Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birding with Bill: Lakeside

Midwest Birding Symposium is the much anticipated birding event in the works for this fall. You'll want to be there to hear all the great speakers and take in the spectacular view from my favorite Lake Erie community. Register now while there is still room on the Thursday night Boat Cruise.

A crowd of nearly thirty gathered this morning to walk the Lakefront path in search of birds and witty humor. Fortunately, both were in good supply. A Caspian Tern performed as if on cue and our guide, Bill Thompson III, was able to correctly identify all those Great Blue Herons and Ring-billed Gulls which are so easy to confuse.

The West end of town offers the additional attraction of a thriving Purple Martin community. The largest of the swallows have become tenants in a mini-Fountain Inn. I hope their accommodations are as lovely as the room I stayed in last night, but I am pretty sure they don't get Direct-TV.

However, their view makes up for it: that is Perry's Monument at Put-In-Bay you can see in the distance. It it about 6 miles away as the Martin flies, but looks like you could almost reach out and touch it. The clouds played in an overcast sky which only added to the intrinsic beauty. I never get tired of this shoreline.

Just to our east is the dock where our ship will come in. The Goodtime party boat is a bit larger than these Sunfish cruising the choppy waters today, but we are keeping the cruise registration to 250, so don't dawdle. You need to register soon or you'll miss out.
Can't wait to get back to Lakeside this fall!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Orchids to 'weeds Tour

  • Sunday June 28, 1:00 PM: Seven vehicles roll out of the Lowe-Volk Park of Crawford County, with a mixed assemblage of park and Greater Mohican Audubon members. We are in pursuit of flora.

Prairie Fringed Orchid, Platanthera leucophaea, a bird's-eye view reveals individual flowers look a bit like an doll wearing a large prairie bonnet.

In its full glory, 50 dancing angels. These beautiful flowers are moth pollinated; lose the lepidoptera and you lose the orchid. Diversity of species is important, and many seemingly insignificant players, have a vital role.

Here is our group, at least the not-shy ones, we were 17 in total. Warren Uxley was the leader of this flora foray, and a knowledgeable fellow to have about. This photo was from our second stop- the 'weed portion of the tour: Castalia Resthaven Prairie Wildlife Area.

A portion of the group scours the field, while others practised photography in the glorious sea of orange: Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa. This is the same prairie famous for Small White Lady's-slipper orchid in late April and a spectacular display of tall grasses and native sunflowers in late summer.

Our Hairstreak butterfly du jour was a dime sized Coral Hairstreak nectaring on Butterfly-weed, in fact every time I have seen Coral Hairstreak it has been in conjunction with Butterfly-weed. This is native plant you will want to have in your yard or garden, as a host plant for Monarchs and nectar spa for many other species.

Bobolinks and Butterflies at Byers Wood

It was a celebration of three years of conserving Bobolinks at Byers Woods in Ashland Ohio.

Male Bobolink singing, photo by Brian Zwiebel

The most sought-after stars of the day were the Bobolinks, but Eastern Meadowlarks and Savannah Sparrows were also welcomed.

Mark and Michelle Goodman stroll casually ahead, while buoyant Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows graced the trails long the grassland and provided entertainment for all three groups of birdwatchers.

Hard to find Ohio Native plants were plentiful and Don Beam of Stucker Meadow has an enthusiasm for prairie plants that is hard to resist. He set out an impressive display of tried and true species!

Your blogger got caught sampling the Ashland County Park District's cook out lunch. These guys know how to grill the hot-dogs! (Kathy Mock incognito behind me...)

And this may well be the highlight of my day: a Striped Hairstreak! Check the diagnostic red cap above the blue cell on the hindwing, unusual vertical lines and an inset above the upper "tail." (What do you other butterfly-ers say?)

