Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring into Action

Spring teased us with a sneak preview this past weekend, before snow slapped us back to the realities of April.  But even a couple inches of snow and near freezing temps can't diminishing my joy.

A Red Admiral butterfly basks in the sun.
 For I have looked into the eyes of spring, as it came in the form of a butterfly.  
This Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly is collecting sun rays in order to start the day.  Butterflies, like many insects and reptiles, are exothermic. Most butterflies will not start flying until it is near 50 degrees outside. Frequently, you can find them warming their wings in this fashion on cooler mornings.  They gather heat from the sun.

Trout Lily  in full bloom
The Trout-lilies (Erythronium americanum) were in full bloom at the Highlands of Ohio Sanctuary near Bainbridge, Ohio.  Our spring display of ephemeral flora is generally short lived, and this year will probably be shorter than ever, due a long lasting winter.

Look closely!  Not all pollinators are bees.
"Now" is your opportunity to study the pollinators of these short-lived spring flowers.  It is fascinating to note that most are pollinated by creatures we do not see the rest of the year! Much of our local flora is pollinated by tiny fly-like bees.  Some are pollinated by beetles! If you look closer you will see two beetles* working around the pollen laden stamens of this miniature lily.

* It turns out these beetles are Red-necked False Blister Beetles, Asclera fuficollis. It is more likely they are feeding upon the pollen.  Maybe they do some "collateral pollination" in the process!

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers like insects too.
 We were not the only ones looking for insects.  This yellow-bellied Sapsucker was tending some sap "wells" he had drilled on a Sugar Maple tree.  Insects are also attracted to the sap, where they often become a little "protein side dish" for Mr. Sapsucker.

Dolomite outcroppings festooned with flora.

If you are into outrageous displays of spring ephemerals and rock-covered flowers are your thing, you simply must go here:   All spring-starved eyes will be sated in the preserves set aside by the Arc of Appalachia.  If you are not already otherwise engaged this Easter weekend, you may still be able to register for their Wildflower Pilgrimage by calling ahead.  Don't miss the trip to Barret's Rim!

Look deep into the "eye" of this trillium.
This weekend will be prime for Ohio's state wildflower the Large White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum. The weather should be lovely and the pollinators will be in full force.  How many "new" pollinators can you find?

Please notice there is much more in our forests than "trees."  A healthy forest ecosystem is filled with biodiversity. Forests include everything from salamanders to butterflies, and all the creepy-crawly, buzzing, bumbling pollinators that service our flowers, shrubs and trees.  Where would we be without them? 

Too often our state and national forests are "managed" for the benefit of one species or another; the losers are often the innocent and very essential forces that make life in the forests bloom.  Birds and small mammals feed on caterpillars and countless moths, gnats and beetles round out the Masterpiece Theatre of everyday life and death struggles in the forest.  Generally they don't need us to intercede in their ecosystems. They have been at this a long, long time.

If you have not done so ready, please read my last blog post and consider signing the Sierra Club's form encouraging the state to stop spraying in our forest.  Our much needed pollinators are trying to make a living out there!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Not all the same...

If this warm weather has you excited for butterflies- you can join my club.  Well, I don't really have a club, but if I did it would be for chasing butterflies!  I first got interested in them when I was a child, and now I like to make road trips to see unusual species.  Basically any excuse for travel is good, so why not "butterfly sight-seeing?"

The Karner Blue
 You'll need to drive towards Toledo, Ohio and the Oak Openings to see the Karner Blue Butterfly. One of the Nature Conservancy's properties call Kitty Todd is ground zero for this blue.  Its host plant is Wild Blue Lupine, so make certain you visit around "Blue Week" when the lupines are blooming and one of Ohio's rarest butterflies fly.

The Common Buckeye
You'll have to wait for summer to see the Buckeye, as it migrates north from southern states.  They cannot winter over here, so this butterfly will arrive in July or August, unless it gets hot early.

A local favorite the Red-Spotted Purple. 
One of our local butterflies is the Red-Spotted Purple.  They are common to wood lots and back yards, their host plants are cherry trees and willows. The little spotted butterfly in the background is a Pearl Crescent. Its host plant is flowering asters!

