Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Duke

The Weedpicker is out of town today- but I thought you might enjoy this post from July of 2009.  The info is still good-

Well Pilgrims, Killdeer Plains is a great location for lots of wildlife, and some manly stuff too. Not just a bunch of katydids dressed up in pink. Don't even think about putting pink on this skipper, cause it is named for John Wayne, THE DUKE.

Duke's Skipper photo by Warren Uxley

These skippers are are a real man's butterfly. OK, maybe they were not named for John Wayne, but they are very special. Don't look for them in your abreviated field guides either, because they are not there. This insect is a rarity in Ohio's butterfly world, for 2 reasons. It has a very short flight period, and it is wetland related. Since wetlands are on the decline, Ohio has lost 90% of its wetlands- this is a great reason to purchase a "Duck" Stamp.

Here is the host plant for the Duke Skipper, Lake sedge, Carex lacustris. It doesn't always need a lake, as it grows in wet areas and roadside ditches at Killdeer Plains. It is well past fruiting in mid-July, but here is a shot from earlier in the year, when you can see the manly fruiting bodies on this 2-3 foot tall sedge. Don't get yer knickers in a bunch over a fistful of flowers. Real men like sedges.
And here is the flower the Duke Skippers were nectaring on- Winged Loosestrife, Lythrum alatum. This is NOT the bad loosestrife eating up our wetlands, this is a much rarer Ohio native. Well behaved and a joy to see in a wet-scape, look for the much narrower leaves to key it out from the miserable invader, Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria.
Killdeer Plains isn't big enough for 2 kinds of loosestrife, so that purple stuff better head on out of town. The Duke is running this section of ranch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Daughmer Prairie Dedication

Ohio's nature buffs have been waiting 20 years for this day:  Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve was dedicated yesterday.

Daughmer is significant, not only for Ohio; it also has a reputation for being the best Oak Prairie Savannah nationally. And Bur Oak Savannahs are a globally rare habitat- globally rare.  It has been the culmination of many years work to protect and preserve this little 40 acre plot of what was once 200,000 acres of prairie.

This sign was placed years ago,  marking the importance of this tract of land- even when it was still being used as a sheep pasture.  Oak savannahs are created by islands of higher-drier soils being surrounded by heavy wet clay soils. In Ohio over 99 percent of the prairie have been plowed and used for agriculture.  This is a very rare plot that has never been tilled.

 State Parks Chief Glen Cobb, Crawford Park Director Bill Fisher and Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer cut the ribbon to open the preserve.

 Note the beautiful native stand of Indian grass, Sorghastrum nutans  directly behind them.

John Mack, of Cleveland Metro-parks has studied this significant site for many years.  He lent his expertise to the field trips, and spoke to us about the unique hydrology.

The prairie tours pass beneath the towering oaks.

 Rick Gardner, Ohio's Heritage botanist also guided tours.  Over 90 people came out for the dedication, in spite of the rain showers.

 Guy Denny teaches the crowd about Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum a species that is reappearing since sheep no longer graze here.

Winged loosestrife, Lythrum alatum
 Loosestrife- the good one.  Yes, this is not the invasive species we try to eradicate from wetlands.  This is a much rarer native species which we want to keep.  And that is why Natural Areas need to be protected and maintained by the experts who know the subtle differences in these plants.   We WANT this loosestrife.

 Winged Loosestrife grows along the edges of the parking lot at Daughmer.  The beautiful pink flowers are a natural part of this ecosystem, which needs be restored.  The balance of this prairie is in need of management: fire to beat back the invasive species, volunteers to help dig out teasel, and botanists to help us document rare species as they return from the seed bank.

Josh Dyer and Bill Fisher are the locals who are heading up much of the work at Daughmer Prairie.  

Join the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association and help them protect this prairie, or one of  the many other significant natural areas in Ohio.  We need your help as we volunteer in the preserves. Click on that link and join today!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Birding Ohio at Pipe Creek

Social Media meet birding, in a big way.  All across Ohio birders came out to share their interests and learn from one another. We made new friends, promoted birds and birding with "the Pledge to Fledge."  

