Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flora-Quest's good omen

A good omen visited my cottage at Shawnee this morning, one of the giant silk moths, a Polyphemus arrived just in time to kick off tomorrow's Flora-Quest.

The flora has been refreshed by the recent rain showers, and the forest fire is old news. Guides are arriving from all over the state and beyond, Jaret Daniels comes the farthest, and has flown in from Florida. Jaret will be leading a butterfly workshop on Saturday and black lighting for moths on Saturday night. I'll be crossing my fingers for a few more of these jewels of the night for our guest's enjoyment. Flora, feathers, and night time fliers- we will be having tons to view in the next three days. I'll look forward to seeing so many friends gathered here!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fire-Pink, Shawnee Forest

Silene virginica, Fire-Pink

This may be the most fitting flower to represent Shawnee State Forest right now, where Division of Forestry and local fireman have been fighting a forest fire for several days now. The rain has arrived in Scioto county, and will help quench the remnants of the burn. It's a long story that the news media is more than happy to cover for you, but I would like to address any of your concerns.

We have been in close contact with Ohio State Parks and Forestry regarding this weekend's Flora-Quest. Have no fear, we have many of our trips scheduled to go to Adams County, and the fire is well in control now. Officials are certain we will be able to traverse much of the park with no problem, and will probably not even be aware of this section that has been impacted.

Yes, I am greatly saddened by this turn of events, but we have two choices. Either we wring our hands in worry and call it quits, or we all head down there for a weekend of enjoying the flower display over the other 97 percent of the forest. The Fire-Pinks were in stunning display last year at this time, and I will be down there in person tomorrow to make sure things are copacetic. The lodge staff is anxious to attend to our needs, and the guides are ready to go. Let's support our park system and promote eco-tourism in Ohio. The plants you help save could be: Fire-pinks.

Don't hesitate to contact me with questions.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Colors of Spring

Check the colors on this lovely spring butterfly. But wait, Grape Epimenis is actually a day-flying moth! A spring flier, the adults can be seen nectaring on early flowers, such as the crab apple blossoms in this photo. His progeny will be debuting on grape leaves a little later on this season. Just one of the many non-birds we looked at on our GMAS walk at Byers Woods, we do it all: birds, butterflies, botany and anything else that moves.

And today's Fowler Woods walk set temperature records for April. About 40 of us basked in 80 degree weather while we studied Large-flowered and Nodding Trilliums, both Virginia and Canada Waterleaf and a stunning display of Marsh Marigolds. But the big excitement of the walk was a stunning Black-throated Green warbler, fresh in from the tropics, singing his Zoo-zoo-zoo-zoo zee song. We stopped on a dime to look up and pay homage to the first warbler many have seen this season- in fact- it was the first Warbler a few of them had ever seen. And that, is what it is really all about. Welcome spring!

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Tale of Two Pretties...

Squirrel-corn and Dutchman’s Breeches, can you tell them apart?

Dicentra canadensis, Squirrel-corn

and now....

Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's Breeches

We would be pleased to have you join us on Sunday April 26, at 1:00 PM for the annual GMAS walk at Fowlers Woods, and the Dicentra should be in good bloom. The question will be- which one is it? Each year we study the differences between these two pretties (my apologies to Dickens). I have heard every conceivable story from “pants-on-a-line” to “white bleeding-hearts” and there is some truth to be found in both.

Dicentra is in the Fumitory family, and both of these plants are close relatives to the pink and red “Bleeding Hearts” and bright yellow “Corydalis” your grandmother grew.
While they are relatively easy to tell apart while in bloom- look for the yellow on the Dutchman’s Breeches, it makes it a snap- they can be madding to decipher by the green vegetation alone. Squirrel-corn leaflets have a glaucous blue-green cast, while the Dutchman’s leaflets are yellow-green.

Do you have other suggestions for telling them apart?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Golden-crowned Sparrow

What can I say? The home owners from Findlay allowed birders to view this avian anomaly for just today and tomorrow, and it just wouldn't wait. The first- time ever, Golden-crowned Sparrow visits Ohio and gave us spectacular views from the homeowner's backyard. If you have not seen it, I urge you to go tomorrow. Good Luck!

Directions can be found in detail on Toledo's Rare Birds.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Butterfly Gardening Tips

We had so many enthusiastic questions at the Butler Library Butterfly Garden program tonight, I thought you might enjoy a few of my favorite quick tips for attracting butterflies. And looking at this beautiful Red-spotted Purple makes me think of one more secret to bringing winged-jewels into your garden. You'll find it at the bottom of the article.

Here are the main tips you need to know and a little explanation after each.
•Nectar Plants/ Host Plants
Don't just grow "flowers," butterfly larva are critical to a healthy population. Learn about the plants that the caterpillars feed on: willows, cherry tree, serviceberry, spicebush, asters, grasses, nettles and many, many more
Make your butterfly garden look like a native patch of flowers- Use big swathes of color.

