Monday, December 31, 2007

A look back at 2007 in Photographs.

Before Megan and I left for Maine (where it snowed eight more inches last night, putting about two feet on the ground total) I looked through the photographs that we each took from the past year. We were busy! Trips to New York City, Montana, Colorado and Maine were some of the highlights. But since this is the Ohio nature blog, all but the first shot are from Ohio. Happy New Year.

This is the Glen Span arch, Central Park, New York City. Megan and I were visiting her grandparents, and Megan helped care for her ailing grandfather. Central Park is quite a place. There are nooks and crannies where we could find solitude from the massess of people and the concrete jungle of buildings.

This is my February pick. These roots of an Ohio Buckeye are exposed in an overflow channel of the Olentangy River near our house in Columbus.

For me, March is a time to go salamander hunting! I introduced Megan to the practice of slapping on a pair of boots and heading out to the local pond to look for these creatures. We struck out at Gahanna Woods near Columbus, but with the help of Ron Etling, we found this beautiful spotted salamander in Hiram Township in Portage County.

In Ohio, April is a spectacular time for ephemeral wildflowers. These plants leaf out, bloom, and fade away by june with little evidence they exist. This photo is the flower of bloodroot. You have to time seeing a bloodroot flower just right, as they are extremely delicate and shed their petals quickly. The leaves in the background are from another ephermal, Dutchman's breeches.

I love reptiles and amphibians, and southern Ohio is still a great place to find beautiful eastern box turtles like this one we found on an outing in May.

Although non-native, cabbage white butterflies are the most common species in our yard. I think I captured this shot while I was home during my lunchbreak. Look out, coming in for a landing!

Megan and I have a large water garden in the back yard, and it is full of goldfish. They spend the year in the pond and even reproduce, so there are new colors and shapes in the pond each year. The goldfish also attracted this great blue heron, which was able to navigate the maze of overhead wires in the backyard. In July Megan took this shot as she stepped out of the house, quite surprised that the heron had alighted on our shed!

Can you guess what this plant is? This photo reminds me of the back of a highlights magazine. Close up shots of things that you had to guess what they were. Any guess here? This photo is from northern Ohio, taken in hot and steamy August.

Megan and I took a walk at Whetstone Park, which has a fabulous prairie created by Columbus Wild Ones. Although the prairie was past peak in august, there was still plenty to see, including this fabulous Monarch butterfly.

Reptiles and amphibians are still out and about in October, and Megan and I watched this bullfrog at Slate Run Metropark, southeast of Columbus, while on a hike.

While at Blendon Woods Metropark, Megan and I spotted this red-breasted nuthatch feeding with chickadees, white throated sparrows, juncos, and tufted titmice. This was the first time I we saw this species, and what a neat little bird that is a uncommon winter visitor from the north woods.

And what better way to end a year with a sunset. In early December, Columbus had several back-to back spectacular evening shows. I timed my commute so that I could watching the changing colors and get home in time to snap a few shots!

And that is 2007 in pictures. What awaits everyone in 2008? Happy New Year.

Tom and Megan

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Life Bird Today- The Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak, Little Pond, Otisfield, Maine

I thought I was going crazy today when a Scarlet Tanager flew across my path about twenty feet down the old abandoned road I was snow shoeing on. That was my instantaneous inkling, which I knew was ridiculous. And then I remembered the picture that Jim McCormac posted a while back about the drab immatature or female (i can't remember) pine grosbeak visiting northwest Ohio. DING DING! What I had in front of me was in fact a mature male pine grosbeak, an incredibly rare visitor to Ohio but not so much here in Maine, according to a Christmas Bird Count Map I found on the New England Nature website.

What a beautiful bird! I thought I was only going to get a crappy photo with my 50mm lens from about twenty feet away when I picked up the bird again through my binos. I switched to the telephoto lens and fired away. This individual was feeding, alone, in the bog of Little Pond. This bird was really breathtaking. I was able to watch it eat for about thirty minutes. Once I get back to a high speed connection, I'll post more photos.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Welcome back to Maine

Howdy all! Megan and I are in Maine, at her parent's house. There is a ton of snow here. It was up to my knees in places yesterday, and four inches of snow fell overnight! Yesterday was fantastic for photos. Snow everywhere, sticking to the trees, and alternating sunny and dark skies made for some powerful light. Red-breasted nuthatches are going strong here at the bird feeders. Even more tame than my last visit, what fun they are to photograph. Here is a shot from yesterday afternoon.

