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Showing posts from October, 2013

Good mantids, bad mantids

This sticklike animal with the powerful Popeye forelegs is a Carolina Mantis, Stagmomantis carolina. It's a female, and as is the case with mantids, she's a lot bigger than the male. The Carolina Mantis is our native "praying mantis" in these parts, but they're probably a lot harder to find these days than they once used to be. I made this photograph in Adams County, and southern Ohio is the only place I encounter them. I don't believe I've ever run across one in my heavily developed neck of the woods, which is Columbus, Ohio.

This is the mantid that I run across FAR more frequently than the comparatively diminutive Carolina Mantis, and I bet that's the case with you, too. It's the widespread and ubiquitous Chinese Mantis, Tenodera sinensis, a true giant of a bug. Females can be massive, and this old warrior is probably a good four inches long. I photographed her a few weeks ago on the grounds outside my office, and she's still there. The fir…

Bobcat triangulates on prey, pounces!

OK, time for Monday night at the movies! Here are two more short flicks, courtesy of wildlife cinematographers Laura and David Hughes. That's right - those Hughes! You've seen their work here before, at least if you follow this site with some regularity.

For these films, which star a beautiful Bobcat, Felis rufus, they've returned to one of their magical game trails in Monroe County, Ohio. As you may recall, this is the county where they managed to capture a Bigfoot on a trail cam, last April 1st. You can see that film RIGHT HERE.

This little Bobcat is as real as it gets, and the feline hunter puts on quite a show. Enjoy!

Video by David and Laura Hughes
In this brief snippet, the inquisitive cat comes right up to mug for the camera. You won't often see a Bobcat that close, because it just isn't possible to get any closer.

Video by David and Laura Hughes
This film is beyond cool. The Bobcat detects prey lurking in the dense thicket in the backdrop, and stealthily pace…

Birding River Otter watches Great Blue Heron

I've featured the videography of Laura and Dave Hughes here many times, and their work with trail cams is incredible. They've been busy, and once again have displayed an unerring knack for proper cam placement. Getting great videos of hard to see animals is more skill than it is luck. You have to be able to read the signs of game trails and other habitats, and pick out the sites that animals seem to  be fixated on.

Dave and Laura certainly did that successfully in the following clip, shot recently in Monroe County, Ohio. It features a River Otter, Lontra canadensis, snacking on a large fish. A Great Blue Heron wings by, and we can see its reflection in the water. The otter certainly doesn't miss the bird, and stops eating long enough to watch the bird go by. Then, the otter's mate swims ashore and joins its partner at the dinner table.

Video: Laura and David Hughes

And now for something completely different: a walking lichen

Every now and again, one sees some mighty strange things out in the woods. Stop to take a breather, lean against a stout tree, let your gaze run over the lichen-shingled bark, and WHOA! One of those lichens just moved! Really, it did!

See that little bump of a lichen, dead center in the photo? It's a walking lichen. For real.

On a recent trip to southern Ohio, I was keeping a sharp eye out for these curious bits of mobile lichen clumps, which is pretty much what one must do to spot them. It wasn't too long before a piece of lichen detached itself from the lichenberg that it was attached to, and began to scuttle off. I gave chase, and was able to make some images of this most curious of beasts.

Ah, the secret to the lichen clump's mobility becomes exposed under magnification. Three legs project from the crusty pile, and we can safely assume three others are sticking out the other side. There's the tip of an abdomen, jutting down from the right rear. It appears we have …

White hummingbird at Inniswood Gardens: a recap

Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio, the scene of central Ohio's current celebrity avian visitor. This 123-acre park is a suburban oasis and a great birding locale. The leucistic hummingbird detailed in this post and the previous two entries is not the only oddball bird to turn up here. CLICK THIS to revisit a hardy Ovenbird that spent much of winter 2011/12 here.

This is the pathway when one leaves the parking lot and enters the garden. A scenic place to be sure, and a site crammed with nectar-producing flowers guaranteed to sate even the greediest hummingbird's appetite.

This is the "Herb Garden", ground zero for the protagonist of this story. It hardly looks like late October here, what with all of the flowering plants still in bloom. I'd bet that other unusual hummingbirds turn up here in coming years.

A knot of birders stand in the Herb Garden, marveling over the ghostly white hummingbird. Yesterday, when I visited and made these images, Bernie Mast…

White hummingbird update

The white hummingbird - detailed in the previous post - sucks down nectar from Mexican sage at Inniswood Metro Gardens. I ran over there, camera in tow, today at lunch and was not disappointed. The hummer comes in to feed with regularity, and believe me, you can't miss it. The bird resembles a little ghost as it flits through the ornamental flower beds.

