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Showing posts from 2018

Shawnee Photo Workshop!

A gorgeous pastel sunrise colors the foggy waters of Turkey Lake in Shawnee State Park, Scioto County, Ohio. Debbie DiCarlo and I conducted our 6th Focus on Photography workshop on the weekend of September 1 & 2, based at the beautiful lodge within this park, which is imbedded within the 65,000 acre Shawnee State Forest, with easy access to various photographic hotspots in nearby Adams County. For more on our workshops, and next year's schedule, GO HERE.

We had a great group of eight people: Dan, Molly, Suzee, Dan (another one!), Charlie, Patty, Michele, and Eric. Lots of interesting subjects presented themselves, and we got lots of practice in shooting a wide range of plants, animals, sunrise, sunset, and even conducted nocturnal work.

Day Glo orange fungi, the fan-shaped jelly fungus, Dacryopinax spathularia, adorns an old red cedar log. Just one of myriad wee things we found. Macro photography was a major part of this photographic foray.

A big timber rattlesnake, Crotalus …

Bird program: This Thursday night, 7 pm!

A great egret displays its aigrette feathers - the showy plumage that nearly led to its demise.
I'm giving a free program this Thursday evening, commencing at 7 pm, at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, at 505 West Whittier Street. All are welcome. The talk is entitled Bird Conservation: Ups and Downs, and will be an Ohio-centric look at some of the winners and losers, why species have plummeted or increased, and some of the ongoing challenging conservation issues. Lushly illustrated with imagery, of course.

Speaking of images, I have a gallery of 30 bird images opening in the Audubon Center that very evening. Please feel free to come early if you'd like to peruse them. The gallery features photos taken throughout eastern North America, and each one is accompanied by a brief description about the bird. Doors open at 5:30 pm.

Registration is required, but it's easy and free. Here's a link to the Audubon Center and more information, and registration info: h…

Zombie Fungus rides again!

A female Carolina leafroller cricket, Camptonotus carolinensis, emerged from its lair and exploring leaves at night. I made this image last year in a southern Ohio forest. While these exceptionally long-antennae'd crickets are not rare, they are furtive and secretive. During the day, they hole up within rolled up leaves, hence the name. Come nightfall, they roam about on lower-lying foliage, and are quick to hop away with tremendous leaps if disturbed.

Here we have another female Carolina leafroller, but things have not gone swimmingly for the beast. Indeed, one of the worst possible fates imaginable has befallen the cute little cricket.

Laura Hughes, I believe, spotted the zombified orthopteran on a field trip to an Adams County, Ohio hotspot last Saturday. Never one to miss a chance to photo-document an attack of the zombie fungus, I took the opportunity to shoot some images of this fine example of a fate worse than death.

We look into the dead white eyes of the cricket, which …

Nature: Latest bird atlas shows species rebounding, declining in Ohio

Double-crested cormorants at Lake Erie/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch September 2, 2018
Jim McCormac

Early in my birding years back in the 1970s, a double-crested cormorant was a big deal. Most years saw fewer than a dozen reports, and any birder would brake hard for cormorants. DDT, a pesticide once sprayed with impunity, had caused a precipitous decline in their population.

The fish-eating cormorants are an indisputable winner among our avifauna. Following the 1972 ban on DDT, cormorants adversely impacted by the pesticide began a slow ascent out of the abyss. Today, they are again abundant.

In 2016, a book titled “The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Ohio” was released. It summarized mountains of data generated during a statewide survey conducted from 2006 to 2011.

Two of the most interesting tables are found on pages 48 and 49. They show species with the largest increases, and decreases, from the first atlas, which took place from 1982 to ’87.

It’s no surprise that two of the…

An epic Adams County (Ohio) foray

Anyone who has checked in with this blog on any sort of regular basis over the years (1,811 posts over nearly a decade, thus far!) has probably noticed two recurring names: Adams County, and John Howard.
Adams County, Ohio, is an Ohio River county lying between Cincinnati and Portsmouth. It is also one of the most biologically rich regions in the entire midwestern United States, which is why I've reported on finds from that area so often, and make so many trips there.
John Howard is a friend who has lived in Adams County for decades, a superb naturalist, and few if any know the natural history of Adams County and vicinity as well as he does. Flora or fauna, it doesn't matter - John knows hidden nooks and crannies and where to find the coolest of the cool like no one else.
Last year, John and his wife Tina set about constructing what would become the Ohio Star Retreat Center just outside West Union, the county seat of Adams County. The building can lodge up to a dozen or so pe…

A bizarre aspect of the gray hairstreak

A week or so ago, I visited a place I seldom see, Erie Sand Barrens State Nature Preserve in Erie County, Ohio, which is not far inland from Lake Erie. The place abounds with biodiversity, including many rarities, especially plants. It was there I was finally able to photograph a very unusual feature of a common butterfly, as follows...
One of our showiest - and commonest - hairstreak butterflies, the gray hairstreak, Strymon melinus. These tiny butterflies are widespread throughout Ohio, and beyond, but can easily be overlooked unless you're paying attention to the little stuff. A fresh animal, such as the one above, could win a lepidopteran beauty pageant. They're sleek in a smooth coat of dove-gray, ornamented with black and white dashes and orange dots. Orange-tipped antennae are banded like a barber pole.