Maine is really beautiful place. I'm sure the snow can get old after an entire winter, but being here reminds me of what winter really looks like!


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


My home from 1981~2001

There is no place like home. There is no place like home- that's how I remember Dorothy hoping those words would bring her back to Kansas. But it is certainly true, as we all long for home, no matter how much we may deny it. Coming home brings with it a rush of memories, some good, some bad, but for all, I think we all hear a homing signal (pun intended) that will eventually lead us back to where we got our start. What memories do you have of home? I go home to visit my parents, my grandfather, and my brother. But for the botanical side of me, seeing a red maple tree brings me back home.

Munroe Falls, where my parents live now and have lived since I was born, sits in the glaciated region of the Allegheny Plateau. The once flat plateau was eroded down through the eons, and once the Wisconsin glaciers plowed through 20,000 thousand years ago or so, things really got jumbled up. Gentle hills and ravines now make up the landscape. Glacial erratics dot the ground, and the soil is a thick, sticky clay. And very acidic. All making excellent habitat for the aforementioned red maple tree that I just don't see here in calcareous western and central Columbus. The red maple was the tree I grew up with. Oh, a few maples and oaks, and even a sassafras, but red maple ruled the yard.

Red maple has smooth bark when young, but it eventually becomes rough and flaky with age.

Wild black cherry, with its distinctive dark plated bark, is also common here.

Sassafras, with its deeply ridged chestnut colored bark, also makes for great campfire kindling.

A few red oaks are getting bigger each year in my parent's back yard.

My parents live in suburbia. You can drive for 20 miles in each direction and not see any signs of rural Ohio. It wasn't always like that, as their neighborhood was once an farm. Their street cut through an old apple orchard. The land here was too steep for crops, but apples, and possibly cherries, grew where my parent's house now sits. There aren't many apple trees left- actually, they have all died, at least the ones in our yard. The woods behind their house were once reserved for a park but now is young forest that serves as a convenient yard waste dumping ground.

The woods are dotted with spindly trunks sweet cherry trees (Prunus avium) that look like somewhat like black birch. Their trunks no more than two feet in diameter, i'm not sure if these trees escaped or were actually planted long ago. They were always distinctive. They bled this gross amber colored sap that looked like puss from a wound. To the touch it felt like rubbery jelly. The bark, which strips off in horizontal bands, was always good for starting the backyard campfire. Those were the woods. Throw in a massive pin oak, a few red oaks and sassafrass, a white ash, a sourgum, and a wild black cherry, and you have the whole woods. These are the trees that remind me of home.

I also mentioned the shallow ravines that carve through eastern Summit County. The streams in this part of the state lead to the Cuyahoga River, and I was lucky to have such a stream in my backyard. This is where I caught creek chubs and black nosed dace. I moved up to catching two-lined salamanders under rocks, and then finally wised up and learned about the red backs and slimy salamanders that hid in the leaf litter further up the slopes from the creek.

A bend in the creek. It doesn't have a name, but I spent my childhood exploring this stream and it provided the basis of my love for natural history.

And finally, I got into the rocks themselves. The Pennsylvanian sandstones, siltsones and shales at the bottom of the ravine were rich in fossils. 280-320 Million year old fossils. I first remember thinking that I was finding dinosaur bones, but later, I would learn that the fossils were from ancient of the horsetail plants that we have in Ohio today in the genus Equisetum.

This fossil now sits in my paren'ts backyard. Several years ago, I brought it up from the creek and ravine pictured above. It warps my mind that a plant left this impression in sand at least 280 million years ago to create what you see here.

All of these things reminded me of home. Growing up, took them for granted, and I shouldn't have. Today I travel across Ohio, but still haven't found this same combination of geology, topography and biology that defines home for me.

Late winter sun shining on red oaks and red maples, Munroe Falls, Ohio.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Snowman, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Munroe Falls Sunset

Munroe Falls Sunset, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

Happy Christmas Eve!