•Not too neat!
Don't groom your garden too much, caterpillars need to crawl off to pupate,
and often attach themselves to dead vegetation for this purpose

LAyeRS for INtereST
Mix it Up! Best butterfly garden I have ever seen was built with mounds and walkways.

•NO Pesticides /herbicides
Let's not kill the creatures we are trying to help. Butterflies are extremely sensitive to chemicals.
•Add a rock or mud!
Butterflies are exothermic- they warm up in the sun (like the RSP in the photo). Treat your butterflies to a rock and some mud for a big puddle party! And not all butterflies utilize flowers- the "secret" for Red-Spotted Purples? They love compost piles and other green manures. Who would have guessed it? Yummm!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trillium Fest near Hocking Hills

It was my good fortune to be invited to the Trillium Fest held at Mathias Grove in the Hocking Hills, near Rockbridge, Ohio. The wildflower display was stellar, with a vast array of species and notable variety within species.
The Queen of Ohio's Trilliums and State Flower, the Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum was in stunning profusion, covering the rocky out-croppings.

The other species of Trillium putting on a good show is the Red, Purple or "Wake-robin" Trillium, Trillium erectum. Pardon my fingers, but these guys droop a bit, and I want you to really note the center of these flowers.

Here is another fine specimen of "red" trillium, not quite as red is it? It also had some interesting larva activity going on- note the "worm's" cobweb-like protection and hole on the petals and leaves.

Behold, another "red" trillium.
Red? How can that be? Trillium erectum gets its name for the red style in the center of the flower- not the color of the petals. Go back and study the Large-flowered Trillium and you'll see its style, located in the center of the flower is all yellow.
Both species were in glorious display, and they were just some of the interesting things we saw.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Go for the Gold!

This weekend should provide ample opportunities along with perfect weather to do a bit of botanizing and enjoying nature in general. I suggest you go for the gold: Marsh Marigolds. A walk in my favorite woods produced my favorite spring sighting- a babbling brook with a thriving community of Marsh Marigolds, Caltha palustris and Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus.

See if you can locate these early of the spring wetland plants in your area. They are a heartening sight after a long winter!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Re-loaded

Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida Photo by Terry Wolf

Spring was in full flower in Texas, in fact it was nearly summer- complete with tomato plants in the gardens and trees displaying full leaf.

The trip home including travel through Arkansas and Kentucky, where the Flowering Dogwoods and Eastern Redbud in full color were creating an attractive distraction along the highways. Birds were teed up in the tree tops giving spring chorus their best.

One might think I would be sad to return in a chilly rain to leafless mid-Ohio, but I know- I get to see spring twice this year. I am blessed.

The lovely Flowering Dogwood photo was provided by Terry Wolf. To see more of his work, go to Fogeyisms.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Little Flower that could...

Texas has a most beloved state flower, known far and wide for its beauty and tenacity. And while this flower grew into the hearts of Texans, it was a little lady, Lady Bird to be exact that put wildflowers on the map in this big state.

Lady Bird Johnson, the soft-spoken wife of the consummate Texan - President Lyndon Baines Johnson, was an advocate of beautifying America's cities and byways with wildflowers and promoted natural resources during her tenure as First Lady.

Texas roadside beautification and the Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis eventually became synonymous. True, the Texas Bluebonnet was already beautiful, but Lady Bird made her famous. April is peak bloom for these mini lupines and the fields and highway medians boast of beauty- as only a Texan could.

Monday, April 13, 2009

White-winged Dove

All of my Ohio friends seem to have Mountain Bluebird fever, and I'll have to content myself with 80 degree weather and White-winged Doves coming to the feeder in Houston Texas.
This dove would be a rarity for Ohio, and I bird I have been hoping to add to my Ohio list for years now. At least I have had good opportunities to study the boys in the backyard, which will eliminate doubts if I do see one in the Buckeye state.
One reason people are compelled to list: an easy find in one state, becomes a record find in another. So train your eyes for the white "sidewalls" on this specimen, and let's watch the telephone wires in Ohio for one of these distinctive doves.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Deep Ditch Botany

Recent travel has provided ample opportunity for roadside botanizing, and some of this trip's best finds were in a ditch just outside Port Arthur, Texas. Two plants from my "most memorable Texans" list also have family members tucked away corners of Ohio. Be on the look-out for these beauties' close relatives in Shawnee and Adams counties!

Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa is the species found in Texas, our Ohio native is the more demure Costilleja coccinea.

Pink Evening Primrose, or Showy Primrose, Oenothera speciosa is currently performing throughout Texas and Louisiana. With any luck, you may catch its act in Ohio - in a couple of months!

