Friday, December 23, 2016

Conserving History- Green Lawn Cemetery

This may seem like an odd topic for this time of year.  One might not think a cemetery would be in a Weedpicker's wheelhouse.  However, historical cemeteries were often 1 part arboretum, 1 part picnic area and parade ground.  These large open spaces set aside within metropolitan areas have often become oasis for wildlife, botany and migratory birds.

 Green Lawn cemetery in Columbus is one of those special places.   Many times, I have birded, botanized, and enjoyed the historical trees and interesting landmarks therein.  

Unfortunately it just receive very rough treatment at the hands of vandals.  There is no "Allstate" fix for this type of problem.  To set things right will take an enormous amount of time and money, and I hope you will consider going here to help out.  Even ten dollars would be a start in the right direction.

To read the whole story, please follow this link to the Columbus Dispatch.

Got Merlin?
 Green Lawn is an designated Important Bird Area.  If I want to show someone a Merlin in the winter months, Green Lawn is the first place I would head.  It would be an oversight not mention that is a very handsome Kentucky Coffeetree the bird is hanging out in!

Pine Sisken and Pine Warbler
There is also a very active bird feeding station near a pond in the center of the cemetery. It is a hot spot for rarities all winter long.  The cemetery management has been extremely accommodating to birders and I hope you might join me in sending our friends at Green Lawn a little Christmas love.  Happy Holidays!

                                       Go Fund Me- Green Lawn Cemetery

Friday, November 25, 2016

#Opt Outside on Black Friday

Does nature speak to you?  It has plenty to say, if only we'll take time to listen: Relax. Reduce your stress levels.  Improve your health.  Breath easier.  

Spend time on a nature trail today.  I guarantee shopping in Black Friday crowds will provide none of those health benefits to you.

White Cedar tree trunk at an Adams County State Nature Preserve
Go outside and breathe deeply.  Find a path awash in fall beauty.  Ohio's countless State Parks and State Nature Preserves are calling to you.  Or find your oasis in a locally funded county park or land trust preserve.  

The Lyons Falls at Mohican State Park attract hikers from around the world.
When friends and family visit our house, my first instinct is to take them some place "wild".  Let's get back to nature and opt out of shopping on Black Friday.  Go take a hike instead!

For more information, follow these links to Trust for Public Land and REI- the retailer who has closed their doors today to get you OUTDOORS!

Trust for Public Land -  Protect our lands

#OptOutside with REI on Black Friday -

I hope you'll join my friends and me  as we improve our health and release happy thoughts and
good vibrations into the natural world.  While you are at it, hug a tree!

Kick your endorphins up a notch- #OptOutside !

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Scenes from a Covered Bridge

Let us ponder on lovely and peaceable things.  My best advice is to go forth into nature, breath deep and re-set your inner compass. The Stoics offer some wisdom for times of unrest.  Go within your heart and mind.  Immerse yourself in good thoughts and mental images. 

You have power over your mind - not outside events. 
Realize this, and you will find strength. 
                                                        Marcus Aurelius

A fall photo from the covered bridge within the Mohican State Park and Forest reminds me to simply be. Today will continue as tomorrow and this river will flow.  Know that good exists in the world.  We only need to look within ourselves for love and kindness. 

Mohican Covered Bridge  
Click here for map

Offering you peace like a river...

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

More Meadowbrook

 It is no secret, one of my favorite places in Marblehead, Ohio is Meadowbrook Marsh. It is a park opperated by the Danbury Township Trustees.  It has turned out to be a birding hotspot and a nature fix for those in need of a little natural TLC.

A young Bald Eagle circles over head with a full white-headed adult.
Today's surprise was found overhead. Two Bald Eagles circled above and conducted a series of dives and aerial flip flops.  The recovery story of Bald Eagles on our North Coast never ceases to make me smile.  How lucky are we to see these magnificent birds high in our skies!

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly
 Butterflies were numerous today as well.  Red-spotted Purples have been in short supply this year, but we saw numerous warming up in this morning's sun.

