Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware County, Ohio (iPhone photo). I had the pleasure of visiting last Thursday afternoon, and speaking to the corps of volunteers that make this place tick. Or at least some of them - the volunteer ranks number about 180 people!
It was a great time, and I got to see and spend time with some wonderful people that I don't see nearly enough of. After my talk concluded, a bunch of us went outside for a stroll around the property to see what we could see. We didn't make it far. Basically, a nearly two hour loop that started at the sign in the photo, and ended there. We only made a big circle around the building, despite starting with more grandiose intentions!
But the walk's shortness was dictated by all the critters we saw in just that brief distance. I'll share some of them below.
About 14,000 visitors annually come to learn about nature here, and a great many of them are school-aged. The site is worth its weight in gold for natural history education. The number of visitors just keeps increasing, demonstrating the value - need! - for places such as this, where people can get away from the hustle-bustle and into a tranquil biodiversity-filled place.
Consider visiting, and especially if you live in the central Ohio region, becoming a supporter. Read all about Stratford Ecological Center RIGHT HERE.
As soon as we gathered to head off, this handsome Potter Wasp, Monobia quadridens, flew in to entertain us as it nectared on a flower-potted Sedum. Its appearance was apropos, as I had just lectured on caterpillars and their role in the big-picture food web. Potter Wasps prey on caterpillars.
NOTE: While I usually do macro work with a full-frame Canon 5DS-R, the image above and those that follow were created with the crop-sensor Canon 7D II. It is a highly competent camera for macro, and about any other kind of shooting. The lens was the 100mm f/2.8L macro, and illumination was via the Canon 600 speedlite muffled by a Lumiquest softbox.
"Mr. McCormac" he whispered, "there's a problem with the salad. Worms are in the kale! It's taking us a while to pick them out." "Worms!" said I - "let me see these 'worms'"! Sure enough, Cross-striped Cabbageworms were in the kale and doing their best to eat it all before we had a crack at the green stuff. The photo above is of two of those very caterpillars.
Well, this was a wonderful opportunity and we brought out some of the salad-eating caterpillars for the group to admire. Everyone was pleased to see these handsome larvae and many photos were made. After the salad-stealing caterpillars had been removed from the greenery, the salads were consumed with no qualms or grumbling by anyone.
I think that our caterpillar conference attendees were probably the only group on earth that would have reacted favorably to this insect intrusion. And I'm sure the chef was pleased that we weren't upset, and probably also thought us to be weirdos of the highest order.