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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Grasshopper!

From our backyard. The place is full of these little green guys!

 
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Natural Areas & Preserves at the Ohio State Fair

So, if you are planning a trip to the great Ohio State Fair, don't miss the Ohio Department of Natural Resource's Park, located in the southeast corner of the fair. The division I am gainfully employed by, the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, has about a quarter acre tall grass prairie planted in the park. I addition, we just set up or new "building", giving us a bigger presence. Megan and I will be manning said building and prairie Sunday August 5th from 2-7. So, again, come to the fair, buy plenty of fried dough, come visit the natural resources park, and last, and most important, check out the prairie and our new building!

Here Come the Composites

So, I haven't been too busy botanizing around Kenney Park, near my house, for some time. I usually skip right any plant and head to the river. However, things are starting to become interesting again, vascular plant wise. There are several things blooming right now that I photographed this evening. All of this plants are in the aster or composite family. All are related to daisies, sunflowers, dandelions, etc.

First up is a Solidago species, or goldenrod. I'm not sure what this one is, but it is early. Of all the Solidago species in the park, this is the only one blooming.

 


Next up we have a Rudbeckia laciniata, or cutleaf coneflower. I remember seeing this last year when Megan and I first moved to the Clintonville area.

 


And then we have giant ironweed, Vernonia gigantea. I've always had a fondness for this plant. You'll see it alot in cow pastures, surrounded browsed grass. The cows don't eat it.

 


Finally, another one of our native composites. I think this one is Rudbeckia triloba, or browneyed Susan, but I could be wrong. This was the only plant I found in the park. This would make a great native plant for the garden, wouldn't it?

 
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Tom

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kayaking on the Olentangy

Megan and I registered for a Coleman inflatable two person kayak last year before our wedding. The kayak looked pretty cool on Target's website, and we had just moved to a new house that was in close proximity to the Olentangy River. Sure enough, we received the Kayak as a gift from Megan's brothers, and today, we took it out on the river.

All in all, this was not a bad little kayak. We inflated it with an electric pump, screwed the paddles together, strapped on our L.L. Bean life vests, and headed for the river. We cruised up and down the Olentangy for about an hour. What a relaxing experience! The damselflies weren't afraid of us at all, and we had blue tipped, powdered, violet, and blue fronted dancers alighting on the kayak and on our legs. Perhaps the most interesting thing we saw was the Illinios river cruiser. This large dragonfly searches up and down the river all day long. He approached us several times in the kayak and did a fly-by, and you could see his distinct emerald green eyes, dark body, and large yellow spot towards the rear of his abdomen. What a neat find. The kayak allowed us to get close, within five to ten feet. He treated us as if we were just a log floating down the river. Megan and I were treated to nice views of the common map turtle, both basking on logs and floating in the water.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Tawny Emperor


Yesterday afternoon, when I returned from work, I was sort of chilling in my bedroom and I looked out the window and noticed a brown butterfly clinging to the screen. I really don't know butterflies very well, so I sort of brushed it off and didn't look at it much further. After my lunch coma ended, I went outside to the Olentangy and stopped and shot a few pictures of the butterfly. Unfortunately, I didn't get any shots of this creature with its wings open. Well, what was I going to do to identify this guy? I turned to Bugguide.net, which came through again. This butterfly is the tawny emperor, Asterocampa clyton. Thanks to Mo Whalen for the identification. After a little more research, it turns out that this butterfly's host plant is hackberry, Celtis occidentalis, which is common in Kenney Park along the Olentangy River.

Friday, July 27, 2007

What's Blooming in Kenney Park, July Style

A few new blooms are appearing along the Olentangy river and throughout Ohio right now. The first, I believe, with some reservation, is yellow leaf cup, so named because this plant's leaves form a little cup where they come together and join the stem. This plant's leaves are a little bit strange. They weren't dissected as much as other members of this species. This is a member of the aster family. Notice the sunflower type blooms.

Then we have the ubiquitous wingstem. This plant, which gets very tall, loves to grow in rich, wet areas pretty much anywhere in Ohio. It has a yellow stem, and tonight in Kenney Park, this small blue butterfly seemed to be using it as a nectar source.

 

 

 


Last, but certainly not least, we have garden phlox. Although this sounds like something that should be non-native, it is actually a native species, although it is cultivated as well. Quite a nice purple flower. And no, Dame's Rocket didn't have a resurgence!

Enjoy the weekend!

