Monday, April 28, 2008

Shawnee Explodes!

With life, as it does every spring. On a recent visit to the sprawling 65,000-acre Shawnee State Forest, spring had returned with a vengeance and eveything from birds to butterflies to plants were there in droves. I can never get enough of this place; it is the closest true wilderness that is accessible to my overly-developed suburbia-dominated landscape of Columbus, Ohio. Here, we've destroyed nearly every natural feature of note. There, next to no development can be found - just massive wild landscapes.

Worm-eating Warbler belts out his dry, husky trill with all the vigor of his more tropical-looking brethren, such as Hooded Warblers. Both species were back in abundance. Worm-eaters are more sluggish and methodical than most warblers. They use their relatively heavy spike-like bill to probe through hanging clusters of dead leaves for caterpillars, spiders and the lot. Quite the specialist are they when it comes to feeding habits. I've seen them numerous times in their tropical wintering haunts, and they feed the same way there.

There were more birders at Shawnee this day than I think I've ever encountered there. The place is certainly on the birding radar screen these days. One was Troy Shively, who located some Silvery Blues. These small butterflies are a bit larger than Eastern Tailed-Blues, with which they sometimes fraternize, but are easily distinguished by the row of conspicuous black dots on their underwings.
Dorsal, or upper, surface of the Silvery Blue. Quite a show-stopper if on a tiny scale. And one must often work hard for any sort of photo. We were scrambling about on our kness and bellies like fools trying to record this beast. Almst as if taunting us, he'd allow for a decently close approach, then wing off out of range. Many times this was repeated.

This is the herbal magic that makes Silvery Blues tick. Their primary host plant appears to be Carolina Wood Vetch, Vicia caroliniana, and knowing this plant is the secret to finding the butterfly. Just locate the vetch, then look for the blue. Both species have rather limited southern ranges in Ohio.

A short while back, I blogged about the beatiful and extraordinarily rare Goldenstar lily, Erythronium rostratum. Well, here's what it looks like now. It's in full fruit. That's the odd-looking capsule resting on the ground.

The specific epithet rostratum means "beaked" and refers to the protruberance on the capsule. It's the only trout lily to have a beaked fruit. Any plant that purposely puts its fruit on the ground like this is seeking ground-dwelling seed dispersers. Likely, as so often the case, ants are the ones that move this plant about. Without ants, I suspect our forests would fade away...

1 comment:

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I'm overdue for a trip to Shawnee--it's a bit further than we usually opt for our hikes.

But, it's nice to see what you've found here. This season holds so much beauty, and so much change--wait a day, and it's gone!

Really enjoy your site.
Nina at Nature Remains

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