Thursday, May 29, 2014

Oriole, eating tent caterpillars!

About a month ago, immediately following the Ohio Ornithological Society's annual conference at Shawnee State Park, I got to spend some field time with two of Ohio's very best bird photographers. That would be Dane Adams (left) and Brian Zwiebel, pictured above plying their trade. Along with Jan Auburn, we made a rather short but steep trek to the summit of a tall "mountain" near the Shawnee lodge that offered treetop views. That's some heavy photographic artillery mounted on those tripods. Both guys shoot Canon gear, and Brian was working with a 600 mm lens (I think), and Dane had even a bit more oomph with 800 mm of lens. You can reach a longs ways into the leaves with gear like that.

We had a great time talking photography and watching numerous warblers and other songbirds move through the nearby trees. As a bonus, the cement pad at the hill's crest served as an attractant to hill-topping butterflies of many species.

On the hike up, and everywhere else we went that weekend, we noticed plenty of eastern tent caterpillars, Malacosoma americanum. This species is certainly one of our better known caterpillars, due to their habit of constructing conspicuous silken shelters. These caterpillarariums are nearly always placed in the fork of a black cherry tree, Prunus serotina, as is the one pictured. Tent caterpillars, which are the larvae of a rather handsome moth, seem to have boom and bust years. Some years the silk nests are seemingly everywhere, others relatively few can be found.

Most caterpillars go through five growth phases, each one termed an instar. At least two and perhaps three different instars are present in this photo. Following each instar, the caterpillar sheds its skin and emerges larger. Following the ultimate instar, it fashions a cocoon in which it will transform to the adult moth.

The silken tents in which the animals live communally until their last instar serve several purposes. Foremost, the dense sticky silk offers superb protection from would-be predators, especially parasitoid flies and wasps. Both are prolific enemies of caterpillars. Also, most songbirds will not deal with the dense silk, so for the most part the caterpillars are also safe from the feathered crowd.

Come nightfall, and the temporary disappearance of most of the birds, flies, and wasps, the caterpillars emerge from the nest and radiate out into the tree to feed on cherry foliage. Come dawn, they crawl back into the shelter of the nest. The tent probably also serves as a sort of greenhouse, with an elevated internal temperature that speeds the digestive process of the caterpillars within. Note all of the little blackish flecks in the silk - that is all frass, or caterpillar poo.

A fully grown eastern tent caterpillar is rather handsome, painted as it is in blue, gold, black, and white. Nonetheless, it is mostly maligned by people who resent what they consider to be unsightly silken nests. Let it be noted, though, that this is a native animal and its depredations on cherry trees seldom do any lasting damage. And as we shall see, some interesting and generally much more appreciated animals make much use of the tent caterpillars.

Most birds do have trouble eating them, as the long stiffish bristles of the caterpillar will eventually clog up their digestive tracts. Most famous of the tent caterpillar-eating birds are the cuckoos, who seemingly eat them with impunity. This is because Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos can slough off and cast out their stomach linings if they become too spiked with caterpillar bristles. The bird is able to regrow its stomach lining and thus can regularly consume the bristly meals. For the most part, with at least one notable exception, it seems to be the cuckoos that are the primary avian predator of eastern tent caterpillars.

A quick aside: Next time you see a tent caterpillar nest with some caterpillars on the outside, go tap or otherwise disturb the nest. You'll probably see the same furious side to side thrashing as shown in my video. This behavior is most likely evolved to thwart predatory flies and wasps, and prevent these insects from laying eggs on the caterpillars. The motion also may function as an alert to other caterpillars who are outside the nest. My friend Paul Knoop observed a predatory Ichneumon wasp alight on a nest this spring and all of the visible caterpillars instantly began thrashing. He reports that within 30 seconds or so, all of the caterpillars had vanished back inside the nest.

Anyway and finally, to the object of this article. We had not long been atop the hill when we spotted a gorgeous male Baltimore Oriole fly into a nearby tree. Knowing the the colorful blackbirds were also fond of snacking on tent caterpillars, I suggested that Brian and Dane train their lens on a nearby, particularly scrumptious caterpillar nest. Sure enough, a couple minutes later the oriole dropped through the branches and approached the nest.

Dane, with his mega lens and skills at finding objects through blowing leaves and branches, managed a great series of shots, and he was kind enough to share them with us. In the photo above, the oriole has just alit and is inspecting the nest for victims.

