Friday, June 29, 2012

Breeding Birds of Mohican State Park

Mohican's Covered Bridge is a local icon; it stands near the trail heads to Big and Little Lyons Fall .  These are easily the most traveled paths in the forest, with a steady stream of hikers in the daylight hours. 

But if you arrive early enough, you may have the good fortune to have the place to yourself.  The magic hour is about 6:00 AM.   A Cerulean Warbler was putting on an excellent show  right next to the bridge.

Yellow-throated Warbler photo by Greg Cornett
 Yellow-throated Warblers also inhabit the sycamore trees next to the river.  This riparian corridor hosts an amazing array of avian species, everything from Bald Eagle to Winter Wren.

 Listen for the complex song of Ohio's most musical species, the winter wren is a tiny, chocolate brown puff ball which favors tree roots along streams.  Our forest is enlivened by their melody.

 An off-trail excursion led by Richland County Parks' Director, Steve McKee turned up several of the 22 breeding species of warblers, and the Frank Lloyd Wright  of Veerys.

 Along this pristine seep, the tell-tail signs of  morning bath in the fresh water spring.

 Near by we discover a nest buried in fresh plant life, adorned with moss.  This photo was taken at a good distance, as not to disturb the young in the nest- nor leave a scent trail for their predators.

A small blue egg nearby, indicates one of the thrushes.  It is an excellent possiblity of a Veery, who sing a Haunting circurlar song, with puctuations of  "VEER."

Veery- photo by Wikipedia

Anxious to learn more about nests and eggs, I applied Paul Baicich's book to our mystery.  Veery is a good fit for the nest and egg.  I you don't have this book in your collection, you are missing out.

Now do you see eggs?

 A bit further down we entered a gorge filled with the song a Canada Warbler.  As we passed near the rock edge, a bird spooked off her nest, deftly concealed at our knees' height.

Canada Warbler photo Dave Lewis

 We scurried past, marveling at how well the nest was concealed.  The bird circled back to its nest as we vacated the area.

Mohican is the cradle of life for an astounding number of birds, mammals, unusual plant forms of   ferns, trees and forbs, and even endangered Hellbender salamanders.  We hope to preserve it for our children, and generations beyond.  This park is a place where people connect with nature and sooth away their dreary work-world lives.  As John Muir wrote,

 "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."


Thursday, June 28, 2012

More Mohican

After a good bit of travel I have come to realize, Mohican's beauty and diversity ranks with any place across the nation.  Some days I despair that much of my work is endless.  Trying to save a forest and park "from" the very folks we thought were invested in protecting them... it is the very definition of insanity.

The light on the Clear Fork river plays through the Hemlock trees, an Ohio Scenic River and a keystone species; Mohican's eco-system crumbles without them.

Canada Yew, Taxus canadensis is indicative of northern forests. Here is a thriving stand in Mohican, on the most popular trail- The Big Lyons Falls. Amazing, for mid-Ohio.

Flowering (or Fragrant) Raspberry, Rubus odoratus with bumblebee,  another plant species that says "north woods."  This is easily the most beautiful of the Rubus family, and commonly found in the deep shade of the sandstone and Hemlock trees of Mohican.

 A juvenile Bald Eagle posed for us.  It was a mega teaching oportunity.  Ben Warner got the bird in his spotting scope and we encouraged passer-bys to look at the majestic bird.  This youngster in transitional plumage created quite a stir with novices. They couldn't believe that was a "real" eagle!

Toeing the line...
As we left the forest, a very young fox kit was working the road edge.  One might have thought it was play, until a chipmunk with very poor timing chose to cross the road.  Immediately this kit pounced toward the prey, with no luck.  Hopefully he will get the next one and live long enough to have kits of his own.

Each time I return to Mohican, something amazing happens.  And it is all free to those willing to take the time to open their eyes to nature and welcome the wonders of the world into their heart.