OOS had a group meeting up at Hoover Reservoir and a bumper crop of Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Toledo Naturalists' Association, Ottawa Refuge and Magee Marsh Wildlife also had fabulous events to encourage new birders and old birders who love to bird!  Don't you love it when a plan comes together?  

 The Birding Ohio Facebook group gathered at Pipe Creek in Sandusky, Ohio. We met up at McDonald's (join Facebook page  here to see the photo of the full group.)

Greg Miller (center).

I came along for the ride with my buddy Greg Miller. He is a wonderful bird mentor and a great friend.  Yes, I knew Greg (in the pre-Jack Black days) before he was rich and famous... well, OK, famous.  He is a great guy and we love talking politics. We may see things from different perspectives, but we have intelligent conversation- which puts us way ahead of either of our political parties!

Kim and Kenn Kaufman ready to BIRD!
The Birding Ohio group arranged several great guides for this trip, including Kim and Kenn Kaufman. Kim was quick to claim she is no shorebird pro, but Kenn has it covered.  Kenn is a wonderfully patient teacher and if you weren't able to join us on this trip, I encourage you to buy the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding.  Carry Kenn in your pocket!  Or better yet, pull him out of your pocket and read the chapter on shorebirds.  He will help you make sense of these madly, confusing birds.  He generously allows that shorebirds- with all of their various plumages- are a challenge!

So the beginners got to see their first Dowitchers, and we intermediates felt better about not knowing if they were Long-bill or Short-billed Dowitchers.  Greg led us through the process of looking at their back-ends for the barred feather patterns.

We were working it!  Photographers, birders and general naturalists were on a Pipe Creek free-for all.

If you are like me and the intense study of plumage is not your main interest, the beauty of this wetland provided many other opportunities for enjoyment. Numerous Great Blue Herons and a two Little Blue Herons worked the shoreline next to a Snowy Egret. A Great Egret and Red-necked Phalaropes also put on quite the show.  That white speck in the center of the photo is a female Phal in outstanding plumage.  These birds who feed by swimming in crazy, erratic circles are standouts among the shorebirds and easy to share with beginners.

Habitat wise, the flowering Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, is an invasive species which degrades wetlands, but it was handy for the butterflies and pollinators utilizing it.  Scanning across the wetlands with binoculars provided an endless supply of dragonflies, bees, and butterflies to discover.

How can we tell this is a Bull Frog?
Wetlands and frogs, beautiful things.  Frogs make tasty food for the herons, who don't even care if this is a bull frog or green frog.  However, we know it is a bull frog because it lacks the dorsal lateral folds on its back.  See that smooth back- no lines?  That is a bull frog my friend.   Or shall I say, "That is a bull frog, my friend!"?

Thanks again to the Birding Ohio folks and all the friends who made this day special!  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Daughmer Prairie Dedication

Daughmer Prairie is about to be dedicated as Ohio's newest State Nature Preserve, and the good news: You are invited!

Daughmer Prairie, photo by Ian Adams
 Daughmer Prairie has been the topic of numerous blog posts, feel free to click on the following links:
Preserving, its Gems, Fire, and  Revisited

But for all my words, Ohio's famous photographer, my friend  Ian Adams captures the feel in one photo.  Amazing.  Thank you Ian.

And now, it is your chance to walk under the Oaks at Daughmer.  You are invited to the Dedication at 10:00 AM on Monday August 27, and tours will be given afterward. We hope to see you there!

Click on Invitation to enlarge. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Seaside nature- Nova Scotia

Nature in Nova Scotia can be very different from that which I am accustomed to in Ohio, but there are some things I found readily recognizable.  All of the following photographs are taken within a 1/4 mile of the ocean in Nova Scotia, basically most of the visit involved trips to port towns or walks on beaches.  It is an altogether pleasant way to pass a week, I assure you.

Seaside Goldenrod,  Solidago sempervirens
 The Seaside Goldenrod has robust look to it.  Often the stems are reddish and seem quiet succulent.  It has an altogether different appearance than our field-types of goldenrods.

Fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium

Fireweed is a disturbance species, found growing in a weedy manner along the ditches.  It is worth stopping to get a better look.  On close inspection the inflorescence is quite lovely.

Fireweed along the road.
Fireweed growing along the road in large swathes.  It is often found of ditches, disturbed areas (such as roadsides) and does especially well where a burn has occurred; hence, the name Fireweed.

The most common butterfly was the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.  Once called the Cosmopolitan,  indeed, it is found on more continents than any other butterfly species. It cannot winter over in these northern regions, but is it is famous for its mass migrations. Butterflies East of the Great Plains, (Opler and Krizek) says it can even use the thistle as a host plant.  Perhaps that is what this "lady" is up to.  

American Copper, the smallest of all copper butterflies.

Sheep Sorrel, Rumex acetosella
American Copper butterflies were found in several locations.  This was not too surprising as their host plant, sheep-sorrel is found in many locations.  It is a low to the ground, weedy plant which thrives in damp places- especially damp places with sheep.  That pretty much describes Nova Scotia.

 Nova Scotia is well-known for sheep.  Since much of the rocky shores are impossible to till, many of the islands  have sheep free-ranging during the summer months.  This ewe and lamb were photographed at the base of the Cape Sable Lighthouse.  The sheep keep paths open on the island as they feed on many of the native grasses, but the thistles must not have been to their taste.  

In some cases is it believed sheep contribute to the erosion of sand dunes, shores and can be disruptive to shorebird colonies- such as Roseate Tern and Piping Plovers.  Those beaches and islands receive more protection under current management practices.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Le Village Historique Acadien, Pubinco Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is a  land of great natural beauty and history. It is no wonder the early French settlers clung tenaciously to the land.  Some risked their lives hidden in exile and others returned many years after "The War of Conquest", otherwise known as the Seven Year War or French and Indian War.

Do not be confused, the French and Indians were allies- against the British.  However, when the war was  lost, the French settlers were expelled from Nova Scotia.

The Historic Acadian Village is found in Pubnico, on the south shore of Nova Scotia. I was told Pubinco was a Mi’kmaq (First Nation tribe) word meaning "cleared land."  This village is the oldest Acadian village in the world.  

The blue sky reaches out to the waters, as women pull weeds from the potatoes grown in a village garden.  It seemed like hot work, however they said it was much preferred to the kitchens in the summer.

A typical house, neat as a pin... and filled with children.  This village was founded by Philippe Mius d'Entremont in 1653.  In the yard stands one of the many relatives of Philippe that remain in Pubnico; Ronnie was happy to chat-up the docents in their native French.   

The interior of the house was well-appointed.  This village is one of the most complete historic sites that I have ever had the pleasure to visit.  It was as if  Henry Ford's Greenfield Village meets Canada.

A flat bottom Dory is being built in the boat shop.

A fisherman repairs nets by hand, and he has stories to tell.

 One building was set aside for the purpose of drying and salting cod.

Lobster is still an important industry in Nova Scotia.  However, these historic wooden traps have been replaced with modern metal ones.  They stack better and last longer.

And last, but not least a harbour light. Unfortunately the lighthouses of Nova Scotia are rapidly being decommissioned, as they are no longer needed for modern navigation.  It is a great loss, in my estimation, to the scenic (and tourist $$) value of the land.   Ronnie was thankful the lighthouse from Abbott's Harbour was moved to the village for preservation, as it played a huge role in his childhood.

 My recommendation to travelers:  Don't just see the birds or botany;  immerse yourself in the culture of a country as well.  View the local historical sites and learn about the people.  If you find yourself with 3 hours to kill at the airport, might I suggest reading Henry Wadsworth's Longfellow's Evangeline.    It is a romantic poem retelling the tragic story of two star-crossed Acadian lovers and their deportations.  The story eloquently immortalizes the landscape and people of this nearly forgotten land.

