Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2014

Oriole, eating tent caterpillars!

About a month ago, immediately following the Ohio Ornithological Society's annual conference at Shawnee State Park, I got to spend some field time with two of Ohio's very best bird photographers. That would be Dane Adams (left) and Brian Zwiebel, pictured above plying their trade. Along with Jan Auburn, we made a rather short but steep trek to the summit of a tall "mountain" near the Shawnee lodge that offered treetop views. That's some heavy photographic artillery mounted on those tripods. Both guys shoot Canon gear, and Brian was working with a 600 mm lens (I think), and Dane had even a bit more oomph with 800 mm of lens. You can reach a longs ways into the leaves with gear like that.

We had a great time talking photography and watching numerous warblers and other songbirds move through the nearby trees. As a bonus, the cement pad at the hill's crest served as an attractant to hill-topping butterflies of many species.

On the hike up, and everywhere else we…

Flight of the (tricolored) bumblebee

A typical beach scene at Wilderness State Park at the extreme northwestern tip of Michigan's lower peninsula. The mighty Mackinac Bridge, which crosses over the Straits of Mackinac into the upper peninsula, can be seen from this spot.

Beach-walking here is always interesting, especially for a natural philosopher such as myself. One is serenaded by various boreal warblers and other songbirds from the adjacent coniferous woodlands. Scads of mergansers, cormorants, terns, gulls and other waterfowl gad about offshore. If one is really lucky, a Piping Plover might be spotted - they nest locally.

For those with a botanical bent, it can be difficult to keep one's eyes to the sky, what with all of the interesting flora. The rocky beach was liberally strewn with the magenta blossoms of bird's-eye primrose, Primulamistassinica. Nearby mossy hummocks, partially shaded by arbor-vitae, harbor the diminutive calypso orchid, Calypso bulbosa. The latter was a major target for me, but ala…

Michigan mammals

The month past has been a whirlwind of travel; even more so than a "normal" May. I've been on the road for the majority of the past few weeks, including the last eleven days in northern Michigan. It's always nice to return home after extended forays, even if it means dealing with a pile of emails and various other stuff.

For the last five years, I've led trips in mid to late May in Presque Isle County, Michigan, based out of Nettie Bay Lodge. Birds are our primary quarry, although we look at everything and that covers a lot of ground. I could not resist making the image above, of an eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, while a passel of migrant warblers entertained our group. I was looking at a Nashville Warbler when the little "chippie" caught my eye and obliging posed for my camera.

Chipmunks are abundant in northern Michigan, and rank high among the most valuable of forest animals. CLICK HERE for a piece that I wrote about chipmunks.

The thirteen-lined…

Some scenes from northern Michigan

A beaver-assisted wetland in Presque Isle County, Michigan. Such wetlands are full of biodiversity, and quite common in this region.

I've been in northern Michigan for nearly ten days, most of it spent leading forays from the Nettie Bay Lodge. We've had lots of luck: huge warbler migrations, great experiences with secretive species such as American Bittern and rails, interesting porcupine encounters, and much more. My bird trip list is 175 species or thereabouts, so far.

Time for blogging has been sparse, as have good Internet connections. Sorry if you've messaged me in some way and I haven't responded. I'll try and catch up on that stuff soon.

Leatherleaf, Chamaedaphne calyculata. This elfin shrublet is a member of the heath family, and often forms vast stands in northern bogs. Such sites are often termed "Leatherleaf Bogs". The tiny white flowers are bell-shaped and important to various insect pollinators.

Gorgeous and impossibly diminutive, a pine elf…

Bittern and Porcupine

A Porcupine warily eyes your blogger. I'm up in beautiful Presque Isle County, Michigan, and these prickly beasts are quite common here. I encountered the animal in the photo on my first night, as it foraged along a roadway. Naturally I stopped, and made a stealthy approach. The porkie let me come quite close before scuttling off to the shelter of a nearby aspen grove.

An American Bittern in its breeding finery, puffed and showing off for the ladies. Note his fanned shoulder epaulets and fringed throat ruff. The bird was doing its watery oonk-ah choonk calls repeatedly only 15-20 feet from our group this afternoon. It was quite a spectacle and I managed a pretty good video of the bird calling, which is something to see. I'll try and post that later.

Bitterns, like the Porcupine, are common here but one doesn't often see these secretive herons like we did today. We've had scores of other interesting birds, with much more to come.

