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Showing posts from May, 2018

Golden-winged Warbler, feeding

A male golden-winged warbler, with brilliant golden ingot stamped across his wing, forages in a choke cherry, Prunus virginiana. I made this image and the following ones a few days ago, while in between groups that I'm leading here at NettieBay Lodge in northern Michigan.

These acrobatic little warblers are not too tough to find up here, and seem especially smitten with cherries in the genus Prunus. A feeding bird will quickly flit about leafy boughs, quickly inspecting leaves and often dangling upside down like a chickadee. The primary reason that golden-wings are probably interested in cherries is due to caterpillars. Prunus is well known for the diversity and numbers of caterpillars that feed on the foliage, and the warblers are adept at ferreting them out.

Read on for a pictorial display of golden-winged warbler foraging technique.

I had secreted myself and my large lens as best I could, after hearing a golden-winged warbler's lazy breezy song along a back road in the Pig…

Some birds from the jack pine plains

Today was my "day off" in between leading a pair of trips up here in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. We're based at NettieBay Lodge, and the area's diversity is staggering. It's only about 20 minutes to huge jack pine plains on the west, and the more boreal habitats along Lake Huron about 20 minutes to the east. All manner of interesting places between, too.

Our first excursion met with much success. Killer looks of many wonderful species, and the sum total bird list was 131 species. Bonuses included a porcupine in a nearby tree, many interesting plants and insects, many species of warblers including golden-winged, Kirtland's, and mourning, and a nice late spring hawk migration along Lake Huron. That included a pair of sharp-shinned and a red-tailed hawk, a peregrine falcon, an osprey, dozens of turkey vultures, five bald eagles, and perhaps 80 broad-winged hawks.

I was up and out at dawn to head over to the jack pines, one of my favorite habitats. …

Northern Michigan, in a few random photos

As I've done for the past seven or eight years, I'm at NettieBay Lodge in northern Michigan's Presque Isle County. From this serene spot on the shores of Lake Nettie, we embark on natural history tours throughout the area's diverse landscapes. From dry jack pine plains reverberating with the songs of Kirtland's warblers to the cool shorelines of Lake Huron, we see a ton of interesting stuff.
I've been scouting since Monday afternoon, prior to the arrival of our first group this afternoon, and found a lot. Following are a few photos in utterly random order from the scouting forays.
We'll decide the dates of next year's NettieBay excursions soon, but they be in late May and there'll probably be two trips. Each one will be a half-day on either end, and two full days between. That's time to cover a lot of ground and see many, many things. For info about NettieBay, info about our trips, and contact info if you'd like to reserve a spot, GO HERE.

Nature: Night hunt reveals green salamander's hiding spot

A green salamander hunts along the face of a cliff in West Virginia/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch May 20, 2018
Jim McCormac

Twenty-four species of salamanders occur in Ohio, but they mostly remain well-hidden. Most of these low-slung amphibians prefer to haunt wet, mucky soil under logs, rocks and other such niches. Even though many species can be surprisingly common, it takes an expert to find them.

One of the rarest and most furtive Ohio species is the green salamander (Aneides aeneus). Listed as endangered in Ohio, this salamander is known from a handful of rocky outcrops along the Ohio River. The best populations are found within the sprawling Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County, owned by the Ohio Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
Green salamanders hole up in tiny fissures of cliff faces during the day. By using a flashlight, seekers can sometimes locate them in their rocky lairs. Daytime looks are rather dissatisfying — little more than a bit of eye shine and a sinu…

Cape May Warblers, and the Friends of Magee Marsh

A fabled place, especially at this time of year. Tens of thousands of birders make the peregrination to western Lake Erie, especially Ohio's Lucas and Ottawa counties, and stop #1 is a mile-long boardwalk that bisects a lakefront patch of swamp woods.

Owned and managed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Magee Marsh Bird Trail can be akin to birding in an open-air zoo aviary. Scores of warblers and other songbirds fill the woods, and can often be seen at arm's length. Fixated on feeding to fuel the long flights ahead, and replenish fat deposits lost in the long migration to reach this point, the birds are little concerned with the throngs of human admirers.

I was up there over the weekend, and the birds put on a heckuva show. At least 29 warblers species were seen, most in large numbers. The rarity highlight among that crowd was a vagrant black-throated gray warbler - one of relatively few Ohio records.

Many visitors commented on the sparkly new look to the boardwalk. We ca…

New River Birding & Nature Festival

A long exposure brings out star trails, with the mighty New River Gorge bridge as frontispiece. I made this image at midnight from deep within the gorge.

I spent all last week near Fayetteville, in southern West Virginia, participating in the New River Birding & Nature Festival. This, I think, was my 14th year of leading trips and giving talks at this event, which celebrated its 16th year with this go-round. It is one of my favorite events, because of the people, the excellent organization of the event, and of course the outstanding biodiversity.

Thanks to Rachel Davis, Geoff Heeter, Keith Richardson, Paul Shaw and everyone else involved in planning and executing the NRBNF. Next year's dates are April 29 through May 4. You can come for part of it, or the whole thing. We'd love to have you. Festival details are RIGHT HERE.

Swollen by spring showers, the waters of Glade Creek rush through a rich Appalachian cove forest. Landscapes are stunning in the New River region.

I tak…

Nature: Once-shunned peninsula grew into urban oasis

A Cooper's hawk chases a red-tailed hawk above Scioto Audubon Metro Park/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch May 6, 2018
NATURE Jim McCormac
Just southwest of Downtown Columbus, shadowed by skyscrapers, is an urban oasis. The 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park is a rich green peninsula wedged between the Brewery District and the Scioto River. The nine-year-old park rose from rows of impounded cars and industrial detritus. Many an illegally parked motorist made journeys to the end of Whittier Street to retrieve vehicles that had been towed. Metro Parks, Audubon Ohio and the city of Columbus united to transform the Whittier Street Peninsula into a landscape diametrically opposed to what it once was. Although the peninsula was a place few folks wished to visit only a decade ago, it is now a site that tens of thousands of people flock to each year. A popular attraction is the Metro Parks’ climbing wall, where wanna-be Edmund Hillarys scale the artificial heights. Walkers, runners and others a…