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Showing posts from April, 2016

House Sparrows nest in Osprey nest!

An Osprey wheels protectively over its nest, while the female is on the nest, incubating a clutch of eggs.

While on a whirlwind birding tour of central Ohio on April 16, Bernie Master and I stopped by Scioto Audubon Metro Park just south of downtown Columbus. We spent a few minutes admiring the Ospreys, which are nesting atop a light pole, just as conspicuous as could be. While making photos of the birds, I noticed something odd and unusual - House Sparrows were apparently nesting within the Osprey nest!

I resolved to return when time was more plentiful and document this excellent case of commensalism (relationship between two organisms, where one benefits and the other is unaffected). That day was last Saturday, in the perfect light of late afternoon.

An Osprey glares around from atop its aerie. The birds are quite protective. At one point, a Red-tailed Hawk flew past, and both birds rose to warn it off. But they are quite unconcerned with people. This is a high-use park and many pe…

A hodgepodge of biodiversity

Less than no time for proper blogging of late, between travels, talks, preparing for travels and talks, and myriad other things. So, a briefly captioned photo montage from last weekend's forays in central and southern Ohio follows.

A gorgeous rose-pink form of Shooting-star, Dodecatheon meadia, at Miller State Nature Preserve in Highland County.

When seen well, the tiny flowers of Miterwort, Mitella diphylla, resemble snowflakes.  Miller State Nature Preserve in Highland County.

A tiny fly taps nectar from Star Chickweed, Stellaria pubera, and presumably provides pollination services. I do not know the fly's species, but there were many of them working the spring wildflowers. Native flies are enormously important in plant pollination. Miller State Nature Preserve in Highland County.

One of the smallest and rarest of Ohio's approximately 30 violet species, the Walter's Violet, Viola walteri, which is listed as threatened in the state. The entire plant would fit on a 50 …

Prairie-chickens, once common in Ohio, have been gone for a century

A male greater prairie chicken shows more color than the hens
Jim McCormac

About 50,000 people lived in Ohio in 1803, the year it became a state. They were greatly outnumbered by prairie chickens.

Two centuries ago, Ohio was far wilder than it is today. Most of the state was forested, but interspersed were vast prairies — about 1,500 square miles at the time of settlement.

Prairie regions blanketed vast swaths west of Columbus, south of Circleville, and in the Marion area. Noteworthy was the Oak Openings, a 300-square-mile mosaic of savannas and sandy prairie west of Toledo.

The prairies were exceptionally diverse in both flora and fauna. A standout among the prairie denizens was the greater prairie chicken.

Prairie chickens are related to wild turkeys and ruffed grouse, but they shun the forests preferred by those species. The treeless oceans of grasses and myriad sun-loving prairie plants are where the chickens roamed.

No one knows how many prair…

Flowers burst forth!

Spring is said to advance northward at a clip of about 16 miles a day. So take heart, ye tundra-people of Cleveland and other points north - you'll get some floriferous action soon enough.

The plants are really popping in southernmost Ohio, and the evidence follows in pictorial form. I was roaming throughout Adams and Scioto counties - Ohio River counties - last Sunday, where I made these images.

I was deep in Shawnee State Forest bright and early, hoping to create some bird images. The 29 F temperature kept the feathered crowd fairly inactive, though. As the sun gradually warmed things a bit, activity increased. There were plenty of kinglets, both Ruby-crowned (above) and Golden-crowned. Louisiana Waterthrushes were back in force, as were Yellow-throated Warblers. Pine Warblers were on territory, and a smattering of Black-and-white Warblers and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were back as well. I also heard the first Broad-winged Hawk of the season (for me).

However, I pointed the lens at…

Star Trails over Castle Rock

The stars appear to orbit Castle Rock in west-central Kansas. A 20-minute exposure reveals the earth's rotation, creating the star trails. It was nice to be in a locale with very little light pollution.
Still haven't had time to wade through all my Kansas photos, and separate the wheat from the chaff. There is some wheat, though, and I will share some of those images soon enough.

I'm not in Kansas, anymore

I returned LATE last night from a whirlwind trip to Kansas. The expedition was filled with fascinating sites, noteworthy observations, and pixels and pixels of pictures. I'll be sorting, editing, and deleting for a while.

The main focus of the trip was prairie-chickens, and on that score it was phenomenally successful. More on those later. For new, here are a few of the many species of birds that were seen.

The oddly elegant Black-necked Stilts were just beginning to arrive at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area in Kansas. This one was photographed last Saturday.

The clear, ringing whistles of Eastern Meadowlarks provided a tuneful soundscape in Kansas. At this locale, at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, nearly all were Easterns. About an hour to the west, nearly all were Western Meadowlarks.

Some of the male Ruddy Ducks at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge have acquired their resplendent plumage of chestnut. The powder-blue bill is a nice touch, although his white cheeks are marred by …