Under wing of Red-spotted Purple
 People always seem puzzled when we announce a blue butterfly as a "Red-spotted Purple." It is the under wing that tells the true story, Ah, red spots on a field of purple, now it makes sense

Hackberry Emperor, 
One of my favorite trees at Meadowbrook is the Northern Hackberry.  But why am I talking trees when this obviously a butterfly photo?  The Hackberry tree is the ONLY host plant for the Hackberry Emperor.  Three types of butterflies feed on Hackberry in their larva stage: Tawney Emperor, Hackberry Emperor,  and the American Snout.  This particular Emperor was resting on a Common Milkweed plant.  

Milkweed does not play a role in the life cycle of the Tawney Emperor, but it is the host plant of the Monarch butterfly. When you think of butterflies- remember it is not just the Monarch at needs a host plant to survive.  Hackberry trees are important, too.

Wetland species Swamp Milkweed and American Lotus
Meadowbrook is known for its marsh and Swamp Milkweed is right at home in a marsh. These beautiful pink flowers are perfect for young Monarch butterfly larva.  Just beyond the water edge, those large circular leaves belong to the American Lotus.  One of our most beautiful native aquatic plants is just finishing its bloom cycle.  (To see more on American Lotus

American Lotus seed head.
The stunning white lotus flowers have given way to the seed heads, which famously look like shower heads!  Some believe the seed pods are as striking as the flowers.

Come on out to Flora-Quest 2016 and you can choose your own trip to see aquatic specialties in the marshes and wetlands on the North Coast.

Registration has been extended to Sept. 15, 2016.  Sign up now for an eco-tourism adventure!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I'll BEE there: Native Plants and Pollinators

Our friends at the Midwest Native Plant Society are hosting a Pollinator Workshop at Caesar Creek on August 13th, 2016.  In my book, this is a not-to-miss event.  There is a tremendous amount of interest in pollinators all across the country and it is not all European honeybees doing the work!

Get ready to "Bumble"!

Bumblebees come in many "flavors."
 There are several types of bumblebees native to Ohio. It would be great to understand their differences!

Tiger Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail!
 Butterflies are pollinators, too! And while we have heard plenty about declining numbers of Monarchs, there is more to the world of Lepidoptera than all gloom and doom.

We can help you sort out the common butterfly species on our  afternoon field trips.

Native bees and pollinating flies abound!
I can't wait to learn more about the unique relationships between native plants and pollinators.

Good thing we have Heather Holm speaking at this Pollinator Workshop at Caesar Creek on August 13th, 2016.  She will have her awesome book for sale too!

Pollinators of Native Plants is "an excellent guide that will help you attract, observe and identify native pollinators! Her presentation is a fascinating journey showcasing the development of different flower types and the presentation of floral resources to pollinators.  Heather will provide many specific examples of how native plants are pollinated and what pollinator is most effective and why."*

Heather Holm and her fabulous book.
"Author of Pollinators of Native Plants, Heather Holm owns a Minnesota-based landscape design and consulting firm specializing in pollinator landscapes and native landscape restorations. She is currently working the University of Minnesota Extension faculty on a three year study to determine the types of native bees that visit cultivated blueberries in Minnesota. The study includes developing customized forage plantings for the native bees identified, and providing additional or enhancing existing nesting sites within the farms. Heather is an environmental educator and frequent presenter at conferences in the Midwest and Northeast. She writes for Houzz, a social media website, about pollinators, beneficial insects and native plants."*

I'll be there leading field trips for this event and I hope to see you there, too!

 Registration at

*Quoted text from Midwest Native Plant's website.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lakeside Flowers and Fun

The best vacations often combine beauty, relaxation and fun.  Our family thinks Lakeside, Ohio fits the bill perfectly.  It has been our long-standing tradition to be there for the annual Fourth of July festivities. But a huge part of my enjoyment comes from visiting the non-stop flower displays generously sprinkled across the grounds. Lakeside's lakefront has been declared as the "Most Beautiful Mile" in Ohio.

Hollyhocks as colorful as fireworks
The Gundlach Garden is an old-timey cottage style garden on the west end of town which features a brilliant firework-like display of hollyhocks. Visitors often photograph these stately flowers against the back-drop of Lake Erie. Every article written on hollyhocks warns us not to plant them in windy locations, so Lakeside hollyhocks persist with a spirit that defy all odds.

