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Showing posts from September, 2017

Allegheny Woodrat, a charming packrat

A sheer cliff face of dolomitic limestone thrusts upward from the forest floor in a remote area of Adams County. The rock is pockmarked with crevasses and alcoves; perfect habitat for one of the rarest mammals in Ohio.

Some time back, Laura Hughes invited me along on one of her field research visits to this Allegheny Woodrat site. Of course I said yes, especially as I'd never seen one of these interesting little rodents. So, finally, September 24 was the day, and John Howard and I met Laura and her assistant Shane Herbert early that morning along a road near the Ohio River in southern Adams County.

The night prior, Laura and crew had placed 31 traps in ideal woodrat habitat. This work is spearheaded by longtime woodrat researchers Cheryl Mollohan and Al LeCount, former instructors at Hocking College. Captured woodrats are weighed, sexed, and a small blood sample is taken so that DNA can be extracted.

After arriving at the site, we loaded our gear up and headed back into the woods…

A very rare gentian, with distorted interpretation

An autumn meadow in the Oak Openings near Toledo glows on a gorgeous fall day. The brilliant scarlet foliage of Winged Sumac, Rhus copallina, contrasts with the cobalt inflorescences of one of Ohio's rarest plants, the Soapwort Gentian, Gentiana saponaria.

I'd not seen these gentians in many years, and have been fortunate to twice renew my acquaintance with them over the past week or so. This state-endangered species is known only from a few locales within the Oak Openings of Lucas County, a globally rare ecosystem full of imperiled flora and fauna. While I've made scores of visits to the Oak Openings over the years, I'd not spent much time there recently, and needed to atone for that.

Soapwort Gentian, in portraiture. The odd bullet-like flowers of these strange plants are pollinated primarily by large bumblebees in the genus Bombus. The flower "petals" (plaits) are fused together, forming a botanical bag with only one entry point - the summit. Even there, …

Free program - this Tuesday evening, September 26!

I'm - yes, that's me in the photo - giving a talk for Columbus Audubon this Tuesday evening, September 26, at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center along the Scioto River, just south of downtown Columbus. The talk is entitled "A Romp Through Ohio's Flora and Fauna" and features many images from various premier natural areas around the state. As you can see, I'll go to any length to obtain these images :-)

The evening starts at 7 pm and all are welcome. The price of admission can't be beat - it's free. Hope to see you there. For all details, CLICK HERE.

Nature: Show-off herons shine in national park

A juvenile least bittern in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Columbus Dispatch September 17, 2017
Jim McCormac

Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s 51 square miles preserves a treasure trove of biological diversity. Ohio’s only national park, it occupies the state’s most populous region and is bookended by Akron and Cleveland.

Although waterfalls, forests, rock formations, streams and other scenic items of interest lure visitors, it was one of the world’s smallest herons that drew me to the park a few weeks back.

For most of the summer, an uncharacteristically conspicuous pair of least bitterns put on a show along a boardwalk that bisects a lush marsh. As an Ohio breeding bird, this one is especially noteworthy. The least bittern is listed as threatened by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and nesting locales are few and far between.

The least bittern is a true elfin in a family of typically robust birds. One of these diminutive waders is about the size and weight of a blue jay. For comp…

Sunflower field, various photographic perspectives

Scads of Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, brighten a large field just north of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Every fall I see people posting photos of this field, which is owned and planted by the Tecumseh Land Trust, or other such fields. And every year, I fail to make it over to this or any other sunflower field.

Until today.

I met fellow photographer Debbie DiCarlo at the Tecumseh Land Trust field at the crack of dawn, and set about creating images of the golden masses of sunflowers. This species normally towers to epic Jack-in-the-beanstalk proportions, often ten feet or more in height. They must have a stubby cultivar now, as these plants rose to only 4-5 feet or so, making the creation of images much easier.

Anyway, Debbie and I are thinking of partnering to conduct some photographic workshops and trips next year, and ostensibly met today to discuss those. But the sunflower field ended up occupying about three hours of time, and it was worth every minute. Anyway, more on the photo …

Nature: Known for fur, minks are voracious predators

An American mink in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park

Columbus Dispatch September 3, 2017
Jim McCormac

The American Fur Co. was founded in 1808, and for a brief time in the 1830s, it was one of America’s largest companies. Its success made its founder, John Jacob Astor, the first multimillionaire in the United States.

Although demand for beaver pelts drove much of the American Fur Co.’s business, other mammals were vital to its success, especially the American mink. As the easier-to-trap beaver became increasingly rare, the mink became more important to trappers.

Between 1820 and 1900, the American Fur Co., Hudson’s Bay Co. and other fur purveyors sold about 12.5 million mink pelts.

Fortunately, these large weasels survived the days of indiscriminate trapping and are common today. But they are often wary, largely nocturnal and usually difficult to observe in the wild.

I recently visited Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park to photograph birds, arriving around dawn. I was not long into a …