Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Treasures from Adams Lake and Prairie

Our recent travels to Adams county included one of the best spots in the state for birding, botanizing and butterflying: Adams Lake and the Adams Lake Prairie. This spot remains a reliable location for Summer Tanagers, Red-headed Woodpeckers and a couple of lucky finds: two Orchard Orioles, an adult and a first-year "bearded male."

This is an awful place to bird with a "Weedpicker" with dragonfly interests. In three seconds flat I was at the water's edge admiring one of my all-time favorite flowers, the Water-willow, Justicia americana and the black-saddlebag dragonflies zooming past them. These orchid and white flowers totally befuddle most folks as to plant family, as it belongs to the largely tropical Acanthaceae family.

This one is a pretty obvious ID, nothing difficult about a Red-headed Woodpecker- except finding them. Dead tree snags in or near water and open oak savanahs are their most reliable habitats.

Southern Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa is related to the far more common-to-Ohio Common Evening Primrose, Oenothera biennis a standard of wastelands and fields. Fruticosa varieties have been hybridized for the garden and can be found at plant nurseries in a pink form.

Another Adams Lake Prairie specialist, Spider Milkweed, Aslepias viridis. These oddly colored greenish-yellow flowers did not seem to attract butterflies or bees, so what is pollinating them? Spiders? I doubt it, and would start by looking to ants as pollinators - as I noticed ants on many of these plants.

Watching the local fauna interact with the flora can unravel many questions, or put more questions in your head. Either way, I encourage an active learning mode in the field rather than the simple check-it-off-my-list mentality. Nature has many amazing secrets, and careful observation is the best way to learn her ways.

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