A closer look at the heavy pollen.
A closer look betrays a heavy pollen load at play here.  Most literature I read says they are very attractive to bees and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds?  Where is the nectar reward?  I'll be watching to see what takes an interest in these old-fashion favorites. It is interesting to look closely at our plants and to better understand their ecosystems at work.

Getting a nature, science and beauty "fix."
 Leave it to Lakeside to encourage one tho think "out of the box" a bit.  The Lakeside Campground Association was offering science courses to woman back in the 1890's!  The long standing tradition of education, recreation, religion and cultural arts are the very pillars of the Lakeside Chautauqua Movement. It is intentionally designed to feed both mind and soul.

Historic Hotel Lakeside
 Our Hotel Lakeside is a Victorian hotel which perfectly combines modern needs with the beauty of an age gone by. You too can stay in this Grand old Gal from June to early October. It is one of our designated conference hotels for  Flora-Quest and OOS's Rally for Rails.  This is your chance to see Lakeside in the off-season.

Summer fun on Lake Erie
During the summer the lakefront is active with swimmers and boats. A good, stiff lake breeze will bring out a fleet of Sunfish sailboats, too.  This is all part of the recreation for which Lakeside is famous. Mini golf, swimming, shuffleboard, tennis, bike riders, fitness walkers and plenty of runners keep this active town on the move!

Happy Fourth of July!
So here's to a wonderful Holiday!  I hope you all were able to spend time with your family and friends, enjoying beauty, fun and some physical activity.  Next year, feel free to join me and a couple thousand of my friends on the shore of Lake Erie!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Holy Grail of Ohio Rails

Birds in the family Rallidae, or rails, are notoriously secretive. They live and breed in wetlands, a habitat which is difficult to bird.  Scientists and hunters who frequent the marshes during fall migration tell me they are numerous.  So why are they so hard for birders to see?

King Rail at Glacier Ridge, photo by Bruce Miller.
Birders are willing to travel many miles and stand for hours for an opportunity to see a King Rail in Ohio.  Are King Rails that rare, or are they just difficult for the novice to find?  Since rails are generally limited to wetlands, and Ohio has lost 90-93% of our wetlands, would it be surprising if rail populations are also limited?

BSBO's Mark Shieldcastle with King and Virginia Rails in hand.
 Photo by Hugh Rose.
The best way for a birder to see more rails, is to support the scientific endeavors to study them. Black Swamp Bird Observatory has been conducting studies on rails in the Lake Erie Marsh for many years.  Biologist Mark Shieldcastle will be telling the story of BSBO's study during the Fall "Rally for Rails" being held in Lakeside.

King Rail outfitted with transponder. Photo courtesy of Winous Point.

 A very large King Rail study has been going on at Winous Point Marsh Conservancy.  Transmitters have been attached to King Rails to help scientists better understand their migratory movements, life history- and possibly shed light on the sheer numbers of their population.

This Virginia Rail was a re-capture, already outfitted with a transmitter.
 The Soras and Virginia Rails are outfitted with a much less expensive transmitter that helps to track their localized movements within the marsh.  This helps the team understand preferred habitats and life history while present in Ohio's marshes.

John Simpson examines a recently captured Sora.
 These scientists at Winous Point take their jobs very seriously.  The birds are treated with the utmost care while being weighed, measured and fitted with tracking devices. Good information is reliant upon healthy and normally functioning birds.  The primary goal is to gather information with the least disturbance to the population.

A closer look at the Sora.
 Soras are one of Ohio's more abundant rails.  Other better known Rallidae, or at least one more frequently seen by birders, are coots and gallinules.  Because King and Virginia Rails are difficult to monitor visually, the tracking devices are providing needed information about those populations.

Oliver Cornet and Brendan Shirkey gently fit a harness on the Sora.
 The transmitters are attached to a harness, much like a micro-backpack.  The biologists gently work the harness onto the bird and double check to assure the bird's wing movement is not restricted.  The bird's feathers settle back around the harness.  The actions and walking gait of a recently "harnessed" bird appear normal and unencumbered.

