Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's the Buzz...

Forgive the obvious title. It seems a forgone conclusion to name pollinator programs for the bee.  But bees are not the only pollinators, and many of the sexual surrogates for plant reproduction don't buzz at all.  Take moths and birds for an example.  

If you haven't thought much about this before, I hope you will join us this Saturday at 7:00 pm at Gorman Nature Center in Mansfield, Ohio.  Prepare to have your mind blown.

It is my honor to be the keynote for this first (annual) event, so come out and help me kick this thing off right!  I have just put the final touches on my program and I am happy to share some new information (at least it was news to me!)  I am no neophyte regarding pollinators, so prepare to be edu-tained!  We will talk about all kinds of pollinators!

Our native bees hold a special spot in my heart and these work horses haven't been given the credit they deserve.  They definitely need an Emmy for "Best Supporting Actor."

Sure honeybees are great, but we have a lot of interesting things with wings getting in on the pollination act.

Moths and butterflies are also pollinators.  There is a direct correlation between botanic diversity and pollinator diversity.  Don't believe me?  Ask Darwin.  He suggested the basis of this a very long time ago.

So why all the interest in pollinators?  You might have heard of a little thing called Colony Collapse Disorder.  This is has had a major impact on bees, bee-keepers and farmers all across the country. But it is not only the Honeybees that are having a rough time of it.

Come on out and will discuss some very cool local pollinators and learn more about their preservation and protection.  

Love to mulch your landscape with wood chips?  We'll discuss why that could be bad news for your bees. 

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lakeside's Secret Gardens

Lakeside, Ohio has many attractions: the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, fine food and entertainment, friendly people and quaint architecture.  Now it even has a very special park for nature lovers.  It is a botanical "step back in time" featuring the historic flowers of Marblehead.

I'll be leading two walks on Saturday, May 23rd at 3:00 and again at 4:00 pm if you would like to experience this woodland garden in person.  Walk/field trip details can be found here on Lakeside's website.
Woodland Phlox and Mayapple leaves bespeak the richness of this forest floor.
Spring's ephemeral flora is short-lived but spectacular. Like mini-rainbows, the fleeting colors of flowers dance in dappled light, scattered across rich forest floor.  This year the outstanding display of Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata is as remarkable as any I have ever seen.

Moss-covered Rock outcropping
 The rocky outcroppings, remnants from Marblehead's rich history of stone quarrying, have an enchanting, verdant covering of moss.  Even winters in this secret garden boast of green.

Large-flowered Trillium, Ohio's state wildflower.
 The last of the Trillium are waning, but their leaves will bear proof of their presence.  A grander wild flower is not known in Ohio than this, Trillium grandiflorum.

Appendaged Waterleaf is now stealing the show.
 The newcomer blooming this week is the Appendaged Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum appendiculatum. It should be putting on an excellent show by Saturday. You'll not want to miss the opportunity to see these unusual flowers and trees growing in a natural habitat near the shores of Lake Erie.

Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum
 We will even discuss some of the local non-native flora, like this winsome gem, Herb Robert.  Some say it works as an insect repellent!

Join our walk to learn more stories of our favorite native plants and gain a greater appreciation for the unique Carolinian Forest flora found in this park. This newly "un"developed park is found at the corner of Sixth Street and Popular Avenue just north of the beautiful Chautauqua Memorial Gardens.

There is also a plant sale being held in Lakeside earlier in the day, and you may sign-up for this field trip at the registration table at the Legacy House at 217 Walnut Street.
Lakeside Daisy, Tetraneuris herbaca
While you are in Lakeside, you'll want to visit another very special "secret" garden on the Lakefront path in Perry Park. The rarest flower in the United States grows on our shores.  The last of this year's Lakeside Daisy blooms should still be evident in the garden maintained especially for their benefit.

Leave a comment below if you'd like help signing up for Saturday's walk. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bird Well and Prosper

As the dawn breaks fresh on a new day of birding, it is the beginning of a journey.  No two days of birding are the same. One never knows if the birding will just be good, or if something in this day might be life-changing.

Our journeys all start differently.  My interest in "serious" birding did not happen until my 40's. Even now, it is but a portion of my interest and always tied to plant communities and habitats. 

Some birders are called at an early age, like the young birder I recently met, Anna. Who knows where this path will lead her, but Ohio has produced some excellent scientists rising out of our Ohio Young Birders Club community. 

Morning mist lifts as Anna explores the shores of Lake Erie.
Thanks to the Young Birders Club, kids like Anna will know they are not alone in their ornithological pursuits. There are opportunities to meet with other young birders and develop their skills and leadership abilities.
Katie Anderson, a talented leader helping others discover birds.
Biggest Week In American Birding is another opportunity to meet other birders and learn more about birds. We offer encouragement and support for each other, often develop strong bonds of friendship and discover secrets of the natural world. Black Swamp Bird Observatory offers field trips with experienced guides from all across America and around the globe.  It has been an opportunity for me to improve my leadership skills and network with others in the birding community.

