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Nature: Crossbills an ever-evolving species

Red crossbills (female above, male below) have primarily stayed north of Ohio this year
Columbus Dispatch February 18, 2018
NATURE
Jim McCormac

For birders, one of the most exciting avian winter events is an irruption of winter finches. Not eruption, as in a blowing volcano. Irruption refers to a mass migration of birds to a new region, usually because of food shortages. Winter finch irruptives include northern species such as common redpoll, evening grosbeak, pine siskin and purple finch. Perhaps most exciting, though, are the crossbills. There are two eastern species, the red crossbill and white-winged crossbill. This winter showed promise for the former, and there have been a number of Ohio sightings. However, the majority of red crossbills stayed north of Ohio. Crossbills are boreal breeders, nesting in the great swath of coniferous forest that stretches across Canada and the northern U.S. Their range also extends along mountain ranges in the east and west, where pine or spruce fore…
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Ohio Bluebird Society annual conference: February 24

A male eastern bluebird, fat caterpillar in tow, drops in to an old-school fencepost nest. The Ohio Bluebird Society is holding their annual conference on Saturday, February 24, at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus. I'm giving a talk on cavity-nesting birds, and how people have helped - hugely, in some cases - with their conservation. I'm sorting through scads of images - this one included - in prepping for the gig. All are welcome and complete info is at: https://www.ohiobluebirdsociety.org/

Irregularly semi-annual skunk-cabbage post

A fine passel of skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, rises from the mire of an ultra-soggy spring-fed quagmire. It is a rite of early spring - for me - to stop in and check for the first flowering of this odd arum, the first of our native wildflowers to truly bloom.

I'm fortunate to live near a wonderful skunkery; a gorgeous spring-fed wetland that teems with the plants. So, in less than ten minutes I can be wetting my feet in the springy mire and ogling one of our strangest plants and a harbinger of spring if there ever was one.

The skunk-cabbage is usually right on time. Mid-February is very typical for the beginnings of a mass emergence, and finding the first flowering specimens. This is a 'tweener season; winter is still much in the midst of throwing off its shackles of snow and ice, slowly losing the battle with spring, which is rolling steadily north like a vernal steam roller.

One can be assured that these skunk-cabbage will be powdered with snow and crusted with ice…

Hocking Hills photo tour - last call!

We've got a nice group of cheery photogs assembled for this one, but could take a few more if you pine for a Hocking Hills photographic adventure. February 20-22. All details here: https://www.debbiedicarlophotography.com/p/workshops-and-tours



Naturalist position: Crawford Park District (Crawford County, Ohio)

Interested, and qualified, applicants should contact Crawford Park District, HERE. This is a small but dynamic park system that is doing great things, and constantly growing in all aspects. It would be a great place to work!

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Nature: Marten among mammals that have disappeared from Ohio

An American marten hunts in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario

Columbus Dispatch February 4, 2018
NATURE
Jim McCormac

In the big picture, mammals don’t constitute a large segment of Ohio’s animal diversity. Fifty-six species occur in the state. Compared with birds, fish, insects or spiders, they’re a drop in the bucket. Yet, wild, free-ranging mammals always generate excitement among observers. The thrill often seems disproportionate to their frequency. A coyote, striped skunk or white-tailed deer — all common – will nearly always grab and hold one’s eye.

Maybe we subconsciously recognize them as our distant kin in the phylum Chordata.

As a sad reflection on how the times have changed, nearly 20 percent of Ohio’s mammals that occurred at the time of European settlement are extirpated — vanquished from the state.

In the 1700s, the true wilderness of Ohio teemed with fish, fowl and various beasts. Its expansive forests, prairies and fruited plains harbored mammals that few modern Ohioans…

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day, February 2. A beautiful buck, photographed last summer in the wilds of Ashtabula County. An excellent mammal, worthy of our respect and the holiday that honors it.