"Talk not of wasted affection, affection was never wasted."  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, August 17, 2012

Birds of Nova Scotia

Today's blog is a photo- fest from Nova Scotia, courtesy of my friend Ronnie d'Entremont.   Ronnie was gracious enough to take me birding a couple of times during my recent visit, and he shared some of the best spots and best birds to be found in the area. 

Ronnie got excellent photos of the Atlantic Puffins carrying food for their young.

Stunning, is it not?  How he got these shots from a bouncing boat, I'll never know.

 A fly-by Atlantic Puffin, carrying food.  This must be the closest thing on earth to a flying penguin.

Red-necked Phalaropes
 We were thrilled to see a small flock of Red-necked Phalaropes as we were returning from the puffin trip.  This is not a bird commonly seen in southern Nova Scotia.  They were migrating through in a group, nine birds in total.  The dark under-wing shot is diagnostic.

Hudsonian Godwit
Hudsonian Godwits are the default godwit for this area.  Their migration path often brings them through these shores and islands. We saw four at one time, which was a breath-taking sight.  Thank you to Ronnie for sharing your amazing photography with us.

Ronnie d'Entremont
And here is my photo of Ronnie on the shores of the Cape Sable Lighthouse Island, N.S.  The crystal clear waters and white sand beaches have a surreal beauty of their own.

My thanks to Ronnie for his excellent services as a bird guide, and the added bonus of a trip to The Historical Acadian Village of Nova Scotia, to be featured in the next blog.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Birding Nova Scotia- Puffins and Terns

The Atlantic Puffin is a most improbable bird.    It has the build of a Penguin and bill of a Toucan.
It looks too dumpy to fly. Is it any wonder one would find any excuse to goto Nova Scotia to see this bird?

 The colorful bill and heavy-inked eye gives this bird a somewhat clownish look. However, there is nothing funny about eking out a living in the Gulf of Maine.  Seems like he must compete for habitat with not only sheep, but every well-to-do newcomer wanting to claim an island for a personal fiefdom.

 This one is off to a running start, just as my birding in Nova Scotia... took off.

But birding in Nova Scotia is hardly limited to one species.  Before we get carried away with tales of Northern Gannets, Whimbrels, Willets (a dime a dozen) and a most exciting Hudsonian Godwit encounter let's enjoy the some typical coastal birds.

 Alcids are the ocean-loving birds who only come to shore to nest.  Atlantic Puffins and Black Guillemonts are two species commonly found in Nova Scotia.

Black Guillemot

My first order of business was to see some of these seafaring birds.  Fortunately, my friend Luisa Martinez got me connected with the locals.  We are soon set up for a fabulous boat ride and some excellent birding with two most knowledgeable guides.

Sharron M., Ronnie d'Entremont, Luisa Martinez, Roland and Ted D'Eon
Ronnie is an excellent photographer and Ted is a retired Pharmacist who has been surveying rare terns off the south shore of Nova Scotia since 1995.  West Pubnico is their hometown, a rugged tide-swept shore settled by the First Nations and the French Acadians.  It is a town steeped with history as well as beauty. 

You'll find them on the peninsula to the far left,  where The Brothers islands rest in the Gulf of Maine. Ted D'Eon has been watching terns and protecting the largest Canadian population of the endangered Roseate Terns on these islands.  Ted was a gracious host and a fascinating fellow!  Please visit his website to learn more about this Important Bird Area and its history.

Common Tern

Not only were there Roseate Terns at The Brothers islands, Common and Arctic Terns  also  nest there.

 Ted has dedicated himself to protecting the tern eggs and nestlings from ravenous crows, voles and a host of other predators, including mink.  Scroll through those photos on Ted's tern report- he has amazing puffin shots there as well!

The typical shore line of The Brothers.
 Not far from the Bay of Fundy, this area is subject to an incredible 12' tide!

The resting terns are difficult to pick out in my shots (all taken from a bobbing boat.)  For a real treat of terns, go to Ted's website to see these amazing creatures photographed by a man who knows them well.  Be certain to scroll down through all of Ted's photos!

Thanks again for Ted D'Eon's  gracious hospitality and to Ronnie D. and Luisa M. for introducing me to this fascinating man.