Sunday, September 30, 2007

American Rubyspot, Finally a Few Good Pictures

My new camera has allowed me to put take pictures that I was only previously taking with film. I put on my old telophoto lens onto my new rebel XTI, and today, I was finally able to get some decent shots of the American rubyspot damselfy. These things are all over the Olentangy River here in Columbus, and they are really beautiful. Here are two shots of the same male, and then, a female. The females are much less colorful, lacking the deep ruby, but are still striking when seen up close.

Sharon Woods Metropark

Yesterday afternoon, Megan and I went to Sharon Woods Metropark in Westerville. We arrived in the parking area near Schrock Lake, and Megan asked if there would be any "fake fishing" going on. She is from Maine, where there is a pristine lake or ocean in everybody's backyard, so she laughs when she sees people fishing in concrete ponds and artificial lakes like we do in Ohio. Sure enough, there was fake fishing going on, right off the nice wooden docks seen here.

When Megan and I do go on a hike, we are constantly looking for animals. We usually don't see felines in central Ohio, but there were four of these little beasts near the fishing dock. Perhaps they were fishing cats looking for a meal? Nope, this pint sized little kitten and its siblings had been abandoned at the park. Its strange what people will do to get something off their hands. Even though I'm ridiculously allergic to cats, I couldn't help feeling for these guys.

We did the Ed Thomas State Nature Preserve Hike, but the most interesting was a side trail which took us through an expansive goldenrod meadow, which gave plenty of opportunities for viewing all types of animals. This little creature, perhaps a wooly bear larva( the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella), was moving really quickly across the trail. This one might not be a wooly bear, since it didn't have the typical brown spots at each end.

Fall is the time for goldenrods and asters. These plants grow all year, and finally, in fall, they bloom. The field that we were hiking through was awash in yellow from Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensis, with the occasional New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae.

The blooming asters and goldenrods make a great nectar source for butterflies like this clouded sulphur.

Goldfinches were attracted to the seeds of bull thistle.

A few bull thistles were still flowering, and this male black swallowtail took full advantage of them.

There are a ton of things to see on these wonderful fall days, just like today.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Morning on the Olentangy

I woke up this morning, walked through Kenney Park, and headed to the Olentangy River. The moon was still high in the sky.

But a look back over my shoulder and the sun was coming up, and these back lit foxtails were covered with dew.

On to the river, with the tripod along, in hopes of getting some close-ups of great blue herons. None were around, so I took pictures of river, running smooth and clear.

Here's a closeup. I used a long shutter speed to smooth out the water. It makes the rocks and the leaves pressed up against them really pop.

There are constant reminders that I haven't escaped the city. One of those is the presence of long discarded items in the river. I'm not sure what this rusting, circular metal shaped object was, but this sycamore leaf had nestled up against it.

A look downstream, the river headed towards Old Beechwold and Clintonville. State Route 315 runs just to the right of the trees on the right bank.

Up until this point, things were fairly quiet, animal wise. I hadn't seen the great blue herons I had been looking for, but just after this picture, two found me. I heard the loud gawking KRYANKKK! and thought I was about to get attacked, turned around, and saw two herons swooping away from me. It looks like they wanted to do a little fishing where I was, and didn't see me until they were just about to land. I managed to fire a shot when they made the quick decision not to land where I was and head downstream.

After scanning downstream, I noticed another creature had taken notice of me.

This young white tailed deer went on its merry way after I realized that I was just a human. The deer along the river are wicked tame. (Thanks to Mainers for the word "Wicked").

There are about 30-40 resident mallard ducks on the Olentangy right now. Just in the past few weeks, the males have gone from raggedy juveniles to green headed adults. The mallards congregate and feed in the riffles of the stream.

Dragonflies and damselflies have really slowed down with the cool weather. I only saw American rubyspots this morning.

Last night Megan and I walked down to the southern end of the park, which abuts Old Beechwold. There is a large pool with several nice turtle basking spots. I decided this morning to head down to that area to see if I could get some shots of turtles. Sure enough, two common map turtles were basking on a rock in the middle of the river. These turtles are extremely wary. If the see you, they fall off into the water in a second, disappearing in the murky pool. The silver maple hid me from them, allowing me to get a semi-decent shot.

The sun was getting higher in the sky, the light quickly brightening, and my stomach starting to let me have it for not eating breakfast. On the way back, I saw yet another Silver-spotted skipper, this time nectaring on an Aster.

And that was my morning.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The Silver-spotted Skipper

A few days ago I noticed a neat butterfly hanging around our backyard, attracted to our basil plants and our sedum. This little flying creature was a silver-spotted skipper (Epargyreus clarus). This species is really easy to identify, and they are fairly common. I've seen them throughout Ohio on my travels, mostly in Old fields and other weedy areas. Chances are that you have them in your backyard too. This species has a bright white or silver spot on the underside. This one was fun to photograph. One thing that I really noticed when I downloaded the images from my camera was its tongue, or what I'm guessing may be more properly be called its proboscis.


Look at that tounge reach into the basil flower. I wonder what the nectar of a basil plant tastes like? Is this bug getting pesto for dinner?



