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Showing posts from April, 2015

Migration erupts

Cerulean Warbler, one of many in Shawnee State Forest, Scioto County, Ohio, last Saturday. The Ohio Ornithological Society held their annual conference at Shawnee over the weekend, and we found lots of Neotropical birds back for the breeding season. Numbers and diversity of migrant songbirds will steadily increase, reaching a crescendo in the second week of May.

Grab those binoculars and get afield!

No Finish Line - a fascinating new book on birding ( and more)

Hot off the presses is this excellent book that all birders will enjoy devouring. It is the biography of Dr. Bernard Master, renowned world birder, conservationist, physician, and businessman. In the interest of full disclosure, Bernie is a good friend, but that relationship would not, I believe, cloud my opinion of his first foray into the literary world.

I've just received my copy of No Finish Line (subtitled Discovering the World's Secrets One Bird at a Time), and have only had a chance to skim through, look at the some 140 photographs, and read select passages. Trust me, if you are a birder on any level, you'll enjoy reading this book. Few people have had the lengthy and well traveled birding career that Dr. Master has, and he pulls no punches when it comes to calling things as he sees them. Peppered throughout are accounts of his business endeavors, experiences in Vietnam, opinions on tour guides, and more. I'll write more about No Finish Line once I've had a…

Return of the butterflies

The warming of spring brings out a new crop of butterflies, and their appearance is much welcomed by many, including your narrator. These stunning male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio glaucus, are fresh and unblemished. I photographed them on a recent sunny day in southern Ohio, the duo was among dozens that I saw.

Try as I might, this female American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis, would not fully cooperate with my camera. It's a semi-wary species to begin with, but this girl was busy. She was scrambling about the pussy-toes, which is this species' host plant, depositing eggs, and I didn't want to horn in and disrupt activities more important than my picture-taking. So I just did the best that I could, and largely left her to the business of making more of her kind.

Here is a more formal portrait of pussy-toes, Antennaria plantaginifolia. It's a very common plant of dry banks and exposed soil, typically growing in the semi-shade of woodland borders. Pussy-toes is not…

Life along (and in) a creek

Yesterday was a great spring day to be afield, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to help lead an outing organized by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Our destination was a new TNC preserve along the banks of Little Darby Creek in Madison County. As there is no ready access as of yet, the preserve is not open to the public at this time which precludes me from identifying the site. Interest was high in this foray - organizers cut it off at 38 participants. We divided into two camps, and went our separate ways, exploring the preserve's hidden nooks and crannies. My thanks to Anthony Sasson of TNC for making me a part of the outing.

The banks and bluffs of Little Darby Creek were awash in wildflowers on this picture-perfect spring day. White trout lily, Erythronium albidum, as above, formed extensive carpets. In all, we probably saw 30 species of spring wildflowers, most of them growing in profusion.

In close on the flower of a common blue violet, Viola sororia. The…

Dennis Profant, 1956-2015

I learned today of the death of one of Ohio's premier naturalist/biologists, Dennis Profant. The news was a shock to all, and his passing yesterday was terrible news.

Dennis was a professor at Hocking College, where he taught ornithology, dendrology, and entomology. He really was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to natural history knowledge, but he was probably best known for his encyclopedic knowledge of moths. Dennis published extensively on the Lepidoptera, especially his beloved slug caterpillar moths (Limacodidae). He was lead author of the definitive work on these gorgeous little animals: The Slug Caterpillar Moths (Lepidoptera: Limacodidae) and other Zygaenoidea of Ohio. Don't let the academic title fool you. The book, which appeared in 2010, is a richly illustrated, easily understood and highly useful guide to these moths.

I have known Dennis for at least 20 years, and spent many hours afield with him. Never, ever, did one of these forays conclude without myself and …

If I could be a bird...

There are many avian harbingers of spring, but my favorite is the plucky Tree Swallow. Their return to northern marshes is a sure sign that winter's grip is weakening. In Ohio, the first scout swallows might appear by late-February. They are sure to be greeted by by crusts of ice, and the certain prospect of enduring several more freezes and nasty bouts of weather courtesy of an Old Man Winter who doesn't want to let go.

As the days lengthen and temperatures become decidedly milder, more swallows sweep north in their great seasonal occupation of marshes in the northern U.S. and Canada. Tree Swallows, like the rest of their kin, are primarily insectivores. Wetlands produce great crops of flying insects, and the swallows rush in to capitalize on this bounty, and perform their role in the food web.