If you are interested in protecting our state forest, please go to and watch the video on Mohican or Malabar Farm.  You figure out what you need to do next.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lake Kelso's Tiny Treasures

Yesterday I had the good fortune of being a speaker for the Geauga County Park District at  West Woods.  Northeast Ohio has some wonderfully diverse parks, well worth the visit.

The Geauga Park District has the classiest signs! The combined logo of the Sugar Maple leaf and the Red-headed Woodpecker tell you a lot about the habitat.

After my program on "Homegrown Butterflies" we high-tailed  it over to Burton Wetlands to see what was flying about.  Lake Kelso, a kettle hole bog, is the centerpiece of this park.  It is the remnant from the last glacier that rolled through.

 We were lucky enough to have some experts along!  Lisa Rainsong and Linda Gilbert along to help with identifying all manner of insect life. We also enjoyed the calls of Alder Flycatcher, Veery and numerous Catbirds. This glacial relic has fascinating botany too.

 It was most entertaining watching the honeybees "bumble" around in the water lotus.  Lake Kelso has a lovely display of the Fragrant Water-lilies, Nymphaea odorata.

We found several Pink Lady Beetles, Coleomegilla maculata- Since they were pink, it is a pretty good name and easy to remember.  These are one of our native Lady Beetles which are in decline, possibly due to the competetion of the non-native Multi-color Asian Lady Beetle.  
The tiny larva are also Pink Lady Beetle larva.  To learn more of Ohio Lady's beetles you can go here.

 We spent a good bit of time examining exuva, or sheddings from the larva of dragonflies.  Linda Gilbert may well be the best expert in the state on that topic, as she has raised many odonates through the larva stage, right up to the time they eclose (or shed) into a dragonfly.

 Many dragons were flying, including this Slaty Skimmer, Eastern Pond hawks, Blue Dashers and Dot-tailed White-face.

While sorting through photos, I notice this larva looks as though it has not yet eclosed.  The exuva is much darker, as it is still being occupied!  Had I realized, it would have been fun to hang around and watch it develop into an adult dragonfly.

Each dragonfly species has a unique larval form, and an expert can recognize them even at this stage.  To see many types of dragonfly exuva go here.

Thanks to all the folks who attended my program and to my friends that visited Lake Kelso afterward.  By the way, Lake Kelso is one of the spots you will want to visit for a photograph to enter TNC and Honda's competition for a new car.  Go here for details and visit some Natural Treasures this summer!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bobolinks in the News

As seen on the front page of today's Ashland Times-Gazette:

Photo By Irv Oslin 
Mark Bixler, of Kidron holds up his son Amos, 8, to a spotting scope so he can get a closer look at bobolinks on the grasslands at Byers Woods during Saturday’s Bobolinks at Byers Woods Festival.

Photo By Irv Oslin 
Bird illustrator Jen Brumfield photographs a freshly emerged black swallowtail butterfly Saturday at Byers Woods. 