If you like butterflies, I hope you will take time to follow this link and send a message to Save Ohio Butterflies.

The Sierra Club and I want you to know our government agencies plan to spray for Gypsy moths- and they won't only be killing one moth species.  They will wipe out any and all butterflies in the area as well.
Spraying will begin early this spring and impact caterpillars of all varieties in Ohio. Areas all across Ohio will be impacted with this non-specific aerial spraying, and if we don't act now - there will be a lot less butterflies to enjoy this summer. Other alternatives such as pheromone flakes or Gypchek only affect the gypsy moth and would protect native butterflies. 
There are other better alternatives.  Help us encourage Ohio to do the right thing! Click the link above!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Early Season Butterflies- West Virginia White

April is not too soon to be looking for butterflies.  In fact, a very special butterfly- the globally vulnerable West Virginia White needs your help.  Several organization are conducting studies in which you might want to participate.  I am attaching two letters and a couple of my photos of last years West Virginia Whites.  Yes, they look a bit like the Common White, but they have no black spots.  They also use native plants for a host plant, and studies show the invasive Garlic Mustard plant is VERY BAD for them.  Learn more in the video below.     This video will teach you more about the West Virginia White.

I hope you will be watching for the West Virginia Whites and report back to either Dave or Samantha. Their letters are attached below.   Thanks for helping us! Weedpicker Cheryl

Dear West Virginia White surveyors,

Thank you for all your help surveying for the Globally Vulnerable West Virginia White butterfly on or near Museum Natural Areas!

WVWs typically emerge mid-April as long as the weather stays warm (above 60*F with clear skies) and fly to mid-May, basically as long as there are dense stands of blooming wildflowers, especially host plant cut-leaved and two-leaved toothworts and later blooming wild geranium stands.  

Given the cool spring temps and very cold Lake Erie, the overall flowering abundance levels of spring wildflowers will likely be behind schedule, especially near and/or east of Lake Erie. Emergence of West Virginia White butterflies from their overwintering pupae should also be behind schedule.
Look for this Globally Vulnerable slow flying mainly "in-the-rich-woods-only" butterfly laying eggs on cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), or Two-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine diphylla), its' required host-plants, which occurs in moist rich woodland areas, often found on the slopes of gullies or other low areas with adequate moisture. 

If you do see a WVW, please document as much detail as you can.  
Visit for a survey form and instructions, and  for pics of the host plants, eggs, chrysalis, and the similar looking European Cabbage White butterfly.  The European Cabbage White, with VERY pale black (mostly in early spring ECWs) fore-wing tips and black sex spots (1 spot on male and 2 on spots on females) flies faster, more direct, and out in the open and it also starts to fly in April.  As uber volunteer Terri Martincic says, "One trick I found is they {WVW} don't fly like the Cabbage Whites.  If you have to "chase" it it's a Cabbage White, if it stays in one area slowly moving from one flower to another it's a West Virginia White".

Please respond to this email if you are able to resurvey last year's Museum Natural Area or if you are interested in surveying a new or additional area and we will mail you an Access Permit to the those preserves.

Please email or mail your observations of high count #'s, egg-laying, etc and any garlic mustard sightings to us, and feel free to call with questions to the # below.

Also check out the website for WVW first emergence date(s) research. 

Hope you have lots of good finds.

David J. Kriska
Biodiversity Coordinator
Natural Areas Division
Center for Conservation & Biodiversity
Cleveland Museum of Natural History
1 Wade Oval, University Circle
Cleveland, OH 44106

West Virginia White

Hi all - 

I'm writing to share with you a video that I wrote and produced about the West Virginia White and my research. The video is in the context of a crowdfunding campaign. I'm using this to raise money for my final year of research. If I raise enough, I'll be able to travel to many remote field sites and enhance our understanding of the West Virginia White and its relationship to garlic mustard.  Even if you can't donate, please consider sharing the video and page with friends and family. I do offer small "rewards" for donations-- framed pictures, photo coasters, special Skype QA sessions, and the like.

URL     This video will teach you more about the West Virginia White.

The great thing about this campaign is that it is "keep what you earn" which means that I don't have to reach a goal for your money to help me with covering costs of fuel, camping, and lab supplies. We've currently got enough raised to cover four nights of camping, but none of the other costs associated with research (fuel, lab supplies, field supplies, undergraduate help).   