Brendan adjusts the harness for comfort.
Brendan Shirkey will be sharing more details about the work of Winous Point and the Marsh Conservancy at the Ohio Ornithological Society's "Rally for Rails."  It will be held in conjunction with our fall Annual Meeting in Lakeside, Ohio.  Registration is now on line at

Special funds generated by this program for the conservation and study of rails will be directly applied to programs designed to conserve these wonderfully secretive birds.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Point of Conservation.

They call it Winous.  Winous Point.

It may well be the best kept secret in Ottawa County.  It had its origins as a shooting club in 1856. That makes it the oldest continuously operating hunt club in America. Impressive, to be sure, but it may seem an odd place for a Weedpicker and her fellow conservation enthusiasts to visit.

The main Clubhouse at Winous Point,
complete with Canada Goose weather-vane.
Winous Point Shooting Club is a repository of history of hunting. Through limited use, it protected the shores from development along the Sandusky Bay near the Sandusky River and Muddy creek. Winous Point conserves about 5,000 acres of wetlands and shorelines, providing some of the last remaining places for the massive water fowl and shorebirds migrations, as well as year round habitat for all forms of wildlife.

Historically, Winous Point is a Shooting Club, but in 1999 the Winous Point Marsh Conservancy was formed to study the marsh and the inhabitants therein. We will particularly focus on their on-going rail study. 

Rail habitat- is the edge habitat. 
Winous Point is key to the educational experience Flora-Quest and the Ohio Ornithological Society have planned for birders and plant lovers this fall. Several members of our OOS Conservation Committee visited the Winous Point conservancy experts to see their rail study in action. We ventured out to the sedge meadows and edge habitats where lures were set to attract these secretive birds.

Oliver Cornet discusses the plant life at Winous Point.

One of our guides for the morning, Oliver Cornet, specializes in the management of invasive plants. It was fascinating to learn more about the efforts to improve vegetation and create viable habitats for various shorebirds birds, rails and waterfowl. 

Brendan Shirkey demonstrates the rail trap.
 Brendan Shirkey will be one of our guest speakers at the OOS Rally for Rails in October 1 and 2nd.  You will not want to miss the details of their humane live trapping and data tracking of Ohio's most secretive birds.  We are just starting to peek into the lives of these marsh inhabitants, and the Winous Point study (partially funded by Ohio Division of Wildlife) is providing much of the critical data.

Brendan retrieves a Virginia rail unharmed.
 The third trap of the day held a surprise: a Virginia rail which was already outfitted with a radio transmitter!  This bird was a recapture.  Brendan returns to the awaiting trucks with the unharmed bird.
Virginia rail seeking companionship.
As Brendan said, "This guy must be looking for love in all the wrong places."

After the rail was gently bagged we returned to the station to take its general health updates for the study.  We learned this bird has been found in the trap three times! After gathering their data, the birds are returned back to the area in which they were originally found.  Apparently, the experience must not be too traumatic or this Virginia rail would have likely avoided the trap the second time.

- To be continued.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wetlands at work.

If you love plants, birds and mammals  -biodiversity in general-  you should seek out wetlands. Often called the "cradle of biodiversity," these places are crawling with life!

One of Ottawa N.W. R. newer projects
 A few years back, during the Midwest Birding Symposium held in Lakeside, Ohio, we collected donations for Carbon Offset Birding Project.  The Ohio Ornithological Society also kicked in funds to seed some efforts on a wetland restoration in Ottawa county. This previously wet county was part of the Great Black Swamp. It had been mostly drained for farming, but now a few of those fields are being re-purposed back in to wetlands for wildlife.
Dottie McDowell enjoys the boardwalk and viewing platform.
 The area was enhanced with a viewing platform and parking area, as well as native plantings- both forbs and trees.

This reconstructed wetlands is attracting loads of migratory birds this spring.  It has been educational to watch the tranformation from corn field to natural looking wildlife habitat in just a few short years.

Mystery plant!
Certainly of the  Ranunculus family.
The mystery plant has been solved!  Check the comment below- by Helen.  It certainly is in the buttercup family, and commonly called Cursed Buttercup or Cursed Crowsfoot, Ranunculus sceleratus.  It is reported to cause blistering - especially in the mouth- when eaten by mammals. Hence the "cursed" part. BUt then again, most of the buttercups are rather toxic when eaten.