Butterfly workshop - July 12!

A patch of butterfly-weed attracts a lepidopteran blizzard of Eastern Swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillaries, and Spicebush Swallowtails. Mid-summer is a great time to find lots of butterflies, of many species. Thus, the date of the upcoming Butterfly Workshop, hosted by the Midwest Native Plant Conference: Saturday, July 12.

A Silvery Checkerspot taps nectar from a Virginia mountain mint, one of scores of nectar-rich summer blooming plants.

The workshop will be held at the capacious and comfortable visitor's center at Caesar's Creek Lake in Warren County, southwest Ohio. This location is not far from Cincinnati, and is an easy drive from Columbus and much of the rest of Ohio and adjacent Indiana and Kentucky.

A Checkered Skipper taps into a sunflower. Southwest Ohio is a great place to look for southern immigrant butterflies such as this species. Not all skippers are as easy to identify as this one, but a number of top butterfly experts will be on hand to help sort things…

Colorful camouflage: Rosy Maple Moth

A Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, glares menacingly at the camera. Well, it's looking as menacing as one can look when clad in hues of pink and yellow. These small silkworm moths are among the flashiest of the moths in eastern forests. They have been the "spark moth" for more than a few people, who, upon seeing one at a night light, become interested in the broader world of moths.

When at rest on an exposed twig or wall below a porch light, Rosy Maple Moths are utterly conspicuous. So much so that an observer is almost certain to wonder why it is so brightly colored.

The moth is well-named. Its primary host plants (the plants that its caterpillars must eat) are maples. Rosy Maple Moth caterpillars supposedly eat oak foliage, too, but it's definitely the maples that form the lion's share of the diet. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree, so to speak, and the adult moths will generally be found in close proximity to their maple hosts. Adult Rosy Maple …

Moth that mimics a spider!

As is nearly always the case, I have a bounty of blog material; more than I can ever get to. But I must interrupt the irregularly scheduled programming to bring you something that is indescribably cool. I was commanding my keyboard this evening, attempting to whittle away at emails that I am hopelessly behind on (sorry if you've messaged and I haven't responded), when the inimitable David and Laura Hughes sent along some of their latest handiwork. I had to drop everything and prepare this post.


I learned about this moth and its ilk last year, courtesy of caterpillar guru David Wagner. We were light-trapping last June in Adams County, when this moth flew into the lights. It is one of the aquatic crambids, the Canadian petrophila, Petrophila canadensis, I believe. Dave pointed out that it is an apparent jumping spider mimic, as are a number of others in the genus Petrophila.

The evolution of mimicry fascinates me, and I was instantly smitten. Note the moth's gemlike m…

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Your narrator (L) poses with friends Steve and Marian Moeckel, Marian's sister Barbara, and Jim Berry under the new archway at the entrance to the world famous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area "Bird Trail".

We were just a few of the many thousands of birders who descended upon the trail, as they do every year, to bear witness to an amazing migratory spectacle. The 37-acre patch of woods and wetlands bisected by the mile long elevated boardwalk offers some of the best birding in North America. People come from nearly everywhere - every state, and many foreign countries. Perhaps 75,000 birders will visit the area from late April through May.

I spent the past three days at Magee, and spent nearly all of that time on the boardwalk. The birds were fabulous - best on Friday, but Saturday and today were also very good. I really enjoy helping new or newer birders find and identify birds, and for the most part, that's what I did. In the process I did snap some photos, of course, an…

Rock Wren, in Ohio!

Time & Optics, Ohio's most legendary vendor of optics. Many of us know the proprietor, Robert Hershberger, and I'll bet that more than a few people reading this have made the visit to Holmes County to visit Robert and his shop. If you want some binoculars or a scope (or a clock!), this is your place. CLICK HERE for more info.

Robert is a great birder, as are many others in his community. Because of the extraordinary concentration of ace birders in Holmes County, an extraordinary number of mega-rarities have been found in this area. Now we can add Rock Wren, Salpinctes obsoletus, to the rarity ranks.

This pastoral scene is where the wren hangs out. A pleasing place to chase a rare bird, for sure. I met up with Hallie Mason at Time & Optics, which is just a stone's throw out the right side of this photo. We got there at 8 am (this was yesterday), and along with some other birders plodded about fruitlessly for an hour or so. The Rock Wren works between several sets o…