These are just two of the many photos I am looking forward to sharing with you as our travels continue.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Louisiana Wetland Preserves

The Louisiana Gulf Coast's Cameron Parish is home to Cameron Prairie NWR and Sabine (pronounced Sah-bean by the locals) NWR. A massive complex of over 125,000 acres, is managed to protect and perpetuate coastal marshes providing food and habitat for migratory birds and other native wildlife.

Blue Iris at the headquarters office greeted guests; Louisiana has its own native iris- Iris giganticaerulea as well as a highly invasive yellow, Iris pseudacorus.

The Creole Nature Trail provides an up-close look at rice farms, wetlands, and coastal plains.

One of the day's many highlights was this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, displaying his outrageous tail to a very lovely female. I was fortunate to see a pair of these birds, considered an"occasional" sighting at the refuge in the spring. If Murphy's Laws for birding are intact, they should be appearing at my feeders in Ohio next week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Meet Blue-eyed Mary

Meet Blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia verna- isn't she a lovely girl? We met this bi-colored beauty at the John James Audubon Park in Henderson, KY., but she can also be found in numerous Ohio counties.

Collinsia have five petals, and the lower ones resemble a "lip," a very good hint for placing it in the right floral family: Scrophulariaceae. A rather diminutive flower, it can be found mixed among other spring ephemerals, or in large stands of the singular flower.

The Audubon State Park in Henderson, KY, is a fantastic site for birdwatching and botanizing, and home to the J.J. Audubon Museum. I can think of no better way to spend a delirious afternoon than among wildflowers and historic Audubon bird prints. In order to best conserve the artwork, no camera are allowed (the camera flash is deadly to fine art), so I resorted to the next best thing: I bought a print to show you! Ah yes, the lengths I will go for a blog-spot!

And now- Audubon. A picture is worth a thousand words when the art is this good.

It will be even better in my livingroom. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Ephemerals

Trout lily, Adder’s-tongue, Dog-tooth violet, whatever you like to call it, Erythonium americanum is a woodland staple in Ohio. Stories abound, it takes seven years to bloom and the leaves look like the dappled shading on a trout. It sports six tepals (petals), which open and recurve with the morning sun.

A close relative is Erythonium albidum, the white dog-tooth violet: but it is not a violet at all! It is in the family Liliaceae. Let's compare this to another Erythonium, the closely related Goldenstar featured a blog entry or two ago. You will note the the Goldenstar is not recurved, and its seed has a much more pronounced “beak”.

Spring is here, and in spite of today’s snow, I plan to embrace it! I am headed to Texas tomorrow, and will try to give you an update on spring migration as I see it headed your way!

It is a tough job, but someone has to do it. :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Don't Know Jack...

Photo by USFWS; Joel Trick

...Pines, that is, and their relevance to Kirtland’s Warblers, if you didn’t attend Chuck Hagner’s keynote program at Wing Watch in Port Clinton on Saturday. It is another case of botanizing for birds.

Our story is all about Jack Pines, Pinus banksiana, and maybe a little about the Kirtland’s Warbler. This extremely rare warbler, named for Dr. Jared Kirtland from the Cleveland area, is once again expanding breeding territories and populations are now found in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario, thanks to “Jack”.

These beautiful warblers, with the most coveted eye-rings, winter in the Bahamas where their wintering-grounds are under pressure from development. And they were not having any picnic of it in Michigan either. Between the Brown-headed Cowbirds and the loss of suitable Jack Pine habitat, this was a bird in big trouble. Fortunately, US Wildlife Service and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources started working together to reduce cowbirds and manage Jack Pine forests with fire. Yes, this is another case where fire can be a beneficial, as Jack Pines do not completely release their seed without the aid of fire.

Kirtland’s Warblers will only nest on the ground under young Jack Pines, and now that the relationship between bird and tree is better understood, their numbers are increasing steadily due to good forest management practices.

Thanks to all the knowledgeable speakers at Wing Watch, especially Chuck, Sharon Cummings, Jenny Brumfield, Jim McCormac and Larry Richardson (the programs I got to see.) These gatherings are always wonderful place to learn more about birds and catch up with friends. Hope to see you at the next event!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Volunteers Deserve a Gold Star

Goldenstar, Erythronium rostratum photo by John Howard

And here's to all the volunteers that make our various organizations work! Yesterday at the Ohio Botanical Conference we met up with all of our wonderful guides, and MANY of them were noted in the Rare Finds portion of the program. Congratulations to all of them!

Without these knowledgeable guides, and staff volunteers (like Paula, Jules, Shelly, Yvonne, and Colleen) who don't get listed in bios and such, we could never put on these great events.

So here is your gold star or more correctly, Goldenstar, a plant so rare I have yet to see it in bloom!

Thanks for all you do!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now blooming in Adams County

Photo by John Howard
Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica

Oh to be there.....