Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally, Rain,

Finally, the rain fell on the Olentangy River here in Columbus. As I write this, I'm looking out the window and rain continues to fall. It has actually been raining for about two hours now.

On a totally different front, Megan and I will be traveling to Bozeman, Montana next week for one my friend Bryan Swindell's wedding. Bryan and I spent three months sharing a tent as we traveled around Australia. The trip of a lifetime, my time in "the land of Oz" helped me hone my interests in natural history and helped make me realize that I was more interested in helping solve real world environmental problems rather than being a strict scientist that conducts controlled experiments. After I came back from Australia in the spring of 1999, I documented the trip in a web page on a relatively new thing called the "World Wide Web". Check out pictures from the trip here.

I have never been to the great state of Montana, and I'm starting to get the travel bug. Too bad my camera fell in the river last weekend! Hopefully, Megan will let me take plenty of shots with her machine. We may take the laptop on our journey, so I may be able to blog from our hotel room.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Please, Give the Olentangy a Drink.


I am quite fortunate to live very close to one of Ohio's major rivers, the Olentangy. This river is particually famous for dissecting the campus of The Ohio State University, where my wife Megan currently spends her time pursuing a PhD in nursing. About five miles due north of campus, the river is still somewhat wild. No dams, an excellent wooded corridor, and relatively intact pools, riffles, and runs, all different types of river habitats. Central Ohio has been extremely dry this summer, and the river is simply not as wet as is should be. The water has gotten so low that I can see to the bottom in places that last year were murky and dark. The water has cleared considerably. Two feet of crystal clear water is common, and I can watch sunfish and hognose suckers scatter about as I wade near their pool. The fish are well contained to nice holes and pools, making them quite easy to catch but admittedly, they do not offer much of a challenge. But yes, we could use rain here in central Ohio, and we could use this rain soon. Today we had a few drops, I maybe felt one hundred at lunchtime in my backyard and then another several hundred drops during my afternoon walk around my office grounds. Obviously, this is not enough. Even the bush honeysuckle, an agressive non-native species, is beginning to wilt along the fencerow parallel to our street. The heat gets to me when we have multiple days above 90 degrees coupled with very high humidity. I stay outside waiting for it to become cool late in the evening after the sun drops below the horizon, but it is still dissapointingly muggy and warm. Alas, we are almost in July. Botanically, things are quite slow along the river. We've had a splash of color added by the white and purple blooms of water willow, but they have mostly faded and nothing has replaced their color. I'm anxious to see if any Cardinal flower grows along our stretch of the Olentangy. For those of you that don't know this plant, it produces beautiful and large clusters of red flowers, and its preferred habitat is along wet shores and swampy places. We'll see if it shows up in the next few months. I hope you enjoy the photo I have posted above: this was actually taken last week, and the water in the river is even lower now. You can see Megan in the background. She's holding her cell phone talking to her brother Mike. She's an excellent big sister.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bears and Elephants!

Hello Blog Readers!

On Sunday Tom and I took a lovely trip to the Columbus Zoo. We have a yearly zoo pass, which was very reasonably priced, and it makes it worth the while to go to the zoo for a short time when we do go. That way, we can really focus on what we are seeing rather than trying to see everything from North America to Asia to Australia! I got some great pics of some bears at the zoo. After our trip to "North America" we had to stop to see the elephants, my favorite zoo animal!



Monday, June 25, 2007

More Ohio Birds

Tonight, I bring you three more species of birds that I photographed right here in central Ohio. Where did I find all these birds? Read on and find out!

The ovenbird

A ruby crowned kinglet

Cedar Waxwings
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The birds pictured here and the ones below were all photographed at the Columbus Zoo North American bird aviary. What a place!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

License Plates

Good evening Ohio Nature Blog readers,

License plates may seems like a strange thing to blog about for a nature blog, being that they go on cars, which often are not environmentally friendly...but hear me out. Shortly after I met Tom, he suggested I get the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves Scenic Rivers blue heron license plate- he thought it would look really cool. I thought, costs a little more than the plate I already have (which is perfectly fine) and I think I should see this plate before I order it. Well, because my birthday is coming in the next couple weeks and my car registration is about to expire, I decided now was the time to research whether or not my car would look cool with this plate... Check it out- I definitely think my car looks cool with the contrasting colors of the blue heron license plate. In addition, I am helping to support DNAP as they get a portion of my registration fee.

