Monday, October 28, 2013

The Kill and Grill

It is not quite a scary as it sounds, we only "killed" invasive honeysuckle plants.   The grilling followed. It was a combined service project for some bio students from Wilmington College and the fabulous Cincinnati Wild Ones! 

 Ellen -the only student's name I successfully remembered- and some fellow students really went to work on the Caesar Creek Gorge invasive honeysuckle. They were an amazing team.

 The guys were cutting and treating the stumps with chemicals like old pros!

 The chemical treatment had a blue dye in it, so we could tell what we were spraying.  The ultimate goal is to treat only the stumps and not a lot of the surrounding vegetation.

Christine Hadley and Jim Mason

Thanks to some professional help and backing by the Cincinnati Native Plant Society, the tools and chemicals were provided by Jim Mason with help by Christine Hadley.

I guess I have failed blogging 101, because I did not get good ID photos of honeysuckle or the piles of the plant cuttings we left behind.  All I can say, I was impressed.  They students pitched in and did a mountain of good work, and were some of the nicest and most intelligent  kids you could ever want to meet.

 The "grill" portion held at the shelter house followed the morning "kill".

 These fellows dove right in.  I can assure you the food was great!

Debi Wolterman
 Here is the dynamo that organized the event, Debi Wolterman.  Thanks to her, the native plants at Caesar Creek have a little more elbow room to grow, now that the invasives have been removed.

Chris McCullough, Sandy Seiwert , and Barb Stiglar

The food was prepared by the members of the Cincinnati Wild Ones. We sure appreciated all they did, too!

Cincinnati Wild Ones is an extraordinarily active group who have hosted many educational events as well as the Midwest Native Plant Conference.  Special thanks to Kathy McDonald and Ned Keller for inviting me along!

We are excited to see similar events spreading across the state!  What area would you like to see rid of invasive plants? Another event is scheduled for November 2nd, 2013. See the details below.


Please contact Christine Hadley, president of the Cincinnati Wild Flower Preservation Society (founded in 1917 by Lucy Braun), at 513-850-9585 or email for information (See the list of volunteer tasks below.)
Volunteers needed for this day are:
*        Crew Leaders for honeysuckle removal teams
*        Honeysuckle Cutters: (Loppers, bow saws, non-power equipment)
*        Chain Saw Operators (must be pre-registered)
*        Steel Blade Trimmer Operators
*        Cut Stump Treatment (using spray bottles)
*        Registration: meet and greet participants
*        Lunch Crew: setting up tables and chairs, minimal food prep
*        Couriers: taking teams to their worksites
*        Plant ID: botanists and other knowledgeable volunteers to help cutters ID invasives and avoid cutting desirable plants, i.e. hydrangea, blue ash, spice bush, etc.
*        Rock Outcrop Specialists: volunteers with the agility to easily maneuver the rocks in the gorge to cut and treat woody invasives in, on and around the rocks. (Most areas are much easier to work than the rock outcrop areas.)

Bring your favorite tools of the trade: gloves, pruners, loppers, saws, trimmers and protective gear for power equipment. We will have tools and safety equipment for all those new to the volunteer effort conquering the alien, invasive, amur (bush) honeysuckle. Spray bottles and gloves for cut stump treatment will be furnished.
There will be an area available for your organization’s table display and literature.
Directions: Clifton Gorge SNP is located in Greene County on State Route 343, 3 miles east of Yellow Springs and 0.25 mile west of Clifton at the east end of John Bryan State Park.

Christine Hadley , President, Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society
513-850-9585 or email ,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Faces of Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

 Having more fun than a barrel of monkeys seems to be an "every day" thing at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.  I had the good fortune to be their guest this weekend at an AMAZING  Native Plant Symposium.  A lot of my heroes were on the speaking docket and the attendees were an enlightened and gracious group of individuals.

But before we get to that, let me show you a few photos from a little behind the scene VIP tour I got on Friday, thanks to Brian Jorg.

Easily a character from Dr. Seuss' imagination!
I forgot to write down what this is!  Goodness it must be some sort of monkey, perhaps the "Handlebar Moustache Monkey."  I think his photo belongs here.

 Naked-mole Rat.  Seriously, never in my life did I dream I would see the real thing, much less two.  The wonders that can be found in Cincinnati!

Butterfly house?  Why yes, please.  I would love to see a hundred Passion Flower Butterflies, Heliconius melpomene.

Mexican Wolf has been extirpated from its range in Arizona and New Mexico.  Unfortunately, some folks in those states don't want him back.  What not to like about this incredible canine?

 Red Panda.  This animal is just drop-dead cute.  I know I am gushing and not being very scientific.  But seriously, ADORABLE.  I want two.

The architecture at the elephant house was a delight to behold.  Certainly you have seen Asian Elephants before, but the detailing of the building, the beautiful plants and fencing really captured my eye.

A real thinker.  Perhaps this Low-land Gorilla has more going on in his brain than most of our elected politicians. Side view is the same guy close up. He was fascinating to study.

Scott Beuerlein, Cincinnati Zoo staff 

Just so you are not confused, he is also deep in thought, but this is a different guy.  Scott Beuerlein gave a fabulous program on Native Trees. He also made all the arrangements for the speakers and was a kind and gracious host.

