Sunday, March 9, 2014
I was flattered to be invited to speak at the inaugural Kuebeck Nature Forum, sponsored by the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. The forum is a legacy of the late Dr. Edelbert Kuebeck, a great supporter of the environment. The talk was last night, attracted a large group, and we had a great time. I headed up a few hours early, to visit the Maumee River and see what I could see - a side trip that would have been heartily endorsed by Dr. Kuebeck, I am sure.
Roche de Bout is a must-see if you're in the area, and it is accessible from Farnsworth Metropark, which is a Toledo Metropark holding. The site is on the upstream outskirts of Waterville.
If you get the chance, explore the Maumee River rapids. It's certain to be an interesting trip, regardless of the season.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
I am always flattered when asked to give a talk on photography, as I would think of myself more as a person that uses photographs to tell stories, rather than as a photographer. That said, I do try and constantly improve my skills, and enjoy shooting a wide variety of subjects.
The Lens & Leaves Photography Club has invited me to give a photography talk, and we're doing it next Thursday, March 13th. The group focuses on natural history, and is welcoming of guests of all levels of interest and skill. You are invited. The meeting commences at 7 pm, and will take place at beautiful Blacklick Metro Park on the east side of Columbus. CLICK HERE for details.
Rather than focus completely on technical aspects of photography, I will talk more about finding interesting subjects, composition, and light.
I've got images from at least six different cameras in the talk, from point & shoots to my current Canon 5D Mark III. One need not have the latest and greatest camera to make nice images.
I suppose the talk will be in large part a photographic nature show, as I've included a wide array of animal and plant life from many different regions. The gorgeous ducks above were photographed on the barnacle-encrusted rocks at Barnegat Light, New Jersey.
The thumbnail-sized hairstreak is an excellent macro subject, and I plant to talk a fair bit about LITTLE STUFF, and how to make decent images of small bugs and whatnot.
If you're able, come on out next Thursday. Again, the details ARE HERE.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Toward the end of last Saturday's epic waterfowling excursion to Mosquito Creek Reservoir (that post, HERE), I headed off to check some meadows in the nearby Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area. The habitat looked prime for Short-eared Owls, and they're best found around dusk. In spite of waiting until nightfall, no short-eareds showed themselves, but we witnessed a phenomenon that made cruising around after dark worth the while.
While slowly threading the car along some sparsely traveled lanes, I noticed a moth flutter through the headlight beams. Then another, and another. In all, we must have seen two dozen. In warmer months no one would think twice about this, but the air temperature was 36 F! Brisk, to say the least. After seeing a few of these moths, and realizing that some sort of flight was occurring, I had to know what species was involved. Fortunately I had an insect net in the trunk - what self-respecting nerd doesn't carry an insect net? - and we put it to good use. Kristen Beck was also in the car, and with the next moth spotted, I hit the brakes, she leaped out net in hand, and Bingo! Mystery moth in hand.
It turned out to be a Morrison's Sallow, Eupsilia morrisoni, and the animal in the photo above is the very one that we captured. After puzzling over it a bit, I turned to BugGuide for expert confirmation and quickly got verification of its identity (thank you, "Novus philonatura!). With a name as a starting point, it was time to learn more about these curious cold weather moths.
Flipping to the section on sallows in Dave Wagner's amazing book, Caterpillars of Eastern North America, I learned the following: "This group includes many of our winter moths. All but the Red-winged Sallow emerge in the fall. The adults of several genera mate and lay eggs in the fall and early winter; others hibernate, periodically flying on warm nights, but wait until the first warm nights of late winter or early spring to engage in reproductive activities."
I then posted my photo to the Mothing Ohio Facebook page, and Kevin Bradbury weighed in, reporting that he sees this species coming to oozing maple sap about this time of year. Entomologist and moth authority Dave Horn then commented:
"Moths that overwinter as adults (like Morrison's Sallow) do so in a sheltered place such as under bark (or loose siding) where it might get quite warm in the afternoon of a winter's day. The high temperature in Columbus Saturday was 49 and the sun was out for part of that and I'd not be surprised if a hideout under south-facing bark reached 70 or warmer. If it gets that warm the moth can do the rest of the work by warming up, "shivering" the flight muscles to raise them to operating temperature (around 90-95 degrees). Then the moth can take flight, and as long as they keep the muscles moving they can maintain flight even at air temperatures below freezing. The "fuzz" on the thorax provides enough insulation so they can keep warm, so they need to find fuel (sap or syrup, or a moth-er's bait). (Yes, researchers worked this all out by installing micro-thermocouples into the thoraxes of moths and recording temperatures of fuzzy newly-emerged moths along with those of older, balder moths."