The yellow Volvo V40 is mine with the Scenic Rivers blue heron plate and the silver Toyota Corolla S with the scenic rivers fish plate is Tom's. So, if you want your car to look cool and also support the scenic rivers of Ohio, I think you know what you need to do! When your car registration is due, consider a Scenic Rivers Plate- how cool your car will look!

For now,


Introducing Megan...

Hello loyal readers of Tom's Ohio Nature Blog!

As you likely already know, I am Tom's wife and often have a different perspective from Tom regarding the plants and animals we frequently see on our adventures. Tom recently asked if I would share my perspective and some of my photos. So, you'll occasionally see some of my posts when I am taking a break from my PhD program research in nursing. I hope you enjoy what we post and perhaps find humor in my behavioral perspective.

That's all for now! Keep your eyes open for a new post in the next few days,


Ohio Birds

Today, I photographed several birds that either nest in or migrate through Ohio.

First, a chestnut-sided warbler.

Second, an eastern bluebird,

And finally, a male wood duck.

Cranberry Bog Update

Well, I hope many of you made it to Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve on Saturday. In total, I gave six tours and worked 12 hours. The Division of Natural Areas and Preserves gave tours to over nine hundred people!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Visit Cranberry Island Before it is too Late

On Saturday June 21, the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves will hold an open house at Cranberry Bog State Nature Preserve. If you haven't been to any nature preserve, this is your opportunity. Cranberry Bog is not your average nature preserve. In fact, it is probably the only island nature preserve in Ohio. Fortunately, almost every year in June, the division opens the preserve for visitors. Come see pitcher plants, orchids, cranberries, and sundews at the bog. I'll be there giving tours. If you didn't sign up for a reservation, this year we are even taking walk-ins. For more about the site, visit the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. So what happens if you don't go? This island bog is slowly eroding away. You see, most of Buckeye Lake was formerly a bog and swamp forest, but when it was flooded to provide water for Ohio's canal system, most of the excellent natural area was drowned. Cranberry island broke free and is now surrounded by lake water. Each year, small pieces break off, and in some years, hundreds of square feet go floating across Buckeye Lake. So, get out there while it is still there!

Here is the tiny carnivorous plant, Drosera rotundifolia. The small red glands help the plant capture insects.

The beautiful state threatened Calopogon tuberous, also known as the grass-pink. One of my favorite Ohio native plants, this flower is quite rare. The Division lists it as State Threatened.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Virginia Spiraea

Last week the Ohio Heritage Naturalists had the fortune to examine a spectacular plant in bloom, Virginia spirea (Spiraea virginiana). This mega-rarity, as they are known in the botany business, is listed as federally threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is quite rare throughout the Appalachian region, due to its nature to reproduce clonally rather than sexually and its special habitat preferences. It takes root along rivers and streams where competition from trees is absent, but it does not tolerate constant flooding and inundation, restricting itself to a narrow band along high quality streams. Since it seems to inhabit this unusual niche, it is quite rare. There is some thought that this plant was more common after the most recent ice age ended, as it would have had plenty of treeless habitat to inhabit, and now has found refuge near rivers and streams. Today, West Virginia contains the largest populations. Last week was my first time seeing the plant, I was quite impressed. It was a tall shrub, about six feet high, and the specimens we saw appeared to be in full bloom. The shrub's pale white flower clusters looked like little puffballs of cotton from far away, but upon close inspection, the flowers seemed much more delicate and lacy. The flower did remind me somewhat of bridal veil-spiraea, a common non-native cultivated species found in yards across the state. Tonight, I thought I would share a few photos of this mega rarity.

For more information, check out the USDA Plants Website and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves Rare Plant Abstracts.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sunset on the Olentangy

When Megan and I moved to north Columbus last summer, I didn't think we fully understood what we were getting into. The total experience of living in a house has been challenging at times but overall the experience has been rewarding. And I certainly was not expecting all that the Olentangy River had to offer, including fire glow sunsets like we had this evening.


