Skip to main content


Showing posts from December, 2017

Hocking Hills photo workshop: February 20-22

One of the most scenic regions in the Midwest is the Hocking Hills of southeastern Ohio, and late winter (really, early spring!) is a great time to be there. Debbie DiCarlo and I have planned a field-based photo excursion for February 20-22, and we'll visit some of the most scenic spots. Debbie is a sensational landscape photographer (many other genres, too), and an excellent teacher. Both of us love to work with photographers of all levels, especially those just finding their photographic feet.

To learn more about Debbie and her work, visit HERE. For details on the Hocking Hills trip, CLICK HERE, and for a list and descriptions of our other trips, GO HERE.

Following is a tiny pictorial sampler of Hocking Hills highlights, with brief commentary. Hope you can join us!

The Hocking Hills region is noted for its spectacular sandstone features. This is the inside of Rock House, a sensational cathedral of brightly colored rock.

The boulder-strewn lower gorge at Conkles Hollow. There are…

Horsefly eggs

Word to the wise (from the not so wise): keep up on your photo archival! If you're a frequently active shooter, as I am, it's MUCH easier to amass lots of "keeper" images than it is to neatly label and archive them. Eventually all of my photos make their way into well organized folders, and I can lay hands on anything in seconds flat. But, over the past year, I have let some photo archival duties lapse, and am spending lots of time getting everything caught up - with dreams of not getting behind on this stuff again.
One perk of sorting through and labeling material from the year past is reminders of great field trips. On one of these - a foray to one of my favorite regions, Adams County, Ohio - from last September, I had taken a photo of "mystery" insect eggs. Hundreds of the off-white cylindric eggs were neatly arrayed into a fortlike pile, artful in its arrangement.

I knew who I could ask about their identity - Laura Hughes, who I have mentioned many times…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…

Nature: Snowy owls once again making their way into Ohio

A snowy owls rests atop a Holmes County feed silo/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch December 17th, 2017
NATURE Jim McCormac
Four years and two days ago, I wrote a column on snowy owls. That winter saw a massive invasion of these stunning, white arctic predators. At least 170 owls were reported from 59 of Ohio’s 88 counties. Deja vu. In perfect harmony with an oft-cited four-year cycle, the owls are irrupting again. I’ve heard of about 50 owls so far, in perhaps 25 counties. One of these was a brief sighting of a bird near the Main Post Office on Twin Rivers Drive in Columbus. This winter’s irruption isn’t confined to Ohio. Scores of owls have been reported in a band from Montana and the Dakotas east to the Atlantic coast and in adjacent parts of Canada. The majority of Ohio reports come from Lake Erie, as is typical. Harbors and the lakeshore provide an abundance of food in the form of gulls, ducks and small rodents. Even in lean owl years, a smattering of birds are found near Lake Erie. Sm…

Snowy owls irrupt!

This winter is shaping up to be another decent-sized irruption of snowy owls in the Great Lakes region, and points east. We've had a few dozen reports here in Ohio - mostly along Lake Erie but a smattering well inland. Not all of which have made the birding networks. For instance, I heard about one that was seen at the main post office in Columbus. One wonders how many owls pass through undetected, or set up turf in remote agricultural country and never come to light.
Some owls do become celebrities, and this post is about one of those owls. On Thanksgiving day, a gorgeous snowy owl appeared at a farm in Holmes County, and has been there ever since. I finally made the pilgrimage last Monday, and photos from that excursion follow.
The family that owns the farm has been exceedingly gracious to visiting birders. Even their signs reminding people to stay out of the fenced fields are very nice, and prefaced with a big WELCOME. At least 700 people have visited thus far, and unfortunate…

Epic Green Lawn Cemetery tour!

A month or so ago, I visited Columbus's famous Green Lawn Cemetery with cemetery board member Randy Rogers. Our main mission was to look at some of the massive old trees that are harbored in the cemetery. I wanted to write one of my Columbus Dispatch columns about the cemetery's ancient timber, and did so RIGHT HERE.
As I penned the column, the thought occurred that some people might like the opportunity to visit the cemetery in the company of guides who know the nooks and crannies of the sprawling 360-acre park/cemetery. So, I messaged Randy and he agreed that this was a good idea, and would co-lead the excursion with me. Excellent news, as I don't think anyone is as well rounded in their knowledge of the cemetery - its residents and human history, trees, and wildlife - as is Randy. So, I slipped a note into the column about the field trip, and that any and all were welcome.
Last Saturday was the day for the trip. Any interested parties were to convene at the administrat…

Nature: Calliope hummingbird excites birdwatchers in central Ohio

A calliope hummingbird in Delaware County/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch December 3, 2017
Jim McCormac

The most famous bird in Ohio right now is a tiny puffball that weighs little more than a penny. Nearly 650 visitors from at least nine states have fawned over the wayward visitor. The tiny bird even has its own Facebook page (with hundreds of “likes”). This avian notable is a calliope hummingbird, and it is only the second one to appear in Ohio. The first was in 2002, in Chillicothe, and both birds are among very few records east of the Mississippi River. A calliope hummingbird in Ohio is decidedly off-track. The species breeds in mountainous regions from British Columbia to Washington, Oregon, Idaho and nearby states. These sprites undertake an incredible migration proportionate to their size. Most of the population winters in southwestern Mexico. Some birds probably migrate nearly 6,000 miles annually. Only the familiar ruby-throated hummingbird regularly shows up and breeds in…