Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ohio's Cemetery Prairies

As part of the Midwest Native Plant Conference, Jim Davidson and I led a field trip to two of Ohio's Natural Areas and Preserves, Smith and Bigelow Pioneer Cemeteries.

These historic relics mark time from white settlement of Ohio, gravestones mark the lives of our early pioneers.  Life was hard on these plains,  their short lives are inscribed on numerous family plot markers, many engraved with multiple children's names and dates.

Weathered stones still stand upon these two small plots of  land. The soil here has never been tilled; the original flora from pre-settlement still remains.  Standing like islands within fields of corn and beans, native grasses and flowers bloom all summer long. 

Shaded by giants oaks, a peace and solitude transcends the quiet paths,  only bird song and insect calls to disturb the settler's sleep.

 This year's drought has stunted the grasses, but a sea of  white Flowering Spurge, Euphorbia corollata dances in the sunlight and wind.

 The Purple Coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea are under siege.  Many of them have been stem-chewed, causing the flower head to dangle in death's repose.

A closer look at our Prairie Dock reveals the culprits,  wee beasties: Sunflower Head Clipping Weevils (Haplorhynchites aeneus) as seen in this photo. Their eggs, laid in the flower heads,  will hatch about the same time the flower finally drops to the ground.  To control this pest in your prairie or garden, simply remove all the clipped flowers, and you will be removing their eggs.  OSU's Buckeye Yard and Garden has a complete article on them here.

To see the cemetery in a previous year's post, go here.

From the giant oaks to the tiniest weevils, these prairies are important remnants from our past which need to be protected and preserved.  Please go to Ohio Natural Area and Preserves Association and volunteer today.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Midwest Native Plant Conference- Success!

The committee for the Midwest Native Plant Conference might consider naming its next conference: "Who needs sleep? There is always something to do!"

Black-lighting for moths was an unexpected bonus at the plant conference.
This event goes over the top!  One can expect great speakers and educational displays, a cross section of vendors which includes native plants, seeds, pottery (Go Black Kat!), photography, art, books, educational displays, and more books!  This event keeps getting better and better.  It is a flora-phile's dream come true.  

 Tim Snyder says,"Ohio's Natural Areas and Preserves need you!"  Watch for volunteer opportunities in the near future.  Working in preserves is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Ohio plants.

Dr. David Brandenburg cleared
up our confusions on conifers.

Top-notch speakers:  David Brandenburg, David Wagner, Marielle Anzelone, Ian Adams, and Jim McCormac- just to name a few.

 It is hard to chose between all the afternoon speakers!

Field trips:  afternoon, evening , morning and more!  Gather out front folks, we are going again!

 Our Friday evening walk may well be the largest gathering of insect song listeners in the world.  With nearly 100, it was hard to even squeeze them in the photo.

Experts:  Rubbing elbows in the field with the likes of David Wagner is always a highlight.  Dave wrote the book on  caterpillars, but has an incredible knowledge of all form of insects.  He has a wonderful teaching style and freely shares info with the newbies and experts alike.

 CONEHEADS!   Yes, the coneheads attended our conference as well!  We were happy to be serenaded by all manner of insects.

Yvonne Cecil and Jim Davidson discuss the finer points of a butterfly.
People: These gatherings are a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends, Flora-Quest buddies, and a chance to connect with new interesting people from all walks of life.  If you have a brain, you may have made the connection between the needs of humans and the health of our environment.  It is good to know something about the flora and other inhabitants of this planet on which we live. We are all in this together, folks!

A special thanks to the committee for making this event happen each year, and a special thanks for allowing me to participate.  As long as you keep putting on these fabulous events, I'll look forward to being there!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Welcome to the Ohio State Fair!

If you happen to be in Columbus at the Ohio State Fair, be certain to stop by the Natural Areas and Preserves booth in the middle of ODNR land.

 You find a lovely little patch of prairie there, and a fun quiz for the kiddos.  They can answer the questions by reading the signs on the native plants.

 The blooms are putting on quite a display, in spite of the intense heat. Four out of  five climatologists recommend "prairie plants!"

 The Ox-eye Sunflower,  Heliopsis helianthoides is putting on a nice show of yellow. The prairie garden has many labels to help you identify the plants. These native plants work well in landscapes, and generally require much less water and maintenance.

 A Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta  has a caterpillar adorning its crown.  Nature has a way of finding these plants, even in the middle of a city.