Tom

 
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The Dusky Dancer, Argia translata

About a month ago, I started seeing a new damselfly on the Olentangy. This one was quite dark, almost black. Very different from the powdered, blue fronted, and blue ringed dancers I had been seeing down on the river. I grabbed my handy dandy Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio by Larry Rosche, and sure enough, this guy turned out to be a male dusky dancer. Quite an attractive little damsel. They are fairly common right now in and along the Olentangy river here in Clintoville.

 

 

 

 
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The Urban Dragonhunters Blog

This morning at work, I happened upon an excellent blog dedicated to the dragonflies in and around Wayne County in southeastern Michigan. The bloggers here appear to remain anonymous, but boy, this is a cool site with lots of great pictures, great stories, and even some very cool maps plotted on aerial photographs.

Urban Dragonhunters

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Prairie Fens and Island Alvars

I've been out in the field the last two days. Yesterday, I traveled to Gallagher Fen and Prairie Road Fen State Nature Preserves. Both sites only open by permit through the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, and both sites pretty darn cool. I've had plenty of experience in the northeastern Ohio fens, but the sites in western Ohio have plenty of prairie plants like prairie dock and blazing star.

Then, this morning, I headed up for Kelleys Island where I met Jim Bissell and crew of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I was introduced to several new plants, including the state listed rock elm, smooth rose, and green milkweed. I'm back, exhausted, and ready to go to sleep!

Oh yeah, Megan and I took a little walk down to the Olentangy, and boy was it full of water. Columbus had several hours of rain this morning, and things have really transformed around Kenney Park. I haven't seen the water this high since early May. I hope everyone is getting out in the field. We're having fantastically cool and non-humid weather for this time of year, and this makes for some great prairie viewing. The Ohio Prairie Conference is happening this week at my alma mater, Hiram College. I don't think I'll be making it up for the event, but I'm sure it will be a great botanically themed weekend!

Tom

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Film Experiments, this Time with Birds

So, I'm still stuck on this question regarding whether I should get a digital SLR.

Here I have three shots. The first two are cropped images of birds taken at the Columbus Zoo Bird Aviary. The third shot was taken with my work Nikon D70 digital SLR. My own Sigma autofocus lens was used for the first two shots, and the images were recorded on Kodak 400 speed film. The last image was recorded digitally using an old manual focus Sigma zoom. I'm assuming that the older lens has poorer optical quality than my new lens, and in this case, the older lens with digital camera clearly beats out newer lens with film camera. Maybe that means that I should get a digital SLR after all???? The question lingers...........

Goldfinch shot on film in the aviary (notice the bands around its "ankles")

 


A chestnut-sided warbler, also at the zoo aviary, captured on film.
 


American goldfinch captured along the Olentangy River with old Sigma zoom lens, but this time, using a digital SLR. Much nicer image!
 

Tom
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Dragonflies captured on Film

More fun with film, from the same roll as Bodhi.

I shot most of these photos at 300mm, which has the lens fully extended. In addition, the aperture I used was typically 5.6, which has the lens iris be completely open. All shots were hand held. Many people have complained about this lens being soft under these conditions. I just wish I could try out this lens on the end of a Canon Rebel XTI for a day! The "graniness" of the film makes it hard to tell if the lens is truly soft. Some of my pictures did come out pretty well, but most did seem soft

Here we have a twelve spotted skimmer, a first for me seeing on the Olentangy.

 


Next up is the most common of the skimmers, a male common whitetail. This species is fairly ubiquitous throughout Ohio.
 


Next, a widow skimmer, which is extremely handsome with plenty of white and black.
 


Finally, yet another male rubyspot. I choose to share this photo because it emphasizes this species habit of just hanging out on rocks in the middle of the river.
 


The verdict? I'd love to have a brand new digital SLR and some great Canon USM image stabilized lens to pair with a new camera! However, the several thousand dollar setup I have been pondering may be just a little too pricey for me to conscientiously justify.

Tom
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Fun with Film and Bohdi

Since I dropped my Canon digital camera into the Olentangy River a few weeks back, I have drug out the old Canon Elan IIe to reacquaint myself with film . I took some shots at the Columbus Zoo of Bodhi, the young Asian elephant. Here are some of my thoughts of my Bohdi shooting experience.

Overall, I was happy with the sharpness of this image. However, in all my pictures, there is a noticeable purple hue. I'm not sure if this is due to old film, or that the lens I use is an old cheapo Sigma that is known to produce color aberrations. Anyways, why I've been shooting film with my old lenses is to see if the old Sigma lens would get me by attached to a new Canon Eos Rebel XTI, or if I would need to shell out the cash for a new Canon lens.

