Friday, July 31, 2009


Water-willow, Justicia americana

A delicate water-borne beauty, favored haunt for dragonflies, the Water-willow forms dense mats along the banks of rivers, streams and lakes. The purple and white blooms seem orchid or mint-like at first glance, but it is a member of the Acanthus family of flowers, like Bear's Breeches.

And the habitat isn't so bad either. I spent the afternoon studying this vegetation from the shore of the Clearfork Reservoir. Good thing I brought along my binoculars for dragonflies and birds, and the camera to document them. Its a dirty job, but somebody has to do it...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Requiem for Pink Katydid

It was grievous to learn of Pinky's untimely death, however, that is what nature is all about: life, death and nutrients recycled. Being an insect is a tough way to make a living at the bottom of the food chain.

Somewhere out there is another pink katydid, and while it is nowhere near as famous as "Pinky," it is just as interesting and worthy of scientific attention. She was an ambassador for the insect world and it was a thrill to share her with so many.

Sunday July 26th, Cedar Bog:
Pinky and her entourage during better times.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A-Z Flora at Cedar Bog

Zigadenus elegans, Wand-lily at Cedar Bog

The Midwest Native Plant Conference's field trips provided opportunities to botanize in some of Ohio's best fens and other natural areas. We viewed the gamut of flora at Cedar Bog-from the most common, Allium cernuum, the nodding onion (in the last post) to the exceedingly rare Zigadenus elegans, or Wand-lily.

Found in only a few counties in Ohio, this lime-loving Wand-lily is also called White Camus. The Native Americans were well aware of its poisonous properties- and thus another common name is Death Camus. These common names vary from state to state.

As a wise old botanist told me this weekend: While scientific names change from time to time, common names change from location to location.

No matter what you call it, Zigadenus elegans is an "elegant" member of the Lily family and we were thrilled to see them in full bloom... just don't eat it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fabulous Fens

Nodding wild onion, Allium cernuum blooming at Prairie Rd. Fen

Thanks to the organizers of the Midwest Native Plant Conference for a fen-tastic weekend! Over 120 native plant enthusiasts gathered to learn more about the bountiful beauty we have in Ohio and wetland species were a highlight. We had a great time discussing the Soggy Bottom Boys, those wetland plants that can be used in your home landscape. It is amazing how adaptable some of these plants are to dry situations as well.
A grand finale of the weekend was our group's field trip to Cedar Bog. Now remember, Cedar Bog is not a bog, but rather a fen. Bogs "clog" (think of kettle -hole bogs- no water movement) while fens flow. Fens are know for cold underground seeps and alkaline conditions. Cedar Bog has some amazing marl flats- a rare habitat for rare plants and unusual creatures.
This federally listed Elfin Skimmer dragonfly is one of the rare creatures. Our group was lucky enough to have the fleet-footed Jim McCormac along to snag this prize specimen. Perhaps my 6th trip to the bog, this was the first time I was ever fortunate enough to see the extremely small and delicate male Elfin Skimmer. His blue coloration is a perfect match with my lucky blue Ohio Dragonfly Conference shirt from 2007!
It was wonderful to meet so many interesting people from across the midwest! Hope to see you again next year!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Viceroy- Prairie Road Fen

A quick post from Dayton- epicenter of the afore mentioned Midwest Native Plant Conference. I had the good fortune to pre-scout some closed-preserve State Nature Preserve properties, and the day was amazing!

Viceroy on Blazing Star

Just one photo from Prairie Road Fen to set the tone for the conference. Tonight's speakers were Judy Burris and Wayne Richards, authors of a great book entitled The Life Cycles of Butterflies. Check it out, you will be blown away with the macro photography!

Maybe we'll post more tomorrow- Pink Katydid is quite the celebrity here. Since her featured article in the Columbus Dispatch came out today, she is the most in-demand insect in Ohio!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ready for my photo...

We have a bit of a celebrity staying at our house, and hopefully all this attention has not gone to her head. She has even booked a tour, and plans to attend this week's Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton. Enjoying her 15 minutes of fame is all well and good, and she seems to enjoy living in a deluxe terrarium style habitat. At least it sure beats dodging hungry birds without aid of camouflage!

Several visitors arrived today, the Pinkster's good friend Jan Kennedy met up with Erin from the Columbus Dispatch. They are discussing the article about this famous bubblegum pink Katydid that captured everyone's attention.

Seriously, after the press and a few other experts get to examine and photograph her, she will be returned to the wilds where she belongs. However, this has been an incredible opportunity to spark folk's imagination, even the most jaded have to ponder... Why is this katydid pink? All sciences begin with a sense of wonder, and if a pink katydid can awake someone to the world of nature, then perhaps she deserves the celebrity status.
Pinky's virtual sunglasses were provided by Paula Harper.

Alive... in a Cemetery

The Ohio prairie still lives in a remote cemetery. Standing among the tombstones in Smith and Bigelow Cemeteries, one is remined, this is the remainder of a once vast prairie. Like standing in an art museum before a Rembrandt or Monet, I suddenly felt very small and still in the presence of the century old oaks standing guard.

