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Showing posts from June, 2015

A gorgeous prairie - in no time flat!

A lush prairie, teeming with colorful native wildflowers, stands in stark contrast to a lawn of empty emerald turf grass.

In 2012, I had had quite enough of looking out my office window and gazing onto a field of turf grass. For those of us into biodiversity, few substrates short of cement or tarmac could be more boring. So, I acted. I caught the ear of the people who manage our complex and its grounds, and in relatively short order a meeting was convened. Aided and abetted by some like-minded friends who also work at our Ohio Department of Natural Resources central office complex, we laid out our case for botanical diversification.

The powers-that-be were quite receptive, and now, at least on a third-acre or so, we have a vastly richer environment. I wrote a bit about this prairie's beginnings RIGHT HERE. I cannot thank the building and grounds managers enough for letting us act on this idea. Bob Kehres at Ohio Prairie Nursery was integral to the project, both in providing exper…

An underwater caterpillar!

Were you seeking caterpillars, this wooded riparian corridor would be a great place to do so. Those of us that hunt caterpillars would likely follow in the footsteps of the birds, and search the foliage of streamside shrubs, trees, and various herbaceous growth.

Who would think to wade on in, and check submerged rocks for caterpillars?!

Here is the protagonist of this bizarre story, the showy little Two-banded Petrophila, Petrophila bifascialis. I first got turned onto these cool moths by David Wagner. He then astounded me by claiming that the moth is a jumping spider mimic! Yes, you read it right - a jumping spider mimic!

The moth is not even the size of your thumbnail, so we're talking pretty dinky here. Note the summit of the hindwings. They glisten with small colorful dots. Seen from the right angle, especially from the rear, those can look remarkably similar to colorful spider eyes.

But the real proof lies on the moth's mode of locomotion. CLICK HERE for an amazing video…

Dueling blackbirds

The view from the observation tower at Glacier Ridge Metropark, just west of Columbus. This, for me, is a local hotspot, being only 10-15 minutes from home, depending on traffic. But as is so often the case, I all too often shun local patches for places further afield and seemingly more exotic. Well, the deluges finally blew out last Saturday night and Sunday dawned with the promise of a dry day. I only had the morning to shoot, so what the heck thought I, I'll see what Glacier Ridge has to offer.

A lot, as it turned out. I scarcely left the meadow I started in, and within two hours tallied about 55 species, including some goodies. Nearly the first bird out of the chute was a Blue Grosbeak, singing away. That's a rarity in my neck of the woods. A platoon of Bobolinks gurgled their R2-D2-like melodies, and the dry trill of a Grasshopper Sparrow added ambience. Competing Willow Flycatchers loudly upchucked their sneezy FITZ-BEWS! Row houses of bluebird condos sported lots of Tr…

Some more Mothapalooza highlights

A Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, glares menacingly at your blogger. Well, as menacingly as a pink and yellow animal can manage.

Our extreme mothing efforts at the recent Mothapalooza conference paid great dividends. Scads of species great and small were seen, and in most cases, photographed. I'll share a smattering of my efforts here.

By the way, dates have been confirmed for Mothapalooza IV. The conference will be back at Shawnee State Park Lodge, August 5 thru 7, 2016. The later date will provide a somewhat different cast of moth characters, and the crop of caterpillars will be much advanced. You won't want to miss it. The link to the Mothapalooza website is RIGHT HERE.

This is one of our largest moths, the Royal Walnut Moth, Citheronia regalis. Its larva IS the biggest caterpillar, the fabled Hickory Horned Devil, which is nearly the size of a small hotdog. I have written about them HERE, and HERE.

The giant silkmoths, such as this, always elicit oohs and aahs. But …

Some Mothapalooza highlights, Part 1

The Tuliptree Silkmoth, Callosamia angulifera, is an impressive beast indeed, and attendees of the recent Mothapalooza conference saw many of them. And scores of other moths, of a great many species. As nearly all of the 175 or so conferees were armed with cameras, the total number of photos taken over the weekend was stupefying. I managed to click off a number of shots as well, and will share some of the mothian highlights in the next post. But for now, a pictorial recap of a few non-moth critters that were encountered.

Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, bustles with Spicebush Swallowtails and Great Spangled Fritillaries. If you want a gorgeous plant that is highly attractive to the fluttery crowd, this is it. Butterfly milkweed was nearing peak bloom during Mothapalooza, and a number of the daytime field trips made a point of loitering near the plants and tallying lots of butterflies.

Banded Hairstreaks, Satyrium calanus, were out in good numbers. Hairstreaks are thumbnail-siz…

Mothapalooza III concludes, and it was grand!