Boy I'd love to have a new digital SLR (the aforementioned Canon) but it seems that I can capture most of the shots I typically take with Canon's point and shoot superzoom, the soon to be discontinued S3. Oh the dilemma!

Anyways, here is Bodhi. He looks fairly happy for a young elephant. He obviously has been building up some duff on his back. It looks itchy to me, but he must like it.

 


Tom
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Ahh...the Camp Fire

This evening I was going over some pictures of the last few days, and thought this one from our patio party a few weekends ago was particularly nice. Isn't fire relaxing? We humans must have something programmed into us, as fire inspires some type of reaction in most people. We've been having a few cool nights here in Columbus, and a backyard campfire may be just what you need to end an evening.

Tom

 
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Red-winged Blackbird Poses in the Backyard

Notice the sharp claws. Ouch!

 
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Dragons and Damsels from the Olentangy

I have always been fascinated by dragonflies, but it has only been recently, primarily due to expert Larry Rosche, that I have fully appreciated the diversity of these creatures.

The weekend before last, I managed to photograph several species in and around the Olentangy River, just a short walk from my house.



First up we have a female American rubyspot, common along the Olentangy and many rivers throughout Ohio.

 


Next is a mated pair, the male more colorful, of blue ringed dancers.
 



Yet another mated pair of damselflies, this time the violet or variable dancer. Notice the purple coloration on the male's abdomen.
 



And finally, a dragon that initially stumped me at first, turned out to be a male eastern pondhawk. I'm use to seeing the grass green females, and the males look quite different but are still quite attractive. Interestingly, a mated pair of powdered dancers didn't seem phased by the pondhawk, even though pondhawks are know to eat other dragonflies!
 
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Friday, July 20, 2007

A busy week

Well, I've had quite a busy work week including an overnight trip to North Bass Island, botanizing in Adams County, and today, a trip to Huron County and then on to Fowler Woods State Nature preserve. This weekend, Megan and I are spending a few days in Munroe Falls with my parents and my brother Tim.

Tom

Friday, July 13, 2007

The American Dipper, Possibly the Coolest Bird Ever

Ok, so this may not be the most showy bird in the world, but as far as behavior, you just can't beat it. My first introduction to the American Dipper was this past spring when Megan and I were in Colorado. We saw a posting for a nature hike near Denver that highlighted this stream dwelling species. Yes, American Dippers only inhabitat cool mountain streams along the Rockies, all the way down to Central American. Anyways, Megan and I couldn't make the nature hike, we were in town for a wedding, and we just couldn't do everything.

So fast-forward to last week, actually one week ago today, and Megan and I are hiking the Hyalite Canyon Trail in Gallatin National Forest, near Bozeman Montana. A spectacular mountain hike full of blue lupines, yellow columbines, and magenta wild geraniums. Even some very cool sedges, colored very light white and almost chocolate brown. But what was the coolest thing we saw on the hike? Well we took a little side spur to grotto falls, and sure enough, there was a beautiful 20-30 foot cascading waterfall, but in and around the splash zone, I saw a medium sized gray bird, after which I almost immediately shouted, "DIPPER!". Very cool, a life bird for me, Megan and I watched a pair foraging in the stream, going after invertebrates underneath rocks. These birds can actually dive under the water, and see under the water with a thin, clear membrane that covers their eyes. The pair we saw were collecting food, then flying up to a wall covered with moss and a sullivantia looking plant, and about five feet before alighting onto the rocky cliff face, two rather large yellow mouths popped out! The birds took turns landing and feeding their little ones. Anyways, I managed to get some OK pictures, and even a video of one of them. Note the dipping action!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back to the Olentangy River

I love taking photographs. If you look at this blog regularly, you probably know that by now. And having a blog is a great place for me to put my photos so that I can look and analyze them.

So what do I miss about Montana? I miss all the great photo opportunities! Almost everywhere in every direction, there was something interesting to photograph. The problem? It can get pretty frantic and lets just say the trip was not as relaxing as it could have been because I was trying to photograph every minute of it!

So the last few days I have been somewhat lamenting the lack of mountains and in general, extremely photogenic scenery around Columbus. But, I hadn't gone out and tried to take pictures of anything since I had come home. Tonight, I threw the camera around my neck, broke out the new tripod I purchased in Montana (floor model, great savings, and no Montana sales tax!), and I went to Kenney Park to photograph the Olentangy River.

