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Showing posts from August, 2008

Common Nighthawk update

Back in late July, Dan Adamski sent along photos of nesting nighthawks on the roof of the University Medical Center in Toledo. Later, he passed along more photos as the nestlings grew. About nine days ago Dan sent me a few photos of the remaining juvenile. It appears that the other youngster had flown the coop by the time Dan had returned from a vacation, and I'm sure the one pictured below has by now. One of the problems with blogging about natural history is that there is never any shortage of subjects, otherwise I would have had Dan's most recent photos up much sooner!Here we find the young bullbat on August 21, looking just about like an adult. Still has traces of down peeking through, and nice rich buffy feather edging, but this one should be pretty near flight-ready. His nestmate has already left the nest.By now, this bird could be quite far from Toledo and Carty Finkbeiner. Nighthawks engage in long-distance migrations to South America. When you think about it, a bird l…

Wood Storks!

Rare birds are always exciting. Especially when they are giant and prehistoric in appearance. Wood Storks certainly qualify. Thanks to Robert Schlabach for following up on a report in Coshocton County from last Monday, and getting the word out. He found two storks at the reported locale on Tuesday, and yesterday a third bird materialized. They are still present; I saw them between 8 and 9 am this morning.
Ground zero for the Wood Storks. The small wetland they are frequenting is outlined in red. This site is several miles south of Coshocton, in southern Coshocton County. Township Rd. 145 goes east-west between State Rtes 83 and 93. This road travels along low-lying and oft-flooded Wills Creek, and there are interesting wetlands galore in the area.
This is the stork habitat. Those three white dots are our birds. As Bruce Glick had noted in a posting to the Ohio Birds listserv, this area has a very Floridian feel to it, with plenty of swampy ground. The storks must feel right at home. I c…

Some Cape May birds

Took a whirlwind trip around quaint Cape May, New Jersey last Saturday, and saw lots of interesting flora and fauna. It wouldn't be possible to visit and NOT see interesting things. As usual, many megs of photos were taken, but I wanted to share a few classic birds of the beach. Spent a fair bit of time botanizing - there is some very cool halophytic (salt-adapted) flora there, and I got some nice shots of some of it. More on that later, perhaps.

Speaking of plants, it was somewhat depressing to see how badly non-native species have taken over some of the habitats in Cape May. Weeds like Porcelain-berry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, and Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum, cover vast swaths of great migratory bird habitat. Anyone who doubts the ecological damage that these vegetative pests can do need only pay a visit to a place like Cape May.Beachfront Cape May with the famed lighthouse off in the yonder. This area is owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, and is one of …

The Gloom of Night

I write this blog from Owings Mills, Maryland, a beautiful tree filled suburb of Baltimore. I am indeed fortunate to have been put in contact with Donna and Henry, my hosts, who are putting me up in their gorgeous house overshadowed with towering Tulip Trees. I'll be speaking at the nearby Irvine Nature Center's annual Native Plant Conference tomorrow morning. They've been doing this event for some twenty years, and always attract a good crowd. I'm looking forward to that, and being on the same slate with Doug Tallamy and William Cullina. Hard acts to follow.

Since the incomparable Cape May, New Jersey is only about three hours off to the east, I'm planning on going there Sunday. If it works out, I'll have some cool stuff to share, I'm sure.

Anyway, I just got some really cool stuff for my camera. They are mega-macro lenses, and are awesome! It's like shooting photos through a microscope. A bit of a learning curve to figuring out light settings, apertures…

Battle of the Titans

I've said this before, and I'll repeat it again: if you have any desire to be reincarnated, don't come back as a bug! Even the top end predatory insects/arachnids have their enemies, as we shall see. For the insectophobe and/or arachnophobe, the following will be straight out of a horror movie, so be forewarned.

Here we have two of the beastliest beasts in their respective worlds. On the right, a giant eight-legged venomous fanged wolf spider. You've seen 'em; they are massive, fast, and hairy, and race around overpowering prey. On the left, a large ferocious-looking spider wasp, with the specific name Entypus unifasciatus. Two critters that could understandably give one the creeps, and both are near the high end of their respective food chains. What happens when they meet?

Well, it must be quite a clash! We, unfortunately, happened along soon after the battle, and thus didn't witness the takedown. But what essentially happens is this. The wasp, one of seven spec…

The First, and Still the Best

Bird Watcher's Digest celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, a real milestone for any birding publication. Indeed, no other birding magazine other than BWD has been around long enough to celebrate their pearl anniversary. The bird watching scene has changed a lot since BWD's inception. When the inaugural issue arrived, I was a 16 year old high schooler, and I knew precious few others who appreciated birds like I did. I kept my interest in birds under wraps, for the most part, and we were akin to an underground cult, at least those of us in my age bracket.
Not so today. Clubs abound, and other bird-related magazines have proliferated. An estimated 50 million U.S. residents actively watch birds on some level. We make a major economic impact, too: some $14 billion is pumped into the economy each year by bird enthusiasts.
BWD has been there through it all: real pioneers jumping into the unknown when Bill Thompson Sr. and his wife Elsa took a gamble and launched the mag. They bot…

More orchids

Probably no other popular group of animals illustrates the plant-animal link as vividly as butterflies and moths. Their larvae in nearly all cases are utterly dependent upon plants for food, and these relationships often are quite specific. At last weekend's Appalachian Butterfly Conference, we certainly didn't ignore the plants, and many skilled botanists were around. Early August is an incredible time in regards to floristic diversity in Shawnee State Forest and the nearby prairies of Adams County. Most of our participants were totally into learning about plants, especially how they interact with butterflies.