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us, and the GMAS volunteers who work at all these events: Mary Ellen, Su, Bianca, Marcia, Jean and Judy. It was great to partner with the Ashland County Park District for the third year in a row. The Bobolinks were "bubbling" over with joy and I especially appreciate all those friends and family who traveled distances to be with us. Thanks again, we hope to see you next year!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fen-tastic plants for your landscape

If you have ever wanted an easy care landscape that attracts native birds, butterflies and bugs- today's blog is for you! Visiting natural areas and preserves is one of my passions, and translating native plants in to usable landscape combines both my interests in gardening and native plants.

Featured in the Richland County Enviro-garden, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Potentillia fruiticosa, is a plant found in fens like Cedar Bog, and one of the few natives the plant nurseries have picked up on. It thrives in the most hostile environment- like homes with 3 or more teenagers- or wet or dry conditions. This is one of the most adaptable plants I know. No wonder it is found in every McDonald's landscape in America, but don't hold that against this beautiful, showy shrub.

Brian Gara, renown "fern"ster and fellow Ohio heritage botany buff stands thigh deep amid a regal display of Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis at Eagle Creek. Brian said he once planted a fern display garden for his parents home, but years and lack of water have taken their toll, and the last survivor is the Royal Fern. This striking species has recently been seen for sale in a very upscale nurseries. Little will folks realise they are buying a native plant with all the best qualities a homeowner could ask for: beauty and tolerance. Sun or shade, flood or drought, the Royal Fern delivers unconditionally.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Botanical Detectives: Case of the Mysterious Caterpillar

A recent visit to Davis Memorial, a DNAP preserve in Adams County, offered some fine views of many rare and unusual plants, and I hope to cover some of them in the near future. But today's blog focuses on a mystery caterpillar and the way botanical clues can be used to discover its identity.

A prickly looking beasty, isn't it? Sometimes those "stingers" pack a wallop- so my policy is not to touch the scary looking ones. Get Janet to do it!

The best guide for sorting caterpillars is Wagner's, if you don't have it- get it. Even a novice can sort "cats" by these incredible photos. Once you have a little experience you'll know which group to head for, straight away. And learn to rely on the botanical hints in the back of the book. Your caterpillar is on Milkweed? Could be a Monarch or a Tussock Moth.

Our botany, which appeared to be a mint, did not provide a very good clue. Since this caterpillar was quite large- probably last instar- he could be on the walkabout many take just prior to metamorphosis. Don't jump to hasty conclusions, chrysalises are often found on something other than the host plant.

Our mystery solved: The caterpillar's appearance, along with the host plant in the area, plus its preferred location of a swampy area next to a steam, all add up to this beautiful creature.

Photo by John Howard

Look closely- this is not a Pearl Crescent, but rather a Silvery Checkerspot. Sightly larger than the crescent, look for that "open" white spot on the lower wing. This Southern Ohio specialty is being seen more frequently towards the north, and it makes me appreciate the common host plant Wingstem, Verbesina alternafolia just a little bit more!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bird Quiz!

Here is a special quiz (I'll be cheering for all of you GMAS people!)

Did you get it? Kenn Kaufman just had a great article in Birdwatcher's Digest about fledgling birds and their bizarre plumage...hint, hint. OK, give up?

It is a baby Bobolink, making short work of a little lepidopteran snack. We hope to see tons of them next Saturday, June 27th at the Bobolinks and Butterflies at Byers Woods event. You can read the schedule at the GMAS website or follow the Bobolink photo on the sidebar of this blog. But either way, don't miss this chance to support our on-going conservation efforts in Ashland County and a lot of fun too. We'll have the standard 9:00 am GMAS Bird walk and a special set-up of spotting scopes at 11:00 am- so the public can really get a good view of the Bobolinks and other grassland birds. Bring the kiddies out to see our famous migrant from Argentina!