Megan and I are in Northeast Ohio, and I've been taking pictures. I just didn't have any decent way to get the photos from the camera to my parents' computer until this morning, when I bought a memory card reader at Office Max.

Snow fell here last night-- It barely covers the ground, but we do have a white Christmas--but just barely.

This is a shot from my parents' driveway on Saturday evening. I played a ton of basketball here, and you can see the orange outline of the backboard in the bottom left hand corner of the photo.

Merry Christmas,


Friday, December 21, 2007

Bird Cam Day #3

Today, I added a suet feeder to the mix, but it doesn't look like any birds gave it a try. A few more cardinals have been frequenting the feeder. Megan and I will be traveling tomorrow to northeast Ohio to be with my parents and brother for Christmas. On Friday, we'll be flying to New Hampshire and then driving to Maine to ring in the new year. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Could Be More Exciting Than Watching Snow Melt?

I don't want to get too caught up with the bird webcam thing, but it is fun to play with and when I get home after dark, there just isn't a ton of time for pictures.

Here is a compilation video of the action, from about 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See if you can pick out the house sparrows, a white-breasted nuthatch, a downy woodpecker, and a tiny Carolina chickadee. Also, you'll notice that all of our snow melted today.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Highlights from the Backyard Bird Cam

This morning, I thought I set up the webcam to capture an image every thirty seconds and store those images on my computer. Well, I did this, but it only saved 10 images before it erased the 10th and started over again. Unfortunately, I missed the main activity, which seemed to happen about 9:30. A plethora of house sparrows, a gray squirrel, and even a downy woodpecker came to the feeder.

At lunch time I fixed the camera so it would record 1000 images in succession instead of 10. After reviewing the afternoon's activity, it doesn't look like a single bird stopped by to feast on the bounty of black oil sunflower seeds. There were a few visitors, however.
There is yours truly, apparently inspecting the ground. I think I was trying to see how many uneaten seeds the squirrel had spilled. I couldn't find anything, so at least the squirrel cleaned up after itself. I'm lucky that I live close to home and can come for lunch.

Later on in the day, there was another visitor, this time, a gray squirrel. Can you see it in the picture? It is on the ground, in the snow, towards the back.

Finally, the squirrel made it to the feeder. I'm guessing this is the same individual that was feasting this morning. You can barely see the squirrel ascending the tree in the far right of the photo. It is just a blur, but if you compare the photo above and below, you should be able to see it.

I was hoping for a bit more action this afternoon, but it just didn't happen. I'm guessing that the morning feed session will be hot once again tomorrow, so be sure to check in and see what is going on.

Backyard Bird Cam

Happing bird watching,


Monday, December 17, 2007

Ohio Botanical Symposium 2008 Teaser

Attendees networking and obtaining sustenance at the 2007 Botanical Symposium.

The Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy hold the Ohio Botanical Symposium each year. Among other things, this is where we showcase the best rare plant finds across the state and recognize the fantastic botanists who assist us in keeping track of Ohio's rare plants. This year, Rick Gardner has put together a fabulous program. This years symposium will be held at the Ohio State University Fawcett Center on March 19th, 2008. Registration will open January 7th, 2007 (look for more details at beginning in January).

Here is this year's excellent lineup of speakers:

8th Annual Ohio Botanical Symposium
March 19, 2008

Registration & Continental Breakfast 8:00

Welcome 9:00

Best Plant Finds of 2007 9:15
Greg Schneider, Ohio Division of Natural Areas & Preserves

Break & Refreshments 10:00

“Desert” Prairies: Vegetation and Flora of Xeric Limestone Prairies 10:15
in the Eastern United States
Dr. Patrick Lawless, University of Kentucky

The Real Story about the Birds & the Bees: Pollination Ecology 11:00
and the Need for Subtle Conservation
Dr. David Horn, The Ohio State University

Lunch 11:45-1:15

Media Show: Nature’s Beauty in Southern Ohio 2008 12:45
John Howard

Keynote Address: The Splendor of Nature's Palette: Orchids of the Midwest 1:15
Mike Homoya, Indiana Division of Preserves

Break & Refreshments 2:15

“I Don’t Know My Mosses” 2:30
Dr. Robert Klips, The Ohio State University

Discoveries and Progress in Preserving the Oak Openings of Northwest Ohio 3:15
John Jaeger & Tim Schetter, Metroparks of the Toledo Area


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Live Birds Now

What is better than pictures of birds of a bird feeder? How about a live streaming feed of the action in real time?

