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Showing posts from August, 2015

Mystery wasp update

In my last post, RIGHT HERE, I wrote about a curious parasitoid wasp that was attacking the grubs of an equally curious gall-forming midge. I am a large fan of the small and obscure, and set about trying to learn of the mystery wasp's (photo above) identity.


I posted a few of my photos there, along with a detailed description of where and how we found the wasps. I didn't have to wait long. About 1/2 hour later, Ross Hill responded with some insightful comments, and he emailed the photos to wasp expert Dr. Eric Grissell.

Grissell's comments were soon in hand, and can be taken as the final answer - or at least as final an answer as we can get with the evidence currently available:

"Although it is a Rileya, I couldn't put a species name on it. Rileya americana was synonymized under Rileya insularis by Michael Gates in 2008. So americana would be wrong under any circumstances. Wish I could help you out better, but these wasps are difficult enough …

A strange gall, and an unexpected occupant

A lush snarl of Green-headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata, colors the Junglebrook Marsh at Malabar Farm in Richland County, Ohio. I was up this way last Friday and Saturday to help with the 7th annual Flora-Quest, which was based out of Mohican State Park. We had a great time, and the event was superbly organized courtesy of Cheryl Harner, Paula Harper, and everyone else who was involved.

Saturday's main activity was field trips at legendary Malabar Farm. I was stationed at a small wetland known as Junglebrook, along with some expert naturalists such as Lisa Rainsong, Judy Semroc, Mark Dilley, and Larry Rosche. Various F-Q groups were shunted our way all day long, and we'd lead them about looking for interesting things.

Junglebrook Marsh may be small, but it is exceptionally diverse. Seeps keep the place wet and boggy, and spawn a rich array of plant life. The wetland may be best known for its population of Turtlehead, Chelone glabra, which host a population of Baltimore C…

Rough Greensnake

I visited Chillicothe, Ohio, last Monday evening, to deliver a presentation to the Scioto Valley Bird & Nature Club. It's always a treat to visit this city, which is steeped in Ohio history. Chillicothe was our first capital, and then after a brief peregrination to Zanesville for two years, it again served as capital for about five more years. In 1816 the legislature voted to shift the capital north to Columbus, my hometown, and for better or worse it's been the same ever since.

Chillicothe's home county of Ross is incredibly biodiverse. The Appalachian foothills taper out into the glaciated plains to the west here, meaning that there is lots of topographic variation. Interesting habitats abound, and after the talk to the club, several us went out for a nocturnal prowl at Buzzard's Roost Preserve. This sprawling 1,200 acre woodland lies along Paint Creek just west of Chillicothe, and I've never failed to find interesting subjects there.

As always, it was a trea…

A morning spent slaying dragons

Jim Lemon scans for dragonflies along an old quarry in Champaign County, Ohio. Lemon, a former IT guru returned to his entomological roots, made an outstanding discovery here last year. He found the state's first record of an exquisite dragonfly known as the Swift Setwing, Dythemis velox.

This is a southern species that has been actively expanding its range northward. Nonetheless, prior to Jim's find, the nearest populations to Ohio were about 200 miles south and west, in southern Indiana and adjacent Illinois.

As soon as I heard about these setwings, I wanted to see them (of course!). It never worked out last year, but finally, yesterday was the day. I met Jim at 9 am, and we spent a few hours chasing setwings and finding many other dragonfly species in the process.

These forays often become natural history free-for-alls, and we pointed our cameras in the direction of non-dragonfly points of interest. This stunning critter is the caterpillar of the Brown-hooded Owlet Moth, C…

Some shorebirds, at Funk

Mudflats and shallow pools blanket the landscape just south of Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area in Wayne County, along the north side of Wilderness Road. An active peat mining operation has temporarily created good shorebird habitat, and reports of shorebirds have been coming in from this area for a few weeks. Last Sunday, I was finally able to get to this spot and observe some waders, and make a few images.

