Saturday, November 23, 2013

Amble, hobble and stumble tour

We ambled along, making no great pace nor needing speed to accomplish our goal: just taking it all in.

Three amigos on an amble through a southern Ohio preserve.
Jim Davidson, John Howard  and Bill Marsh helped me investigate the winter botany along the trail. It is a whole new level of "challenge botany" to identify plants by their winter remains.

Blue blazes mark the Buckeye Trail.
 But where in the "blue blazes" are we?  We found ourselves on a portion of the Buckeye Trail, winding through the Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve.

It has been a recent goal of mine to investigate some pieces of the Buckeye Trail.  What serendipity that we would chose a site that achieved my goal!

Blackgum bark.
 However, we are not the serious back-packing hikers who are attracted to significant trails.  We stumble, amble and creep along, occasionally commenting on our elderly knees. We take time to touch the bark of Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica trees.  Big, chunky squares of bark are too tempting to pass by without tracing one's fingers along the lines.

Leatherwood bends without breaking.
We also bend the Leatherwood, Dirca palustris. This shrub is unknown to me from my region of the state. I was stunned to see USDA has records for Richland and Ashland Counties.  It is a natural wonderment, from the scooped-out bud scars to its bendable twigs.  Even in the winter it merits an extended look.

Leaf of the Shumard oak
 We stop to investigate the Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii.  It's distinctive leaves have tuffs of "hair" on the veins of the back-side.  This is one of the many confusing oaks, previously unknown to me.

John Howard gets a closer look with his lens.
 The moss and lichen play host to a myriad of life. We were entranced by a well-dress bug, adorned with lichens. John photographs a greenish-white dot on the moss, as it creeps along.

Lacewing larva in full lichen camouflage
 This is the larva form of the Green Lacewing, found in the fall on trees with lichen. These clever insects cover their backs with minute pieces of lichen, thereby becoming nearly invisible to predators and prey.  This could well be the ultimate in Halloween costumes!  We may have more on this topic in a future post.

Meanwhile, get out and hike, or just amble and stroll.  Take your time to enjoy nature, before the winter snows cover much of the interesting botany and bugs now being found along the paths.

One might even consider following the blue blazes of the Buckeye Trail. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Away from my Desk...

My blog posts have been spotty of late, as I spent much of the last several months on the road.  It has been a grand time chasing butterflies, avoiding rattle snakes and seeking out fabulous flora.  I have selfishly been more concerned with "doing" than "reporting". 

Much of the travel has been with my daughter, who sent this post card to me before she left for Basic Training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Together we logged some miles on that map this summer and fall. Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks I will get my  photos out and show you some of the highlights of our trip.

Some of those travels were for speaking gigs, and I always enjoy sharing my love of nature and concern with the environment with new and old friends.  I will look forward to seeing many of you in person at up-coming engagements in Adams County, Canton and Columbus, Ohio.  Until then, please be patient as I readjust to my "normal" life. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall wrap up

Fall has arrived in cooler weather and a rush of Kinglets.

My camera got left behind this weekend, so I only have a few snaps from my cell phone to keep you us to date.  The weekend started off with a Friday night Saw-whet Owl banding at Lowe-Volk park in Crawford county.  Sorry to report it was a bust. (Go here if you want to see last year's owl post.)  

The Saw-whets seem to be in short supply this year, but my friend Bob Scott Placier caught a few passerines on Saturday morning.

Golden Crown Kinglet
The kinglets are here in good number now.  They make the high pitched tse-tse-tse call you might be hearing as you pass through a white pine grove.  They are a true hearing test bird, and likely one of the first bird calls "lost" when your hearing starts to go.  They come in two flavors.  The Golden-crowned Kinglet as seen in the photo above, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet as pictured in Bob's hand below.

Golden-crowns are a bit more common in Ohio, but both species regularly occur here in October during the fall migration.

Bob Scott Placier and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Both species of frenetic feeders are impossibly small, weighing less than the standard U.S. mint's quarter. Kinglets can hover feed off the tips of pines, or bounce from limb-to limb in search of insects. They are seen as a blur as they energetically feed and fly in tree tops.  It is a rare treat to have close-up looks like these.

Thanks to Bob Scott Placier (Dendrology professor at Hocking University and long-time Flora-Quest guide) for all the fine educational and scienticific  work he does while banding birds.  I encourage you to attend his one of his programs at Lowe-Volk Park next spring. Bob is truly one of Ohio's unsung heros!  He may be on the quiet-side, but do yourself a favor and engage this man in conversation!  He has much to say on birds and books, our two favorite topics of conversation.

Shelly and Mark Goodman gearing up for a run.
 On a personal note, I shared much of this weekend with one of my favorite couples: Shelly and Mark Goodman. If you haven't heard, Shelly (Michelle) joined the U.S Army and reported for duty at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma this very morning.  Of course we wish her the very best, and Mark will have to fill in for her on all my adventures.  Sure hope he is ready to hike, bike and paddle his way around Ohio and beyond!  Actually, Mark is a very fine teacher in a Columbus school, and we are very proud of him as well.

More birding with Jim McCormac at the OOS Killdeer Plains event.
On Sunday, I joined up with my OOS friends at Killdeer Plains for birding and homemade soup.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I this is the only shot I have.

As always, it was great to be teamed up with my long-time mentor and friend Jim McCormac.  And for a special treat, I hope you will click the link to his blog post to learn all about the Red-headed Woodpeckers and Rusty Blackbirds that we saw.

Special thanks to Bob Placier and Jim McCormac for all the educational work they have done throughout Ohio.  I was fortunate to serve with both on the Ohio Ornithological Society's board and for many years at Flora-Quest. Thanks to their efforts, many people in Ohio have learned more and enjoyed the beauty of our birds, trees and native plants!