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Showing posts from September, 2014

Falcons of the New River Gorge bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge, a span of incredible dimensions. It crosses the New River at Fayetteville, West Virginia, and is perhaps best known for the annual Bridge Day festival. But the bridge is a festival of engineering in its own right. When completed in 1977, it was the world's longest single span arch bridge at 3,030 feet. It's since been bested by a few other bridges, but no matter - the thing is still massive in every way.

I've been coming to this area every spring for at least eight years to participate in the New River Birding & Nature Festival. SIDEBAR: If you want to have a lot of fun, see scads of birds, AND lots of other biodiversity, CHECK OUT THIS FESTIVAL.

The bridge is a point of fascination to nearly everyone who comes here, and it was to me as well. When a company called Bridge Walk opened their doors four years ago, offering people the opportunity to traverse the span on a narrow catwalk under the roadway, I couldn't wait to do it. Well, it t…


The beautiful flowers of Stiff Aster, Ionactis linariifolius, are sure to grab the eye. You won't see this one any old place - in Ohio, it is confined to a handful of the southernmost counties. This specimen was photographed in Shawnee State Forest, Scioto County.

I've been far and wide in the week past, all the way from Cleveland, to Youngstown, to the Ohio River. Robust travels and other obligations have kept me from the blog, at least to the extent that I normally contribute. There have been some very cool experiences, with some very cool people, and I hope to share some of those tales eventually. You can believe there are photos of everything.

But for now, I must make do with quickly captioned snapshots of a few items of natural history.

A young Black Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getulis, coils before the camera.The animal was in a riparian woodland along Scioto Brush Creek in Scioto County. For as fierce as these snakes are - they routinely prey on other snakes, including ven…

Some random cool Hymenoptera (bees & wasps)

I have covered a lot of ground in recent days, from Cleveland to the Ohio River. Lots of cool stuff has come under the camera's lens, but I've had precious little time to slap any of it up here. So, to partially remedy that situation, here is a hodge-podge of Hymenoptera seen recently. Some of the insects in this Order rank high among our most reviled six-legged creatures, but I like nearly all of them. In spite of some of the stings that I've taken in the line of duty.

A paper wasp in the genus Polistes takes nectar and/or pollen from Gray Goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis. Goldenrods are unbeatable insect attractors in fall. This wasp is one of a number of species that makes small hemispherical paper nests that hang from a stalk. They often build in places where people will wander near, and stings are not uncommon. They hurt, too. We can just ask the artist Sigrid Nielson, who accompanied me on a recent foray. A paper wasp whacked her on the shoulder, and she reports distinc…

Some late season bugs

My expeditions afield tend to produce far more images than I could ever share here. Normally, I have a specific subject or theme for posts, and that sometimes precludes using photos that I think are interesting, but fall outside of one of my writing topics.

So here is a hodgepodge of various insect images, all taken in the last week or so. All of the subjects were found in central or southern Ohio.

A Curve-tailed Bush Katydid, Scudderia curvicauda, looks into the camera. These whimsical-looking beasts make for great photography subjects. Note the katydid's ears - those dark oval pits just below the knees on the forelegs.

TIP: Go out at night, when they are active and singing, for the best images.

A Black-waved Flannel Moth caterpillar, Lagoa crispata, caught in the act of molting. It has nearly shed the skin of the penultimate instar, which is the white fluffy cottonlike mass. The caterpillar is now brown and resembles a turtle covered with shag carpeting. Most of our caterpillars …

Ground Skink, Scincella lateralis

A Ground Skink, Scincella lateralis, (sometimes called the Little Brown Skink) rests, quite appropriately, on the ground.

While in Adams County two weekends ago, Mark Zloba of the Cincinnati Museum Center and an employee at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, mentioned an area where he always sees Ground Skinks. Would I be interested in seeing them? You betcha! Everyone has their nemesis creatures - animals that just seem to elude one, no matter how hard you try. Well, this skink was my nemesis Ohio lizard. I can't say that I really knocked myself out looking for one, but in year's past I had visited a number of sites where they were reported, sometimes with the express purpose of finding one, and had always failed.

