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Showing posts from January, 2016

Two cool raptors

Maybe once a year, I get hit with the flu/cold/whatever it is, and it hammers me for a day or so. This was the week, and the flu-cold shut me down on Tuesday. Other than that, I made it to work every day. Unfortunately, some of the ill side-effects are a bit slower to depart, and I didn't feel up to any epic travels this weekend.
So this morning, I hit a few local hotspots with certain targets in mind. Two of which follow.
As always, CLICK THE PHOTO to enlarge
It appears that one of the local Great Horned Owl pairs has commenced the business of making owlets. This cavity in a massive white oak is a site used a number of times in past years by the owls. As she's been nestled into this same spot for over a week now, she must be on eggs. A typical clutch is two eggs, and the female owl does all of the incubation. The male earns his keep by bringing regular meals to her.

Late January is right on schedule for nesting Great Horned Owls in central Ohio. The female owl's extraordi…

Cedar Bog in winter

The meadows of Cedar Bog in a state of temporary dormancy, as seen last Sunday. I stopped by here on my way to Dayton and Aullwood Audubon Center, where I was slated to give a talk. While the vast majority of my many dozens of trips to Cedar Bog have been in warmer seasons, I like to occasionally stop by in the dead of winter. It gives one a broader sense of perspective to see these sites in all seasons. Come spring, Cedar Bog will burst to life in an explosion of flora and fauna. It is a must-see natural area.

At one point, this tiny Winter Wren popped out from under the boardwalk to regard me with bright curious eyes. He was no doubt hunting spiders and other such succulent fare in the sub-boardwalk's gloom. As if to help cast off fears that winter will never end, he flitted to a nearby root tangle and burst into song. The voice of a Winter Wren must be heard to be believed: a stunningly complex gushing aria that puts nearly all other North American birds to shame.

Photo Workshop - March 12th or 13th - Goose Pond!

I am pleased to be working with photographer extraordinaire David FitzSimmons and Roberts Camera in Carmel, Indiana, for two one-day photo workshops. More on them HERE. Our venue is the amazing Goose Pond near Linton, Indiana, a place that has already taken on legendary status in the birding world. Read about Goose Pond HERE.

Dave and I will each give an indoor lecture about various facets of photography, but the majority of the time will be spent afield. As Goose Pond should be teeming with birds in mid-March, that's what we'll mostly focus on. But there will certainly be time to dabble in other subjects such as showy landscapes, HDR techniques, and even macro photography.

A trio of Redheads coasts in for a landing. We'll really focus on bird photography tactics, including getting sharp in-flight shots. There should be lots of meaty subjects about, including many species of ducks, and thousands of Sandhill Cranes.

March is the month that spring really bursts to life. Red…

Triangle spider wields web as a sneaky snare

A tiny triangle spider holds its web
Columbus Dispatch January 17, 2016
NATURE Jim McCormac
I hate to break it to you, arachnophobes, but spiders are everywhere, even when snow flies and the air is super-chilled. The ones in your house (and there are many) have it easy. Not so with the spiders that remain feral and outdoors, where most people wish they would stay.

Huge numbers of spiders spend winter in leaf litter, in tree bark, and on twigs and branches. On wintry days when the temperatures rise above freezing, some become active and go on the hunt.

Dec. 12 was relatively balmy, with afternoon temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees. I met naturalists David and Laura Hughes at Clear Creek Metro Park on the north edge of the Hocking Hills for photography and exploration. Clear Creek is a biological hot spot and always produces interesting sightings.

We hadn’t gone far down a trail when Laura spotted a tiny web, over which an even tinier spider s…

Rushing waterfalls

We had a decent amount of rain towards the end of last week, and I figured that water flow in our creeks and streams would be just about right last Saturday. I had long been wanting to shoot images of some waterfalls in west-central Ohio, but for optimal imagery the water volume should not be too little, nor too much. And is it turned out, three of the four falls were just about spot on. The fourth, Charleston Falls, did not have as much water as I would have liked for some reason, but nonetheless the rock formation looked stunning.

Although circumstances do not allow it, I would love to go re-shoot these falls tomorrow morning. Since the relative balminess of last weekend, when I made the following images, temperatures have nosedived. It is about 7 F as I write this. These waterfalls should be spectacular ice sculptures by now, and will have taken on an entirely new look.

All of these waterfalls are in Miami County, and details about each, including location, can be found by consulti…

Downy woodpecker just keeps going and going

Male downy woodpecker on high alert
COLUMBUS DISPATCH January 10, 2016
Jim McCormac

If you’re seeking a New Year’s resolution role model, consider the downy woodpecker.

Legendary ornithologist John James Audubon had this to say: “The downy woodpecker .  .  . is perhaps not surpassed by any of its tribe in hardiness, industry or vivacity.”

These traits are admirable in any organism. Having seen thousands of downy woodpeckers through the years, I will second Audubon’s effusive praise. The handsome little birds are almost always hard at work.

There are just two lapses in the workaholic woodpeckers’ toiling: when they sleep at night; and when a bird-eating raptor rudely interrupts their routine. I made the accompanying photo just after a small falcon known as a merlin entered the area. The woodpecker skittered to the side of the trunk opposite the raptor and froze stiff until the predator departed.

If one stumbled upon downy woodpeckers during their courting, one might think the birds…

Mice get cold, too

Finally, after an exceptionally warm winter with just a handful of semi-cold days, I awoke this morning to icicle weather. My car's thermometer indicated 16 F when I left for work this morning. That's more the way it should be in winter. Of course, frosty weather means that one does get cold outside, and after a while, it's nice to retreat to some sort of toasty bungalow. And the desire for warmth doesn't just apply to human mammalians...

Today's icy temperatures reminded me of an interesting mouse experience. Almost five years ago to the day, I was at the Wilds getting the grand tour of their new Conservation Science Training Center (NOTE: The Ohio Ornithological Society will be hosting a grassland bird workshop here on June 24-25. We'll see birds galore - you'll not want to miss it).

Jenise Bauman, Director of Conservation Science Training at the Wilds at the time, was my guide and after inspecting the main building, she pointed out the brand new cabins …

Wintry Ohio skies

Muskingum County, Ohio, this morning
Today's dawn exposed heavy, leaden skies that threatened to erupt into heavy snowfalls. The temperatures, which ranged from the high 20's to low 30's F, were conducive to flurries, but other than a few flakes the white stuff was held at bay.

Gray winter skies do not make photography easy. I was really after birds, but the low light means high ISO's and wide open apertures, and often less than desirable images. So, I mostly just watched the birds, and there were many along the path today.

Muskingum County, Ohio, this morning
I like the change of seasons that are so pronounced in the Midwest, and winter and its cold temperatures. But I find myself less enamored with all of the thick gray overcast skies that Old Man Winter carries along. A retreat to Arizona sometimes seems tempting at this time of year.