Very neat stuff, and I learned something new about the wide world of moths.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Well, here it is in the earliest days of March - the cusp of spring! - but it doesn't feel like it. The temperature is 12 F as I write this. Weather more befitting creatures of the Arctic than bipedal primates that are rather poorly evolved for life in the subfreezing zone. But I bring news of that most fabulous of Arctic wanderers, the Snowy Owl. Reports have predictably tapered off, but I received a small spate of new owls from a few articles that were published about the birds. These reports, alas, were of birds seen some time ago, and are not apparently present anymore at the locales of their initial sightings.
I recently saw wildlife rehabber Kristen Beck, and she filled me in a few injured owls that had been taken to rehabilitation centers. At least one of those was fixed up and released to the wild - Go, owl!
But by far the biggest breaking news on the Snowy Owl front is the nearly miraculous appearance of one in Geauga County! Geauga County, of all places! All winter long, that northeastern Ohio county was a BIG WHITE BLOB surrounded by a sea of red counties (see map below). If you add up the number of owls reported from counties abutting Geauga, the total comes to forty-seven (47)!! But no, none of the birders there could produce even one Hedwig. I don't know, maybe their binoculars needed cleaning. I had taken to tormenting my few friends up there (maybe fewer after this post) about the desolate owless landscape that they called home. But the bleak period in Geauga County ornithological history has passed - THEY HAVE AN OWL!
The poor Snowy Owl glares at the photographer from behind a post, no doubt peeved at being found out. Apparently it has been in this Geauga County locale since December. Darn good job of evading the birdwatchers by this sensational hooter, if you ask me.
Anyway, to the gist of this post. As of now, we stand at 169 owls reported, from 59 counties. If you don't hail from Ohio, we've got 88 counties, so that's a big chunk of them. And I wonder how many other owls were out there that never got reported. Probably lots. Anyway you shake it, this will probably go down as the largest documented irruption of Snowy Owls in Ohio's history. Some of the invasions of nearly a century ago might have rivaled or exceeded this one, but the numbers were not well documented.
The map is below. Look for Geauga County way up in the northeastern corner of the state. It's the county with a numeral one (1). Pay no mind to the fact that it surrounded by counties with lots of owls. I'm sure the Geauga County Birding Association members are out whooping up a celebratory storm tonight, now that they no longer must bear this owlbatross around their collective necks.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Mosquito Creek is in Trumbull County, way up in the northeast corner of the state. It isn't an area I get to very often, and it's nearly a three hour drive from Columbus. I had been hearing scores of fabulous reports from this lake, and had to experience the scene firsthand. It turned out to be a 16-hour day but worth every minute. I was able to connect with a bunch of friends I don't often get afield with: Tami Gingrich, Dave Hochadel, Kristen Beck, Larry Richardson, Don Keffer and more. We had a great time, and saw lots of stuff, some of which appears in the following images.
As is the norm for a late winter/early spring Ohio day, the skies were mostly leaden and gray. I managed the photo above during the approximately 16 minutes of blue sky that we had. I would LOVE to get back here on a sunny day for more photography, but that probably won't be happening. Once the ice breaks up, the fowl will disperse. But we'll probably have another good week or so at this locale, so if you can make the Mosquito Creek scene soon, do it!
CLICK HERE to see a photo of the latter.
CLICK HERE to read the tale of Ohio's nesting population.
Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Common Merganser. The species in red were present at the Mecca waters. Getting all seven of these species, with travel allowed to anywhere, on one day, would be a formidable challenge. NOTE: I am excluding the wild Muscovy, a U.S. rarity found only along the Rio Grande River in Texas.
CLICK HERE for a good video of the goldeneye courtship display.
Ohio and elsewhere in the interior eastern U.S. has experienced a perhaps unrivaled influx of Long-tailed Ducks (and White-winged Scoters). I put forth a theory as to why that might be HERE.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
It's high time to get spring's schedule straight, and high time I plugged the New River Birding & Nature Festival! This event is centered on one of North America's great biological hotspots, the ancient New River at Fayetteville, West Virginia. This year's dates are April 28th to May 3rd, and if you want to start spring off with a bang, make this scene. The festival has no peer when it comes to beauty of the scenery, biological diversity, and quality of the guides and speakers (possibly excepting your narrator). Following are some photos of what you can expect to see; for the complete festival low-down, CLICK HERE.
I hope you can make it, and CLICK HERE for registration information.
If you want to read more firsthand accounts and see plenty of photos, type in New River in the search box in the upper lefthand corner of this page. I've made many posts about this festival in past years.
We've never had a Black Skimmer in Ohio, and I don't expect that we will. But if one were to turn up here, now, it'd hurt its beak. Most all of our water is still in ice, and that doesn't make for good skimming. Here in the North it is the winter that won't end. It is 16 F as I write, and tomorrow's high will be 18 F, dropping to a low of 6 tomorrow night. For the most part, low temperatures such as those are forecast for the next week or so.
Perhaps if I offer up this Black Skimmer as a photographic propitiation to the gods of summer, heat, and sun, they will make winter relinquish its hold.