Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring Peeper

So, it has been a few weeks since my last post. No worries. Spring is starting to heat up.

Last week was salamander time here in Central Ohio. Megan and I looked for these really cool creatures at Gahanna Woods State Nature Preserve and on a friend's private property in Portage Ohio County in northeast Ohio. Here are a few pictures from those outings!

First, here is a male spring peeper belting out his peeps at Gahanna woods. There were thousands of these little guys calling and the sound was truly deafening.

The next Friday, March 23, we went looking for salamanders in Portage County Ohio. Here is what we found:

Exciting times. Spotted salamanders live in the ground the entire year, that is, until the first warm spring rains. They move to the surface and travel instinctually to temporary rain-filled ponds. Here, the male provides some sperm to the female via a little packet he leaves in the pond called a spermataphore. The eggs hatch into larvae that are aquatic and breathe using gills. Cool Stuff! All this, only one week ago!


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wildlife Diversity Conference, Birds @ Kenny Park

I attended the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife's Wildlife Diversity Conference today. What an event! In previous years, the conference has topped 600 people, but today, over 900 people gathered in Columbus to hear several excellent speakers. Today's more interesting topics: Coyote ecology and behavior near Chicago's O'Hare airport, a review of southern flying squirrel biology, and a very informative talk about the many Ohio firefly species.

Yesterday, I shot a few neat bird pictures at Kenny Park. My photos are small and grainy compared other birding blog shots, but I am happy to have Megan's Kodak p850. This camera's zoom lens brings me 12 times closer to the action, allowing me to document what I see. It am not able to take publishable pictures, but it is still quite an amazing tool.

First, I watched a female downy woodpecker taking out her aggressions on a soggy box elder snag.

After shooting Miss downy, I headed down to the river. Unfortunately, I did this rather clumsily, and aroused a pair of hooded Mergansers. They bolted upstream, flying low across the water, out towards the middle of the river. They spotted me again, took to the air once more, heading directly downstream and out of my sight. I was able to get a quick shot of the male.

I headed upstream and scared another first of the season, a male belted kingfisher. The loud rattle really got my attention. He found a branch across the stream, and stayed put for a few minutes, allowing me to get several shots.

What an amazing spring that we have had so far. My awareness of Spring has never been better. This is partly due to my close proximity to a natural area. I love it.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Kenny Park

A few pictures from Kenny Park from my afternoon hike on this warm, unseasonably warm March day.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Waterfowl Migration at Blendon Woods

Today would be an excellent day to go to Thoreau Lake at Blendon Woods Metro Park right here in Columbus Ohio. Megan and I stopped by after church this morning, and we were treated to quite a display of waterfowl. As the ice melts, ducks travel northward. Today, we saw hundreds of ducks and geese, represented by 9 species.

Black duck: these are common at Blendon throughout the winter
Mallard: also winter at here
Wood duck: At least 6 drakes, several females
Lesser scaup: 10, mostly males but a few females
Ring-necked duck- ~20
Redhead- 1 male
Horned grebe- 2
American widgeon- 1 male

Canada Geese- >20


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Highbanks Metro Park

Today, Megan and I went to Highbanks Metropark, part of the central Ohio Metroparks system, now simply known as "Metroparks".

Here we are on a trail by the Olentangy River.


I am always amazed by the how much we see every time we go on a walk. Megan picked out a Meadow vole scurrying through some goldenrod a few feet off the trail. I believe that her initial inclination was that it was a bird, but as soon as she swung around me, I knew that what she spotted must have possessed fur! Sure enough, I managed to scope it out with my binos, and I think she found a meadow vole.

Other cool stuff on the day? An interesting lichen clinging to a tree trunk at about head height. The camera is only centimeters from this strange creature.

This small stream, full of Devonian aged shale, trickled down from the upland oak forest at highbanks and into the floodplain. We stood on the bridge and watched the water flow for a while. Overall, we had a wonderful time at Highbanks. We even did some sun salutations and a few warrior poses to stretch ourselves out at the end of the hike. The day was fairly birdy as well, and I know spring has arrived. As we were leaving, a flock of about 100 Canada geese flew high overhead, in their classic V-formation. I also had two Cooper's hawk, several male and female cardinals, a hairy woodpecker, Carolina chickadees, a few dozen turkey vultures, male-red winged blackbirds calling like they'll never find a female, a nuthatch about 5 feet from the trail warning us, and a few song sparrows.

Although I look creepy in the following picture, I thought I would put it up because we finished off the evening with a trip to the Pig Iron BBQ in north Columbus. We have been by this place 100 times, always thought about going, but admittedly, it somewhat scared us. Tonight, we went, it was great, excellent food, fun, down to earth people, and a sweet atmosphere. Go to the Pig IRON! During lent, they also offer plenty of fried fish options, using the recipe from Old Bag of Nails Pub. I couldn't leave without framing us in front of the big giant pig.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Color on a Gray Day

Today, there was little color in Kenny Park. I did find a large fallen tree, covered with moss. This provided the only color of my afternoon walk.

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