One thing that I was always curious about was how orioles managed to eat bristly tent caterpillars without doing harm to their digestive tracts. Cuckoos, as we know, can simply regrow bristle-clogged parts, but insofar as I know, orioles do not have this ability. I was hopeful that a nice series of photos might cast light on the oriole's tentside culinary practices.

We can see in the above photo that the oriole has apparently pierced the skin of the caterpillar, and is drawing out the prized innards.

It appeared to us, and Dane's photos seem to illustrate this, that the oriole uses its sharp, finely pointed bill to neatly slice open a slit in the caterpillar, from which it could draw out the inner contents.

You can see the oriole tugging out the guts, as it were, without the need of swallowing the whole package bristles and all.

Like slurping a strand of spaghetti from a tubular plate. Baltimore Orioles are certainly known to dine on tent caterpillars, but I've never seen the techniques by which they do so explained. Thanks to Dane's fine photographs coupled with our field observations, it appears to be a matter of careful dissection and surgical extraction, thus avoiding the bristly outer skin.

Even the most reviled native animals, such as tent caterpillars, have value. Our superficial condemnation is often unjustified and all too frequently based on ignorance.

Thanks to Dane for sharing his great series of photos.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Flight of the (tricolored) bumblebee

A typical beach scene at Wilderness State Park at the extreme northwestern tip of Michigan's lower peninsula. The mighty Mackinac Bridge, which crosses over the Straits of Mackinac into the upper peninsula, can be seen from this spot.

Beach-walking here is always interesting, especially for a natural philosopher such as myself. One is serenaded by various boreal warblers and other songbirds from the adjacent coniferous woodlands. Scads of mergansers, cormorants, terns, gulls and other waterfowl gad about offshore. If one is really lucky, a Piping Plover might be spotted - they nest locally.

For those with a botanical bent, it can be difficult to keep one's eyes to the sky, what with all of the interesting flora. The rocky beach was liberally strewn with the magenta blossoms of bird's-eye primrose, Primula mistassinica. Nearby mossy hummocks, partially shaded by arbor-vitae, harbor the diminutive calypso orchid, Calypso bulbosa. The latter was a major target for me, but alas, the late spring conspired to delay its blooming and I'd probably want to be heading back north this weekend to see it (which won't be happening).

But what would you know - in spite of all the avian and botanical distractions, it was a bee that caught my eye. Not long after venturing onto the beach, an utterly stunning bumblebee shot by, and the chase was on.

I'll have you know that I invested a good hour of my life to make these images, and that nearly all of the dozens of images that I made were no good. It was a windy day, and the dwarf willows upon which the bees were feeding blew about like rice paper in a hurricane. To obtain any semblance of a decent shot, I set my camera to shutter priority at 1/1600, and had to use one hand to hold the willow sprig steady.

Anyway, the little beauties are tricolored bees, Bombus ternarius, sometimes known by the (better) common name of orange-belted bumblebee. This is a bee of northern climes, ranging throughout much of Canada and south into the northern states. I had never seen one in the flesh, but knew it instantly because of its distinctiveness. In photos, the bee looked to be an entomological wonder, and I was not disappointed in the least upon finally making its acquaintance.

The tricolored bumblebee looks good from any angle, especially from the back. That fuzzy orange belt should give anyone pleasant pause, and I don't consider a single second of my apian adventure wasted time.

Insofar as I know, this bumblebee doesn't occur in Ohio, at least with regularity, but I will gladly accept correction on this point. At least I've never seen one, and I tend to give winged pollinators more than a casual glance. I can report that these tricolored bumblebees were the most difficult bumblebees to photograph of any species that I've encountered. Once spooked, which was easy to do, they would roar off, make a few circles, and shoot quickly out of sight. Chasing one was impossible, but fortunately a fair number of these animals were present and it only required inspecting a few flowering willows to turn up another.

Bumblebees are nearly perfection when it comes to cross-pollination.Note the pollen adhering to this specimen as it works over the flowers of this willow. Also note the tiny orangish spot in its yellow "fur", just above where the wing meets body. I believe that is a mite, and if you scroll up and look at the first bee photo, you'll see a few others near that bee's eye. Mites are ubiquitous on all manner of flying insects, but it takes a fairly heavy duty macro lens to pull them in.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Michigan mammals

The month past has been a whirlwind of travel; even more so than a "normal" May. I've been on the road for the majority of the past few weeks, including the last eleven days in northern Michigan. It's always nice to return home after extended forays, even if it means dealing with a pile of emails and various other stuff.

