Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in Pleasant Valley

 A very famous house in Pleasant Valley is dressed and ready for Christmas.

The windows are trimmed with garland and bows.

The trees are aglow, one for each room.

The family pets enjoy the party too.

The Postman, painting by Grandma Moses
Even the artwork reflects the season.  This painting  "The Postman" is by a famous American folk artist.  Ironically, Grandma Moses  said she first started painting (in her late 70's)  to produce a gift for the mailman's Christmas.

 So have you guessed who hosted the party I visited today?  The lawn has seen many gatherings and press conferences over the years.

This is Malabar Farm, home of the author Louis Bromfield.  One of Richland County, Ohio's brightest gifts not only to the literary world but, perhaps even more importantly, to conservation as well.  He wrote and talked about preventing erosion and improving soil conditions, long before it was the vogue.

ODNR's  Director James Zehringer, Park Manager Korre Boyer and  Assistant Director Andy Ware 

Today the party was given for Malabar by Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  The gift, totaling $500,000. has been promised for the restoration of  "The Big House," as we locals call it.  This home, the epicenter of conservation during the Great Depression, has seen better days.  But today marks a movement for change.

It was a moment of great pride and happiness for all of us gathered on that lawn.  We are looking forward to embracing the farm conservation ethic Louie promoted while living in Pleasant Valley.   Welcome Korre! We can't wait to get to work on the farm.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cranberries: Thanksgiving elixir

It is such a sadness that a fruit as wonderful as the cranberry gets mentioned but once a year.  This Ohio native plant really has the goods.  Unfortunately, we have all but wiped them out in Ohio.

Large Cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon
 You'll only find them in bogs, like Brown's Lake bog near Shreve, or Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve, a floating Island in Buckeye Lake. Well, actually it is sinking... but that is an interesting story, too.

Our family Thanksgiving jello recipe calls for ground cranberries.
 I am a big fan of the cranberry and I hope you are too.  They are really high in Vitamin C.  Unfortunately we in Ohio have to buy ones shipped in from Michigan or Maine- two of the bigger producers of this perfect fruit.

No matter how you prepare them, in a jelly or jello, or sauce- you'll want to add plenty of sugar.  These bad boys can really be tart, but that's why they are so perfect! 

Just boil 2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar and add in 4 cups of whole cranberries.  Boil them for about 5 minutes.  Once they cool you have a delicious topping  for anything from a cracker with brie to sliced turkey.  (I can't believe I just gave out a recipe. It must be the Greg Miller influence!)

So how did they get the name Cranberry?  Could it be from the giant Sandhill Cranes known to inhabit wetlands and bogs?  We may never know.  But it sure makes for a great story.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Now pass the cranberry sauce!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fringetree: Nature through the lens.

Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus is a southern species, best known from Virginia and the Carolinas.  If you want to see it in Ohio, you'll need to go south- to Scioto or Adams County.

Coincidentally, that is where we hold Flora-Quest, and we hold it when the Fringetree is in bloom: the first weekend in May.  Mark your calendar- this year's date is May 3-5, 2013.

Fringetree, photo by Andrew Gibson
 Knowing Fringetree is found in Scioto County is one thing, knowing where to find it is altogether another. That is why you'll want to book a trip with our experts guides, like Andrew Gibson and Ian Adams.

Fringetree, photo by Ian Adams

If you love to study nature, you may find it is even more enjoyable when you frame it as a photograph.  Whether it is the entire landscape that catches your eye, or some little detail you would like to examine with macro photography, today's "point and shoot" cameras do it all.

This year we are offering something entirely new:

                           Nature through a lens.

This isn't some difficult class filled with talk of F-stops and apertures!  You don't need a fancy camera, your cell phone will even do. This is a nature class.  Let the experts teach you how to get those photos you will want to share with friends.  Learn how we sneak up on butterflies or bees.  Get down on the ground for some exciting perspectives!   Ian and Andrew will help you understand nature, and see it in a new light.

So pick up this year's Flora-Quest card- and you'll notice a portion of Andrew's spectacular photo is featured on the front.

Join us and see all your favorite spring flowers: orchids, shooting-stars, Indian paint-brush and some exciting trees.  We are still in the planning stages, but the trips are coming together and we can't wait to share what our guides have in store for you this year!

Is it spring yet?

Friday, November 16, 2012


Is this some moonscape photo?  Not exactly.

It is the overhead tank of Moon Jellyfish at the Cleveland Aquarium.  It has a new addition: plastic bags.

