Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I'm Published

I wrote a little piece on American reed grass for my division's newsletter. This will go out to over 10,000 readers! This is my first real nature writing that has been published, and I'm really glad that I wrote this piece. Look for another article come spring about Ohio's salamanders.

Check out the winter edition 2007 of Natural Ohio.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Does that elephant have two trunks?

Megan and I visited the Columbus Zoo this past Saturday. Inside the new elephant building, in the Asia quest area, we found this large male elephant. It was actually Megan that noticed its huge penis that was getting ever larger before our eyes. After about 20 mintues, this gargantuan trunk-like appendage had completely retracted back into his body. All I can say is wow.


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Saturday, February 24, 2007


A pumpkinseed, one of the sunfishes, at the Columbus Zoo.

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Mountain Dusky Salamander

In the snowbelt counties of northeast Ohio, there is a small, emphemeral stream dwelling salamander not found elsewhere in the state. This guy is the mountain dusky, so called because it is common in mountainous areas of Pennsylvania. Fortuneately, we also get this guy in the glaciated plateau of northeastern ohio. While doing some botanizing for the division last september, I found a mountain dusky in a small spring fed stream trickling down to the floodplain of Conneaut Creek. Only today did I confirm this identification using a Powell, Collins and Hooper's "A key to Amphibians & Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada." The giveaway? Well, we only have two common species of Desmognathus in northeast Ohio, and the northern dusky is a big bulky salamander. The guy I found was small and delicate. I should have known that the northern dusky, Desmognathus fuscus, also posseses a keel on the upperside of the base of its tail, while the mountain dusky, Desmognathus ochrophaeus, lacks this characteristic. I managed to get a few quick shots of this incredible salamander, that is only found in one small corner of our great state.



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Wednesday, February 21, 2007


A nice evening at Kenny Park today. Blue sky, glowing light, snow, but with temperatures in the low 40's. When I was in Maine, I was fascinated by the lichens growing on tree bark. The lichens obscure the bark patterns that we are often familiar with here in Ohio. Red oak, for example, did not look like red oak because the long, flattened and shiny strips of bark were obscured by the lichens. We don't have lichens covering our trees here in Columbus.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Panhandle Hook

We have had quite a snowstorm here in Columbus and throughout the midwest. This was one of those classic "panhandle hook" systems, originating in the Gulf of Mexico, coming up through Texas, and then directed northeast by the jet stream. Megan and I had about 6 inches of snow, and then about 2:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, we received a mix of sleet and freezing rain, totalling about 3/4" of ice on top of the snow. I ventured out this morning at 7:00 a.m., our neighborhood roads were snow covered, and I burned some rubber off of Megan's tires heading out to the main road. Finally, as I was almost to the intersection of Morse and High Streets, WCBE announced that all non-essential state employees were on a 2 hour delay. I called work, and they confirmed this. So, I have a rare opportunity to write a wee bit in the morning. Enjoy our snowy weather, because, although it may cause problems, to get this much snow in central Ohio is uncommon.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Spring Will Be Here Soon

In April 2003 I experienced one of the great wonders of nature. During the first warm spring rain, spotted salamanders leave their subterranean homes, move overland, and congregate in masses in temporary woodland pools. Here, the males leave sperm packets on submerged leaves and other detritus, and the females follow, absorb the sperm packets through their cloaca, and use them to fertilize their eggs. We saw hundreds of spotted salamanders that evening. When we arrived at the woodland pond, near Indian Creek in Butler County, it wasn't raining, and there were no salamanders. After about an hour, a gentle rain began falling, and we started seeing salamanders amongst the leaves on the forest floor. At first one or two, then 10 then 100...and then it seemed like we saw at least 1000 of these guys that night. They are extremely cool.

From Herps

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ohio Botanical Symposium

Come to the Ohio Botanical Symposium here in Columbus:

Botanists, naturalists and native plant enthusiasts encouraged to attend the day-long event

COLUMBUS, OH - Wetland restoration, Ohio’s native violets, medicinal plants and the best of Ohio’s natural areas are some of the topics to be discussed on Friday, March 30, during the 7th Annual Ohio Botanical Symposium.

Sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), The Nature Conservancy and The Ohio State University, the event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fawcett Center, 2400 Olentangy River Road, on the OSU campus.

Keynote speaker Dr. James Amon from Wright State University has been studying wetlands for 30 years and will discuss wetland conservation and restoration. Other featured speakers include entomologist Dr. Greg Dahlem from Northern Kentucky University, Dr. Harvey Ballard of Ohio University and experts with ODNR.

The event will also feature displays from a number of non-profit organizations, park districts, and state and federal agencies.

The $15 attendance fee includes refreshments. There is no additional charge for a walk-in registration. Lunch is priced extra and the deadline for making a meal reservation is March 16. For registration forms and more details, visit or contact Rick Gardner at 614-265-6419.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This photo was taken in the Summer of 2001 just off the coast of Bar Harbor, Maine. Little did I know that I would end up marrying a Mainer. I'm trying out Google's Picasa software, designed to organize digital photos. It allows me to post an image from the Picasa image browser directly to my blog. Here are the results. I took this photo using my Canon Elan IIe, a film SLR. I was happy with the results. I scanned an old fashioned print with my Canon Pixma mp510 all in one.


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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Olentangy- Dry and Cold

I went to the riverbank of the Olentangy River this afternoon. The air is so cold and dry that it has sucked all the moisture from the riverbank. I was expecting to see ice, and I did see some. However, I was most struck by the dry sand that has gathered along the banks. This sand was being blown by today's constant chilling winds. Here are a few shots from this afternoon journey down to the river. In order of appearance, these shots depict the sandy riverbank, the binding power of buckeye and hackberry roots, an overflow channel marked by ice, and finally, the tentacle like roots of the silver maple slithering into the frozen ground.