Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Flies Delta

A VERY TIRED Santa waits to board a flight to Detroit Michigan (presumably he was destined for a connection further north) from Akron-Canton, 5:30 Christmas morning, 2009.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Brought You to the Ohio Nature Blog?

Ultimately, I don't know what brought you here, but thank you for visiting during 2009. Many people arrive at this blog by entering a search term in an internet search browser. With tools like Google Analytics, web publishers can know exactly what search terms were used to find our blog. Maybe, just maybe, it was you who typed one of these terms into a search engine and landed here.

30 funny search terms that lead to the Ohio Nature Blog with my attempt at adding funny commentary after each one. it cold in ohio

Yes. It is. Mostly from Mid-November through March.

2. are there water moccasins in ohio

No. There were several variations of this basic question.

3. cardinal trying to get into house
Another frequent question

4. dinosaurs bones found in crawford county ohio
Ah, no, never happened. All our Ohio rocks are too old for Dinosaurs.

5. found crayfish exoskeleton in my basement
just weird!

6. quercus o'hare airport
Someone looking for Oaks in Chicago?

7. "good job tom"
Yes, someone actually found my blog with this search term

8. "grackle" "mating" "funny"
someone is searching for funny grackle mating. Isn't that weird?

9. 2009 ohio wildflowers not blooming

I saw them bloom, I swear.

10. "butter butts"
In reference to the yellow-rumped warbler.

11. "poop on michigan"
Extremely funny. Weston had a poop on Michigan onesy, that, well, he pooped all over.

12. 4-legged shrimp-like creature

13. a crayfish lives in our backyard lawn in ohio
Cool. I wish they lived in our backyard too.

14. animal that looks like a black lobster in woods in northeastern ohio
Why so many crayfish and lobster terms?

15. allergies from salamanders
I suppose its possible.....but seriously, isn't it more likely dust? Pollen? Perhaps mold?

16. alum creek beach ohio naturist area
Naturist. Not naturalist. This isn't that kind of blog.

17. are freshwater mussels edible in ohio

18. black camouflage fabric amish country ohio
So do they just mean black fabric? If you wear black fabric in Amish country, wouldn't you blend in pretty well?

19. can i feed garlic mustard to my red ear slider turtler (sic)
I wonder if this person tried. I don't think they'd like it.

20. can i let my 4 year old pet slider turtle go in a small pond in ohio
NO, NO, NO. This is why we have so many feral turtles swimming around the Olentangy and other bodies of water. I get this question ALL the time.

21. dawn wallpaper stripper
When I first looked at this, I read dawn stripper and thought once again, not that kind of blog. Then I thought back to my posts on taking down the wallpaper in our family room, and things made much more sense.

22. my son ate amur honeysuckle what should i do
ouch! I hope my son never eats amur honeysuckle, because I'm not sure what I would do either.

23. nature girls pic
yes, there are pictures of nature loving females here at this blog, but again, I'm thinking this is not what this person was after.

24. picture there she blows

25. ohio birds feeding them shrimp

gross and really smelly

26. ohio golf blog
this is what I get for my "Ohio Nature Blog" becomes the "Ohio Golf Blog" april fools day post.

27. pics of a boy and girl, both bald
Just one baldy here

28. sharon woods metro park woman

29. state farm audubon center, columbus, ohio

It's the GRANGE insurance center...wrong insurance company!

and last but not least.....

30. stegasaurus at ohio park
highly unlikely

So there you have it, some search term highlights for 2009. People actually typed these things and landed at the Ohio Nature Blog. And I don't know how you found this little corner of cyberspace, but I'm glad you did. Merry Christmas.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Show Some Love for the Terrier...(aka the answer to the Christmas Plant Quiz)

And the winner fellow Hiram College alum and botany buddy Jenn Clevinger (go Terriers!). She guessed the identity of this native Ohio plant species exactly 35 minutes after these goo-covered seeds went up on the blog. But did anyone have an inkling that this might be our native mistletoe?

The whole "Christmas plant quiz" was the hint. It's interesting how several plant groups are associated with Christmas, like the conifers, the poinsettia, and mistletoe. I can't think of any others, but perhaps there are more?

The fruits of our native mistletoe are white. The coating of the fruit can be easily stripped away, revealing this gooey gelatinous ball with a seed inside. The goo helps the seed stick to a tree, and then the seed can germinate and begin to parasitize the tree. Only the extreme southern counties in Ohio have mistletoe, it is really a southern species. In fact, this sample was brought back to me sometime last February by former ODNR Natural Areas & Preserves Chief Steve Maurer, who snatched it somewhere along the Natchez Trace. I took the photographs way back then, always meaning to do a blog post with them. What better time then Christmas?

