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Showing posts from December, 2014

Turkey Vulture

I always have scads of images in reserve, most of which never appear here. This series of Turkey Vulture photos was among them. I liked the way the shots came out, and as this is one of my favorite birds, I could not go without sharing them. And what better day to do so than on Christmas, in spite of the possibility of perceived symbolism.

The images were made at the Wilds back in November. The vulture was quite cooperative, but I was using the car as a blind and shooting out the window. Had I been on foot, the vulture would not have let me get near this close. I like the "bokeh" effect of the shots. Bokeh is modified from the Japanese word boke, which basically means blur, and refers to the quality of an image's background.

In the case of these images, the pleasing (to me, at least) gray-green background is the aggregate of fields of browning fescue grasses, interspersed with occasional autumn-olive shrubs. The images were made with Canon's 500mm f/4 II, with 1.4 t…

Some Midwestern Landscapes

A recent project had me going through scads of photos, and in the process I came across a number of landscape images. Some of which I really like, and maybe you will, too. Some of these photos have made their way to this blog in the past; others, not. As always, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

Fall colors at Rhododendron Cove State Nature Preserve, Fairfield County, Ohio. This is an oldie, but to me at least, a goodie. I really like the way that the image came out, even if it was blind luck. It dates to 2007, which for me was the Bronze Age of photography. The image was made with a Panasonic FZ-30 point & shoot, and I really didn't have much awareness of the Big Three back then: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. The camera's settings reflect my ignorance: f/2.8; 1/30 shutter speed; ISO 125. I could have gotten away with a much smaller aperture (higher f-stop number), which would have probably given greater clarity to the scene. But it worked out anyway, and the e…

Orioles and elms

A good-sized American Elm, Ulmus americana, stands alone on a field edge. Its whiskbroom shape is apparent even from afar. I tend to notice big elms, and generally pay them more than a passing glance. The American Elm is still a very common tree in Ohio, but big ones are scarce.

In 1928, Dutch Elm Disease was first detected in North America, and it spread like wildfire. It is caused by three species of microfungi, two of which afflict trees on this continent. The fungi is spread by a trio of bark beetles. Once a tree is infected, the tree attempts to thwart the spread of the invader by plugging its xylem channels, which transport various nutrients and water throughout the plant. This ultimately fails, and the elm dies. Trees usually succumb before reaching the size of the specimen in this photo, which I found last Thursday at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. Most large elms that I see are isolated like this one is; it may be more difficult for the vector beetles to reach them.

When I s…

Red-headed Woodpeckers plundering acorns

This juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker was one of many busily harvesting acorns today at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area. Oak of several species are plentiful throughout the 9,000+ acre wildlife area, and every woodlot has its complement of woodpeckers. This was a banner year for the acorn crops, so there is lots of work for the red-heads.

Red-headed Woodpeckers cache food, and they were industriously wedging acorns into nooks and crannies of various granary trees. Assuming the birds can remember their locations, and I'm sure they do, for the most part, these acorns will be welcome foodstuff during bleak winter weather.

Skunk "hikes" egg

You can probably file the following video under strange things almost no one ever gets to see.

The beloved Striped Skunk, those handsome if not occasionally malodorous black and white beasts, are well known for their digging propensities. If skunks are about, and hungry, it is common to see the aftermath of their hunting: small divots pawed into the ground where the animals have dug out tasty beetle grubs or other fare.

But a skunk is not a one-trick pony when it comes to feeding skills. They'll take about anything they can find, and that includes eggs. If, for instance, a skunk stumbles into a turkey nest, it'll likely grab the eggs, or at least one of them.

However, a skunk with fresh egg soon finds itself with a dilemma. How does a four-pawed animal crack the shell. View on...

Video by Laura and Dave Hughes
The Hughes - David and Laura - consistently outdo themselves in capturing outstanding trail cam videography. I've featured their work here many times; type "Hugh…

Woolly-bears make bad meteorologists

Ah, the Woolly-bear, Pyrrharctia isabella, America's most beloved caterpillar. The tubular little beasts are impeccably zoned into neat patterns of burnt-orange and black, making for a darn good-looking larva. Woolly-bears are also undoubtedly the most widely recognized of North America's thousands of species of caterpillars, and that's due to their supposed ability to prognosticate the coming winter weather. The wider the orange band, the milder the winter, so the folklore goes. If that were true the bear in this photo would be calling for a balmy winter.

Not to burst any bubbles, or cast aspersions on any of the Woolly-bear festivals that have sprung up (one in Vermilion, Ohio - the "Woollybear Festival" - began in 1973), but there is no credibility to the caterpillars' role as weather forecaster. The widths of the colored bands are unrelated to future weather. Their size is much more aligned with their age. Caterpillars grow through various stages, each t…

Spring Grove Cemetery and the Braun sisters

The impressive entrance to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati. When passing through these battleship-like gates you know you've arrived somewhere of note. Of course, for most of the residents it's a one-way street.

I was down here recently for a meeting, and we allowed enough time to tour some of the sights. Spring Grove is the largest cemetery in Ohio, at over 700 acres, and it is probably considered as much park as cemetery. It harks back to the olden days, when cemeteries were used for picnics, weddings, and nice oases free from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We had some knowledgeable guides for our foray into the cemtery, including Ned Keller and Kathy McDonald, Judy Ganance, and Solomon Gamboa. When you're dealing with small roads winding in an abstract fashion through 700 acres, it takes a while to learn the lay of the land.

But thanks to our guides, we were able to navigate directly to some of the cemetery's highlights, including the massive white oak, Que…