And check out our new sign! Thanks to an Audubon mini-grant, folks can learn all about these special birds. The Ashland Park District folks will be grilling up the hot-dogs and Don Beam of Stucker Meadow will be presenting info on Butterflies and plants- with a great selection of HARD TO FIND native Ohio plants for sale. And now the butterfly fanatics are angling to have an informal butterfly foray at 1:30 pm. Milbert's Tortoiseshells and Harvesters have been seen on this weekend in the past.

We have come a long way from that first seminar in 2007 with Jim McCormac's phenomenal Grassland Birds program and Dr. Stoffer's Butterflies of Byer's Woods. So do the good thing- support conservation and come have a great time! Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lakeside Rocks!

It was a pleasure to spend a couple of days at Lakeside Ohio this week, and always a welcome home with good friends and fellow Lakesiders from all across the county. If you are not familiar with this resort community on the Marblehead peninsula, I hope you will put it on your travel list. In fact, this fall the Midwest Birding Symposium will be the perfect opportunity to see this lovely "sea-side" Victorian town and enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

Two of my most treasured sights from this visit were the local rocks, and the irony and humor on display. Occasionally stretches of the Lake Erie shoreline will be magically transformed with Zen-like rock art. Many times over the years I have seen rocks stacked, one upon the other, creating an "eerie" other-world feeling. Who stacks these rocks? It must be elves working at night, because I have never seen the artists in action. The effort and balance has risen to new heights this year, as this is the first driftwood been utilized. Something about this art make me humble; our lives are as temporal as the rock-art on the shore. Wood and rock stand, only until the lake reclaims its treasures.

Painting Rocks has always been a favorite rainy-day past-time for Lakeside's youth. This is a true "Rock Garden" -one to be appreciated on many levels: the color, the durability, the lack of maintenance and the pure whimsy.

Lakeside- gathering eccentrics together for over 125 years! It is good to come home.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Four Reasons to Visit Cedar Bog

Today I will let the photos do the talking. Cedar Bog offers some of the most exciting plants and creatures found in Ohio, and it was a pleasure to explore with some great botanists and good friends.

Grass Pink, Calopogon puchellus an exquisite orchid. Puchellus is Latin for beautiful.

Showy Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium reginae, truly the Queen of the Orchids.

A Haploa moth, a stunning day-flier,

and a Five-line Skink. Check out the blue tail!
If you would like to see Cedar Bog in July, browse the field trip possibilities at Mid-West Native Plant Conference. See you there!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Native Plants, Historic Places

Catalpa at the Big House- Malabar Farm

One of the regular sites for Greater Mohican Audubon Society's beginner's bird walk, Malabar Farm State Park is well known for several reasons. It is one of the most visited state parks in Ohio, home of author Louis Bromfield, and the Big House (a small portion shown in the photo) is where Bogie married Becall.

While looking for birds, today we noted this Catalpa or Cigar-tree, Catalpa speciosa was in peak display. Catalpa, while probably not true natives of Ohio, were popular in the 1920's or so, and are often found lining old farm properties and city lots.

They have since fallen out of popularity -probably due to the giant seed pods bound to fall on well-manicured lawns- and I have yet to find one in a local nursery. Not one to be easily dissuaded, I once raised a whole grove of them and passed them out to any and all takers.

Catalpa flower

The flower, though short lived, is quite lovely. It is a white version of its near relative, the more commonly known Hummingbird or Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans. Both are members of the Bignonia family, as the large trumpet-shaped flowers and elongated seed pods bare witness.

While Catalpa may not be a true Ohio native, it is still a mighty attractive, disease resistance tree from our region of the U.S., and one we continue to enjoy in our own yard.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Living Life- Small

John Howard's spectacular photo essay of the life cycle of the dime-sized Appalachian Azure.

Female Appalachian Azure checking out the local flora...

Smaller than a pin head, the eggs are deposited on the host plant, Black Cohosh.

Myrmecophile at work: ants tending to the safety of these bud-sized larva

The proud parents: Mr. and Mrs. Appalachian Azure.