Dr. Elliot Trammer (far right) our expert guide on the Oak Openings trip.
 We laugh.  We learn. Whether it is cold or hot, raining or sunny, we carry on.  No two days are alike and the offerings of nature are various and sundry. Sometimes the findings are unexpected.

Young raccoon sleeps off a rough night.
This young raccoon had chosen an odd way to sleep-it-off. We were debating if it was even alive, when it waved its left paw as to say, "Go away!  Move along birders, move along."

A group effort can often produce.
Festivals are social affairs and while many think birding is best done alone, there is no denying the likelihood for success when many eyes are focused.  The combined effort of many paid off when we were trying to relocate a very special bird. We worked together as a team and shared the glorious moment together.  We have birded well.

Kirtland's Warbler, female, the first recorded in the Oak Openings.
The crowd bubbled with the excitement of seeing this extremely rare bird as she wings her way to the Michigan breeding grounds from her wintering ground in the Bahamas. Most likely, the Oak Openings was her last stop before home.

The federally listed Endangered Kirtland's Warbler, the rarest warbler in the United States, is the Holy Grail bird for many Biggest Week Birders.  The good news, due to habitat management in their Michigan breeding grounds, Kirtland's populations are on the rise. More birds to love and admire.

To read more about this very special bird, click on  Conserving the Kirtland's Warbler.  

Thankful moments, nature's reward.
As the sun sets on our birding day, we know we have done no harm and discovered a little more about the value of life: our lives, the birds lives, and value of the natural world which we need to survive. The high of a successful chase and the warm reward of locating one bird in an entire forest is enough. 

This is birding: the thrill of the chase, the communing with nature, the friends, laughter and life-long learning. We are a curious community, wanting to know more about birds and the big picture of life. Young to old, we are all ages, races, genders.  We are a welcoming community. 

Bird Well and Prosper.

What could be a better definition of "prosper"?  We are rich in so many ways. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Biggest Week of American Birding Opens

Spring has finally arrived.  Migration is on, both for birds and birders.

Great Egret strikes a pose for adoring fans.
 The Biggest Week in America Birding is now happening on the shores of Lake Erie, near Oak Harbor, Ohio.  While many believe this event is all about migratory birds, like this stunning Great Egret or the charming neo-tropical wood warblers (which are much harder to photograph), I submit they are wrong.

Day one of the BWIAB, field trip to South Sandusky Bay.
 The Biggest Week in American Birding is actually about people.  We are connecting people to nature and to other people.  Everywhere you look people are helping each other find and identify birds.  Some of us like to discover how birds relate within habitats and more about their life histories.

We learn so much from other birders! Getting to meet people from all walks of life and connecting them with other conservation minded people is my greatest joy.

Ken and Amanda (mostly obscured) Duren and Kenn and Kim Kaufman
 It is rewarding to welcome the new guard like Ken and Amanda Duren, who both have interests and vocations in nature and birding.  It is also a pleasure to spend time with old friends like Kenn and Kim Kaufman and learn of their latest adventures.  FYI: Just published a great book called, Kaufman Field Guide to the Nature of the Midwest.

Kim Kaufman received the prestigious Chan Robinson Award from ABA's Jeff Gordon.
 Part of the opening festivities included American Birding Association's Jeff Gordon awarding Kim Kaufman with the Chandler Robinson Award.  It was an excellent kick off for this event and another reminder- it is all about education and people.  A love of birds just happens to be the medium that pulls us all together!

R. Bruce.  He is not really right, but he is ours.
 Last but not least, a concert by my dear friend R. Bruce.  Bruce has a comedy act which happens to incorporate some pretty catchy music.  He wowed the crowd with favorites like, " A Shark Ate my Baby Brother, " and "Too Much Butt (for One Pair of Jeans)".

Yes, he is not right, but this ADD Cowboy is all ours and a ton of fun to boot.

Raymond Van Buskirk, Jeff Gordon, R. Bruce and Bill Sain
The curtain call (if only there were curtains) brought down the house.  R. Bruce got his fellow "Kilted Birders" to join him on stage for a rousing chorus of "We are the Kilted Birders" and they wore their kilts with pride.

Just when you thought birding events had maxed their holding capacity for fun, R Bruce hits the scene.  The Maumee Bay Lodge may never be the same.

SO, if you're not having enough fun in life, hustle right up to Maumee Bay Lodge and Magee Marsh in Oak Harbor, Ohio.  We have about 6 more days of flat out birding and craziness planned!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seeking Trees

It is no big secret that many of my friends and I feel passionate about trees.  Far outstripping the lifespan of the average human, these giant sentinels of times past leave me feeling very small indeed.

