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Showing posts from April, 2014

New River Birding and Nature Festival

Our crew scours a reverting clearcut high on a West Virginia mountainside this morning. Beautiful looks at Chestnut-sided and Hooded warblers at this very spot. Scores of other birds on this trip, starting with a field full of Bobolinks. We saw lots of interesting plants, salamanders, and other stuff as well.

I'm down here for (I think) the eighth straight year, coming directly to West Virginia from Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio, where we celebrated the Ohio Ornithological Society's 10th anniversary last weekend. The New River Birding and Nature Festival is a fabulous, week-long event that draws people from near and far. It's a blend of field trips and speakers, fueled by good food and fun people.

We're seeing lots of good stuff, with lots more to come. If and when time permits, I'll try and slap some photos up. If you've sent me an email or some other form of a message lately, sorry for the lack of response as I'm mostly off grid until next Sunday…

The "Fly-whal"

; Photo: John Howard
Perhaps you've seen what appear to be tiny, excessively fuzzy hummingbirds tapping flower nectar this spring. These hummer wannabes hover in front of dandelions, spring-beautys and other flowers, extracting the goods via a disproportionately long proboscis. These are the bee flies, in the genus Bombylius. I believe John Howard's fine photo above, and mine that follow, depict Bombylius major, a common species in these parts. Don't stick a fork in me if I'm wrong, though - it's a huge family, and I'm no Bombyliidophile.

Photo: Wiki Commons
This is the nearly mythical whale of northern seas known as the Narwhal. One of its teeth is modified into a greatly elongated tusk, making it a unicorn of the sea. Skip back to the first photo, then revisit this Narwhal photo. The bee fly might be called a "fly-whal", and indeed it has been.

Photo: Wiki Commons
The Narwhals (females rarely have tusks) apparently have these protuberances as an outwa…

Barred owlets

Last Monday, I got an email from my editor at the Columbus Dispatch, Cindy Decker, telling me of some special residents of her neighborhood. As she lives along a well-wooded ravine only fifteen minutes from my place, I buzzed over that evening, camera in hand.

It took no time at all to locate the hootiferous beasts - Barred Owls! Here, the male gazes inscrutably at your narrator. These owls, as we shall better see, are quite used to people and pay us little mind.

The female, who was perched nearby, curiously watches some people walk below her lofty perch.

As Columbus' neighborhoods, especially in the Clintonville area, have aged, so have their trees. In the last decade or so, forest species such as Barred Owls and Red-shouldered Hawks have become commonplace, especially in the heavily wooded ravines. Even Broad-winged Hawks are now nesting in some areas.

Yes, I know - he/she's cute! This is one of three owlets that the parents were supervising. I probably would have gone over…

A fine kettle of fish, Pt. II

This rainbow darter, Etheostoma caeruleum, is aptly named and would look right at home in a tropical fish tank.

Not long ago, I wrote an account of a recent excursion to Little Darby Creek, which can be seen HERE.I was indeed fortunate to accompany Mac Albin of Franklin County Metroparks, Anthony Sasson of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and John Tetzloff of the Darby Creek Association. No one knows the fishes of Big and Little Darby creeks like these guys do.

We caught lots of fish, all of which were released back into the waters. We were "fish-watching"; temporarily detaining some of the stream's more colorful denizens so we could study them, and take photos. A pair of brilliant rainbow darters pose in the photo above.

Rainbow darters are common, and occur in streams nearly statewide. Nonetheless, few people have seen one and most might be surprised to know that such a riotously colored animal lurks on our stream bottoms. Although there are a number of rar…

Magee Marsh's legendary boardwalk

This mile long elevated wooden boardwalk is one of the most famous trails in North America. Winding through a 30-acre patch of swamp forest and wetland at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, it is a destination for tens of thousands of birders, especially in May. In May 2012, traffic counter surveys conservatively estimated over 66,000 visitors made the pilgrimage to the "Bird Trail". The number may have been even higher, like around 75,000 or more people. And nearly all of them are birders, of every stripe and level of expertise. They come to witness the magic of Neotropical birds - flycatchers, vireos, thrushes, orioles, tanagers, and others. And, of course, WARBLERS! Nothing gets the blood flowing like warblers, and they are the standout stars in a cast of exceptional players.

It is possible to see over 100 species along the boardwalk and elsewhere in Magee Marsh on a good day. Most of the songbirds have come from the tropics: Central America, South America, the Caribbean. Many w…

A fine kettle of fish!

Little Darby Creek, in southwestern Franklin County, Ohio. The Little Darby, and its sibling stream the Big Darby, are among the most aquatically diverse streams in the Midwest. The riffle pictured above is especially noteworthy, particularly for its diversity of small colorful fish known as darters.

I was in the stream last Sunday morning, with some of the best aquatic ecologists around.

John Tetzloff (L) and Mac Albin work a seine in the creek's swift waters, while Anthony Sasson inspects a captured fish in the holding tank.

John is the longtime president of the Darby Creek Association, and a tireless advocate for the protection of the Darby Creeks. Mac is Franklin County Metroparks' aquatic ecologist, and no one knows the fishes of these streams better than he does. Anthony is freshwater conservation manager for the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and has spent many years working to ensure the conservation of these streams. You can see why I was excited to get afie…

Earth Day program!

The spectacular vista from Buzzard's Roost Rock in the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, Adams County, Ohio.

Next Tuesday, April 22nd, is Earth Day. This annual celebration to promote our environment and its protection began in 1970, and millions of people worldwide participate in various Mother Nature-friendly activities on this day. I was delighted to be asked to give a program for Columbus Audubon on Earth Day, and enthusiastically accepted. The program begins at 7 pm, and will take place at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center at 505 W. Whittier Street in Columbus. It's free, and all are welcome. More details RIGHT HERE.

One of the strangest, and rarest, of Ohio's 46 native orchid species, the Crested Coralroot,Hexalectris spicata.

I've had great fun thinking about this talk, and assembling it. The history of the modern environmental movement in the United States is a fascinating tale, and one that I will touch on. It involves pollution unimaginable to most of us today, a…

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

Golf courses are not normal hangouts for me, and they're seldom birding destinations. That wasn't the case yesterday. After a busy morning capturing and photographing fish with some ace ichthyologists in Little Darby Creek in central Ohio, I pointed the Volkswagen north. As in two hours north, all the way to Huron on the shores of Lake Erie.

Last Thursday, April 10, Dan Gesualdo found a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the Sawmill Creek Resort golf course, pictured above. The course's western boundary abuts Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, a birding hotspot that attracts many birders. Dan got the word out pronto, and several hundred birders have made the pilgrimage thus far. By the way, if you ever need a topnotch place to stay in the heart of some of Lake Erie's best birding areas, Sawmill Creek Resort is your place, and I say that from experience.

I arrived around 3 pm yesterday, parked in the nature preserve parking lot, and quickly strolled the 30 feet or so to th…