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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…
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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…

Nature: Snipe's aerial courtship ritual worth seeing, hearing

Nature: Snipe's aerial courtship ritual worth seeing, hearing
Wilson's snipe is noted for its long bill and large eyes/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch April 29, 2018
Jim McCormac

For more than 170 years, people have been duped into “snipe hunting.” A rite of passage for campers and scouts, the mark is led into darkened woods and instructed to remain motionless while holding an open bag. The “snipe” will eventually enter the bag. Descriptions of the mythical snipe vary but usually involve fantastical creatures, such as a cross between a hare and a squirrel. These have nothing on the real thing. The Wilson’s snipe is a bona-fide bird that transcends the imagination of snipe-hunting pranksters. A type of sandpiper, the snipe is notable for its Pinocchio-like bill, an appendage that seems to stretch half the length of the body. Disproportionately huge eyes stare from a striped head, and the snipe’s body is elaborately decorated in ornate vermiculation and cross-hatching. The ove…

A week in Ohiopyle country

As always, click the photo to enlarge
Water rushes over Cole Run Falls near Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. This region is rich in beautiful water features, and many of the streams are traced by thick stands of great rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum.

I was in this area all of last week, co-instructing a photo workshop along with Debbie DiCarlo. It was our third expedition this year, and more are to follow. CLICK HERE for a complete listing and descriptions. Finally, our Facebook page features trip reports and images, and IS HERE.

We have a lot of fun on these trips, and hopefully everyone learns a lot - and returns with some great images. While there may be a theme - waterfalls and wildflowers on this one - we'll ignore nearly nothing, and try our hands at many types of imagery.

Just one day after I made the first image, last Monday, this is what Cole Run Falls looked like on Tuesday! A snowfall commenced early Tuesday morning and continued throughout much of the day. We didn't mind…

Ohio's Scenic River Act a leader in conservation

The Big Darby Creek in southwestern Franklin County/Jim McCormac
Columbus Dispatch April 15, 2018
Jim McCormac

Next Sunday, April 22, marks the 48th annual Earth Day. The inaugural Earth Day’s hub was Central Park in New York, where a million Americans converged for a peaceful protest over worsening environmental degradation. Elsewhere, another 21 million people added their voices to the fledgling environmental-reform movement. Newly minted president Richard Nixon took notice. In December 1970, the Republican launched the Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission: clean up the ravages of decades of industrial pollution that had degraded the health of our air, land and water.

Ohio played a pivotal role in the groundswell of late 1960′s environmentalism. On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River famously went aflame. This was at least the 13th time that oil and debris turned the river into a watery tinderbox.

People have an understandable aversion to seeing their streams ablaze, and t…