshore from downtown. I made this image while assisting with an aerial waterbird survey back in November 2009. In a big lake largely free of other protuberances, the intake structure sticks out like a sort thumb, and everyone asks about it upon seeing it for the first time.

Well, the City of Cleveland was good enough to mount a camera on the "crib", and stream live video to us, the viewers. Cleveland birders Jen Brumfield and Chuck Slusarcyk brought this to our attention the other day via the Facebook Birding Ohio page, and the Ohio Birds Listserv. They report hundreds of Chimney Swifts mustering around the crib, and were able to identify several other species. I will guarantee you that the local Peregrine Falcons also make trips out there to hunt, and perch.

The congregation of swifts is partic…

An ivory woodpecker

Photo: Irene Kohne
Such a woodpecker as this would be sure to cause one to take a second glance, and a third glance, and run fast for the camera. Fortunately, Irene Kohne did just that, and was able to make some nice images of this "Ivory" Woodpecker (No, not Ivory-billed Woodpecker!).

This bark-pounder has been coming to her Brown County, Ohio feeder and is apparently doing just fine. It is a leucistic (loo-kiss-tik) Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolina, and is certainly far from typical for that species. Leucism is a genetic abnormality that causes normally dark melanin pigments to become washed out and pale, leading to such animals as "piebald" White-tailed Deer, or white-patched American Robins.

A quick glance around the Internet revealed a few other examples of leucistic Red-bellied Woodpeckers, but none so fine as Irene's ivory-colored bird. This fellow is nearly wholly white, but notice the small amount of red bleeding through on the crown patch o…

Macro work - photographing the little stuff

There's lots of types of photography, and my bag, obviously, is natural history subjects. Even within that sphere, there is quite a range of topics: birds, bugs, plants, landscapes, etc. To cover the gamut requires multiple lenses, if you are using a DSLR. Of all the possible subjects to found in the natural world, my favorite to shoot are the little things. Macro photography is quite rewarding, at least to me, and good shots can bring to life up close and personal the wee flora and fauna that our eyes largely skip over. I look at this picture and nearly cringe, thinking how far the photographic addiction has taken me. A short eight years ago, I got my first digital point & shoot, and steadfastly resolved NOT to EVER get into SLR cameras and their interchangeable lens. If things went that far, I reasoned, I would end up devoting more time to photography and less to covering ground and finding the maximum amount of COOL THINGS when afield. Well, no regrets on the burgeoning ca…

Epic battle between kingsnake and copperhead!

A while back, I wrote about Black Kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula, and shared some images of one of these fabulous beasts. You can see that post RIGHT HERE. Kingsnakes are not a widespread animal in Ohio, occurring only in perhaps a half-dozen of our southernmost counties. The snake that was the subject of the aforementioned post was one that John Howard had caught that morning in his Adams County garden; later that same day I went on to find another elsewhere in the county. A noteworthy quality of the Black Kingsnake is its tameness and gentle nature, at least towards humans. When first captured, a kingsnake might be a bit feisty, but they normally soon settle down and are quite easily and safely handled. I have been around enough kingsnakes to know firsthand of their docile nature; a behavior that seems quite surprising when one learns what true tough guys these reptiles really are. Last Saturday, botanists Andrew Gibson and Michael Whittemore were exploring Shawnee State Forest wh…