 Nearby, a new geological timeline display was dedicated.  This is an excellent opportunity to see how Ohio "rocks"- geologically speaking.
The historic buildings for vendors are a welcome sight at the Ohio State Fair.  It is a reminder our rich agricultural past, and hopefully it will be our future as well.  The Ohio State Fair has been important part of our farm culture for over 100 years.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mellow Yellows

Summer is the season for yellow!  Think: sunflowers and flower filled prairies.
Great St. John's-wort, Hypericum pyramidatum
This yellow was found along the the Clear Fork River at Mohican. Great St. John's-wort is a robust  native that  grows to nearly shrub-size portions.  Usually growing in singles, it is not very common and considered a good find!

Brown-eyed Susan,  Rudebeckia sp.
Brown-eyed Susans, Black eyed Susans, and myriad of sunflowers and prairie flowers can be maddenly similar.  This one is a standard garden plant that has been growing in my yard for years, but like many of our natives, it is carefree and requires no effort.  It also supplies long-lived table flowers for bouquets.

American Goldfinch with Gray-headed Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata

The "Wild Canary" is actually the American Goldfinch.  A feast for the eyes, these boisterous songsters travel in groups making their distinctive call, "Potato-chip, potato-chip potato-chip..."  Watch for them on prairies as they are exceedingly fond of Prairie Dock and cone flower seeds.

Cloudless Giant Sulphur,  Phoebis sennae 
 This yellow is mellow and living large for a sulphur butterfly.  Keep your eyes peeled for these southern migrants, they are showing up here and there.  This butterfly is more lemon colored and its flight is "loftier" than the other sulpurs.  It is always a special find.

Note the species name is sennae- for the Senna plant used as its host plant for its caterpillars.
Clouded Sulpurs, Colias philodice
Puddle party!  The sulphurs love to puddle and this clouded party was hosting a Soutern Dog-faced butterfly.  It is always worth checking for the oddities in a group.

Dainty Sulphur, Nathalis iole     photo by Su Snyder
One of our tiny southern butterflies (about 1/5 of the Giants' size) usually a mega rarity in Ohio, is becoming locally common!  This is the year to see Dainty Sulphurs and Little Yellows.  Sightings have popped-up though out our state- including  Adams County, Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area (south of Wooster) and as far north as the Oak Openings in the Toledo area.   

If you haven't seen them yet, this is the year to be hunting for the diminutive yellow flutter-bys!  They may well be more common in our future, if our weather continues to follow the models of climate change.

Monday, July 23, 2012

OOS visits Ottawa

This was not a forced march.  It was voluntary.  Yes, these people opted to get up at 6:00 AM to pack into cars and a bus to drive to a remote location within the Ottawa National Wildlife Reserve.   This is what we call "Birding".  

The OOS knows what makes these  people "tick." And most of them hope they don't get ticks whilst doing it.
photo by  Ernie Cornelius
 A two-rank line forms to hike the grassy dike out to sparrow land.  Some people will do about anything when promised the likes of Dickcissels and Henslows.

photo by  Ernie Cornelius
 Bill Thompson III, also known as BT3 led our intrepid  birders on the journey.  Our newest and possibly youngest member, Catie Strable is following close to his foot steps and soaking it all in.  Lucky girl!

photo by  Ernie Cornelius
 Dickcissels?  Yes, here is one we watched being attacked by an Eastern Kingbird. They put on quite the show.

photo by  Ernie Cornelius
 But what is this OOS?  It is people. A society, the Ohio Ornithological Society.  Check out our website at www.Ohiobirds.org and see what we are up to.  Join us for our educational conferences, or just free, fun field trips- like this one!

We are made up of all ages and abilities of bird-watching enthusiasts.

photo by  Ernie Cornelius

Young Ethan Kistler (in the green), has nearly been raised by this group!  Our world traveling birder is barely in his twenties and he has been a member since he was in his early teens.  As a child he had much to learn, and now he is teaching us... lots!

photo by  Ernie Cornelius

One of our older and wiser birders is  Dan Sanders (in red) veteran birdwatcher, with a 700 plus life list (in the ABA).  Dan is an OOS  board member, who is happy to lend his expertise to promote birding and bird science.  He and Doreen (in the blue) have contributed a great deal of information to Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas.  Their tireless efforts enable scholars to better understand breeding bird populations across Ohio.

photo by  Ernie Cornelius
Our partner for this trip was the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge system.  Ottawa is the largest expanse of wetland in Ohio and a significant refuge for birds, plants and animals of all kinds. From Bald Eagles to butterflies,  Ottawa is a center for science and nature study.  It is also frequented by birders, fisherman  and hunters alike.  Thanks U.S. Fish and Wildlife!