Following are two very cool orchids that we found over the weekend.

Ghostly pale spires of flowering Cranefly Orchid, Tipularia discolor, thrust forth in the dappled light of an oak forest. This is not an in-your-face orchid, and even plants in full bloom would be quite easy to pass by. Tipularia refers to a genus of craneflies: long-legged gangly insects that look like m…

Moths, moths, and more moths

We didn't ignore the dark side of Ohio's Lepidoptera at the recent Appalachian Butterfly Conference. To do so would be to ignore the vast majority of flying scaled things. After all, there are about 135 species of butterflies known from Ohio, and an estimated 2,500 moths! The learning curve is huge with the latter group, and we were greatly aided by Dr. Dave Horn, Ohio's "Moth Man". Dave is Director of the Ohio Biological Survey, and extremely generous with his time and expertise. There were so many moths about, we found them perched about here and there, but the majority were caught by Dave's blacklight operation.
Following are a few highlights. A random assortment. The big brown one is a Tulip Tree Silkmoth, Callosamia angulifera. It is pretty specific to Tulip Trees for a larval host plant, hence the common name. Next to it is a Luna Moth, Actias luna, which is utterly unmistakeable. We saw lots of them. The others? I don't know, and that's par for t…

Appalachian Butterfly Conference

This weekend past marked the first - and hopefully not the last - Appalachian Butterfly Conference. This event is something we started thinking about a few years ago, and first met to begin planning about a year back. It was great to see it finally come to fruition. The main organizers and sponsors were the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Shawnee Nature Club, Flora-Quest, and Ohio State Parks. Everyone involved did a stellar job of organization. So did our guides and speakers, and we had some of the best field people to be found. Thank you all.
ABC is breaking new ground in an arena that will probably only grow - butterfly ecotourism. Our venue was Shawnee State Forest, and the butterflying there is every bit as good as the birding and botanizing. It was cool to see about 85 attendees pretty much fill the Shawnee Resort and many of its cabins. I'd say that this one will only get bigger in future years. In addition to Ohioans, there were folks from Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Flori…

Amazing Cloudless Sulphur photos

In the definitive modern academic work on Ohio butterflies, Butterflies and Skippers of Ohio (1992), the authors have this to say about the Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae: "...it rarely reaches Ohio."

Not anymore. These large, beautiful butterflies that look like flying lemon wedges have become quite regular, their numbers definitely increasing. Variable numbers occur every year of late, and sometimes big numbers. Their common host plant is Wild Senna, Senna hebecarpa, and Cloudless Sulphurs regularly now reproduce here where the plant occurs.

John Pogacnik, who lives on the shore of Lake Erie in Lake County, gets scores of butterflies in his yard. To encourage butterflies, John has planted flora that are attractive to them, including Wild Senna. With great results, as we'll see.

The following series of amazing photos were taken by John in his yard recently.Gorgeous Cloudless Sulphur. This is a male. These are massive in-your-face buttery-colored sulphurs tinged with gre…

Bullbatlets Enlarge

Dan Adamski recently sent along photos of a Common Nighthawk that is nesting atop the medical building at the University of Toledo. Then, the female was harboring a freshly hatched chick - a tiny ball of fluff.

Today, Dan sent along photos that he took just this morning, and here they are for our viewing pleasure. Thank you very much Dan, for sharing this experience with us. It's not every day one gets to monitor the progress of young bullbats.

Mother Nighthawk. August 5, 2008, Toledo, Ohio. Look closely.

In a bit tighter, and you can see the approximately nine day old chicks huddled under the adult. In Common Nighthawks, females do all the incubation and brooding; males hunt and deliver food. A closer view of the youngsters. In the first post, we could see only one young. Dan must have found the nest right after the first egg hatched, and the second had yet to spill forth the baby bullbat. Both are in fine form now, and growing like weeds. Seems pretty late in the year for nesting; …

Downy Rattlesnake-plantain orchid

There are an estimated 35,000 species of orchids so far described worldwide, making it the King of flowering plant families. Maybe that's why many people, myself included, get so excited when they spot one in Ohio. Only 46 native species are found in the Buckeye State, or about 0.0013 of one percent of the global total. No wonder we get a jolt when we stumble across a representative of this largely tropical group. Last Saturday, a small group of us explored a very interesting Adams County-like prairie in western Holmes County. In the adjoining scruffy woods, we found many of the above, one of Ohio's most common orchids. Downy Rattlesnake-plantain, Goodyera pubescens, may be fairly common but it is always a treat to find, and is sure to be commented on but viewers. I suspect far more people are familiar with the long-persistent leaves, which are visible pretty much year-round, than are familiar with the midsummer blooms. These basal rosette leaves are quite distinctive, and if yo…