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Showing posts from October, 2014

Beautiful mushrooms, ill consequences

On my recent foray through Kent Bog, written about HERE, I couldn't help to notice a multitude of colorful mushrooms. Nor could I resist going prostrate on the wet boardwalk to make images. I am not much of a mushroom expert, but find them irresistible photography subjects. I've got a large pile of mystery mushroom photos awaiting identification.

I do think I know the name of this blood-orange beauty. It is Russula emetica, and that scientific epithetic should tell you all you need to know about its edibility. Emetic comes from the Greek word emetikos, which means vomiting. My identification may well be incorrect; apparently Russula mushrooms are many, with lots of look-alikes. Let me know if you know better.

While nearly everyone would find these 'shrooms pleasing to the eye, probably no one would find them pleasing to the palate. Here are two of its common names: "The Sickener", and the "Vomiting Russula".

Not exactly the sort of fungus one is apt to…

A pictorial stroll through Kent Bog

A trip to Akron last Saturday took me near one of Ohio's most iconic natural areas, so I left early to spend some time in Kent Bog. Or, as it is formally known, the Tom S. Cooperrider Kent Bog State Nature Preserve. Tom deserves the honor. The Kent State University botanist has done lots of great things, and served as a mentor for many, yours truly included.

Kent Bog is a local (and state) treasure, and is heavily used by the people of Kent and surrounding areas.That such a place would survive in a rather heavily developed area is a bit of a miracle. I believe local support for the bog's well being has warded off one or two development schemes that would have taken place on its margins. If you get the chance, visit Kent Bog. Directions and other details are RIGHT HERE.

Water droplets dangle from Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum.
As fate would have it, the day that I visited was wet. Very wet. Rolling waves of showers washed over nearly all day, punctuated by brief re…

The Buck Moths ride again

Last weekend was a whirlwind tour of the state. I was in northeast Ohio on Saturday to give a talk for Summit County Metro Parks (thanks for having me, Meghan!). Since that program wasn't until 7 pm, I headed up early to visit some iconic natural areas and make some images.

In the photo above, we're looking off the massive bluffs of Hach-Otis State Nature Preserve. Fall color was nearing peak. I only regret that it was a rainy, overcast day. A bright blue sky day would have made the leaf color sizzle, but one takes what one gets.

The following day, it was up early and off to southern Ohio at the other end of the state. This view is from the Copperhead Lookout fire tower in Shawnee State Forest, and it's evident that fall color is not quite as advanced down there.

If you would like a suggestion for a last hurrah fall field trip, I'd suggest Shawnee this weekend. The leaf color should be outstanding, and as you shall see if you forge on with this post, there are other i…

Fringed Gentians

As most plants decline, fringed gentians put on a show
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
October 19, 2014

NATURE
Jim McCormac

Thou blossom bright with autumn dew, And colored with the heaven’s own blue, That openest when the quiet light Succeeds the keen and frosty night. — excerpted from To the Fringed Gentian by William Cullen Bryant
Fall’s frosty days are here, and colder weather and shorter days have muted autumn’s spectacular wildflowers.

Some flowers persist in a losing battle with Old Man Winter. The riotous bouquet of asters, colored in blue, white and purple, struggle mightily to hold on. Their rich hues are punctuated by lemony goldenrod flowers, another of winter’s botanical deniers.

None of fall’s holdouts compare, however, to the king of autumn flowers: the fringed gentian.

On Oct. 5, a date that seems too late for wildflower hunting, I visited a rich fen in Ross County. After a short trek through pasture and scruffy woods, we burst into a wet meadow browned with sedges. Breezy gusts showe…

Mergansers make a comeback in the Mountain State

A rocky mountain stream is punctuated by a quiet pool near Summersville, West Virginia. My friend Rachel Davis, who lives not far from here, showed me this little park back in late September. The place was full of biodiversity. Not long after exiting the car we saw a cool bird, and it was time to flip from the landscape lens to something with a bit more pulling power.

A hen Common Merganser! To birders used to seeing this species in migration and winter, when they frequent large lakes and rivers, seeing one on a small creek might seem strange. But Common Mergansers nest along streams, and I suspect that this bird was a local breeder who hadn't yet left the mountains.

Common Mergansers are BIG ducks - a hefty one can weigh 3.5 lbs. - but in spite of their bulk, they nest in cavities. I wrote about Ohio's only significant breeding population RIGHT HERE.

They're also fish eaters, and finicky about the water quality of the streams that they nest along. Cut the buffering fores…

A murderous, mobile lichen

I've written about the larvae of the Green Lacewing, Leucochrysa pavida, before, but never with (what I felt) were adequate photographs. These little creatures are very hard to image. They're small, mostly covered up, and when they expose themselves they're generally on the move.

It was time to figure out how to overcome the photographic challenges. I'm involved in a project that features an essay about lacewing larvae, and a good photo was a must. Lacewing larvae of the type shown below are not rare, but can be a challenge to locate for reasons that will soon be obvious. I asked Chris Bedel, Director of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, if he might keep an eye out for lacewing larvae and capture me some livestock if he found any. Chris did, and I was able to set up a shoot under more controlled conditions than one would find outside, on the trunk of a tree. My rig was the Canon 5D Mark III with the twin-lite flash setup rigged to the spectacular MP-E 65 mega-macro lens…

Support the Big Sit!

The Big Sit! is an effort to tally as many bird species as possible within 24 hours, from the confines of an officially designated 17-foot diameter circle. The Big Sit! concept was formalized by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club in 1993, and later Bird Watcher's Digest stepped in to provide sponsorship. I wrote in more detail about Big Sits in last Sunday's Columbus Dispatch, RIGHT HERE.

Big Sits are a lot of fun, and tax all of a birder's identification skills. They can also be used as an interesting way to raise funds for worthy causes. The Big Sit! occurs this coming weekend, October 11th & 12th, and well over 150 circles will be formed and sat in all across the States and beyond.

The Grange Insurance Audubon Center (GIAC) just south of downtown Columbus, Ohio. The center opened about five years ago, and one of its major missions is to expose kids to nature. Because of the center's location, it draws lots of inner city school kids, and helps to teach them a…

Our most bizarre(?) caterpillar gets more bizarre

Earlier this fall, I wrote (with some excitement) about finally finding one of our strangest caterpillars, the Harris's Three-spot, Harrisimemna trisignata. That post, with photos, is RIGHT HERE. It describes the odd behavior of the caterpillar, and the equally strange appearance of the moth that it morphs into.

On a recent expedition into the New River Gorge area of West Virginia, I had the great experience of seeing another H. 3-spot. Rachel Davis and I ventured into the Wolf Creek Park wetland after dark, and Rachel spotted the beast above. She called me over, and WOW! We had stumbled into a 3-spot in the act of excavating its pupatorium.

That's right, the life cycle of this weird caterpillar gets even weirder. When it nears the end of the line for the caterpillar stage,the caterpillar bores a chamber into solid wood. We probably found this one not too long after it began digging, and at this point its chamber is deep enough to fit half its body in. The hole is being drille…