The OOS welcomes people of all ages to a social network of birding.  Learn from others and spread the joy. We are creating a community of birders who network in order to learn more, protect birds by education and conservation.  Are we perfect?  Not yet, but maybe if you volunteer we can become even better at what we do.  If you are not already a member I hope you'll join today.

Join the fun.  Join Ohio's Birding Network.  The Ohio Ornithological Society, free trips, more fun.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Something blue...

Another in the "shades of summer" series, today I am feeling blue.  But in a good way!

 What could be more spectacular than Tall Larkspur, Delphinium exaltatum against a backdrop of Purple Coneflower?   Although it is somewhat  rare to find in nature, this was easy to grow from seed and "plays" well with the other plants in my backyard.

 Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata  is a common plant of roadside ditches and meadows, but it is no less beguiling than many of those expensive nursery plants.  Feel free to enjoy it in your formal flower beds, I won't tell.

A personal favorite- ripe blueberries fresh picked from the yard.  Several types of blueberries are native to Ohio, however you'll find the high bush berries in bogs and the low-to-the-ground berries in acidic woodlands.  

Not totally "native," I admit to growing these jumbo hybrids at home. How else could I get these gigantic berries?

Last but not least- blue skies, and not the kind you see on a clear day.   Never-you-mind, these beautiful deep blue, storm laden clouds are a welcome sight in my neighborhood.

Let's hope for gentle rains; hold the winds please.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

In the pink

Mid summer is an excellent time for vibrant displays of pink flora.  Here are a few favorites to remind you of the great native plants blooming out there.

One of the bee balms, or Oswego Tea, Monarda didyma  is a stunner in the landscape.  Not only is it a bee magnet, the hummingbirds and day flying moths go for it too.

 "Click"  perfect photo, too bad that hummingbird got away!  One of these days I'll get his picture too.

 The Swamp Rose Mallow is a native Hibiscus, commonly found in the wetlands along Lake Erie.

Queen of the Prairie, Filipendula rubra  a well-named blossom that stands out in grasslands. Put this on your list of prairie-must-haves.

I am sure they will be selling it at the Mid-west Native Plant ConferenceHope to see you there!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mohican and Audubon

Some of the finest hiking trails in Mohican are found within close proximity to the  scenic covered bridge which span the Clear Fork River.  Trails flank each side of the river, at each end of the bridge and a third trail leads into Hog Hollow.

Covered Bridge at Mohican State Park

The overcast weather on Saturday made for cool and comfortable hiking conditions for the Greater Mohican Audubon Society's annual walk and picnic.

We stopped to study a nest on the edge of road near the trail head, not much gets past this groups' inspection.

Louisiana Waterthrush  
Several Louisiana Waterthrushes were seen foraging about on the bank across the river.  Their numbers  suggest a very successful breeding season.

Canada Lily
 The botany along the trail was bathed in the mist of recent rain.  This Canada lily received plenty of attention from the photographers in the group.

Hapola Moth
Tiger Spiketail
A Hapola Moth was resting in plain view, but it took Bianca Davis' sharp eyes to come up with a Tiger Spiketail dragonfly. Our most coveted of dragonflies are difficult to find on shallow streams, deep in the woods; they are always a major sighting! 

Baby Wood Duck play follow the leader.
 A gathering of young Wood Ducks entertained the birders.  It was a pleasure to watch these youngsters paddling about in our scenic river.

 Picnic?  Oh yeah, the food was awesome.  This was an amazingly healthy spread!

 Dr. Scott Pendleton, DVM came from Cadiz, Ohio to give an informative program on the nesting habitats of Turkey Vultures.  His enthusiasm for the topic created a new appreciation for this commonly seen bird.  Suddenly, we all realized we knew very little about their secretive ways of nesting.

Here's a hint:  Turkey Vultures often use the base of hollowed out trees to protect their young. Scott pointed out several potential places as examples of  prime nesting locations.  His program was so good, I hate to give it all away here.   Let's say everyone present agreed it was really an educational day- especially as he shuffled about hissing and waving arms!

We'll try to get Scott on the roster for another event so even more people can be indoctrinated in the the Vulture fan club.  Thanks Scott, you do the best "baby vulture" imitation I have ever seen!!