For the last five years, I've led trips in mid to late May in Presque Isle County, Michigan, based out of Nettie Bay Lodge. Birds are our primary quarry, although we look at everything and that covers a lot of ground. I could not resist making the image above, of an eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, while a passel of migrant warblers entertained our group. I was looking at a Nashville Warbler when the little "chippie" caught my eye and obliging posed for my camera.

Chipmunks are abundant in northern Michigan, and rank high among the most valuable of forest animals. CLICK HERE for a piece that I wrote about chipmunks.

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus, is always a crowd pleaser. These relatives of prairie dogs are pretty easy to find in Presque Isle County, and I enjoy showing them to people. For many, it is a life mammal. You can read an article that I wrote about ground squirrels HERE.

In all, we had about 21 species of mammals, including such interesting fare as porcupines, river otters, beaver, and northern flying squirrels. That pales in comparison to the 160+ species of birds racked up by our two groups, but the mammals always add greatly to the trips.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Some scenes from northern Michigan

A beaver-assisted wetland in Presque Isle County, Michigan. Such wetlands are full of biodiversity, and quite common in this region.

I've been in northern Michigan for nearly ten days, most of it spent leading forays from the Nettie Bay Lodge. We've had lots of luck: huge warbler migrations, great experiences with secretive species such as American Bittern and rails, interesting porcupine encounters, and much more. My bird trip list is 175 species or thereabouts, so far.

Time for blogging has been sparse, as have good Internet connections. Sorry if you've messaged me in some way and I haven't responded. I'll try and catch up on that stuff soon.

Leatherleaf, Chamaedaphne calyculata. This elfin shrublet is a member of the heath family, and often forms vast stands in northern bogs. Such sites are often termed "Leatherleaf Bogs". The tiny white flowers are bell-shaped and important to various insect pollinators.

Gorgeous and impossibly diminutive, a pine elfin, Callophrys niphon, rests on warm sun-drenched sands in a jack pine forest. Kirtland's Warblers provided the background music.

An incredibly vivid patch of bird's-eye primrose, Primula mistassinica, fairly glows from a wet meadow along the shores of Lake Huron. This is a very early wildflower of spring, and would normally be past by now. But like much of the Midwest, spring is about two weeks behind up here, and the tardy season allowed us to enjoy such early harbingers of spring such as this primrose.

A Magnolia Warbler stares at your narrator. These striped lemon and black beauties have been plentiful, as have many others of the warbler clan. I've seen about 30 species and probably thousands of individuals. The warbler migrations in shoreline Lake Huron hotspots have been especially robust this year.

I'm rounding out the trip with a few days at the extreme northern tip of the lower peninsula, in the shadow of the mighty Mackinac Bridge. This feat of human engineering spans the Straits of Mackinac, linking Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. There are fantastic habitats in this area that support a wealth of flora and fauna, and we may add another day trip to this region next year.

We don't yet have the dates selected for next year's Nettie Bay trips, but it'll be sometime in late May, though. If you're potentially interested, feel free to contact me, or Nettie Bay Lodge to reserve space.  CLICK HERE for info about the lodge.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bittern and Porcupine

A Porcupine warily eyes your blogger. I'm up in beautiful Presque Isle County, Michigan, and these prickly beasts are quite common here. I encountered the animal in the photo on my first night, as it foraged along a roadway. Naturally I stopped, and made a stealthy approach. The porkie let me come quite close before scuttling off to the shelter of a nearby aspen grove.

An American Bittern in its breeding finery, puffed and showing off for the ladies. Note his fanned shoulder epaulets and fringed throat ruff. The bird was doing its watery oonk-ah choonk calls repeatedly only 15-20 feet from our group this afternoon. It was quite a spectacle and I managed a pretty good video of the bird calling, which is something to see. I'll try and post that later.

Bitterns, like the Porcupine, are common here but one doesn't often see these secretive herons like we did today. We've had scores of other interesting birds, with much more to come.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Butterfly workshop - July 12!

A patch of butterfly-weed attracts a lepidopteran blizzard of Eastern Swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillaries, and Spicebush Swallowtails. Mid-summer is a great time to find lots of butterflies, of many species. Thus, the date of the upcoming Butterfly Workshop, hosted by the Midwest Native Plant Conference: Saturday, July 12.

