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Showing posts from December, 2016

Bald Eagle relieves Lake Erie of a fish!

I journeyed to one of my favorite Lake Erie haunts today, the city of Huron, in Erie County. The lakefront here features the mouth of the Huron River, and it is nearly always birdy. Even today, when the lake was placid, the skies were mostly blue, and winds were calm. Bad weather makes good birding, along Lake Erie.
After spending an hour or so at the far end of the municipal pier without seeing much in the way of avian diversity, I started the long plod back to the mainland. As I did, I began to hear the calls of Snow Buntings passing overhead. As nearby Nickel Plate Beach is often a good bunting locale, I figured some of the birds might have put down there, so it was off to the beach.
An adult Bald Eagle prepares to snatch a fish from the waters of Lake Erie. As always, click the photo to enlarge, and you'll see the victim swimming in the bottom right hand corner of the image. A millisecond after this photo was made, the eagle snatched the scaly treat.
All morning, Bald Eagles …

Giant Leopard Moth cats on the prowl!

The caterpillar of the Giant Leopard Moth, Hypercompe scribonia, a bit sluggish but decidedly active at a temperature of 41 F. I saw four of these large caterpillars today in Hocking County, all crossing roads. I took the liberty of helping this one across the road, and temporarily posed him on some branches for a photo.

Giant Leopard Moth caterpillars overwinter in the larval stage, and on sunny days when the temperature rises somewhat above freezing, some will become active and commence wandering about. This one had a bit of mud caked on its bristles; it had undoubtedly been under leaves or wood. Because of the GLM cats' predilection for late season and winter wandering, they are often confused with the Woolly-bear by the larvally illiterate. The Woolly-bear, as you know, is the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella, and is fabled for its alleged ability to predict winter's severity, or lack thereof.

So, people seeing roaming GLM cats may presume it t…

Intricate ice patterns

Intricate ice patterns formed in a frozen pond, Alley Park, Fairfield County, Ohio. Christmas Day. Much of the surface of this several acre pond was etched in ornate patterns; the effect was quite striking. Photographically, one hardly knew what to focus on as the potential compositions were endless. I finally settled on this piece, for this post.

The Merlins of Union Cemetery

The open, savanna-like habitat of Union Cemetery, with its wide open spaces punctuated by scattered large trees. This cemetery, in Columbus, Ohio, straddles Olentangy River Road just south of Riverside Hospital, and is only a ten minute drive from my house.

Union Cemetery is also excellent habitat for wintering Merlins, and one or two have taken up residence here for several years. I had seen numerous reports and photos of the tough little falcons, and finally had a run at them a few days ago.

Upon entering the cemetery (the section on the east side of Olentangy River Road), it took all of a minute or so to spot one of the burly little falcons. Merlins have little of fear of anything, from what I have seen, and are prone to perching on conspicuous limbs as this animal is doing.

For a moment, she deigned to glance my way. This was about all the attention I received. If you are not food, or a threat, you are utterly inconsequential to the Merlin. To be fair, a person could and would fl…

Ubiquitous gray squirrel an acrobat - and a thief

A hungry gray squirrel dines in a box-elder/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch December 18, 2016
NATURE Jim McCormac
One of the most widespread, familiar mammals in Ohio is the gray squirrel.

They occur in the wildest woodlands and the most urban parklands, the common denominator being trees.

Gray squirrels are a fixture of suburbia, and many bird lovers have waged war against the wily seed-stealers. Keeping gluttonous squirrels off backyard feeders involves both a battle of wits and superior engineering. Homeowners often lose.

It sometimes seems as if the animals have Velcro paw pads. A squirrel racing through the trees at full tilt makes for a spectacle. Running full-barrel up and down trunks, and racing across spindly limbs, the beasts make wild, death-defying, branch-to-branch leaps that would put any circus performer to shame.

The range of the gray squirrel delineates that of the great eastern deciduous forest, which once stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, south…

Gargantuan Sycamore, in ghostly light

While exploring the artwork of the Chinese Lantern Festival photo-documented in the previous post, I was struck by the more natural beauty of some of the massive Sycamores, Platanus occidentalis. These trees predate the natural resources park where they grow, and I would imagine also the Ohio State Fairgrounds upon which they are located. I could not resist making a few images of one tree in particular.

Lights from the various lantern displays below cast a strange luminescence on the upper boughs of this huge Sycamore. I would have loved to have created an image of the entire tree, but just below the bottom of the photo, lamp posts, the edge of a building, and other manmade intrusions lurked.
The moon, partially obscured by hazy clouds, framed by the upper limbs of the Sycamore.
Sycamores rank high among our most valuable trees, and I can't believe I've never written about this species, either here, or in my Columbus Dispatch newspaper column. I'll have to do something mor…

And now, for something completely different: Chinese Lantern Festival!