Steve Foltz and Brain Jorg
 Two more incredibly talented staff members from the Zoo and Botanical Garden.  Steve and Brian both gave excellent programs as well. Honestly, there was so much talent on this program, I felt like I was breathing rarefied air.  Their work paid off big, as this was an excellent symposium which I would highly recommend.  They are doing conservation and restoration work of both animal and land.  I was truly inspired.

Passenger Pigeon, now extinct.
 Moreover, this is the real work of zoos.  Creating safe-havens for endangered species, scientifically gathering the best genetically diverse material for the preservation of species, and educating the public.

Zoos have come a long way from the scary places of my youth, where caged animals paced and panted.  If our visitations help to pay for all the good this dedicated group of people are working to produce, then let us visit, and learn.  Thank you Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.  It was an amazing weekend.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Old Growth Forest

It is not much of a secret that the Weedpicker is also a tree-hugger.  What better tribute to fall than to make a whirlwind tour of some spectacular trees and fall foliage.  Cooksville, PA was the designated location, as the home of Cooks Forest.

Giant skeletal remains of a native Chestnut tree, being admired by the ol' Weedpicker, Cheryl Harner.
 This Chestnut tree snag is located near the Forest Cathedral in Cooks Forest.  It is all that remains of the giant species which was common prior to the catastrophic Chestnut blight which swept through Pennsylvania in the 1920's.

A staircase leads to yet another portion of silent forest. 
 We first learned of this special Old Growth Forest from Joan Maloof's book, Among the Ancients.  This has been my second visit in a year, as it is but a short trip from Ohio's northeast border to see the soft layered forest floor and old growth trees.
Spectacular fall color.
 The light played through the multi-colored leaves.  What could be more enchanting?

Cheryl  and daughter, Michelle Goodman.
We both give this forest two-thumbs up for beauty, serenity and the woodland scent that makes life seem oh-so-right.

If you have not yet been to an old-growth forest pick up Joan's book, join the Old Growth Forest Network, and learn a little more about this great pleasure in life you may be missing.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fall Birding and Discovery

Fall has unwrapped her colors across Ohio, yet this is but one gorgeous moment in time, and times. Sunday found me standing on the edge of Meadowbrook Marsh in Marblehead, Ohio where it was a privilege to witness a scene which has unfolded here for countless ages: fall migration.

This location which previously was inaccessible to “birders” has changed very little over the last several hundred years.  The purchase of the wetlands was kicked off by the CarbonOffset Birding Project at Midwest Birding Symposium 2011; our goal was to see it protected and conserved to aid birds far into the future.

To many people fall migration is the sight of ducks and geese in formation flying across the sky.  It can also be the trickle of south-bound warblers in toned-down dress.  Fall hawk watchers set up in the narrow crossings of Lake Erie at Detroit and New York.  They know the sky above open water is generally avoided by soaring birds such as eagles, falcons and like.

This weekend the Ohio Young Birders converged upon the viewing platform at Meadowbrook to hold a Big Sit!  Their bird sightings were certainly impressive. But most remarkable was the number of raptors seen, nine species in total: Bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tail hawk, American kestrel, merlin, sharp-shinned hawk, cooper’s hawk, northern harrier and peregrine falcon.

Golden Eagle photographed in Ohio (2011) by Cheryl Harner
 These birds of prey generally  prefer to go around the lake.  Safe crossing lies above terra firma, as these soaring “flap and glide” experts utilize thermals, those warm air columns that rise off of land.  There are no buoyant air columns created upon the water, and therefore, no raptors. The sheer number of raptors seen at Meadowbrook this weekend seemed to belie that logic. 

We butterfly enthusiasts know the Monarchs use the Erie islands as stepping stones; one must wonder if birds do the same when weather conditions allow.

Our map of the Western basin of Lake Erie shows a straight trajectory from Point Pelee in Canada, to Pelee Island, on to Kelleys Island which leads to a perfect ending above Meadowbrook Marsh.  If warming land masses create columns of rising air, the soaring birds could skip across these thermals as easily as butterflies island-hop mere feet above the water.

Thanks to the Ohio's Young Birders weekend's findings,  we have more support for a theory that birds can hop-scotch the air-columns above the islands. Meadowbrook Marsh may now become a popular hawk watch location along the North Coast.

Ohio Young Birders, Photo provided by BSBO / Kelly McKinne
The Ohio Young Birders Club presents Danbury Township Trustee Dianne Rozak with a check for more than $1700 for the continued efforts to preserve Meadowbrook Marsh! The students raised the money during last year's Big Sit!

A special thank you goes out to Kenn and Kim Kaufman, Mark Shieldcastle and all the other leaders (Katie, Kelly and Rob!) and supporters of the Ohio Young Birders.  It was a great privilege to bird a bit with my friends and some of the greatest kids around.  Not only does BSBO help kids learn more about nature, they are grooming conservationists for the future. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Invitation to Cincy Zoo

Please join us for a fabulous fall program on native plants: Oct 26th, 2013 

The Cincinnati Zoo has lined up an awesome program and I hope to see you there.  Go to the Cincinnati Zoo website for all the details!