A romp through the diverse flora and fauna of Ohio. From Timber Rattlesnakes to Prairie Warblers to Lakeside Daisies to Woodchucks, you'll eventually see it here, if it isn't already.
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Heron inhales large fish
The tail waters of Hoover Reservoir in northern Franklin County. The dam impounds a large reservoir that extends north into Delaware County, and when it freezes, the open waters below the dam teem with birds. A brief stop here last Saturday produced some interesting observations, but none bested the hungry heron that follows.
As the torrential outflow from the dam always keeps some water open, hardy Great Blue Herons overwinter here. There are usually at least a half-dozen or so at any time. Lots of fish get sucked through the dam's tunnels, and are expelled relatively unharmed in the basin below the dam. They make for easy pickings for the herons, and the bird above is stalking fish.
It didn't take long for the heron to spot prey, and quicker than you might think possible, he was out in deep water and instantly bagged a good one.That's a hefty white bass, Morone chrysops, in its bill, and it hardly seems possible that the bird could swallow that thing.
Apparently the heron wanted to deal with its piscine prey on firmer ground, so it swam ducklike back to the cement skirt of the catch basin. Only to be greeted by an aggressive heron that seemed to be making overtures towards its hard won catch.
A few shakes of those massive wings, probably accompanied by some Neanderthal grunts, and the would-be aggressor was sent packing.
Now the fun begins. The heron deftly shakes and quivers the fish into proper swallowing position, which is headfirst. The fish is very much alive, and probably had other plans for its day; plans that didn't include being swallowed alive by some gargantuan, primitive sushi-spearer. Note the bass's dorsal fin, which is stiffly extended and webbed with hard sharp spines. The fin folds backward - if the heron didn't swallow the fish headfirst, it would have no chance of gagging the thing down. The dorsal spines would tear into its throat, probably causing damage and certainly impeding progress.
It didn't take long for the skilled fisherbird to suck the bass into its gullet. The outline of the fish's head and half its body is clearly seen silhouetted through the bird's throat. What a way to go. If you're a white bass, don't go getting yourself sucked through Hoover Dam and into the tail waters. As rough and unwanted a trip as that would be, this fate is worse.
No escape for the bass now. It hardly seems possible that a heron could swallow a fish that large, but I've seen them successfully put down significantly larger fish.
An extended neck is the only evidence that the fish once was.
A happy little burp, and game over: heron 1 - fish - 0. After being dissolved by caustic gastric acids in the heron's digestive tract, what's left of the bass will later be projectile-sprayed from the bird's posterior in a showy display of fecal fluming.
Ah, Nature. Brutal as it may be, you gotta love it.
The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.
Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.
Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …
A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.
Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…
A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.
These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.
I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.
And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…