I played around a little bit with an old webcam and a free software called Yawcam, and came up with something pretty cool. It only took me about 30 minutes to get everything up and running, which surprised me. I thought it would take hours!

To see the cam click on the link.

Tom's Backyard Bird Cam.

Also, I've scheduled to operate only during the day, it will be offline from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. eastern standard time.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Very Most Happy Wedding

This evening, nature takes a back seat so that I can share a little bit of our day with family and friends.

When I first met Megan, I wanted to meet her friends. To see who she chose to hang out with. Well, she had just completed her advanced practice nursing degree, so most of her friends had moved on to other parts of the country to begin their healthcare practice. One friend I did get to meet, and talk with at length, was Jessica. I knew right away that Jessica cared for Megan greatly. She completely grilled me, wanting to make sure I was who I was saying I was--making sure that I was the right one for her friend (and being a psych nurse practitioner student she really knew how to ask people questions!) I liked talking with Jessica and Megan. It was good to know that Megan had great friends that really showed an interest in who she was dating. But at times, we weren't sure that Jessica would be able to find the same thing that Megan and I have.

Megan has been a great friend to Jessica, through many amazingly gut-wrenching, tear your-heart-out, cry-for-hours sort of times. Megan's dedication to her friendship with Jessica is amazing. About a year ago, Jessica met Aaron, and today, they were married. We are both amazingly happy for both of them and wish them a wonderful life together.

Today was a day for Aaron and Jessica. Congratulations.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

The snow started about 11:00 a.m. this morning here in Columbus, and just after I took this picture, we were covered with white. Megan and I have a wedding to go today. What great pictures Jessica and Aaron will have in the snow. Enjoy, stay safe.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Over the weekend, I registered with This site allows you to register your own domain names cheaply and quickly. It cost me $10 a year to register my name. I'm glad I got it before the Canadian realtor that goes by the same name gobbled it up. I'd recommend other people check out getting there very own domain name. now points here. You can still reach the blog using as well.

It looks like Columbus and the rest of the northeast will be in for some snow this Saturday. The forecasters here in town are starting to get just a bit excited. We'll see what happens, but I doubt we get more than six inches. We just don't have real winters here in Columbus, nothing like those in Maine, where Megan and I will be heading back again for New Year's.

Well hunker down, the snow machine is coming.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Olentangy Pool

Olentangy Pool, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

Warm today! Wow. I couldn't believe it. My car thermometer read 66 on my way home from work. There was a semi-decent sunset, so I headed down to the park to get a few shots of the sun reflected in the river. Well, I didn't get there. But with the morning's rain, this large pool filled with water, making for a nice composition! Check out the green leaves at the bottom of the photo. They are from Amur honeysuckle, which surrounds the hillside behind the camera. The honeysuckle leaves are finally dropping and the forest is almost bare once again. Also, I uploaded several new photos to Flickr! this evening. You can see them by clicking on the photo collage on the right side of the page.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Birds of Lake Belhorn

Before last night's rain (it never got cold enough to freeze), a few hours of sunshine fell at our house here in north Columbus. In the morning, I re-filled the "no-no" sunflower feeder after about a week of near emptiness (the birds never seem to clean it all out). I was hoping that they would "re-discover" the feeder by the afternoon so I could shoot a few closeup shots of native birds, but alas, nothing showed up.