This skipper would work the flowers from all angles. I watched and photographed it for about ten minutes before the sun dipped below the trees. Megan and I walked down to the river, and I saw this great blue heron. I showed her some of the other pictures, and she was like "when did you take that one! I didn't see that." We consistently see herons in the river here in the heart of the City of Columbus. A good sign.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mystery Creature

What is this animal? Megan found this, I photographed it, and I know what it is, at least what phylum it belongs to, but boy was this neat to see in the water of the Olentangy River. I had seen videos of this creature, and I've seen this creature in person, but never quite looking like this. So here's the thing. I want to see what other people think it is. Feel free to chime in and speculate. Just click on the comment picture below the last photo.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Evening Sunset

Tonight, the real world kept me occupied for the most part, and I did not have much time to naturalize. Daylight is fleeting, and boy is it hard to eat, clean up, and then have enough light to take photos. Here is a black walnut tree, Juglans nigra, silhouetted against a stormy sunset. The black walnuts are falling and are being quickly stashed away by the gray squirrels. This tree's leaves are also beginning to fall.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Tonight I dashed down to the Olentangy, and just beat the storms.

The air was thick, the light foreboding, and fog hung above the river.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Bee with the New Camera

Today, my new camera arrived, and this evening after work I put it to use in the back yard taking photos of insects that were attracted to our Sedum, a great butterfly attractant as well. I'm not sure if this is a bumble bee or carpenter bee, but it really posed nicely for the camera.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Side Note- Ohio State Football

Permit me, for a morning, to share some photos of Ohio State Football. I like the buckeyes, I will owe plenty to Ohio State University (my wife is completing her PhD there), but I am not a die hard fan. I do root for them, and we go to the games, and most everyone in Columbus is happier when the Buckeyes are winning.

Yesterday, we witnessed the demolition of Northwestern by Ohio State. I felt like I was watching my alma mater, Hiram College, play perennial division III national champions Mt. Union. But no, this was the Big Ten, and Ohio State was really putting up everything they had against Northwestern.

After looking at some of these pictures I took during the game, I really have a new appreciation for the quarterbacks that play at any level of college football. Even though Todd Boeckman had a great game, he was able to release the ball just in time before one thousand pounds plus of college football player hurled into him. These guys push, grab, jump, dive, and do anything to get to the quarterback, and for that person to be able to stand in there, take a few steps forward, and with all their might deliver the ball downfield, is nothing short of amazing.




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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Rusty Crayfish

Even though Ohio has more than twenty species of crayfish, the one that you are most likely to see is the Rusty Crayfish. I photographed one of these little creatures in the Olentangy a few days ago. Unfortunately, these animals have been spread around the Midwest, and they are now considered invasive. They outcompete other native crayfish for resources. They have been spread around so much, that their original distribution is somewhat muddy, but it was thought they only inhabitated the Ohio river drainage but now they can be readily found in all parts of the state. The rusty crayfish has a brown spot on the side of its thorax which is visible in the top down shots. I've also noticed its red tipped claws, but I do not know if that is diagnostic.




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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

North Bass Island

I definitely have one of the greatest jobs available in the State of Ohio. I have had the opportunity to travel this summer to North Bass Island, in Lake Erie, three times this year. With my co-worker Rick Gardner, I'm working on a vegetation survey of the island for the Division of Parks. Here are a few of my shots from this past Monday-Tuesday trip.

We leave from Catawba State Park, where I can remember fishing when I was a teenager. There is a nice cobble limestone beach there which really looked great in the morning sun as we were waiting for our boat.

We arrived at the Island and were greeted by Dale Burris, and, well, grapes. Even though many of the vineyards have been removed, grapes are still a big presence on the island.

After saying goodbye to our hosts, we loaded up the utility vehicle and drove to the lodge. Here to greet us outside near the deck was a large Lake Erie watersnake.

But today was not all fun and games. We had some serious work to do. One of my goals was to find a chinquapin oak on the island, a limestone loving oak species, but we were not able to come up with one. There are very few oaks on the island, but there is this large red oak in the woods just to the south of the chapel.

Also in this woods grew Smilax illonensis, or Illinois greenbrier. This plant has globular blue fruits that look like a little bit like grapes.

Next it was onto Honey Point, the southeast tip of the island. Here, waves come at the point from two directions.

Growing on the beach was seaside spurge, one of Ohio's potentially threatened plants. In Ohio, this plant is found only along the shoreline of Lake Erie. I usually see it in sandy situations, but here it was growing amongst the cobbles.

After our vegetation work was done for the evening, I had an opportunity to photograph insects in a nearby field. There were many interesting little creatures, including this pearl crescent whose color seemed washed out and faded.

Several other interesting insects were present, including a chickweed geometer, a colorful larval lepidopteran, thousands of grasshoppers, and even some female damselflies, possibly familiar bluets.

The sunset was fairly spectacular, and it cast amazing light on everything, including several Jerusalem artichokes and the back wall an abandoned house on the island.

Finally, the sun set, creating up more photo opportunities.

With no light left, I retreated to the lodge, watched a bit of Ontario television and learned about the Green Party in Canada, and was off to bed. We were treated to a spectacular sunrise the next morning.