For more about our native mistletoe, Phoradendron leucarpum, check out Jim McCormac's account from almost one year ago when he was gallivanting i mean driving around counting blue jays in Southern Ohio.


Because it's almost Christmas and I'm beginning to get a bit giddy, and to show more Terrier love, this post is about to really deteriorate. Here is our beloved bull terrier mascot doing a mighty good "robot" dance, but really, he needs to work on his moon walk.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Plant Quiz

A native Ohio species. That's all. I know somebody will be able to get this. Genus and species, please. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark-eyed Junco

If you're my friend at Facebook or follow me at Twitter, you may have caught my announcement that I purchased some serious Canon "glass". That's photographers' speak for a new lens. I came into photography as a nature lover, and I continue to be a nature photographer despite the realization that the hobby can also lead to some serious money shooting things other than nature. One of my little side projects has been to sell images at, mostly of food and our travels to Maine, as a little side business.

This venture helped finance a new nature tool, the Canon 100-400 lens. If you're a Canon shooter and like nature, you know this lens. If you don't care about techno gear, just know that this new tool will help me get even closer, crisp shots of wildlife as Megan, Weston and I go on our weekend adventures. I put it to good use this weekend shooting out our windows at dark-eyed juncos and gray squirrels.


Burning Bush, Winged Eunoymus

Sometime in mid November Megan, Weston,and I traveled to my parents' home, located about 120 miles Northeast of where we live in Columbus. The acidic clay soils of eastern Summit County are heaven for red maple and black cherry. That's mostly what you see in this photograph. Each time I visit their house, and take a look at the woods behind their grassy yard, I learn something, even though I spent countless hours there growing up.

This time I looked out into the woods and saw a small shrub with blazing red leaves. It stood out in contrast to the rest of the woods because all the other leaves had withered and fallen away.

This is a burning bush, Euonymus alata, which is an extremely common ornamental shrub. You can find this in most suburban yards throughout Ohio. It is native to Asia, and it would be a fantastic plant if it stayed where it was planted.

But it hasn't, and it shows up in natural areas. Birds transport seeds because they eat its bright red fruits. I've never seen this species in huge numbers, but it has escaped enough to be considered by some to be invasive. Recently, on the Ohio invasive plant list serve, there was a lengthy discussion about it. Many people, both in the garden trade and natural areas managers, were unaware that it is showing up in Ohio's woodlands. Although I've never seen it out-competing or dominating woods, I'm beginning to notice it more frequently.

I'm finding little shrubs along the Olentangy River that seem to be responding after the non-native bush honeysuckles are removed. I've seen them scattered occasionally throughout the woods of Highbanks Metropark just north of here. And now I found it in my parents backyard as a naturalized plant.

So how did it get in the tree? I plucked it out of the ground and hung it there. It's both a way to ensure the plant doesn't root again, and to let others know that something is going on with this plant. I've been know to pull woody invasives wherever I go and leave a trail of dangling shrubs in my wake.

Obviously, I can't do this in areas where an invasive species has completely taken over, but when there are a few individuals here or there, I encourage everyone to quickly yank non-natives from natural areas. I don't know if this species will become our next big problem. But I do know I'm now noticing it.

Take a look to see if you see it as well in the areas you frequent. Obviously, the bright red autumn leaves make it really stand out, but without leaves its fairly distinctive. Its branches have fairly distinct parallel greenish wings projecting outwards from the wood, hence the scientific name "alatus", which is Latin for "winged". Most likely, it will show up in woods that are not far from suburban areas.

And now back to the picture. I think that the perspective on this one is fairly tough. Although the root ball does look like a squirrel's nest high up in a tree, it was merely a few feet of the ground. I'm laying on my back, with Megan's camera (the Canon SX20is, which I'm darn impressed with, but that is another post), at full wide angle, to get this shot.

Oh yeah. When we bought our house, it came with a burning bush. I recently lopped off its branches, and I'm waiting for spring to dig the roots out of the ground. Although it was a great winter perch for birds, it had to go. Hopefully next spring, I'll fill the empty spot with a nice native spicebush.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is it and How Did it Get There?