A flock of Tree Swallows finds the old culms of hardstem bulrush, Schoenoplectus acutus, to be suitable perches. This group was a tiny fraction of huge numbers of Tree Swallows that w…

David Sibley comes to Ohio!

Hands down, the most popular guide to American birds, by the best known contemporary birder/ornithologist in the Americas, David Sibley.

Mr. Sibley is coming to Ohio, and you won't want to miss the occasion. On Saturday, May 2, the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is hosting a grand opening celebration of their new Grand River Conservation Campus in Ashtabula County. Guest of honor? The one and only David Sibley, who will give a talk at 11 am.

Excellent riparian forests, a hemlock swamp, and other interesting habitats are in the immediate proximity of the event, and being that it'll be early May, birds should abound. This is a great opportunity to meet Sibley, see firsthand some of the excellent work that The Nature Conservancy has been doing, and get in some great birding. CLICK HERE for all of the details.

Lily, and Waterthrush

I made a much needed photographic/birding/botanizing expedition to southern Ohio last Saturday, where signs of spring abound. My route took me near the legendary Rocky Fork drainage and its isolated population of the stunning Goldenstar lily, Erythronium rostratum.It would have been a botanical sin not to stop and admire the plants, especially as I was within their very narrow window of blooming.

Sure as the sun rises, the little lemony starlike flowers dotted the leaf-strewn forest floor, their beauty conspicuous to a kneeling admirer, but hidden from casual passersby. The famous Ohio botanist Emma Lucy Braun found this disjunct population back in 1964; the only occurrence north of the Ohio River. Since then, only one other Goldenstar locale has been found in Ohio, and it's not very far from this site.

About the time that the Goldenstar erupts into flower, the little creeks of Scioto County run high, their channels fueled by spring rains. And just as sure as the appearance of th…

EPN Breakfast - Salamanders! Thursday, April 9

The Cave Salamander, Eurycea lucifuga, an Ohio endangered species.
If you've not heard of the [Ohio] Environmental Professionals Network (EPN), you should know about this fine organization. In just a few short years, the EPN has mushroomed into a large and active coalition of people who work in environmental and various natural resources fields, and others who have an interest in environmental issues. Learn more about the EPN RIGHT HERE.

A cornerstone of EPN activities is its monthly breakfasts. Organizer David Hanselmann does an outstanding job of bringing in interesting experts to speak on a wide range of topics, typically followed by audience interaction time. These breakfasts usually take place on the campus of the Ohio State University, where the EPN is housed.

This month's EPN Breakfast takes place this Thursday, April 9, and the topic is one sure to be of interest: amphibians. Joe Greathouse of the Wilds and Joe Mendelsen of the Atlanta Zoo are the presenters, and the …

Ohio Ornithological Society annual conference!

Many visitors to the fabled Shawnee State Park in southern Ohio's rugged hills will soon see this banner - or something like it - welcoming birders to the (song) birdiest region of Ohio. The weekend of April 24th thru 26th marks the 11th annual conference of the Ohio Ornithological Society. As it did the first two years of its existence, the Society is holding the event at Shawnee. If you haven't yet signed on, I'd encourage you to do so. There, in my opinion, is absolutely no better place to be in late April. See all the details, and GET YER TICKETS HERE!

In addition to a fine cast of speakers, there are field trips galore. In fact, the emphasis is very much on getting afield. At least 100 species of birds breed in 65,000 acre Shawnee State Forest and the nearly adjacent 17,000 acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve. Expert guides who know the intimate nuances of this vast landscape will guide trips to the most productive nooks and crannies.

Want to see Cerulean Warbler? Piec…

Sapsucker, sucking sap

I spent part of this morning - a sunny, beautiful morning! - down at Green Lawn Cemetery on the south side of Columbus. This, Ohio's second largest cemetery at 360 acres, is a place that is near and dear to me, and one in which I have invested a considerable chunk of my life. Some of my first out-of-neighborhood birding forays as a tot were to Green Lawn, and I've made scores of trips since. About two years ago, I finished up a 12-year run as a member of the cemetery's board of trustees. Birders in Columbus take this cemetery seriously, and strive to see its habitats and venerable ancient trees protected. Bernie Master was the first birder representative on the board, followed by me, and I've been replaced by the extremely capable Randy Rogers. The place is looking good, and this morning it was birdy as usual.

The Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris, in the above photo (taken in 2011) is a magnificent specimen. The tree is old and gnarled, and resembles a giant bonsai. I alw…