However, Lake Belhorn did provide a few photographic opportunities, and I did not have to leave the house.
Haven't heard of Lake Belhorn? Well, this ephemeral body of water comes and goes. It forms at the end of our driveway during rain and snow events. It is a fairly significant puddle, and birds love to play and drink in its cool waters.
Even northern cardinals occasional come to play and frolic on its banks.
The lake is frequented most, by the English sparrow or house sparrow, Passer domesticus. We have hundreds, if not thousands, in our neighborhood.
Although these birds can be serious pests, they do make interesting photographic subjects, especially for those that live in the city. They make for great practice. My reasoning for taking pictures of these birds goes something like this. If I can take good pictures of house sparrows, shouldn't I be able to get good shots of native birds when the opportunity rises?
I would not want to drink from and bathe in the waters of Lake Belhorn, but the sparrows seem to drink it without any worries. This one looks like it having having a ball washing its face.
Here is some co-ed bathing going on.
And finally, why not invite the whole flock?

House sparrows are fun to photograph. They exhibit interesting behaviors, they are tame, readily approachable, and they thrive near people. Although I enjoy photographing native birds, when nothing else is available, try pointing the camera at a house sparrow and see what you get.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ice Predicted for Central Ohio Tonight

I have this handy dandy weather widget from the Weather Channel that puts out a thunder clap whenever there is a weather advisory from the National Weather Service. This morning, I booted up the computer, and sure enough, off went the thunderclap. Although wintry weather, and especially freezing rain, can make for treacherous driving conditions, these weather events can also paint the Columbus scenery. For the past week, we've had snow, and now, perhaps we will get the crystal coating of ice. The weather service is predicting up to 2/10 of inch of ice. Hopefully that will be enough to create some excellent photography opportunities without snarling traffic.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Natural Ohio Newsletter Available in New Online Format

Be sure to check out the fall edition of Natural Ohio in its new, interactive online format. It features Ohio's Important Bird Areas and Rockbridge State Nature Preserve. There is even a save the date notice for the Ohio Botanical Symposium, which will be held Wednesday March 19, 2008 here in Columbus. And don't forget to look for the article on the diversity of Ohio's oak trees.

Natural Ohio is the newsletter of ODNR's Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First Snow on the Olentangy

First Snow on the Olentangy, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

We had the first real snowfall of the season here in Columbus today. It started about midnight, and continued until mid afternoon. I just do not understand why snow shuts down the city of Columbus, but only two inches will have people driving fifteen miles and hour, and at that speed, everyone bunches up and they are just asking to hit each other!

The snow was beautiful today on the Olentangy River. The water is very high. Even during winter I can often walk through this channel. But not today. If you look closely you still see a few green leaves in this shot. The ones on the left hand side of the shot, up on the bank of the river are from Amur honeysuckle. These leaves are still falling, and it was quite interesting to see green leaves that had landed on the bright white snow. I'm sure I'll be sick of the snow come February, but for now, it really brightened winter. We even had a break in the clouds this evening, with a fairly fantastic and surprising sunset. Enjoy the snow!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I've added a new little feature in the side bar. If you like my post, you can click on that little alien dude and send a comment to the site reddit. The site is designed to showcase new and cool things that are out there on the web. You can also click the arrows and vote if you like the site.



My friend and former co-worker Laura Wutz sent along this fantastic shot of a Cooper's hawk from her yard in Hudson, Ohio. Hudson is in my old neck of the woods, just north of where I went to High School in Stow Ohio. Both towns are sandwiched in the megalopolis between Cleveland and Akron. Megan and I visited my parents this past weekend, and although there might not be as much traffic as Columbus, it is much harder to drive a few miles and get out of the city like here in Columbus. Columbus is growing, but the urban sprawl outward from those two cities is pretty great.

Anyways, back to the Hawk. Another co-worker brought in her digital camera, and she had photographed yet another cooper's hawk in her backyard. Was this a coincidence? Are the bird-eating cooper's hawks congregating around bird feeders to catch an easy, sunflower-fed (as opposed to corn-fed!) meal?

Monday, December 03, 2007


Several of the cardinals that have been showing up at the bird feeder have had bands on their legs. I think this has to do with the research project going on in the nearby Kenney Park. In the spring, when cardinals are nesting, the park has green flagging tape hung all over the place to mark the individual nests. I suppose the researchers might band the young cardinals. They then show up at my bird feeder. Pretty neat. How old are they? Where have they been? Is my assumption correct that they were born in Kenney Park?

This male cardinal's feathers are tinged with gray. How about that? Scarlett and gray. Was this the inspiration for Ohio State's colors?

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