Perhaps most interesting is the aft end. A peculiar pair of pseudo-antennae jut from the hindwings like tails. These appendages are the trademark of most, but not all, …

Cannibal flies among fiercest insect predators

Red-footed cannibal fly, Promachus rufipes, with paper wasp/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch August 19, 2018
Jim McCormac

This is the summer of the cannibal flies. For people fascinated by the boundless diversity of insects, that’s a good thing. For subordinate bugs, the cannibal-fly bonanza is very bad.

Cannibal fly is a colloquialism applied to robber flies in the genus Promachus. They’re big, beefy insects, and you won’t miss one if it comes near. The name stems from their decidedly uncivil habit of occasionally eating fellow robber flies.

These robber flies are entomological warriors. It’s a good thing they aren’t the size of eagles, or we humans would have great reason to fear the outdoors. Fortunately, the biggest cannibal flies measure only 1 1/2 inches, but that’s still a big bug.

Although there are 22 species in the U.S., only two are regularly encountered in Ohio.

To most people, a cannibal fly would look quite creepy. Huge eyes gaze inscrutably at the world; limpid inky p…

Lilypad Forktails appearing everywhere!

I had a meeting yesterday morning with MaLisa Spring, coordinator of the Ohio Dragonfly Survey, and entomologist Dave McShaffrey of Marietta College, coauthor of the book The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Ohio. We convened at a beautiful park just south of Lancaster known as Alley Park. There is lots of interesting habitat in the vicinity, and we hoped to get afield for a bit following our meeting and search for dragonflies.
The weather put somewhat of a damper on field plans, with intermittent mild showers keeping the dragons largely under wraps. These insects are creatures of the sun, and magically disappear when the sun fades. Fortunately, there were periods of bright overcast and no rain and at such points we had some success.
A prince baskettail, Epitheca princeps, rockets along the shoreline of Lake Loretta in Alley Park. Both Dave and I expended scads of pixels and collectively hundreds of shots trying to photographically nail this animal. This was my only decent shot. There …

Bokeh: Photographic background blur

A gorgeous Halloween pennant, Celithemis eponina, tees up on a conspicuous snag. These colorful dragonflies are often easy to approach, fairly common, and irresistible photo subjects. I made this image yesterday in Erie County, Ohio, while surveying for the Ohio Dragonfly Survey. All that is required for the survey is an identifiable photo, but if the subject cooperates as did this pennant, I invariably try and create the best image that I can.

This photo was made with my current favorite dragonfly rig, the Canon 5D IV and Canon's amazing 300mm f/4 telephoto lens. I sandwich a 25mm extension tube between camera and lens to allow for closer focusing. A 600 speedlite provides nice fill flash. Typical camera settings, and those used for this image, are f/16, ISO 200, 1/200. For the other dragonfly photo below, I changed to f/10 but all else remained the same.

BOKEH: A Japanese word meaning "blur", and when applied to photography it refers to the quality of the out of focus …

Autumn's Asters weekend: Shawnee State Forest, September 14 - 16

The beautiful stiff-leaved aster, Ionactis linariifolius, one of myriad members of the aster family that is found in Shawnee State Forest and vicinity.
I have been remiss in plugging what promises to be a wonderful conference in one of the showiest regions of Ohio. On the weekend of September 14-16, the Midwest Native Plant Society is hosting Autumn's Asters (GO HERE for details), an event geared towards the diverse and beautiful aster family. This is the 2nd largest plant family in Ohio (only eclipsed by the sedge family), and includes many familiar groups of plants such as asters, goldenrods, and sunflowers. In Shawnee State Forest, where this event takes place, the aster family IS the largest family of plants.

There will be field trips to interesting locales to see interesting plants, and of course and as always, we will see lots of other subjects. Mid-September is near peak for southbound songbird migration in this area, and there should be warblers galore. Butterflies will s…

Nature: Birders thrilled to see Mississippi kites flying in Ohio

A young Mississippi kite flexes its wings in its nest in Ross County/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch August 5, 2018
Jim McCormac

The summer of 2007 brought exciting news to Ohio’s bird watchers. Birder Rick Perkins had discovered Mississippi kites frequenting a Hocking County golf course. He was there to play a round of golf, and scored an exceptional birdie.

Mississippi kites were then considered rare vagrants to Ohio, and they didn’t usually stick around. If you weren’t there when the kite appeared, you missed it.

The kites Perkins saw at the golf course did linger, and became so reliable that people could visit and expect to see the birds.

As the summer went on, it became clear that the flyweight raptors had a nest nearby. Attempts to find it were unsuccessful, but in late summer a juvenile kite appeared. The begging youngster sat atop tall snags and was stuffed with cicadas and dragonflies by its parents.

The still downy youngster was obviously raised locally — the first docume…

Monarch from egg to butterfly: A pictorial transformation

One of the world's most iconic butterflies, the monarch, Danaus plexippus. These conspicuous insects are revered by large numbers of people, and recent conservation efforts to help declining populations of the migratory eastern populations seem to be bearing fruit. Scores of people are helping by either planting milkweed, or raising and releasing butterflies. Loss of habitat and host plants is a huge factor in the monarch's decline, with increasingly environmentally-unfriendly agricultural practices probably playing the largest role.

The butterfly in this photo is seeking nectar at swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, which is also a favored host plant. Monarchs will lay eggs on nearly all of Ohio's 15 species in the milkweed subfamily, though.

Butterflies have a four-part life cycle, and phase one of the monarch's begins with a tiny egg deposited on the underside of a host plant's leaf. I shot this egg last weekend in Greene County, Ohio. A female was ovipositing…