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Showing posts from September, 2015

New(ish) Museum Blog!

The Ohio State University Museum of Biological Diversity is a treasure trove of fascinating subjects. It houses one of the world’s premier insect collections, a vast store of plant specimens from around the globe, a world class archive of bird and other nature sound recordings, and much more. Museum curators have started an interesting blog that showcases their research and collections. It is well worth bookmarking, and reading. Here’s the link:

Showy things from here and there

I haven't let much grass grow under my feet of late. I took much of last week off work to help conduct a photo workshop with David FitzSimmons, then it was off to Shawnee State Park at the opposite end of the state to meet with the Mothapalooza planning committee. Long days and not much sleep, but a lot of fun. Following is a small selection of photos from these excursions.

Dave FitzSimmons gets into the surf to make interesting wave photos. Note the tripod, and the remote shutter release in his hand. Those tools make it easier to focus on tripping the shutter when the timing is right. We based our photo workshop at beautiful Lakeside, right on the shores of Lake Erie, and visited a variety of spots on and near the lakefront. It was a great time with a great group of people, and we're planning on doing it again in September 2016.

To get the silky quality with the waves, I used a very slow shutter speed, 1/8 of a second. The camera was tripod-mounted of course - hand-holding wo…

Mantidfly looks as if built out of spare parts

Mantidfly, Dicromantispa interrupta
September 27, 2015

Jim McCormac

Scotsman John Hunter was an inveterate explorer and officer in Great Britain’s Royal Navy. A natural scholar, Hunter was sent to then largely unknown Australia in 1788. He spent much of the next 12 years there. In 1798, he was made privy to the discovery of a bizarre Australian mammal and promptly sent a specimen to the British Museum.

Curator George Shaw, upon examining the specimen, felt it might be a hoax, as did several of his contemporaries. Their skepticism was understandable. The duck-billed platypus looks like a hodgepodge of various animals sewn together — a seemingly impossible anomaly.

The mantidfly is an entomological counterpart to the platypus. The bugs look like the work of a mad scientist. It’s as if the wings of a dragonfly were bolted to a wasp’s body, and a long skeletal neck was welded to the front. Capping the latter is a small head dominated by huge jewellike eyes. Powerful…

American Birding Expo: October 2-4

Mark your calendars for the upcoming extravaganza known as the American Birding Expo! It takes place from October 2 thru 4, right here in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The venue is the beautiful Grange Insurance Audubon Center, which is sited right along the banks of the mighty Scioto River, just a stone's throw from downtown. All of the expo details are RIGHT HERE. Admission is free. Your free pass grants you access to what certainly must be the most amazing array of birding-related gear, including optics, photography, bird feeding products and other birding and outdoor products ever assembled in the U.S.A. Tour companies will be well represented, too. Information on many of the world's most bird-rich destinations will be available, directly from the people who can take you there. In all, about 80 vendors representing nearly 30 countries will be at the American Birding Expo.   You'll have plenty of opportunity to test out your new optics and gear, too. Fall migration w…

Gulls in flight

iPhone 5S photo
Last Wednesday, I and about 27 other birders boarded the Miss Cindy in Vermilion, Ohio, and headed out on Lake Erie. This was one of Jen Brumfield's freshwater "pelagics", and she and crew have drummed up amazing stuff in trip's past. This day, alas, we were treated to weather much too fine for good lake birding: high in the 80's, little wind, and calm conditions for the prior few days. One highs for cool blustery weather, just rough enough that the boat will still go out.

But in spite of that, it was a fantastic trip and I encourage you to try one of these. Jen's pelagics fill fast, and I'm not sure there will be any more opportunities with her this year. However, Black Swamp Bird Observatory has two trips this year; details RIGHT HERE. Sign up for one of them now!

In spite of the calm weather, we saw lots of interesting things. A Red-necked Phalarope, spotted by the inimitable Jerry Talkington, was a great find. So was a first of season …

Caterpillar mania! Part III

OK, this is the last of the tubular crowd for a while. Check the previous two posts, HERE and HERE, for parts I and II. The first one explains where they all came from, and why and how we obtained the material.

This is certainly a crazy cat. It's a Showy Emerald moth caterpillar, Dichorda iridaria. They feed on various species of sumac (Rhus spp.) and allegedly Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. Just one of many reasons to appreciate the latter plant, which is a very valuable native species.

Looking like some sort of limbless alien sporting strange orange eyes, a larval Silver-spotted Skipper, Epargyreus clarus, glares at the camera. Well, it isn't really glaring - those are fake eyespots, possibly meant to frighten songbirds that peek into the caterpillars leafy lair. We found many of thse on False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa. They eat other species in the pea family as well.

Meet the strange tanklike Skiff Moth caterpillar, Prolimacodes badia. From any distance, they look lik…

Caterpillar mania! Part II

In the last post, I briefly described our inaugural trial run caterpillar workshop that was an offshoot of Mothapalooza. More importantly, I shared lots of cool caterpillar photos. I will continue in the latter vein in this post.

This big bruiser is an Imperial Moth caterpillar, Eacles imperialis. As one might expect from such a sizeable cat, the moth that it morphs into is also huge - bat-sized. Most of the last or later instar caterpillars that I've seen have been this showy shade of lime-green. But they certainly can vary in hue. Read on...

This cinnamon-colored beast is also an Imperial cat! Wow! We found this one about two weeks ago at Buzzard's Roost Preserve in Ross County. It was near another that looked identical. First time I'd such a wild color variant, but they are well known for sporting different coats.

Here we have one of Nature's most superb mimics, a Juniper-twig Geometer caterpillar, Patalene olyzonaria. It feeds on Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana (o…