Cleveland aquarist J.J. Soski (Look familiar?  She is my daughter) gave a program on the "Persistence of Plastics" on Wednesday night.  It was rather eye-opening. 

The problem with plastic, it persists for a very long time. Who "needs" a drink straw that lasts 10-20 years?

Several plastic bags are floating in the Jellyfish tank as an educational effort (not as a permanent display.)  It clearly proves how difficult it is to see the difference between bags and Jellies, even for people.

Another new feature is this giant Jellyfish created from used plastic.  J.J. stands in front of her artwork, to give perspective to  its awesome height.

Great Cleveland Aquarium has been hosting beach clean-ups at Villa Angela.  Go to their Facebook page to learn more about this volunteer effort.  This photo from JJ's presentation is an accounting of the junk plastic collected on clean-ups.

As a birder, I was already familiar with the terrible toll plastics are taking on our sea birds.  The death rate of Albatrosses is staggering, as her presentation showed.

Aquatic conservationist are deeply concerned for the small fish as well.  Sure, they can't eat a pop bottle lid or a six-pack ring, but these tiny shipping beads,called nurdles, are neutrally buoyant (they float IN water- not on it) and look like "tasty" fish eggs. 

 However, there it no nutritional value from plastic- only full bellies and sick fish result.

Be part of the solution!  Bring your plastic bags to the Cleveland Aquarium for recycling. Trade in twenty  or more bags for one of these nifty cloth bag with the Greater Cleveland Aquarium logo.  Get one of your own.

Hurry, this offer is only good while they last- and they are going fast!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We Need Trees.

Trees have been foremost on my mind, and I am pleased to announce Dr. Joan Maloof will be the keynote speaker at Flora-Quest this year.  Go here to learn about the program she recently gave at Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

We need trees, now more than ever.  And not just for lumber.  Trees clean the air and old growth forests hold moisture even during droughts.  Trees just might the the key to saving our planet- or we mere humans living on the planet.

My challenge to you today is to slow down and look, really look at the trees around you today.  Do you see how the bark varies from species to species?  Note the buds, some are skinny and pointy while others are huge honking things. Most leaves have fallen, but some of the oaks and young beech trees hold their leaves into winter.

Look. at. trees.   Birds like them, botanists adore them, and there is much we can learn from them.

It is not a choice of the economy or ecology.   Good ecological practices are good for people, and cheaper in the long run.  There are  no clean up costs to pay! 

Join me in celebrating life- just a little- and go hug a tree!   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Owls make my face hurt!"

We had a grand time at Lowe-Volk Park on Friday night. 

Oh geesh, another human!

We saw several Saw-whet owls up-close and personal.  And they saw us... mostly making fools of ourselves.

"Owls make my face hurt!"
 Madison may have said it best.  When I noted every one had besmitten looks on their faces, she said she had been smiling so much that,"Owls make my face hurt!"

 And it is not just Madison that loves these pint sized birds.  Look at Kaily.  "Ah..."  She has been struck daft.  

It is not just children either:  grown adults, men, women.  They are all mesmerized.  Every time I have been in a roomful of saw-whet watchers, the reaction is the same.

Thanks to Bob Scott Placier for traveling to Crawford County to make it all possible.  He has banded owls three years in a row and we have had success each time. Thanks to the park for offering this wonderful outreach program for birders and non-birders alike.

After all, NO ONE can resist the charms of these little owls.  One you've seen them up close, your face will hurt too!

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Birdy Buddies

If you are in the Mid-Ohio region, tonight could be your big chance to see a saw-whet Owl up close and personal!
Saw-whet:  the little owl with a huge personality!
There may be nothing on earth cuter than a Saw-whet Owl, and tonight is dedicated to Saw-whets at  Lowe-Volk Park.  Come out to learn more about these little owls.  Once you have seen them up-close and personal- you may never be the same.

Bob Scott Placier with saw-whet owl
My friend Bob Scott Placier, College Prof., bird bander and OOS Board member extraordinaire will be at Lowe Volk park this evening: Friday Nov 2.  He'll have his nets strung for Saw-whet Owls.  

 Hope you join us this evening.  All the details are here.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Greg Miller?
Saturday Night is a big deal too!  We will have an encore showing of The Big Year at Gorman Nature Center- and Greg Miller will be on hand to crack-wise and answer your questions. 

 You'll not want to miss this! Join us at Gorman Nature Center,2295 Lexington Ave., Mansfield Ohio, 44907 Details here.

Greg Miller and Cheryl Harner
So, join us for two nights of fun and birding!  I would love to introduce you to my wonderful friends!