I wasn't the only one there to admire this odd leucistic hummingbird. There were some fellows present with major skills and mad camera equipment, and their photos are stunning. I'll share some of those later, and hopefully a positive identification of the bird, which is looking more and more to be a hatch-year male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

White hummingbird at Inniswood Gardens!

I got a cool email today from Ron Sima, letting me know that his wife Mary Lou had discovered a mostly white hummingbird at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio, today. Mary Lou, who is a photographer, was not there to take photos of hummingbirds but nonetheless managed some decent captures of the birds. I appreciate her allowing me to share them. UPDATE: Joe Hammond just informed me that someone saw/photographed this bird in the same locale last Saturday, with that report coming to light today. So maybe it'll stick around for a while yet.
Here's our snowy hummer, a striking animal indeed. Rather than an albino, it is no doubt a leucistic specimen. I've written about leucism a number of times, such as HERE. I even featured a leucistic hummingbird once, not that dissimilar to this one, HERE.

I'm sure it was a shock to see an essentially all white hummingbird foraging in the herb garden on a frosty morning. But hummingbirds are tough, and can ride out some prett…

Singing insects' swan song

Here in Ohio, nighttime temperatures have plummeted and that, coupled with ever shorter days, have stimulated the onset of a riot of color. There is nothing like the explosion of fall colors in the great eastern deciduous forest, and we're nearing the peak in central and southern Ohio. Here, a pair of Jack-in-the-pulpit fruit clusters brightly punctuate a forest floor littered with fallen ash leaves.

The increasingly cool evenings are putting the kibosh on the fantastic fall symphony of singing insects, and I always find it a bit depressing when these charismatic fiddlers begin to wane. We're soon to enter winter's dormancy, when the singing insects - and nearly all other bugs - disappear. They're there, often in egg form, but out of sight and out of mind.

I managed to find and photograph quite a few Orthopterans ("singing insects") this summer and fall, and following are a few pictorial highlights.

This Differential Grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis, i…

Gentians and bumblebees

A botanical highlight of last weekend's foray into the depths of Adams County was catching peak bloom of the Stiff Gentian, Gentianella quinquefolia. This species has a spotty, localized distribution in Ohio, and prefers rather barren openings. There's a ton of it along the start of the trail to Buzzard's Roost Rock, which is one of the Buckeye State's essential hikes.

The curious bluish-purple flowers look as if they're made out of paper, and the pointed petals often cover the mouth of the corolla.

Most wildflowers are dependent upon the physical transfer of pollen to another plant, and this usually involves the assistance of insects. In the case of gentians, bumblebees are often the dispersal agent. These big brutish bees are perhaps Nature's ultimate pollinating machine. Their size and strength allows them to forcefully push into semi-closed flowers - like gentians - and access pollen that is off limits to lesser insects. It didn't take long before I sa…

Otter intrigued by heron!

A Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, hunts grasshoppers in a field. These prehistoric looking birds captivate the imagination, and draw one's eye. Not just birders, or other classes of humans, either - other mammalian life forms seem equally smitten with the gangly waders.


Video by Laura and David Hughes
This is an amazing trail cam video, courtesy of Laura and Dave Hughes, whose work I've featured many times. They've been busy camming at their Monroe County, Ohio sweetspots, and just shared a bunch of really cool videos with me.

In this scene, a River Otter, Lontra canadensis, is snacking away on a fish when a giant Great Blue Heron wings by. The heron's reflection can be seen on the water. The otter watches with (apparent) rapt fascination, turning its head to track the bird. Soon after, the otter's mate comes ashore and joins in the fishy meal. Cute otter hijinks ensue.

I'll probably share some other fabulous Hughes cinematic endeavors before long...

Cannibalistic lady beetles

Just about everyone knows lady beetles; they're one of our most charismatic coleopterans. Far fewer people would probably recognize this beast, which resembles a six-legged alligator. It is the larva of the (now) most widespread lady beetle in these parts, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis. Heckuva long name for a 6 mm beetle. We'll just acronym it down to "MALB".

Ill-fated numerous introductions by people and organizations keen on aphid and other "pest" control brought this thing to us. Now, MALB's are ubiquitous and overly abundant. This is the lady beetle that swarms houses in late fall and piles into attics, crevices and other protected niches, much to the consternation of the homeowner.

I was in Adams County yesterday, and made the four mile round trip to the iconic Buzzard's Roost Rock, which is in the heart of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. Even though this is, by Ohio standards, a largely wild and invasive-free landsca…