A little puzzle for your Saturday morning. Funny answers welcome, as well as legitimate guesses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Agrilus planipennis- Coming to an Ash Tree near You!

So flash back to 2003. I'm a young buck at our state resource agency, fresh out of graduate school. I'm sitting at a weekly meeting, listening to what the current issues in natural resources are when someone said something like this: "all ash trees in Ohio are going to die from this terrible pest called the Emerald Ash Borer that has been found in Michigan. It will be here before we know it." It was a little hard to believe.

If you have heard of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), or live in an area where it has virtually killed all of your native ash trees, you won't be surprised by this post. If you've been to southeastern Michigan, you've seen the dead trees at the rest areas and in the wet, flat forests. The same goes for the Toledo area- look around in low wet woods, and you'll see lots of dead trees. Travel along State Route 2 in Erie County up near Lake Erie, and look at the woods this summer. You'll see lots of brown from dead and dying ash trees.

This emerald green bug a little smaller than a pill capsule is being moving quickly (facilitated by humans transporting fire wood) around the midwest, east, and southern Ontario. Here is where it has been found as of December 2nd, 2009:

Full size map here.

You'll notice that there are plenty of red dots around central Ohio. Yes, it was found up near Delaware back in the mid 2000's, but I thought to myself that population was pretty far away. How naive I was.

Late this summer, I looked out into the parking lot where I work. The islands are full of young planted green ash trees. Some had no leaves. What was going on?

A closer look revealed this: the dreaded "D" shaped hole, the exit hole from which the adult EAB emerges after eating the tree and creating all of those interesting wormy patterns.

So there you have it, a mere six years after I learned about the EAB, was told it would be here soon, and after I had pretty much discounted it, it had arrived, literally, at my doorstep.


Sunday, December 13, 2009


Yesterday afternoon, a beautifully sunny and cold central Ohio day, I stopped at Blendon Woods Metroparks to see what had flown in to Thoreau Lake. There are two great unheated observation buildings at the edge of the lake, and they make bird photography really easy. The building to the right is great for feeder birds, and the left building provides the best opportunities for waterfowl. After scanning the ice free areas of the pond, I could only come up with black ducks, mallards, Canada geese, and two gadwals. But then something caught my eye- a bright white neck. Without binoculars, and without being able to view it with the gigantic metal spotting scope in the building because the bird had positioned itself where it was blocked by the corner support of the building, this bird remained a mystery.

In the field, the white belly, brown head, and white neck really stood out. Was it a northern pintail? But it didn't have the typical long pointed butt feathers (technical term please?). Sure enough, after looking at several northern pintail pictures online, I think that is what we have here. But why no long tail? That is the question. Is this a juvenile?


P.S. This is my 699 post here at the Ohio Nature Blog. Also- We now have 99 followers here. Help me push it over 100!


Thoreau Lake

Thoreau Lake, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

Hi All- I'm messing with the layout of The Ohio Nature Blog today. My goal is to expand the images that I can easily show from 400 pixels to 500 pixels. I think those extra pixels will make a big difference when it comes down viewing my photographs. Also- I figured out how to keep the text width fairly narrow, and hopefully the blog will still be easy to read. Consider this a test post.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Support Ohio's State Nature Preserves with a new License Plate

Many of you know that I have spent the last 10 years of my life, with a two year interruption for graduate school, as an employee of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. For at least the last two of those years, my colleagues (namely Heidi Hetzel-Evans) have been working towards a special license plate that would help support the State Nature Preserve system here in Ohio. After a ton of work collecting over 1000 signatures and successfully navigating the Ohio legislative process, you as a nature preserve loving Ohioan can show every driver in the state just how much you love nature. And better than that, when you purchase this plate, $15.00 goes directly to a fund that will ensure that Ohio's finest natural areas stay that way.

What's even more important about this license plate is that in the latest State of Ohio biennial budget, the Division of Natural Areas & Preserves received $0.00, yes, that is ZERO dollars in general revenue funds beginning in July 2010. This means that the nature preserve system needs all the help it can get, and one way we can all chip in is by purchasing this special plate. And, if you renew your plate and registration for two years, the Ohio State Nature Preserve program will get a little extra help.

So there you go, head on over to and show your support for Ohio's State Nature Preserves with a license plate. You'll help protect several of Ohio's finest natural areas- places like Lake Katharine in Jackson County, Conkle's Hollow in Hocking County, Clifton Gorge in Greene County, Kent Bog in Portage County, and Irwin Prairie in Lucas County. These places are all near and dear to me and countless other Ohioans.