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Monday, June 18, 2007

Water Willow

Justicia americana, or American water willow, is a common plant in Kenney Park along the Olentangy River, but unless you visit rivers frequently, you'll never see it. This plant only grows along riverbanks. During the spring floods, its roots are completely underwater. It isn't until water levels drop in mid-spring when this plant starts to emerge. Then about the second week of June, it begins to bloom. The flowers are most beautiful. A very pale purple with darker purple spots, it superfically resembles an orchid. However, this plant is in the Acanthaceae family, which doesn't have that many Ohio representatives. Wild Petunias or the Ruellias are also in this family. Anyways, I love seeing it bloom since it reminds me of an earlier time when I was a young college intern working with the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in Northeast Ohio. Emliss Ricks and I found this growing in the cracks of rocks adjacent to the Little Beaver Creek State Wild River, somewhere near Little Beaver State Park. We found it striking, and Emliss, an excellent botanist, didn't recognize it, so we "Nuked it" with Newcomb's wildflower guide, and sure enough, we both learned a new plant. I've photographed the plant several times and from different angles recently. First we have the flower, and then two views of it growing in its riverine habitat. The first two shots are from the Olentangy, while the second is from Scioto Brush Creek, where it was especially luxurious. If you like damselflies, be sure to check out water willow along streams, because damselflies seem to love this plant. In the last photo, several powdered dancers are "practicing their love" of this plant. They rest on it, lay there eggs on submerged stems, find mates, and hover in and out of it. This plant is a true damsel magnet!





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American Rubyspot

This beautiful damselfly reminds me of our friend Rita, who hails from Taiwan? Why? In addition to her white wedding dress, she also wore a bright red and gold dress during her reception. The commonality? The American rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana), at least the male version, is bright red and shiny gold. Sure, Rita isn't a male, far from it, but the colors of her dress match this damselfly. This one is in the family Calopterygidae, the same family as the Ebony Jewelwing which is perhaps the most common damsel around. Both species have very broad wings, adn their flight patterns are somewhat erratic, compared to the rather slow deliberate flight of some of the other damselflies. I started seeing American Rubyspots along the Olentangy River about a week ago, and now as more hatch, they are basking up and down the river. They are somewhat skittish, but I managed to capture a decent shot as one was basking on a newly exposed rock. The water level in the Olentangy is quite low right now, and you can see aquatic insects clinging to this rock, hoping that the waters would rise again!


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Alum Creek State Park Beach

This afternoon, Megan and I went to Alum Creek State Park Beach. It turned out to be an interesting experience. Megan noted how many different languages she was hearing, I noted the muddy water and plethora of personal watercraft, and we were both a bit bewildered by all the emergency vehicles around, not to mention the several times lifeguards went into the water screaming. Anyways, this was quite strange, and through it all, I managed do do a little drawing of our "reservoir-side" (opposed to lakeside) view.

A day on the River

Yesterday I spent a good two hours photographing cool stuff along the Olentangy. One new "tool" i used yesterday was a five dollar bug net Megan and I purchased at Target. I figured that I might be able to catch a few damselflies and get some extremely closeup pictures. For the powdered dancer shot I posted yesterday, I was actually very carefully holding the damselfly with my fingers. Today, I have posted yet another shot, this time of a stream bluet, I believe, where you can see just how small these guys are. You can clearly see my thumbnail. Other cool things from yesterday were a new type of damselfly. Although it looks pretty similar to the other ones I have been posting, it was a wee bit smaller than the stream bluets and the blue coloration on the abdomen isn't the same. In this picture, the top parts of the last three adomen segments are blue, which would rule out the stream bluet.

I also was able to capture a very nice picture of the tiger swallowtail. This is the first example of this species I have seen in Kenney Park, but hopefully there will be more. My Target bug net doubles as a good tadpole catcher, and sure enough, I was able to snag a relatively slow swimming bullfrog tadpole.

A fun day on the river (until I dropped my camera in the water, I was able to rescue the pictures from the memory card).





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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Attack of the Powdered Dancer

I sure am glad that damselflies are tiny, because they look really ferocious when viewed with my Canon camera with macro setting (Um, said camera is drying right now after taking a plunge in the Olentangy river, sorry Mom. It has taken a ton of great pictures though!).