Saturday was a good day for people-watching for the birds and insects at Byers Woods. There was a great deal of diversity, with people coming from at least 20 different counties and a few from out-of-state for the sixth annual Bobolinks at Byers Woods Festival.
Judging from guests names on sign-up sheets and a survey of the overflow parking, it appeared that attendance exceeded last year's estimated head count of 140.
The human guests weren't disappointed. At one point, during a bird and insect walk led by Jen Brumfield, six bobolinks were seen perched in a row on a fence.
Brumfield, a renowned bird illustrator and outdoors educator for Cleveland Metroparks, led two walks. Both were well-attended, as was one led by Ashland bird-watching expert Tim Leslie, which drew 45 people.
"I think everyone enjoyed themselves," Leslie said. "I know I enjoyed it. And we all got in a good hike. And there were lots of bobolinks this year."
Among those walking with Leslie were Liz McQuaid and Jeanne Utter of Cleveland.
"The bluebirds are great and the butterflies are fabulous," McQuaid said.
For the first time this year, bird-watchers found dickcissels staying at Byers Woods. For many people at Saturday's event, including Utter, it was their first sighting ever of the small seed-eating bird.
During Brumfield's second bird and insect walk, a woman spotted something special; a black swallowtail butterfly freshly emerged from its chrysalis. People on the walk paused to photograph it from all angles.
Ann Ely of Wooster came specifically to go on Brumfield's walk. It was her second Bobolinks Festival.
"I like going with Jen because she knows everything," Ely said.
Mark Bixler of Kidron brought his sons Amos, 8, and Josiah, 5. Amos enjoyed looking through Brumfield's spotting scope at birds on the grass-covered closed landfill. Josiah hasn't developed as keen an interest in birds as his brother, but he eagerly examined insects on the ground that Brumfield had pointed out.
This was the Bixlers first Bobolinks Festival.
"It's pretty neat," Mark said. "The habitat here is very diverse."
Brumfield agreed that Byers Woods is a special place.
"It amazes me how little grassland habitat we have left," she said.
The number of vendors and wildlife-oriented groups setting up booths also has increased.
"Here are the biggest birding groups in Ohio coming here to support us," said Cheryl Harner. "That says a lot."
Harner is president of Greater Mohican Audubon Society, which co-sponsored the event with the Ashland County Park District.
Park District volunteers provided snacks, beverages, nature crafts and helped things run smoothly.
Birding legend Greg Miller of Wooster made a return visit to the event this year. Miller was one of three die-hard birders depicted in the best-selling book "The Big Year." Miller was portrayed by comedian Jack Black in a movie based on the book.
Miller helped man spotting scopes at the park entrance.
"This is always fun," he said. "You get to find stuff here you're not accustomed to seeing."
Harner asked people attending the festival to thank county commissioners. The commissioners have agreed to postpone mowing the grasslands over the old landfill until after July 10 so the bobolinks have a chance to fledge.
"Bobolinks might not be getting a break in other counties, but they are in Ashland County," Harner said.

Irv Oslin can be reached at 419-281-0581 ext. 240 or at

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bobolinks Festival Huge Success

The weather was picture perfect today, as 120 some folks gathered in Ashland County's Byers Wood.  We were celebrating the Bobolinks in residence and the conservation of grassland birds. It was not that long ago that these birds' nests were destroyed each year by the mowing scheduled to maintain the capped off landfill mounds.

Greater Mohican Audubon Society and Ashland Park District started this event 6 years ago, in order to promote a mowing schedule favorable to Bobolinks.  It is popular event, which provides up-close viewing of grassland birds and a nice mix of educational displays and vendors.

 Celebrities?  YES!  We have Jen Brumfield: birder, artist, tour guide and dragonflier extraordinaire.  And Greg Miller: THE Greg Miller of The Big Year (book and movie).

 Our members help out in a big way.  Diana and Don Plant set up educational displays, Don Beam brings native plants, Mel Bolt manned a Bluebird display. Hugh and Judy Kolo-Rose brought the Black Swap Bird Observatory display and Ohio Ornithological Society was on hand with goodies too!  Gary, Sue, Su,   Bianca, Derrick, John and Sue, Greg and Leslie all pitched in too.  It couldn't be done without them.

And the birders came from all across the state!  There were 22 counties of Ohio represented and birders of all levels and interest, from beginners to experts.  

The Bobolinks did not disappoint.

The new star of the show are the Dickcissels being seen at Byers. We will be most interested in watching the timing and locations of their nests.  It is a bonus to have these much rarer birds benefit from the grassland management that favors our Bobolinks.

Dave Duncan from BeeOlogy was our special guest.  His daring deeds with bumblebees and other pollinators make for great conversation.  The products offered by BeeOlogy are the best and I stocked up on my soap supplies.

