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Showing posts from June, 2014

Mothapalooza invades Burr Oak!

Last weekend saw the massive moth conference, Mothapalooza II, invade Burr Oak State Park in picturesque southeastern Ohio. Possibly somewhat strangely to the lodge's staff, a Bigfoot conference took place here the weekend before. At least we could show them our subjects of interest.

One hundred and fifty participants convened, from ten states and Canada. In this photo, your narrator debriefs with up and coming uber birder Alexandra Forsythe (her website is HERE) and her mother Cheryl. They traveled from Indiana to attend the conference. Alex, who is 15, already possesses awesome field skills. This photo was taken just after a 7:30 am bird walk around the lodge (crazy us; we were up until 2 am mothing!), and we had just escorted 30 other hard cases to look for birds. Alex found us many interesting species, including an eastern kingbird nest with two chicks about ready to fly the coop.

Mothapalooza draws a diverse demographic, including many sharp young naturalists and biologists. …

Mothapalooza begins!

A banded tussock moth, Halysidota tessellaris, sips nectar from a common milkweed plant. I made this image late last night; it was one of a blizzard of moths that we saw.

I've been down in southern Ohio for the past two days, getting ready for an onslaught of 150 moth enthusiasts who are descending on Burr Oak State Park for the weekend. They are coming in for the 2nd Mothapalooza event, which promises to be interesting.

Two nights ago, David Wagner and I were mothing late into the night at another spot in southern Ohio, and had an unbelievably massive incursion of moths into the sheets. It really was mind-boggling, both in terms of diversity and numbers. I can't wait to share some images of that evening, but it'll have to wait until time permits...

EPN Breakfast/talk/walk - July 8!

The Environmental Professionals Network (EPN) was launched only a year or so ago, but it has already morphed into a large network of like-minded people who either work in various environmental fields, wish to work in an environmental organization, are students, or just have an interest in the natural sciences. A staple activity of the EPN are its monthly breakfasts, which feature a speaker. I was flattered to be tapped by the EPN's executive director, David Hanselmann, to give July's talk (DETAILS HERE). Normally the EPN meets on Ohio State University's West Campus, but this meeting will be different. We are gathering at the fabulous Grange Insurance Audubon Center along the banks of the Scioto River, just south of downtown Columbus. Following the program, I'll take any interested parties out to look for birds, plants, and any forms of wildlife that we might encounter. This is the little known Trimble Wildlife Area in Athens County (now subsumed into the much more ex…

Cope's Gray Treefrog

A duo of male Cope's gray treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis, sit in a rain barrel. They were doing far more than sitting, actually - they were making a heckuva racket.

I spent much of the weekend in and around Burr Oak State Park in Athens, Morgan, and Perry counties with John Howard and Diane Platco-Brooks. We were there to scout for next weekend's epic moth-fest, Mothapalooza, an event that is drawing 150 people from all around Ohio and points far beyond. We found lots of cool sites and scads of interesting critters. Mothapaloozians are in for a good time.

Friday evening was muggy and wet, following a series of showers. One of our stops featured an insanely loud collection of Cope's gray treefrogs, and I could not resist stalking some of the little amphibious blowhards and making a few images.

We have two species of treefrogs in these parts, and insofar as I know, they appear identical and are visually inseparable. Voice is the key to ID. They're easy to recognize as tre…

A wild iris

Iris, Most Beautiful Flower Iris, most beautiful flower,
Symbol of life, love, and light;
Found by the brook, and the meadow,
Or lofty, on arable height.
You come in such glorious colors,
In hues, the rainbow surpass;
The chart of color portrays you,
In petal, or veins, of your class.
You bloom with the first in Winter,
With the last, in the Fall, you still show;
You steal the full beauty of Springtime,
With your fragrance and sharp color glow.
Your form and beauty of flower,
An artist's desire of full worth;
So Iris, we love you and crown you,
MOST BEAUTIFUL FLOWER ON EARTH!
Edith Buckner Edwards

I don't know if I could fully concur with Ms. Edwards' "most beautiful flower" sentiments, but the genus Iris will certainly place on the podium. Irises are indeed stunning, and the species above is especially noteworthy. It is the leafy blue flag, Iris brevicaulis, which is listed as a threatened species in Ohio.

Last weekend, Daniel Boone and I made a trip into some swampy r…

A "life" snake!!! And more snakes!

I've got a lot of friends who are really good amateur herpetologists, and they're a lot of fun to get afield with. This is one of them - Josh Dyer, who works for the Crawford County Park District. As fortune would have it, I had to speak to a teacher's workshop last Tuesday morning in Bucyrus. Part of the agenda involved an afternoon field trip, so of course I arranged for our group to connect with Josh and have a hike around one of the park district's properties. We had a blast, spending several hours in the 90 degree heat traipsing around and finding all manner of interesting flora and fauna. But it was snakes that ruled the day.

QUICK ASIDE: The Crawford County Park District is one of Ohio's jewels when it comes to conservation and outdoor education. The organization owns many interesting properties, and puts on a full agenda of excellent programming. To learn more about CCPD, CLICK HERE.

Josh took us to a "secret" meadow where he has long monitored th…

Bugs in the Bog

Yesterday dawned clear and crisp; a picture-perfect early summer day. A good day indeed to head to one of my favorite natural areas, the legendary Cedar Bog near Urbana, Ohio. I was there to give a lecture on entomology, specifically about the "bugs" of Cedar Bog. The best part of the day was the special off-the-boardwalk field trips before and after the talk.

Venturing off the mile-long boardwalk that bisects Cedar Bog's fen meadows and various other habitats is strictly taboo. Only permitted researchers or others affiliated with the bog may do so, and even then off boardwalk travels are rare. Our groups consisted of noteworthy supporters of the bog, and we wanted to thank them for their contributions with a special trip.

One of our groups deep within the bog (which of course is really a fen), in a very special meadow. I should say that, even though venturing far off the boardwalk was a treat for these folks, most people probably wouldn't want to do this. The groun…

British Soldier lichens

This is jack pine country. The Grayling sands of Michigan's northern lower peninsula harbor large stands of the gnarly black-trunked pine, and at this locale there are hundreds and hundreds of acres of Pinus banksiana between five and twenty years of age. Such a habitat interests birders greatly, as this is the home of one of the rarest of the rare, the Kirtland's warbler, Setophaga kirtlandii.

I always come here when leading my mid to late May field trips that launch from NettieBay Lodge. Everyone revels in the ambiance of the wide open spaces filled with stunted pines and overtopped by Big Sky. The rich reverb song of the "jack pine warbler" rings out, and many other avian musicians contribute to the soundscape. The guttural croaks of common ravens. Ethereal whistles created by courting upland sandpipers drift down from the ether. The lovely flutelike melodies of hermit thrushes - yes, they breed in this stuff! - issue from the pines. Sparrows cannot be missed: so…