Monday, November 30, 2009

In the Honeysuckle

Images taken November 29th, 2009.

Columbusites: Have you been spying all of these yellow leaved shrubs with bright red berries that are everywhere in our urban woodlands? Jim McCormac tells the story of one of our nastiest non-native invasive species, Amur Honeysuckle, right here.

What are the local nasty invasive species in your part of the world?


Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Hawk's Thanksgiving Meal

Hi All-

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. For three weeks I've been battling a nasty case of Sinusitis. I think I've cleared up the infection, but my head still feels like someone took the end of a bike pump, shoved in up my nose without me looking, pumped my head full of air, and then sealed it shut with super glue. It isn't fun. Fortunately I've been taking it easy and Megan has helped me immensely. Needless to say, we've put our metroparks challenge on hold until I get better. My nature adventures have been limited, but when I have had a chance to get a few nature photographs, I feel I have made the most of my opportunities.

We spent Thanksgiving at my Parents home in Munroe Falls, Ohio. Behind their house on city-owned property is a nice little gully that supports a spring fed head water stream. A pair of what I believe are red-shouldered hawks frequents this woods and lowlands, and I happened to glance outside the kitchen window on Thursday and spotted this well camouflaged bird.

Zeroing in on a prey item near the stream, the hawk let me approach without any sign that it knew I was there.

A glance down to change my camera settings, and I thought it was on to me and flew away, but after about thirty seconds, it alighted once again, this time closer to me. I hadn't scared this bird, but it had flown down into the bottomlands to capture a prey item. What would this hawk be going for? A mammal, I thought, like a small mouse, or perhaps a frog. I couldn't tell what exactly it had caught until I downloaded the images this evening. I believe the prey item was some type of crayfish- check out that claw extending out from the grip of the hawk. You might be able to see it more easily by clicking on the image.

I was lucky that I not only saw the hawk, but also got to witness some very cool behavior. After a little research, it seems that red shouldered hawks frequent swampy areas and lowland forests (an "ah ha" moment for me- that's why they're frequent in Sanibel, and they're also in my parent's stream gully) so I'm guessing this crayfish is a fairly typical food item for this individual.


Anonymous Comments

Hi All-

Apparently I offended someone with the successive pictures of a live turkey then a dead turkey being carved by my father-in-law for my Thanksgiving Day post. The post was in the spirit of our American tradition of eating turkey on Thanksgiving. The live turkey was an animal at Slate Run Metropark historical farm. This is a working farm where the animals are raised to provide consumption for people. They aren't pets.

I encourage all comments, but when I receive anonymous comments that are meant to offend and criticize, I view them as cowardice actions. I ask that if you must leave a comment that intends to criticize my writing or photographs, please leave your name so we can have an intelligent dialogue.

All comments on the blog will now be moderated- I appreciate all your thoughts on this matter, including any constructive criticism regarding my decision to show an image of a live domesticated turkey followed by an oven roasted turkey in succession.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

A montage from thanksgivings past:

Happy Thanksgiving from Tom, Megan, and Weston!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Mosses

If you've just joined us, I've been showing images of a weekend in Adams County, Ohio from the first weekend in November. Our first stop was Adams Lake Prairie, then we were on to Chaparral Prairie, and then finally to Davis Memorial. After a quick stop at The Wilderness Preserve, we were on to the moss workshop at the Edge of Appalachia, Ohio's largest privately protected natural area. Taught by Dr. Barb Andreas, I was preparing for an intense weekend of looking through microscopes, and I was not disappointed. Friday night we started out with an introductory slideshow full of amazing photographs of the tiny, intricate anatomy of mosses. Off to bed it was after a long day and my first night sleeping in Adams County.

Saturday morning we began at the Cincinnati Museum Center's Eulett Center, a brand new building that serves as the new focal point of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. The last time I visited the preserve, the staff was housed, well, in an old house. Now, they've got this incredible building, full of really cool microscopes and technology that made studying mosses a breeze.

Ok, I'm kidding just a little bit. Moss Identification is tedious- why? The parts of a moss plant- the leaf, the stems, are just so tiny, that in order to be able to see those parts, you just have to use both a dissecting and compound microscope. We examined our specimens at 40, 100, and 400 times magnification.

We did make it into the field to collect moss specimens, and we were accompanied by a very hungry cat that was trying to make the Eulett Center home.