One of the little skinks peeks shyly over a log. We saw several, and it was great to finally make the reptile's acquaintance in real life. One can only learn so much from books and literature, and the Internet - there is no substitute for seeing the real McCoy an…

The lost Bird Project film, and discussion

September 1 marked the centennial of the passing of the very last Passenger Pigeon, Martha. Her death spelled the end for a species once so plentiful that no one who lived at the peak of the Passenger's Pigeons' abundance could ever have imagined that it would disappear, completely and utterly, and entirely due to the actions of people. There are many lessons to be learned from this tragic tale, and Martha and her kind should not be forgotten.
The Grange Insurance Audubon Center is hosting a showing of the film The Lost Bird Project, followed by a panel discussion about the pigeon, conservation, extinction and whatever topics arise. It's free, and all are welcome. Details below:
The Lost Bird Project Grange Insurance Audubon Center Wednesday September 17, 2014 7:00 – 9:00 pm
The film The Lost Bird Projectwill be shown. It chronicles the memorial  sculptures that artist Todd McGrain created to remember and honor the lost birds: the Labrador Duck, the Great Auk, the Heath…

The amazing Amorpha Borer strikes again!

A "weedy" unkempt bank of the mighty Ohio River, in Adams County, Ohio. That's Kentucky on the far side. I was down in the hill country for the past four days, much of which was spent attending a fabulous workshop on the singing insects (Orthoptera), taught by Wil Hershberger and Lisa Rainsong. More on that later.

We had some time on either end of the workshop to do some exploring, and we didn't let any grass grow under our feet. Some amazing finds were made, including the animal featured in this post. John Howard and I were riding together, and when we pulled into this site and saw the habitat, one animal was on our minds: the world's greatest beetle, the amazing Amorpha Borer!

Our party fanned out onto the riverbank and began the hunt, and it wasn't long before a mighty shout went up from Laura Hughes - she had spotted an Amorpha Borer, Megacyllene decora! We rushed to the spot, and marveled over the tangerine and black beast as it ran roughshod over the f…

Reddish Egret in Ohio!

Major kudos to Steve Landes! He found an incredibly rare bird (for Ohio) last Wednesday, and performed in a highly efficient manner in regards to getting word out. Within a half hour or so, just about everyone in Ohio's birding community knew about the Reddish Egret that Steve had found.

Ground zero for the egret - the City of Columbus' new upground reservoir in northwestern Delaware County, about 40 minutes northwest of Columbus. The egret has been frequenting shallow ponds on the reservoir's north side - I marked the spot where I saw it late Wednesday afternoon. I don't think the presence of the massive reservoir is coincidental. The bird, as it winged over, likely was attracted to the large water feature, and then dropped in to hunt in the adjacent shallow wetlands.

Photo: Steve Landes
I heard the initial report while in my office and unable to escape. Immediately after work, I rushed home, grabbed some gear, and headed up to the egret. As fortune would have it, Ste…

Harris's Three-spot caterpillar, a weird animal indeed

An inquisitive group examines a sapling Blue Ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata, at the Fernald Preserve in Hamilton County, Ohio. A number of us were there to look for moths, singing insects, caterpillars and whatever after dark last Saturday night. We scored big in the caterpillar department.

The aforementioned ash played host to a very special species of caterpillar; one of the Holy Grails among the tubular crowd. In fact, three of the caterpillars were present! It was a species that I had sought - as much as one can knowingly seek such things - since I learned of its existence. As with many finds, there was a significant amount of luck and serendipity involved, but to our credit, we were out after dark and actively seeking caterpillars, so we did work for it. I saw some fresh leaf damage on the ash, went in for a closer look, and Voila! I think you'll see why we thought this find was so cool. Read on...

A Harris's Three-spot caterpillar, Harrisimemna trisignata! The caterpillar …