A chippy scolds us for disturbing the silence, then retreats to his grass-hidden lair.

Monuments from the 1850's pre-date man's passion for Ohio farm land, or at least his ability to readily claim the clay soil for agriculture.

Standing before the canvass of landscape, this living artwork depicts Ohio's prairies and the plant composition found centuries before white man. What planted garden could surpass this beauty?

Once thought to be extirpated from Ohio, Royal Catchfly, Silene regia still remains as a silent witness.

For more photos of American landscape and prairie musings, see Nina's incredible posting at Nature Remains.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shocking Pink Katydid

Here's the first of the "Pretty in Pink" Katydid photos that are about to surface on the blog circuits! Jan Kennedy found this unbelievable sight on one of our Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist programs at Killdeer Plains. Here is our guy in nature, before we scooped him up in my net to share with others, and he became the most photographed Katydid in Ohio History. I'll leave the full story to Jim McCormac, because no one spins a tale like Jim!

Pink color morph on a Round-wing Rattler Katydid- found at Killdeer Plains. The bright yellow botany? Birdfoot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, a lovely non-native invader of wasteland and road edges.
Jim McCormac, taught the botany portion of the mini event, and here he describes the Michigan Lily, Lilium michiganense. Not only a great botanist, Jim does it all with birds, as the Division of Wildlife's Avian Educator and OOS president.

Gary Kennedy, displays a Blue Dasher dragonfly that became rather fond of Gary. With leaders the likes of Bob Glotzhober, Jim Davidson, Dave Horn, Bob Scott Placier, and Jim McCormac all the botany, butterflies, dragonflies and birds were well covered. Thanks to Rae Johnson and Jim for organizing this adventure!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Sense of Wonder

Two photos today, from that amazing Adam's county naturalist, John Howard. They serve proof, the first trait of a true naturalist is a sense of wonder. I wonder what made these dragons stand out to John. They are not unusual in size or shape, and the colors are rather subdued. But he took note, and got himself a humdinger here.

Four-spotted Skimmer photos by John Howard

Four-spotted Skimmer is quite the rarity in Ohio, with a short flight period. Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio says their numbers "have notable decreased and are no longer a yearly occurrence in Northeast Ohio." In fact, no tenerals (immature dragons) have been sighted in the last decade and it is possible we are only seeing migrants.
A sense of wonder will serve you well. Whether it is botany, butterflies, bird or dragonflies, keep your eyes open wide and question everything. Who knows what the rest of us have been missing out there?!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bike Trail Botany

The Richland County Park District manages the 19 miles of the scenic B&O Bike Trail which runs from the City of Mansfield to the village of Butler. It is one of my favorite places to botanize on a daily basis, mostly one finds the run-of-the-mill flora, but occasionally there is something spectacular.

Early in the morning the bumble bees pollinate the Swamp Roses, Rosa palustris which grow freely along a small stream. Their display is a feast for the eyes and a reminder that roses need not be the weak, chemically dependant, insect infested "hybrid teas" of Jackson Perkins fame. These natives are hardy beauties requiring no care, yet producing a wall of flowers for the passers-by.

And just beyond the Swamp Rose, another member of the rose family: Black Raspberry, Rubus occidentalis. These luscious berries festoon miles of the bike trail, and provide the energy and motivation I need on evening walks. How can the others bear to pass them by?

Yummm. I love botany.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Purple Martin Massacre

Today was our second Bird-walk offered in Lakeside, Ohio. We had another nice turn-out and with attendees from New York City and Florida, we had a pretty good span of the East coast covered! It is always fun to chat with other birders, and learn from them as well. Once again we ended the walk on the lakefront in front of our Purple Martin colony.

Unfortunately, the Purple Martins were highly excitable and one house was completely free of activity. We wondered why there seemed to be feathers stuck to the roof, and once we walked in closer, we witnessed a gruesome scene of shattered wings and Martin parts. The house cast a chill over our mood, like the Nightmare on Elm Street.

Nature is sometimes cruel, and the Purple Martins were a tasty morsel for something higher up the food chain. This colony seemed to fare the cold snap in June better than their inland counterparts, most likely because mayflies are so plentiful in this location. Sadly, now we learn the hard way how tough nature can be, the house was probably predated by a raccoon. The Purple Martin landlord, Bill Dudrow had new sheet-metal animal baffles installed on the poles before noon today.

Hopefully we will have cheerier news to report next time, you can go here to see a post of this colony in happier times.

Sorry to the botany fans- I promise to post some flora photos soon!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

GMAS Picnic

Thanks to all the folks who took part in the Greater Mohican Audubon Society Picnic on Sunday. Everyone thought the food was exceptional this year!

Our program was on the fascinating topic of North America's largest swallow, the Purple Martin. These colonial nesters and their life history made for lively discussion, and we were treated to great looks at the Purple Martins still feeding young in the super-gourd housing at Pleasant Hill Marina.