Over the weekend, I saw more than a few people sneak food to it- so it was wise to follow us. We searched for and examined mosses as doggedly as the cat followed us. We put a good twelve hours in on Saturday, mostly at the microscope, followed up by three hours Sunday morning. I spent the most time examining the mosses and trying to learn the characters that I would need to identify them in the future. These included, amongst a host of other characters- the shape and size of individual moss cells- whether the cells have bumps on them called papillae, and whether the stem has a bunch of hairy things on it, the name of which I have now forgotten.

All in all, a great weekend, I learned what it takes to identify mosses, and I'll have yet another thing to look for and learn about when I venture through the natural areas of Ohio.


P.S. The moss workshop I attended is part of the Edge of Appalachia's advanced naturalist workshop series. I would recommend any of their workshops.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve

Dolomite gorge at Davis Memorial.

Sometimes you see so many interesting things in one day, it seems like I could write dozens of posts. That's how I feel about my early November trip to Adams County. For me, these posts are a way to remember and cement into my brain the names of the plants that I observed. Hopefully, you enjoy seeing what I saw as well!

If you've been following along, you'll remember the first stop of the day was Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve, then on to Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve. Completing a trifecta of Adams County Preserves (there are even more that we didn't get to!), we headed over to Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve.

Davis memorial is underlain by both Dolomite and Shale. Where the dolomite is exposed grow many interesting plants. Proving that field botanizing is most definitely doable in November, we saw:

Walter's violet, Viola walteri. Very much a southerner, southern Ohio is the furthest north this species grows in the U.S. It is an Ohio threatened species.

Tall larkspur, Delphinium exaltatum I had only seen this species once before, at a fen near Springfield, Ohio. Beautiful when flowering, this species is rare throughout its range, and is a candidate for federal listing by the United State Fish and Wildlife Service.

And one of my personal favorite pteridophytes, walking fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum. This one doesn't seem particular to calcareous habitats, however, it does seem to be fairly frequent on the dolomite gorges of southern and southeast Ohio.

That wraps up a trifecta of Adams County State Nature Preserves. Next we were off to the moss workshop, held at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. I'll have more on Ohio's largest privately owned protected natural area in the next post.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chapparal Prairie State Nature Preserve

The crinkled leaves of prairie dock

Liatris stems

The fruits of a native tree. Do you recognize these?

After Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve, we headed on over to Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve. If only we were here in early August! Can you imagine what these fields of prairie dock and Liatris would have looked like back then?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve

Last Friday before the moss workshop, I had the fortune to visit several State Nature Preserves in Adams County. The first stop of the day was Adams Lake Prairie State Nature Preserve, where I found the blackjack oak seen in the oak quiz post. There are some top notch botanists who identified this oak right away- some without ever seeing it in the field.

Little Bluestem and Red Cedar

Adam Lake Prairie is a tiny prairie patch on a hillside in Adams County. Of all my botanical travels to Ohio's hotspots of diversity, I have visited Adams County the least. It is known for its xeric limestone prairies. If you've been following along at Steve Willson's Blue Jay Barrens blog, you are familiar with this type of ecosystem. Some of these barrens also can occur on shale, and that is the case of Adams Lake Prairie. Although small, if you ever find yourself in Adams County, Ohio, not too far from the town of West Union, this little botanical wonder inside Adams Lake State Park is definitely worth a visit.

The shriveled leaves of Prairie Dock.

You nailed blackjack oak, but how about this one?

The hills created by the Allegheny Mound Ant are a common sight in this part of Ohio.

And finally, here's a violet for your perusal. I talked quite a bit about the stemless blue violets over over last weekend with Daniel Boone (yes, a real person for those of you that have never met Dan!), one of the midwest's most enthusiastic and prolific botanists. This past field season, he went on a quest to find all of Ohio's violet species, and in the process, helped us understand more about one of our endangered species, the bog violet, Viola nephrophylla.

The leaf above isn't bog violet, but I'm sure Dan would know it right away. Unfortunately, I'm itching for Tom Cooperrider's book right now, but it's a few miles away on the bookshelf at the office. Can someone pinch hit for me?


View Ohio State Nature Preserves in a larger map

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oak Quiz

So I'm guessing that if you live north of Columbus, you'll be like, "what the heck is that" while the southerners will be like, oh yeah, that's ______ oak"

Have you seen this species? For me, only a few times. But remember, I'm the Lake Erie watershed botanist. I don't make it down south very much.