The native plant, Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga racemosa, host to the life pageant of the small.

All these amazing photos are the property of John Howard, many thanks to him. Double click on any of them to see them in unbelievable detail.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Supply Equals Demand

Serviceberry- a spectacular Ohio native plant!

Supply equals demand: a basic tenet of economics, and it is true in landscape too. If people ASK for native plants at the local nurseries, they will have to start carrying them.

So ASK for serviceberry, elderberry, redbuds, wild cherry, river birch, Ohio native viburnums and dogwoods! And tell those good people working at your local stores about the Wild Ones and our mission to spread the good news according to St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardeners everywhere!

I made a foray to the local plant-yards in Richland county, and the sales people were surprisingly clueless as to actual native plants, or why folks would want them.

Now I know I am preaching to the choir, but let's get out there and ask for these plants that host the moths, beetles and butterflies of Ohio- 'cause the birds of Ohio want to eat them!

And if you aren't sure which plants we are talking about- go to the Wild Ones link above and sign right up for the Midwest Native Plant Conference. I will look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, June 8, 2009

You can't see me...

Camouflage in action:
A Killdeer sits patiently on her nest as I walk by each day.

"Go on nice lady. I know you walk past me every morning, but you can't see me. I am hiding behind this 'bush'."

"OK, maybe you can see me. I am glad you are a birder!"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Film from the Ohio Dragonfly Conference

Dennis Paulson shows Mary Jo White details on a dragonfly. Dennis is not only one of the nation's leading experts on dragonflies, he is a heck of a nice guy too!

Just released on the Division of Wildlife e-Newsletter:
Devotion of Dragonfly Enthusiasts -
Warming temperatures and sunny skies are bringing out the dragonflies, which rank high among Ohio's most interesting creatures.

Click on the blue link to watch an exciting film clip from 2007's Ohio Dragonfly Conference. Be sure to watch the footage of Dr Dennis Paulson, Bob Glotzhober, Larry Rosche, Jim McCormac and others.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Native Water Garden Plants

Fragrant Water-lily, Nymphaea odorata

How could Home Depot improve upon this? A burst of light in the form of a water flower, it is about as close to perfection as a plant gets. Add to its beauty a subtle fragrance and it becomes clear, non-native plants cannot offer any more than the native plants already in our natural areas.

Non-natives bought at stores often escape and create a nightmare in our wetlands. Purple Loosestrife and Flowering-rush are two imports that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but something went terribly astray. In fact, the plants went astray and have been creating havoc and costing big $$$ in order to eradicate them from native wetlands.

Please- buy responsibly- purchase native plants for your water gardens and leave the invasives where they belong, stuck in a big-box store.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Search for Ohio's Rare Jewels

One of Ohio's endangered species, the River Jewelwing damselfly has only one known population in Northeast Ohio. This beautiful water-born wonder has always captured my imagination with the last third of its wings tinted dark, unlike the Ebony Jewelwing's totally blackened wings.

River Jewelwing photo by Dennis Paulson (used with permission.)

Odonates, damsel and dragonflies, are bio indicators for water quality and interesting insects in their own right. Our featured damselfly is known for the unusual courtship flight by the males, and the mind-blowing underwater egg laying feat accomplished by the females.

Why should we botany types care about insects? There is still much we can learn from studying insects and their adaptations, both physical and chemical. Many have a special relationship with a host plant, and knowing botany can increase our odds of searching out these rare species. Just focus the search in the location of the host plants, i.e. milkweed plants and monarch butterflies.

River Jewelwings are said to lay their eggs on Eel Grass, Vallisneria americana. So if there are other River Jewelwings to be found in Ohio- we might be well to put a botanist on the job. Better yet, a botanist who knows their insects will have a distinct advantage!

For more information about these and other odonates found in Ohio, you'll want to get a copy of the very fine guide, Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio which was produced by the folks at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.