A giant banner strung across the entryway to the Shawnee State Park lodge in southern Ohio proclaims the arrival of Mothapalooza. It may also have scared off the non-moth'ers, or at least made them stare in befuddled wonderment, pondering whether they should enter the building.

Mothapalooza is, insofar as we know, the largest and most complex event that celebrates the diversity and ornate complexity of the world of moths. A few of us hatched this scheme about four years ago, and we held Mothapalooza I in 2013. It, to our absolute amazement, drew about 140 attendees, plus a whole host of invited experts and guides. Mothapalooza II, held last year at Burr Oak State Park, was also a similar-sized sellout. Last weekend saw Mothapalooza back at Shawnee, and in total there were about 175 people.

I think moth'ers from about eleven states were present. I can think of these offhand: Ohio, New York, Indiana, Missouri, Texas (yes, Texas!), Kentucky, West Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut,…

Nest boxes helping slow decline of state's kestrels

Photo courtesy Bernard Master
June 14, 2015

Jim McCormac

Nest boxes helping slow decline of state's kestrels
On March 17, 2013, The Dispatch ran a story describing the initiation of an American kestrel nest-box trail.

The kestrel, our smallest falcon, requires cavities for nest sites, and suitable homes have become scarce for the charismatic birds.

In 2012, 25 boxes were placed on road signs along state highways in Crawford and Wyandot counties — a region that’s part of the Sandusky Plains prairie, whose wide roadside verges and large adjacent meadows create abundant hunting habitat for the falcons.

The results of the inaugural season were encouraging: Eight kestrel chicks were fledged in 2013.
Before spring 2014, 16 more boxes were added for a total of 41 kestrel condos. The number of fledged kestrels almost tripled last year, with 22 birds produced.

Road construction has deterred some nesting this year, but 13 chicks have been produced, with eggs still to h…

Doug Tallamy speaks in Columbus, June 14

Doug Tallamy (left) and your blogger pose with some heavy artillery in Michigan's jack pine country back on May 30. Doug and his buddy John McIntyre came up for a few days prior to my Nettie Bay Lodge tour, and it was my pleasure to show them some of the wonders of northern Michigan.

Tallamy is quite the photographer, and if you can make his upcoming talk you'll be able to marvel over some of his handiwork. Doug will be at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center at 505 W. Whittier Street in Columbus next Sunday, June 14. The show starts at 7 pm, and you won't want to miss it. Read Doug's recent op-ed in the New York Times RIGHT HERE.

This is Doug's magnum opus, and it is a work of genius. He clearly, logically, and simply puts forth the role that native flora play in the landscape, and how the homeowner can utilize native plants effectively. Most of our native insects are intimately tied to native plants, and those bugs go on to provide fuel for higher beasts such as …

Common Mergansers on the rise

Photo: Bob Lane
Bob Lane sent along some wonderful photos of a hen Common Merganser attending her large brood of chicks. Looks eleven of the little fuzzballs in all. The little ones stay closely huddled with the hen at this point, even hopping aboard her back for rides when possible. He observed the brood at Conneaut, Ohio, last Tuesday, June 2. They most likely nested along Conneaut Creek, where John Pogacnik and others have reported breeding Common Mergansers for a number of years.

This cavity-nesting duck nests along high quality streams buffered by healthy riparian forests. There is no question that this species is on the rise as a nester in Ohio, and adjacent states. Recovery of areas that were once largely denuded of forests is the likely reason for the duck's increase - they are probably recolonizing former breeding areas. West Virginia's breeding Common Merganser population has skyrocketed - I wrote about there RIGHT HERE - and Pennsylvania's population has also sp…

Life mammal! A burly burrowing beast!

The gorgeous Ocqueoc Falls, just minutes from Nettie Bay Lodge in Presque Isle County, Michigan. These are the largest falls in the Lower Peninsula. I've been coming to Nettie Bay for six years now, to lead small groups of birders in search of, what else, birds. But we find much more, in scenery that often resembles the above in various ways, shapes, and forms. The botany is exceptional, including some neat orchids. Very interesting butterflies work the flowers, and dragonflies of many species abound. And the mammals! More on furbearers in a moment, as they are the primary topic of this post.

We haven't yet confirmed next year's dates, but they'll be at the latter end of May. The beauty of late May, for those of us from down south, is that we can relive spring migration again. Even in late May big scrums of migrant warblers and other songbirds can be encountered along Lake Huron, and on one magical day this year, we observed nearly 500 raptors moving northward along t…