Tonight, I started my trek through a little goldenrod meadow and noticed several pairs of beetles, that were, um, enjoying each others company. At least they would be if beetles were humans.

 


A short trip down to the river, and I scared up a momma mallard and her three babies. I'm guessing this is this mother's second clutch of the year.
 


Next up, some mature mallards, a male with several females. I was lucky enough to capture them exhibiting their natural feeding behavior. These mallards were scared of people and wouldn't swim over to me when I moved my arms in a motion like I was tossing bread into the water.
 


Finally, I decided to play around with the tripod and take some very long exposures of the river at twilight to see what would happen. Doing this captured an almost surreal, silky image. Check out the bottom of the Olentangy. Anyways, Ohio may not offer the overt scenic beauty that Montana possesses, but it is just as fun, and certainly more relaxing, to take photographs in my own backyard.
 
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Montana and Wyoming

Here you go: The best 180 or so pictures from our trip. Enjoy!

Tom

Back from Montana

 


Megan and I flew back from Montana yesterday evening. What a trip. It completely wore us out, and I'm just dazed for the most part. We had a wonderful time, culminating in our friend Bryan's wedding. Montana is truly big sky country, and we returned from that part of the country, we missed looking up an seeing the mountains. Bozeman is situated in a vast valley surrounded by three mountain ranges to the west, south, and east, and a row of foothills to the north. Our hotel sat at the edge of Bozeman Monatana's suburban sprawl, and I captured this image of a wheat field right across the street from the parking lot of the Ramada limited. I'll have more pictures this evening.

Tom
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

We Are in Montana

Megan and I are in Montana! We are staying at a Ramada Inn in Bozeman. We arrived Tuesday evening after a smooth flight across the Rockies, after which we underwent a rapid descent down to the town of Bozeman. We woke up yesterday morning and went to Yellowstone National Park with our Friends James and Kathleen. The ninety mile drive down to Yellowstone was smooth and sunny, made especially nice by our free upgrade to our Ford Escape four wheel drive SUV. The sights, sounds, and smells of Yellowstone were even better than I remembered. Geyers, paintpots, mudpits, hot springs, and fumaroles were all spectacular. I just kept thinking I was in a huge fake mini golf course with rumbling volcanoes all over the place, but these were real. Real rumbling, real steam, real sulphuric smell pouring out of the ground. And the people! Old Faithful was packed, I would say at least 1000 people watched it explode with us right around 1:15 in the afternoon. Later in the day, we visited the thumb neck area, where geyers and Lake Yellowstone meet. Talk about a juxtoposition! The 45 degree water of the lake meets the thermal shores of geyserland. Needless to say, it was pretty cool, and hot, all at the same time. We finished off the day at Yellowstone Falls, headed then to the Roosevelt Lodge, and finally to Mammoth Springs where we exited the park. Along our way, snaking through mountains on a two lane road, we were treated to spectacular views of the Yellowstone valley below us. Stopped in every possible place were cars, on and off the road, with people peering over the cliff looking at bears and wolves in the valley below! We weren't able to see the momma grizzly bear with her two cubs, or the wolves, but we did see a moose with her baby, and also a full size brown bear. We also had a close encounter with two coyotes, and saw several hundred American bison. I also got two life birds, the raven, which are scavengers in the park like grackles back in Ohio, and two sandhill cranes, which Megan spotted in a lake that contained a floating Island. And wait, I forgot about the white Pelicans we saw in the rapids of the Yellowstone River. There were at least eight birds just hanging out, far away from the ocean, in this great river.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Off to the Wild Wild West, Montana Style

Megan and I will be traveling, courtesy of United Airlines, to Bozeman Montana. We leave tomorrow evening. Who knows what will be in store for us, we haven't exactly planned much for this trip, but we are both starting to get excited. Look for pictures when we get back next Sunday! If I have access to a computer out west, I'll try to post updates. But if I can't, just wait a little bit, and I'll have plenty of cool pictures to post.

Finally, a Female has Arrived!

I have been posting photographs of male blue dasher dragonflies for the past month or so. I've seen plenty of males, but alas, these males were quite lonely, as no females were around. This past Saturday, the pond was abuzz with great news that a female had indeed landed in the boxwood shrub above the water. Here is the beauty that all the males have been waiting for!

 

 
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