Great views of the birds can be had from the dike running along the east side of the wetlands, but a spotting scope is highly useful. The photography conditions are OK, but not great. For the most part, unless you are armed with Canon's 800mm lens, most birds are a bit distant for really excellent images. That, compounded by a less than desirable angle of view stemming from standing atop the dike, means that only the closest birds can really be nailed well. I was shooting with my 500mm with the 1.4 teleconverter on a Canon 7D Mark II 1.6 crop sensor camera, and still didn't lik…

Ohio Sustainable Landscapes Symposium - September 12

If you're reading this blog, you probably like plants, and enjoy learning more about how plants spawn animal life. The Ohio Sustainable Landscapes Symposium is for you. Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 12th, and prepare for a pleasant trip to one of the Midwest's premier plant collections, the beautiful Dawes Arboretum near Newark, Ohio. They've lined up an excellent slate of speakers, lecturing on a useful array of topics. You can see all of the details in the flyer below.

I recently wrote about the installation of an urban prairie and the resultant massive spike in biodiversity, RIGHT HERE. That article, first published in the Columbus Dispatch and reprinted on this blog, generated a ton of interest. I was fairly inundated with emails asking "how-to", and sorry if I've not yet responded. If you are interested in diversifying your landscape with native plants, this is the conference for you. If one of the speakers isn't talking about the parti…

Meteors and star trails

A fluorescent lichen glows on a tree trunk, late last Thursday night. It is Pyxine subcinerea, which fluoresces quite brightly under a black light, which is exactly what it's doing here. Expert lichenologist Ray Showman was holding the light so that I could make the image. In a fit of good lichen luck, its sister species, Pyxine sorediata, is just to the left (the slightly larger round lichen crust in the upper lefthand corner). It does not fluoresce. Lots of strange and interesting things are visible at night.

I was down in Vinton County, Ohio last Thursday to speak to the Four Seasons Garden Club, which Ray's wife Carol hosted at their lovely home. While that was fun, I saw an added opportunity. Thursday night's skies were to be totally clear, the moon was new, and it was the tail end of the Perseid Meteor Shower. All the conditions were prime for astrophotography. Vinton County is also one of the least populated (the least?) counties in Ohio, so ambient light pollution…

Midwest Birding Symposium approaches!

If you've attended any of the past Midwest Birding Symposiums, you'll recall what a blast they were. Ohio played host to the past three MBS's, at picturesque Lakeside on the shores of Lake Erie. It's time for this biennial event to pull up roots and shift to another state, but it's not going far. Bay City, Michigan, has hosting honors this year, and MBS takes place from September 10-13. Come for some, or all. The complete conference scoop is RIGHT HERE.

Your narrator (R) with Doug Tallamy in what is certainly Michigan's most iconic bird habitat, the elfin Jack Pine forests of the northern Lower Peninsula. Doug is the Saturday evening keynote, and I could not think of anyone better for the role. While renowned as an entomologist and leading advocate of using native plants to foster animal biodiversity, Doug is huge into birds. That's why we were in the jacks last May, and why Doug was armed with his massive black Nikon bird rig.

Not long before the previous …

A brief ramble through the bog

I beached myself in Dayton, Ohio last night, arriving in the hometown of Orville and Wilbur Wright late in the evening following a trip to Indianapolis. Rather than punch through to Columbus, I figured I'd arise early and spend a few hours exploring one of my favorite places the next morning before returning home. Cedar Bog is located at 980 Woodburn Road, a few miles south of Urbana and an easy 45 minute drive from Columbus.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to visit Cedar Bog. It is probably Ohio's most fabled natural area, and as we shall see, interesting life forms abound. It isn't really a bog - it's a fen! - but let's not belabor ourselves with details. I've written about this place numerous times. If you scroll down the alphabetized list of subject matter on the right side of this page, and click on Cedar Bog, you'll see those past posts.

The entire scoop on Cedar Bog can be had RIGHT HERE. If you visit, or have visited, or are thinking about vis…