Here is a male powdered dancer, one of the most common damsels along the Olentangy River in Kenney Park.

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Fire-necked Batyle Beetle

Our trip to Scioto Brush Creek on Wednesday has turned up quite a few plant rarities, including an endangered sedge and grass. However, it turns out that I might have found a rare beetle as well. I spotted this colorful insect on a sprig of American Water Willow, a common plant throughout Ohio that is restricted to the sand and gravel bars of rivers. John Howard and I thought we should post this unknown specimen to, and sure enough, this site of amateur and professional entomologists came through again! What I had found was in fact the Fire-necked Batyle Beetle (Batyle ignicollis), and a member of said this species is "Nice Find! this species is not that abundant." The point here? Scioto Brush Creek not only harbors a diverse and intact fish assemblage in its waters, extremely rare plants on its banks, but also unusual insects. I felt like I was traveling back in time as I entered the creek--I was thinking what the Olentangy River looked like 300 years ago, and thought that it might share some characteristics with Scioto Brush Creek. Clear water, narrow riffles and wide deep pools, and water willow everywhere. The Olentangy is covered with trash. I can't walk more than a few feet without finding some evidence of people. But in Scioto Brush Creek, I could count on one hand the pieces of trash we found. A football, a cord to an electric blanket, and a Seagram's bottle cap. Anyways, the place is great. Although this property is only 36 acres and protects only one bank of the Creek, it is fantastic. To learn more about Scioto Brush Creek, check out the Friends of Scioto Brush Creek, a local watershed group dedicated to protecting this area's unique resources.


Friday, June 15, 2007

A Dragon from Scioto Brush Creek

Another dragonfly from Wednesday's trip to Scioto Brush Creek. This is a black shouldered spinylegs. This one has awesome coloration, with the yellow abdomen and light green body especially striking.


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Longnose Gar

John Howard, an excellent naturalist who lives in Adams County, was telling me about the fish that live in Scioto Brush Creek. Where we first entered the stream, it was rocky and shallow. Several hundred feet downstream, however, the stream deepened and widened into a gigantic pool. In this pool, we spotted perhaps the coolest fish I have ever seen in Ohio, a Longnose Gar, Lepisosteus osseus. Here you can see the gar looking like pencil in the river. I then zoomed in on the fish to give a closer view. I just never realized we had these fish in Ohio. I haven't seen any in the Olentangy, and I doubt they are here in Columbus, but in Scioto Brush Creek, they are readily seen as they like to float at the surface.



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Thursday, June 14, 2007

More from Scioto Brush Creek

I'll throw up some more pictures.....I had a request. Here we have a violet dancer, Argia fumipennis violacea, and northern brown snake, Storeria dekayi.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

More Dragons

Sometimes you have one of those days when you see tons of cool stuff. Bugs, plants, reptiles, amphibians. Today the Ohio Heritage Naturalists traveled to Scioto Brush Creek and here is just one example of the interesting animals we found. I believe this is a black-shouldered Spinyleg, Dromogomphus spinosus. An amazingly beautiful animal, it was basking in a meadow opening above Scioto Brush Creek.


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Monday, June 11, 2007


Megan and I met my family yesterday at Mohican State Park and Forest. We share a meal at a restaurant in Loudonville then visited the Pleasant Hill Dam, on which we were standing while posing for the first picture. My Dad looks confused, I think my Grandpa was looking at a bird or something, my mom, Megan, and I understood to actually look at the camera and smile, and I think Tim was probably looking for girls. Anyways, there we are.


After the dam, we drove down to the cover bridge to see Ohio's newest scenic river, the Clear Fork of the Mohican. What a beaut!

Action along the river was light. I did see an eastern forktail damselfy and a few butterflies. I managed to capture an image of this species. It was checking out some, oh, well, some feces of another animal. At least it sat still and I could photograph it.

Finally, I plant that I do not see very often, but it is common in eastern Ohio forest, and that is purple flowering raspberry, Rubus odoratus. This large leaved raspberry, a native plant, has brilliant purple blooms. This shrub was covered and it made for a spectacular show. This native Ohio species grows well in cultivation. I did a google search and found several nurseries that sell it. Quite a interesting plant that not everyone gets to see, and we saw it in full bloom.
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