Their struggles through drought, fire, and the activity of man are too often scrawled upon the very bark which makes each species recognizable and unique.  Our world is richer for having trees and the by-product of clean air to breath is mighty sweet, too.

If one wants to mark the down-fall of man, you need look no farther than the wholesale destruction of trees. They anchor our very earth, preventing erosion.  They provide shade, habitat, food and form the framework for ecosystems.  Look to the most dramatic poverty-stricken nations and you'll find countries denuded of trees.

Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa at Daughmer Prairie State Nature Preserve, photo by Ian Adams.
One of  Ian Adams' best tree portraits ever features an old friend from Daughmer Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve.  This giant Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa grows next to the parking lot on Marion-Melmore Rd.

If you have ever tried to photograph an old growth tree, one soon realizes it is difficult to get the full size, shape and perspective of its habitat included.  It makes Ian's fine work all the more admirable.

Now you can see many of Ohio's most spectacular trees as well as rock formations and scenic highways through the the filter of Ian's lens.

Ohio University's Swallow press has produced a gem filled with the best scenes Ohio has to offer.  A Photographer's Guide to Ohio has me spell-bound.  Thanks to Ian, I now have a few more trees to see right here in Ohio!

A little excerpt from Ian's work:
     When I view this tree, and other giants like it, I'm reminded of a statement attributed to playwright, George Bernard Shaw, "Except for the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs so well as a tree does."
My feelings, too.  A tree can be measured worthy in so many ways besides board-feet.  A note to Ohio State Parks and Forests,  none of the beautiful or historic sites Ian depicts include a clear-cut.

We need trees. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Old Growth Trees in Evansville, Indiana

Evansville, Indiana may not seem like a destination location, unless you are really into old-growth trees.  This place is a dendrologist's nirvana.

Indiana's State Champion Cherrybark Oak, Quercus pagoda.
Arriving in town, my primary mission was to visit this tree and pay my respects in person.  It stands on the lawn of the Indiana State Hospital and reigns mightily over a host of lesser trees. It is stunningly large: Circumference at 4 ½ Feet: 252”  Height: 95’ Crown Spread: 131’ Point Index: 379.75 

Cherrybark Oak gets it name from the odd plated bark which is reminiscent of a cherry tree. It is quite southern in its range, and barely tips into the southern most portion of  Indiana. Never heard of Cherrybark Oak?  Neither had I, but it is not the only big tree in Vanderburg County. While many counties cannot boast a single record tree, Vanderburg held 26 records in 2005.  
 VANDERBURGH—(26) Biltmore Ash, Pumpkin Ash, Red Ash, Basswood, Paper Birch, River Birch, Catalpa, Dogwood, Sugar Hackberry, Green Haw, Mockernut Hickory, Red Hickory, Thornless Honeylocust, Blackjack Oak, Cherrybark Oak, Post Oak, Schneck Oak, Shingle Oak, Southern Red Oak, Paw Paw, Pecan, Wild Goose Plum, Wooley-leaf American Plum, Serviceberry (2 co-champions), Sweetgum
Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera 

One of Evansville's city parks, Wesselman Woods  is a nature preserve.  The wise city fathers set aside an entire old-growth tract of land to be enjoyed by all!   Today it is completely enveloped by urbanization, making these trees seem even more impressive set against the back drop of a bustling city.  Seeing a single Grand Champion tree is always exciting, but to visit an entire functioning eco-system is beyond a delight!

Spring ephemerals grass the lawns
It is not only the trees which are left in their natural state.  The lawns have remained free of herbicides, as witnessed by the  bouquets of Spring Beauties and Violets found in abundance.  It is so rare to find a park lawn unhampered by modern day man's desire to grown a mono-culture lawn.

Evansville is a town where "greenies' can bask in untrammeled nature and feel renewed.  Not only is nature beautiful, it is good for tourism!  I am not the only person who has traveled far out of my way to see this majestic remnant of America's past.  

A vernal pool is featured  mid-park.
Mid-park there is also a large vernal pool with Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum and  gigantic Black Gums, Nyssa sylvatica. The park was active with early morning birders, dog walkers and a entire unit of soldiers in training from the nearby Army Reserve base.  The wood ducks paddling across the vernal pool paid them no mind.
Seasonally Closed

The road next to the vernal pool is seasonally closed during the Salamander run!  How progressive is that? Evansville is quintessentially the "perfect" American town in my book. Finally, a city who values it natural resources as nature!  The trees are celebrated not as board feet of timber, but rather as living, breathing history.

My only regret was not having enough time to spend in this wonderful village.  Some day I hope to return but until then, if you stop by Evansville, give my regards to that old Cherrybark Oak.