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Showing posts from November, 2017

Photography workshops and expeditions 2018!

A Baltimore oriole is nicely accentuated by the flowers of a chokecherry, Prunus virginiana.
I am pleased to announce that master photographer Debbie DiCarlo and I are partnering to present a series of field-based photography workshops in 2018. Nearly all of the details have been settled, and you can see the offerings and details RIGHT HERE.

Both Debbie and I have extensive experience with helping others to improve their photography, and very much enjoy working with photographers of all levels. We each bring different skill sets to the table; Debbie is one of the premier landscape and night sky photographers, and plenty of evidence of her skills can be seen at her website, RIGHT HERE. I tend to specialize more in species-specific photography, but certainly cross-pollinate my work with forays into about every photographic facet, as does Debbie.

A colorful carpet of blue-eyed mary, Collinsia verna.
These workshops  focus on Nature and its many facets: spring wildflowers, butterflies, wat…

Beaver Valley Christmas Bird Count: December 16

Your narrator's car - several years back - sits along a rarely traveled lane in rural Jackson County, Ohio. I was searching for birds during the Beaver Valley Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This census, which is part of the National Audubon Society's massive effort to conduct winter bird surveys from roughly mid-December through early January, is one of several dozen such counts in Ohio. And it is one of the more interesting ones, as the Beaver circle is sparsely populated, and contains a diversity of habitats.

This year's Beaver CBC falls on Saturday, December 16 and you are invited. If you are interested in joining one of the teams, please send me an email: jimmccormac35 AT

Below is a (somewhat crude) map of the count circle:

Click to expand image
We nearly always find interesting species, especially half-hardy birds like pine warbler, Wilson's snipe, eastern phoebe, gray catbird, chipping sparrow, and more. In general, the count circle is a birdy place and …

Nature: Green Lawn Cemetery’s majestic old trees leave lasting impression

Randy Rogers provides scale for the Green Lawn Cemetery tree estimated to be about 313 years old
Columbus Dispatch November 19, 2017
Jim McCormac

A century before Ohio became a state, a white oak acorn fell on gravelly terrain in what’s now the southwest side of Columbus. The following year, 1704, the fruit sprouted and a seedling arose.

That year, the first regular newspaper in the thirteen colonies was printed: the Boston News-Letter. One hundred sixty-seven years would elapse before the first edition of The Dispatch appeared.

Seven decades after the oak’s emergence, Americans, chafing under British rule, would fight for independence. By the time the Revolutionary War broke out, the acorn had matured into a large oak.

When the acorn sprouted in 1704, Ohio was pure wilderness. The city of Columbus’ predecessor, Franklinton, would not be platted until 93 years later, and it was 15 more until the “Borough of Columbus” was established.

This oak still stands, aged an estimated 313 ye…

Sandhill cranes, in two photos

Pulaski County, Indiana, a few weeks ago...

Native bees do the heavy lifting

A sunny roadbank covered with a spring-blooming fleabane known as robin's-plantain, Erigeron pulchellus. The flowers of this species, and the similar Philadelphia fleabane, E. philadelphicus, lure scores of interesting native pollinators.

I have a massive archive of natural history photographs, and have learned to not let them pile up without curation. Nonetheless, a bit of a backlog has accumulated and I've been trying to spend some time each day whittling away at them. When everything is neatly labeled and placed in the appropriate folder, I can lay hands on anything in no time flat. Anyway, today I was working through an unprocessed folder of stuff from Shawnee State Forest (Scioto County, Ohio) from April 26 of last spring (2017).

Reviewing these images reminded me of the hour or so I spent prostrate on the ground, watching and photographing a constant procession of tiny native bees to the fleabane flowers. And once again, I was reminded just how vital these largely unnot…

Mink punks muskrat, scares ducks!

The tranquil waters of the pond at Char-Mar Ridge Park in Delaware County, Ohio. I made my second visit to this site yesterday, and left scratching my head as to why I've not been here more often. It's only 20-25 minutes away, and the place can be a goldmine for bird photography. There is a fantastic roofed observation blind - where I made the shot above - and it's one of the best-sited blinds that I've seen. Not only is it in a great location, but is positioned such that the light, especially in early morning in spring and fall, is ideally suited for lighting subjects on the pond.

UPDATE: A little while back, I wrote a piece about another Preservation Parks of Delaware County site, Shale Hollow Park. That column, which appeared in the Columbus Dispatch and which I shared on this blog, HERE, touted the virtues of the park district and its holdings. I am pleased to say that one week later, Delaware County voters overwhelming approved passage of a park levy continuation,…

Earthstar fungus

A bizarre but strangely showy earthstar fungus, Astraeus spp. (probably A. hygrometricus) graces dry sandy soil in the Oak Openings of northwest Ohio. From my experience these interesting fungi are not very common, and thus always a treat to come across.
Although I've got - as always - an abundance of material, it's been tough to make time to share much of it here. Lots of things going on, including some big new endeavors that are taking much time. More on that stuff later.
Back on October 19, I made an all too rare foray into the biodiverse habitats of the Oak Openings just west of Toledo, Ohio. This expansive sandy region, carpeted with prairies, wetlands, and savannas, is a treasure trove of unusual flora and fauna. I have spent untold hours in this region, but not much time in recent years. Thus, it was great to connect with local natural history enthusiast and fellow blogger Kim Smith and venture into a new addition to The Nature Conservancy's fabled Kitty Todd Prese…

Nature: Long-flying godwits make rare pit stop near Toledo

A juvenile Hudsonian godwit at Maumee Bay State Park

Columbus Dispatch November 5, 2017
Jim McCormac

The average American flies about 1,500 miles per year. That figure is dwarfed by the travels of certain birds.

In mid-October, I spent time with one of the world’s great long-haul migrants, the Hudsonian godwit. These Pinocchio-billed sandpipers travel more than 10 times the average annual air miles of jet-assisted humans.

Rick Nirschl, an ace naturalist in Toledo, had reported Hudsonian godwits from Maumee Bay State Park, just east of Toledo. As I had business in the area, I stopped to look for the birds.

Soon after arriving at the park beach, I heard the distinctive calls of godwits. The slightly comical sound is like an amped-up kitten putting the hurt on a squeaky toy.

Three of the big shorebirds soon materialized, whooshing by at high speed as they investigated the situation before setting down. In flight, the godwits revealed their striking black-and-white wing pattern and lo…

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…