A Silvery Checkerspot taps nectar from a Virginia mountain mint, one of scores of nectar-rich summer blooming plants.

The workshop will be held at the capacious and comfortable visitor's center at Caesar's Creek Lake in Warren County, southwest Ohio. This location is not far from Cincinnati, and is an easy drive from Columbus and much of the rest of Ohio and adjacent Indiana and Kentucky.

A Checkered Skipper taps into a sunflower. Southwest Ohio is a great place to look for southern immigrant butterflies such as this species. Not all skippers are as easy to identify as this one, but a number of top butterfly experts will be on hand to help sort things out. Authors Jaret Daniels (Butterflies of Ohio) and Jeff Belth (Butterflies of Indiana) will deliver talks and help with field trips.

In 2012, Ohio experienced the largest invasion of the southern Dainty Sulphur ever. Butterflies and other highly mobile insects respond rapidly to climate change, and evidence suggests that certain southern butterfly species are moving north in increasing numbers. Cheryl Harner will give a talk on just that subject: Butterflies as Bio-indicators.

The areas immediately adjacent to the workshop site contain lots of interesting and diverse habitat, and our field trips are sure to rack up some good lists. Maybe even including one of the more uncommon species such as this stunning little Harvester, our only carnivorous butterfly.

Butterflies make excellent photographic subjects, and Scott Hogsten will give a talk about photographic techniques just for butterflies.

A "puddle party" of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails creates a colorful scrum, along with a few Spicebush Swallowtails. Following lunch (provided) and the indoor programs, we'll head afield to seek butterflies. This will be a great opportunity to apply what we learned during the talks, and perhaps practice photographic techniques. A raft of topflight butterfliers will lead these excursions, including the aforementioned speakers, Sandy Belth, Jim Davidson, your narrator (who doesn't claim the expertise of the others), and a number of other experts.

Space is limited, so register soon. Complete details are RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Colorful camouflage: Rosy Maple Moth

A Rosy Maple Moth, Dryocampa rubicunda, glares menacingly at the camera. Well, it's looking as menacing as one can look when clad in hues of pink and yellow. These small silkworm moths are among the flashiest of the moths in eastern forests. They have been the "spark moth" for more than a few people, who, upon seeing one at a night light, become interested in the broader world of moths.

When at rest on an exposed twig or wall below a porch light, Rosy Maple Moths are utterly conspicuous. So much so that an observer is almost certain to wonder why it is so brightly colored.

The moth is well-named. Its primary host plants (the plants that its caterpillars must eat) are maples. Rosy Maple Moth caterpillars supposedly eat oak foliage, too, but it's definitely the maples that form the lion's share of the diet. The nut doesn't fall far from the tree, so to speak, and the adult moths will generally be found in close proximity to their maple hosts. Adult Rosy Maple Moths, by the way, do not eat. They are short-lived and exist only to find a member of the opposite sex, mate, and in the case of the female, drop eggs.

The showy little fruit dangling on pendant pedicels above are those of red maple, Acer rubrum, a common host plant of the Rosy Maple Moth. The maple fruit reach this stage in early spring, about the time that the hatch of moths commences.

A few weeks ago, Rachel Davis and I were leading a trip for the New River Birding & Nature Festival at Hawk's Nest State Park in West Virginia. Rachel had noticed a Rosy Maple Moth that was clinging to a wall under a nightlight - still present from the night before. We showed that to our group, and all were suitably awed by the festively colored moth. Then we noticed that the ground was littered with fresh red maple samaras (the term for the helicopter-like fruit of maples). The light bulb went off, and we began to harvest some of the more colorful fruit, as above.

Voila! We posed the Rosy Maple Moth on the fresh elm samaras, and suddenly its garish coloration made sense. I suspect that these moths ordinarily roost on hanging clusters of maple fruit during the day. In such a situation, the moth would nearly be invisible.

Nature is full of very cool adaptive camouflage, but this is perhaps one of the more interesting examples in our part of the world. At least, I think one could make a strong case that this explains the maple moth's showy coloration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Moth that mimics a spider!