Again, if you can't donate, please share with friends and family and check out the video anyway, because you can see some of the pictures and videos I've taken during the last 4 years of working on this majestic rare butterfly.


Sam(antha) Davis
Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Candidate
Wright State University, Dayton, OH

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Life is good- for birders.

This morning I stopped by the Clearfork Reservoir in Mansfield, Ohio to look for a bird.  Not just any bird, but a very special, diminutive goose, one a trickster might be tempted to pass off as a duck.

Ross's Goose at Clearfork Reservoir, photo Cheryl Harner
Mid-morning I got word that a Ross's Goose had been seen at the reservoir.  Stopping on my way to work, I was unable to find the little guy.  Fortunately, birding is so much fun I barely even cared.  There were some lovely loons floating by and  I heard my first-of-the-year Brown Thrasher calling.

Blue skies and fair weather
Later, I found this photo of the sky on my camera.  It had been an accidental shot, but I kept it anyway. It reminds me just how beautiful it was today. Just me and the Brown Thrasher, who was boldly clucking and squawking. Every moment was a delight. 

So much so, it was worth making another stop- right after work. After all it couldn't hurt to check again.

 And there was the Ross's Goose, Chen rossii tucked right up next to the shore swimming with some Richardson-sized Canada/ Cackling Geese.  These are not the local golf course geese which waddle about consuming grass.  These sleek little beauties are built to fly, migrate in fact. By next week they will be back in the northern most reaches of Canada.  Our reservoir is nothing but a stopping point on their way "home".

Grazing geese,  Ross's and Canada.
 We gave them plenty of lee way, as they seemed interested in leaving the water to come ashore.  We backed off far enough that the little wanderers came right up on to the picnic area for a nibble.

The bill is quite tiny on this 23 inch goose.
Ross's Goose 
It is a sure sign that winter is finally over. Everyday for the next month or two is an opportunity to see different birds, as we never know what the winds will bring us. Yesterday we were chasing (and missing) a Tufted Duck. Today it was a slightly off course goose.  Ross's are rare in Ohio, and I have only seen a few others in my whole life. They are much more common to our west, as they generally migrate across Texas and up through the Dakotas.

Welcome spring and welcome little goose!  He will certainly be gone by tomorrow, continuing the trip north. He will soon meet up with many more of his kind, and the breeding season will begin.  

Life is good- for birds and the birders who love to watch them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nature News from our Lakeshore

If you were able to catch my act at Shreve, you'll know I much admire Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr. and his fabulous photos.  Chuck loaned me an entire series of bird shots for my Birding by Habitats, and Habitats for Birding  program.

Eastern Phoebe on Cleveland Lakefront, photo by Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr
Because Chuck spends so much time watching the shores of Lake Erie and documenting the birds found there, he has recorded some important Cuyahoga County natural history. 

Jim McCormac walks you though the science -while featuring Chuck's photos- in an excellent blog post on The Fishing Flycatcher.  If you have not read it yet, please click on the link and read the full story.  

We keep learning fascinating new things from nature everyday.  Keep you eyes open and a camera ready, for you too might witness "Nature News" in the making!

My bird habitat program also featured some of Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr. captures a group of Monarch butterflies in a fall migration rest-stop at Whiskey Island, a important stop-over habitat for these Butterflies on the brink of extirpation.

Hot off the press!!!  Now you can visit all those "secret places" the birders go!
Speaking of Jim McCormac, he has penned a new guide for ODNR and Sea Grant. It covers some of the hottest spots along Lake Erie and the birding information is rounded out the book with tips and tidbits on plants, dragonflies and the like.  I immediately purchased a copy from my friends at the Ohio Ornithological Society's booth at Shreve.

This is your best guide to Lake Erie birding, and an excellent way to get an expert's perspective of the natural history of Ohio's Great Lakes region.  Even though I have been frequenting many of these places for years, there are a host of locations which are all new to me!

On a five star scale- I give this book: 6 STARS !!!  

You can follow this link to Sea Grant to purchase the book, or call our friends at the Black Swamp Birding Observatory's gift shop: (419) 898-4070.  Both organizations will ship one right out to you.