Going off the reservation a bit with this post, to be sure. If you're looking for something totally different, visit the Chinese Lantern Festival at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus. Despite thinking that it sounded hokey, a friend and I went down there Saturday night. Fortunately, I had a lot of camera gear with me, as we'd been doing some shooting outdoors earlier in the day. It was great fun, and offered photo subjects of a very different sort (than what I usually shoot).

All the festival details can be found RIGHT HERE.

The event fills the Natural Resources Park at the southeast corner of the fairgrounds, and this massive dragon greets visitors soon after entering the park.
A group of pandas was popular with onlookers. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of intricately crafted and artfully illuminated lantern effigies scattered throughout the park.
A giant peacock struts near some magical mushrooms.
A trip of cheetahs gallops past a giraffe.
An especially colorful …

The Swartz Covered Bridge

A covered bridge spans the cold waters of the Sandusky River, as seen yesterday morning. It was about 23 F, windy, with snow flurries and I was in Wyandot County, Ohio to chase birds.
Even though this bridge is only a short distance from the birding hotspot of Killdeer Plains, and I'd seen signs pointing the way for years, I had never stopped by for a look.
I'm surprised it took me this long to check out this bridge. Covered bridges are a throwback to time long gone, and there aren't many left. They've gone the way that old wooden barns are headed - into architectural extinction. Fortunately there are avid bridge enthusiasts that work hard to save such structures, and I'm glad they do.
The driver's view of the Swartz Covered Bridge. This span is infinitely more interesting than some unadorned architecturally bland carbon copy of nearly every small bridge these days. The bridge was built in 1879, and I'm sure it eventually fell into a sorry state of disrepa…

White-tailed Deer, on a tear

Not far from me is a wonderful metropark known as Glacier Ridge. For years, I rarely went there - maybe a stop once or twice a year. As I've become more acquainted with the place's little wildlife honey holes, I've been going more regularly, though.

Such was the case yesterday morning. I only had the morning to go shooting (with camera), so after a thorough shoot of some nearby waterfalls, it was off to Glacier Ridge. There is a field at the park's north end that is usually full of bluebirds and other songbirds, and the light is great in the early hours.

Not this day, though. The meadow was largely silent, and I thought about just packing it in. But I wanted to stay out a bit longer, so I slung the camera rig over my shoulder and struck out on a well-used deer trail. Before long, I flushed a gorgeous Coyote with lots of rufous highlights. The wary animal spotted me long before I was in camera range, and trotted out of the meadow into a vast recently mowed field. The be…

A trip to Slate Run Metro Park: Botanical highs and lows

Part of a large wetland complex at Slate Run Metro Park in Pickaway County, Ohio. A section of the westernmost part of this 1,705 acre park is a mosaic of meadows, ponds, and wetlands.

It's sometimes easy to overlook the jewels in one's own backyard. Even though Slate Run is only a bit over a half-hour's drive, and it's been there for a while, I had never been to the place. That situation got remedied with two visits in the past few days, and I was impressed with what I found.

Immediately upon arrival, it was birds galore, and since finding and imaging the feathered crowd was the foremost priority of these expeditions, I was pleased indeed. Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks (wish they'd shorten that name! "Franklin County Metroparks") has long been a leader in ecological restoration and it shows at this park. Lots of native plant diversity in the wetlands and fields, and a logical blend of uplands and lowlands.

The Kokomo Wetland Trail winds for a…

Nature: Damming of Scioto spares two magnificent waterfalls

Indian Run Falls/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch December 4, 2016
NATURE
Jim McCormac

Columbus and the surrounding flatlands are not known for waterfalls. Yet some mini-Niagaras lurk in hidden spots.

In northwestern Franklin County, the Scioto River flows through a massive layer of Columbus limestone. The rock is so-named because the original core was extracted near the capital city.

Formed during the Devonian Period some 400 million years ago, Columbus limestone is a prominent geological feature in these parts. Massive quantities have been mined in the western part of Franklin County, and limestone cliffs are prominent in places along the Scioto River.

Before the construction of Griggs Dam (1905) and O’Shaughnessy Dam (1925) on the Scioto River, numerous limestone box canyons and their attendant streams flowed into the river. The pooling of the reservoirs submerged most of them, and their waterfalls.

Fortunately, a few falls survive, two of which are easily accessed showstoppers.

Hayden …