As is nearly always the case, I have a bounty of blog material; more than I can ever get to. But I must interrupt the irregularly scheduled programming to bring you something that is indescribably cool. I was commanding my keyboard this evening, attempting to whittle away at emails that I am hopelessly behind on (sorry if you've messaged and I haven't responded), when the inimitable David and Laura Hughes sent along some of their latest handiwork. I had to drop everything and prepare this post.


I learned about this moth and its ilk last year, courtesy of caterpillar guru David Wagner. We were light-trapping last June in Adams County, when this moth flew into the lights. It is one of the aquatic crambids, the Canadian petrophila, Petrophila canadensis, I believe. Dave pointed out that it is an apparent jumping spider mimic, as are a number of others in the genus Petrophila.

The evolution of mimicry fascinates me, and I was instantly smitten. Note the moth's gemlike markings lining the top of the hindwings. Those are the faux spider eyes. Unfortunately, being nighttime, the moth didn't do anything but sit motionless, but they certainly can animate themselves as we shall see.

This is a real jumping spider in the family Salticidae (for "saltatorial", which means "leaping" or "jumping"). You've probably seen these small spiders. They are about as cute as spiders can get, and ambulate with astonishingly fast jerky little leaps.

The Hughes, while exploring an area of Athens County recently, encountered this small moth at rest on an ash leaf. It too is a Petrophila moth, but I am unsure of the species. Note its fake eyespots, just as in the moth in the first photo.

A side view. The moth is on alert, knowing that potential danger lurks. It hunches forward and elevates its wings, much as a jumping spider rises high on its forelegs when ready to pounce.

The hind view is extraordinary. If you were a small beast on the same level as the moth, you'd probably take pause when confronted with this creature, even if you were predatory.

While these photos are cool, and build a case for the jumping spider mimic theory, the proof is in the locomotion. Exceptional videographers that they are, the Hughes managed an incredible video of the moth in motion on the leaf's surface. Check it out below:

Video: David and Laura Hughes

The quick jerky movements of the moth are amazingly similar to that of a jumping spider. So much so that even an experienced observer of natural history could easily be temporarily fooled. Resembling a fiercely predatory spider is good insurance against attack by would-be predators who might think twice about lunging at an animal that might turn the tables on them. The evolutionary fits and spurts that lead to such fabulous mimicry over eons of time is endlessly fascinating.

Thanks as always to Dave and Laura for sharing their work.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Magee Marsh Bird Trail

Your narrator (L) poses with friends Steve and Marian Moeckel, Marian's sister Barbara, and Jim Berry under the new archway at the entrance to the world famous Magee Marsh Wildlife Area "Bird Trail".

We were just a few of the many thousands of birders who descended upon the trail, as they do every year, to bear witness to an amazing migratory spectacle. The 37-acre patch of woods and wetlands bisected by the mile long elevated boardwalk offers some of the best birding in North America. People come from nearly everywhere - every state, and many foreign countries. Perhaps 75,000 birders will visit the area from late April through May.

I spent the past three days at Magee, and spent nearly all of that time on the boardwalk. The birds were fabulous - best on Friday, but Saturday and today were also very good. I really enjoy helping new or newer birders find and identify birds, and for the most part, that's what I did. In the process I did snap some photos, of course, and will hopefully find time to share a few more of them in later posts.

Tom Bartlett (seated on ladder, right) conducts his Big Sit, just as he has for many years. Tom goes up there around dawn, and doesn't descend until the day's end. He only counts birds that he sees or hears from the ladder, and his best tally was 112 species. Last I talked to him, he was at 100 with plenty of daylight left. Proceeds raised by Tom's per-species pledges go to support the work of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

A group of women took a break in a nice spot with a commanding view of Lake Erie. Can't blame them; after 8 or so hours on my feet I was ready to take a load off, too.

Perhaps the ladies in the previous photo were watching the numerous Common Terns pass by, as they fished the waters of Lake Erie. One of the groups that I helped lead enjoyed watching a male bringing fish to a female that he was courting, which he then offered to her.

Two American Woodcocks were on nests immediately adjacent to the parking lots. The female in the photo is incubating eggs just feet from high people traffic areas. The Division of Wildlife staff tape off the area to keep people a safe distance from the woodcocks, which don't seem put out at all. They nest in these sites every year.

Warblers, of course, get the lion's share of attention. This male Bay-breasted Warbler posed beautifully for an assembled throng of paparazzi, sitting just a few feet away in a box-elder. Such views are commonplace at Magee. Warblers are often at arm's reach, and I would not even hazard a guess at how many millions of photos are taken here each May. In all, at least 31 warblers species were found while I was there.