GMAS member Don Plant talks to Jean Taddie in front of his Purple Martin display. From boxes, to food, to fledging young, Don is well versed on this topic. He told of the unfortunate loss of young during this year's late June cold snap, and predicts greatly reduced fledgling success for 2009.
Our Volunteer Extraordinaire- Mary Ellen Bolt and husband Mel enjoyed the picnic lunch, and while these two are total Eastern Bluebird fanatics, they admitted to enjoying this program as well. Mary Ellen is our membership Chairperson and always looking for new members! You can make her job easier and join GMAS today by e-mailing me to ask for a newsletter, the membership form is on the back.

Thanks again to Don and Diana Plant for all their work, and to everyone for the exceptionally yummy food!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A likeable Loosestrife

Loosestrife gets a bad rap and some of it is well deserving. The species with the garish hot-pink flowers, forming masses of color in our wetlands is a bad one indeed! It is an invasive known to dominate cattail marshes like a playground bully. It pushes its way in, and there is not much you can do to stop it.

Fringed Loosestrife, Lysimachia ciliata

There are likeable varieties of loosestrife, and although not as well known, they are well-behaved additions to our native flora. Fringed and Whorled Loosestrife both bear yellow flowers, with similar five petaled flowers. Whorled Loosestrife, Lysimachia quadrafolia has distinctive whorled leaves in tiers of four (hence the name quadrafolia.) Our photo feature is Fringed Loosestrife, Lysimachia ciliata a lovely addition to wet thickets throughout Ohio.

There is even a seldom seen native loosestrife, in a hot-pink variety. It will make you do a double-take, and wonder if the bad ones are loose again. A little comparison of size and leaf shape should clue you in to this diminutive wet-prairie species. Although it is not as large and showy as its cousin the bully, it has a pleasant, delicate look among the sedges and native grasses, and resides at both Dahmer Prairie and Castalia Resthaven Prairie.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Wild" for this Petunia

A quick trip to Shawnee State Park yielded a few interesting photos. One of of Ohio's most under-used flowers, the Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis would be a stunning plant in the landscape.

Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis with a very handsome striped insect. (click on the photo to enlarge)

This flower is pretty much contained in the southwest quadrant of the state of Ohio, and it is not uncommon to find this species growing in the ditches and along roadsides. The softly fuzzy leaves and violet flowers are worth stopping to inspect, as deep in the throat of the flower are magenta veins which probably act as nectar guides. If they are half as effective with insects as they are with me, this member of the Acanthus family should have no problem getting pollinated.

The bonus insect- a minuet fellow with a distinctive strip and festive dotting on the legs, should be easy enough to ID. Unfortunately, I am having no luck! Any takers out there?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Swimming off the Alvar

One of my favorite places to visit on the Marblehead peninsula is the alvar in front of my friend's home. An alvar is an extremely hostile environment for plant growth, being subjected to wind, storms, ice and relentless waves. These "limestone pavements" were named for their counterparts in Scandinavia, and they tend to host very unusual plant communities. This one is on the waterfront (like the preserve on Kelleys Island), while the Lakeside Daisy, Hyemonoxys herbacea is found on another alvar-like environment where the quarry operates inland Marblehead.

While swimming here, I noticed some of the pockets carved in the rocks were filled with decaying matter, like rotting sea-weed, or more correctly, lake-weed? This must become the foothold plants need to germinate on this otherwise impregnable limestone. Even the sides of these rock formations have dwarfed flowers, mosses and grasses hanging on for dear life. Plants here become Mother Nature's personal bonsai garden.

A dwarfed Erigeron clings tenaciously near the rock's edge.

It is a lovely place to drink in the beauty of the Erie islands, and if you don't mind sharing space with a few Northern Watersnakes- you can go for a swim. Just watch where you step, because the snakes were here first!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Hope you all had an amazing Fourth of July! Sunset and fireworks on Lake Erie are hard to beat. First sunset: boats cue up in front of the L-Dock, where the fireworks display is staged. A hundred or so boats will vie for dockside viewing, but remaining up wind from the falling embers is essential!

Ka-Boom! The smoke and gun power explodes- once again we have the rockets red glare. With simultaneous fireworks at Put-in-Bay and Lakeside, one starts to think about the battles that did occur on this lake.

The Put-In-Bay monument in plain view from the Lakeside shore is named for Oliver Hazard Perry, who turned the tide in 1812- "We have met the enemy and they are ours." Tonight we celebrate our freedom once again.

Wishing you all a happy Independance Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ohio's Rhododendron

Rhododendrons native to Ohio create a pretty short list, four in fact. Three are early blooming azaleas and just one is the larger flowering rhododendron form.

Here is a glamour shot of the white-and-shell-pink beauty, Great Rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum, listed only in six Ohio counties on the USDA Plants database. I was fortunate enough to accompany some of Ohio's finest naturalists to closed site in the Hocking Hills area, where we saw many rare and unusual species of Ohio's flora.

Lined up in front of a flowering Sourwood, Oxydendron arboreum are the four cowboys: Steve McKee, Eric Miller, Paul Knoop and Jim Davidson. These four are some of Ohio's "good guys" -the cowboys who always wore white hats in the movies. This group of gents help identify, preserve and/or protect some of Ohio rarest species and best properties for our future generations, and they are a whole bunch of fun on a foray. But be warned, don't get between them and a bowl of ice cream, or you'll see how like-minded and determined they can be!