Thanks to all our partners and friends who attend and make this event possible.  It looks like the Bobolinks will have another successful year, thanks to you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stream Side

With temperatures cranking up to the 90's, today I decided to do something terribly un-American.  I turned off the air-conditioner and wandered  outside to plunk myself down in the stream.

Having spent much of the day reading a book about our "growth" economy,  I have to recommend Deep Economy  by Bill McKibben.  He had me thinking deeply, in particular, musing over the concept that  "money consistently buys happiness.right up to about $10,000. per captipa income, and after that the point of correlation disappears."  

Seems that a booming economy doesn't really predict happiness. Good health and nature are more likely to  enhance your well-being.  No surprise there.

 I  soon remembered, as a child, nothing made me happier than sitting by (or better yet in) a stream.  I resolved to put to practice this practical knowledge and cease my carbon consumption for a couple of hours.  
This is the creek-side philosopher's equivalent of stop the world- I want to get off... at least for a few hours.

The fishes swam about my feet, and I waded underneath the new bridge.  The county replaced our old  metal one (that the Phoebes loved) with a slick-sided, concrete monstrosity.  So I vandalized it last year... just a little.  I glued nesting shelves onto the walls in hopes my favored birds would return.
A new nest with a green mossy lining and  delicate white eggs suggests my "evil" plan worked.  

 Nearby a Stream Bluet damselfly rested on the blades of  reed canary grass...

                ... a bit too close for comfort, sits the green frog.

The steep banks support a fine crop of Milkweed, and the Monarch seem to approve. This one fluttered along nectaring on the sweet honey scented flowers.

My bank side stroll produced a well-concealed nest, woven neatly into a Joe-Pye-Weed.  I didn't get too close for fear my scent-trail might give the location away.  After all, raccoons visit this stream too.

A terrible ruckus was being made, suggesting this handsome Red-winged Black Bird is the proud pa-pa.  He bobbed and weaved, riding the wind currents atop of the sapling, as skilled as a hang-ten surfer.

And the sky was so blue.

The whole exercise makes me agree,  I should spend more time at a frog's-eye view of the creek.  It is certainly more sustainable, and guaranteed to use less energy: both carbon fuels' and mine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Trail of Life at Blue Mountain

A winding trail which resembles a dry creek bed is the well worn path up Blue Mountain at Blue Mountain Lake,  New York.  It resembles a dry creek bed until it rains, when promptly becomes a live creek bed.

The beauty of this trail is not to be missed.  It was a huge relief not to climb this difficult trail in the dark (as in searching for Bicknell's), but rather to leisurely enjoy the great beauty offered along the way.

Fungus, ferns and flowers greeted our every step.

Peeling birch bark created a contrast of light and dark; the deep woods echoed with the musical tinkling of Winter Wrens.

A Black-throated Green gave us the eye as we passed too close to his nest along the trail.

Water beads on the fronds of the Interrupted Fern, Osmunda claytoniana.  The vegetation was deep and dense.

A flower of the boreal forest,: Bluebead lily, Clintonia borealis.  This is a species that says, "You are not in Ohio anymore."  My childhood  Peterson Wildflower Guide was creased to its page; this is the plant I longed to see.

The occasional hardy souls blasted past as we slowly picked our way up the trail.  This could be called the Blue Mountain TRIAL instead.

Climbing nearly 1,800 feet this slick rock path was a real challenge to "flat-landers."  The rain made the slippery rock hazardous, but these young men were having no trouble bounding up the trail.  Trail running and peak- climbing are very popular sports among the young folks in the area, and the log at the trail head claims 15,000 hikers register each year.

A whimsical face peers down from a hollowed tree.  Shelf fungus forms eyes and nose, reminiscent of the nail -on variety in mail-order magazines.  I have never seen the the appeal of them, but this countenance made me chuckle and made the path seem lighter.

Life- it is all about the journey, and I am glad we never made it to the peak.  The beauty along the trail is what will always be remembered.