This is exactly why Flora-Quest 2016 is undertaking wetland plants as the topic for 2016.  Too often we learn the Spring ephemerals and never learn about the amazing botany driving the wetlands in Ohio!  Time to broaden your plant horizons.  Sign up now, as quests are filling!

Just a few of the birds being sighted here!
Wetland birds and mammals need wetlands.  Ohio has lost over 90% of our wetlands to development and agriculture.  Our federal dollars and the massive work of conservation minded hunters has protected the few significant wetland remaining in Ohio.  If you have not yet visited Ohio's Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, sign up for the Flora-Quest which offers a bus ride to normally off-limit sectors.

Working together for conservation.
Conservation leaders in Ohio, like Friends of Ottawa, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Ohio Ornithological Society and Toledo Naturalist Association all pitched in for this project.  Flora-Quest is partnering with many of these organizations for our fall workshop in Lakeside. We want to help people understand some of the major plant players in these exciting and dynamic wetlands.  So go ahead, dive in and join us on Sept. 30, 2016.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Birder's Life for Me.

Fresh off a natural high from the Biggest Week in American Birding, here is an effort to encapsulate a week-plus of birding.  A special thanks to Rob Ripma and Lester Peyton for allowing me to drive and guide birders on behalf of B.S.B.O. 

Blackburnian Warbler. 
Once you have seen this bird, you are hopelessly hooked.
There are a hundred reasons to love this event!  We meet the neatest people and go to the best birding locations. Sure, you may hear how crowded the boardwalk at Magee Marsh is getting, but we take folks away from the boardwalk at Magee.  We know twenty other cool places to bird, and many of them have incredible warblers like this Blackburnian warbler!  In fact, many of our locations are private areas and you only get in to see them with a Biggest Week Tour.

Bird-in-your-hand birding. Crazy stuff!!!
Photo provided by Julia Plummer.
Take this location for example:The Arnold property.  We had a lovely time birding around the diked wetland, often seeing Wood Ducks and warblers.  The Yellows and Common Yellowthroats were everywhere! Can you imaging be tired of warblers?!

Then, in swoops  Scruffy the Black-capped Chickadee. The property owners, Robin and Gena, have the little guy trained to take seeds from hand.  Imagine how exited folks from California were to see this! Black-capped Chickadees were a life bird for them one day, and the next day we are posing with a chickadee perched on our hand!  Mind. Blown.

American Redstart at Pipe Creek Wildlife Area
We visit other locations, which are well-known and well-loved.  Pipe Creek Wildlife Area in Sandusky, Ohio has a long history of providing rarities.  The warblers were dripping off the trees the morning we birded at Pipe Creek!   Our guide, Tim, also has a knack for working the Soras! Good birding doesn't only happen at Magee.
The Erie County trip with Tim Jasinski  (far right.)
Meeting people, learning from other guides, enjoying the great outdoors, oh yeah, and birds.  Every day was different, every trip was wonderful!   And when the birding was slow, patrons were likely to get introduced to some local plants! 

New friends from New Mexico: 
Roberta Winchester (almost my twin!) and Linda Rockwell.
Much of the Biggest Week is about seeing friends, old and new.  My long time friends Hugh Rose and Judy Kolo-Rose put me up (and put up with me) for the whole week!  They should get extra hugs from everyone in the birding community that knows them.  They have also been sharing their knowledge and teaching others about birds for many years as well!  We birders love to share.

It is also about sharing our love of Ohio's special places with travelers.  I couldn't wait to get my friends from New Mexico on some gorgeous birds at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve in Huron, Ohio. One can hardly believe that few minutes after I took this shot, it started to snow in mid-May! Agh, Mother Nature, give us a break.

Red-headed Woodpecker
It is not all about warblers.  This Red-headed Woodpecker (a non-migrant) made a huge impression as well. Even common-to-us birds, like Blue Jays are often a life bird to the visitors from the west coast. All of these birds are exciting and a part of our bigger ecosystem 

Whether you are a new birder or some jaded, old life-lister, the Biggest Week had something for everybody: Curlew Sandpiper, Whip-poor-wil in your face, Kirtland's Warbler! 

The Biggest Week in American Birding: Come for the birds,  stay for the love.    

Hi-diddle-dee-dee. It is a birder's life for me!