If you can break away, get to Magee in the next week or so. It's well worth the trip.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Rock Wren, in Ohio!

Time & Optics, Ohio's most legendary vendor of optics. Many of us know the proprietor, Robert Hershberger, and I'll bet that more than a few people reading this have made the visit to Holmes County to visit Robert and his shop. If you want some binoculars or a scope (or a clock!), this is your place. CLICK HERE for more info.

Robert is a great birder, as are many others in his community. Because of the extraordinary concentration of ace birders in Holmes County, an extraordinary number of mega-rarities have been found in this area. Now we can add Rock Wren, Salpinctes obsoletus, to the rarity ranks.

This pastoral scene is where the wren hangs out. A pleasing place to chase a rare bird, for sure. I met up with Hallie Mason at Time & Optics, which is just a stone's throw out the right side of this photo. We got there at 8 am (this was yesterday), and along with some other birders plodded about fruitlessly for an hour or so. The Rock Wren works between several sets of buildings, and covers a fair bit of ground.

Finally, a wonderful woman rushed over to us and shouted that they "have the bird!" Yes! The only problem was that the wren was down by that green-roofed building, and I was a quarter-mile or so away. I began a brisk walk in that direction, and before long saw a small throng, all of whom had their binoculars fixed at a certain point. As I moved along, I stopped occasionally to try and pick up the wren, too, by scanning where they seemed to be looking. No luck, and well before I arrived I saw all of the birders drop their binoculars and watched as they pointed to the bird as it apparently fled up that grassy slope.

No luck - I wasn't close enough to spot it.

So, I/we immediately began a fast walk up the roadway to this house, which is where the wren headed to. Now I know that wrens are hyperactive bustling little busybodies, and I feared the bird was playing games. As soon as we arrived at this spot, I figured it would shoot back down the hill and to some other distant building. I would spend my day off chasing a pranksterish wren through the leas and around various outbuildings of Holmes County.

Luck was with us! We weren't at the spot in the previous photo for five minutes when Hallie spotted the animal. It obliging hopped from the flowerbed and posed briefly on a small retaining wall, allowing for photos. Bingo!

Rock Wrens breed throughout the western half of the United States, barely extending into Canada. They are extremely rare vagrants to the eastern half of North America; there might be two dozen or so records, ever. Prior to this bird, there was only one record in Ohio: December 7-14, 1963. That bird hung around rocky riprap at Cleveland's Edgewater Park. Needless to say, very few people who are still around have this species on their state list.

I mentioned that Holmes County sports an incredible density of topnotch birders. One of the stellar Holmes County birders is Michael Hershberger, and he works at Hochstetler Wood, and that's where Mike found the bird. He walked out of the building, caught a glimpse of the western stray rummaging around some wooden pallets, and instantly nailed the identification. The rest is history.

Rock Wrens are well-named. They live in rocky canyons, gulches, and other stoney haunts, and use that long slender bill to ferret around in fissures and crevices. Here's a great quote about the Rock Wren, courtesy of John Janovy (Keith County Journal 1978):

"Salpinctes obsoletus is a very plain name for a bundle of fire known as the rock wren. It is heard, up on the bluffs, up in the rocks, but it is seen only by those who climb the bluffs regularly, and then it is seen only irregularly. . . . After reading even the most elementary writings of the rock wren I am shocked at society’s ignorance of this bird."

As of today, the little wayward wren is still present, and exciting an ever-growing legion of admirers. From my observations, the celebrity Rock Wren cares not a whit for his fan club. He/she pokes through the mulch beds and probes into cracks as if none of us were there.

As is the custom, a guest log was begun, and many a page is now full of names. Something like 500 of them, from all corners of Ohio and beyond. Many people probably didn't sign in, either - the actual attendance at the Rock Wren Meadows might be 700 or more people by this point. Most politicians can't draw a crowd like that.

Major thanks are in order to Michael Hershberger for making a truly spectacular and utterly unexpected find. Big thanks too to the operators of Hochstetler Wood and everyone who works there. They've tolerated the birder invasion with remarkable tolerance and aplomb. Not all businesses would be so accepting of having our kind lurking around the buildings.

Oh, being as I am far too young to have tallied that 1963 Cleveland Rock Wren, this was indeed a state bird for me. #371 to be exact.