Saturday, February 28, 2009

Map Turtles of Columbus

Zoo, that is. Some of you know that I'm taking a Photoshop for photographers class this quarter through Columbus State Community College. Here's one of the images that I put together for my final project. Megan looked at this, and said, "Those three turtles were not all in the same cage." Yep, she's right. My goal here wasn't to make it look like all three are resting on the same river bank, rather, I just wanted to have them blend in. The class has been pretty fun, and I've learned a ton. It got to be pretty tedious at times, but I really enjoyed the final project.

The Columbus zoo has a great collection of turtles in its reptile building, including several tanks of rare southern U.S. map turtles.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Taking the Plunge

I'm gearing up for the waterfowl season, and today, I got an early taste of the action at the Columbus Zoo. I am thinking that this is a female canvasback?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Going Back

As we grow older, our collection of memories, stored as visual images, smells, emotions, and countless other visions that are too difficult to describe begin to blend and blur, forming an incredible goulash of goodness. Our experiences increase, and what we view as our defining moments in our lives begin to rise to overshadow that pot of goulash, eventually bubbling over and flaring up in a cloud of steam. This is our realization of what is really important in each of our lives. Although I've photographed and naturalized in far flung places like Australia, Borneo and across America, and seen more pristine natural areas in Ohio that puts me in company with only a handful of people, I don't think any of these experiences will equal the emotional rush that Megan and I hope to experience sometime, at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, within the next 14 days.

With that being said, I took the time this past Monday, president's day, and in fact my 30 birthday, and my own mother's 59th birthday, to explore one of my old haunts, Kenney Park in Columbus Ohio.

Perhaps what marks this park as an urban cooperative is a recently restored footbridge that spans an old stream channel on the floodplain of the Olentangy River. Columbus' parks systems are fairly unmanaged, and recently, the position of director of natural resources for the parks system was eliminated. This park relies on its users to provide maintenance and upkeep.
The main path through the park remains littered with trees from remnants of Hurricane Ike that ravaged central Ohio in September.

Although I do not know his name, one of our old neighbors re-planked and old bridge, carving and painting the names of the dogs that had frolicked along the banks of the Olentangy.

A walk across the bridge allowed me some familiar views.

Canada geese, now ever present along the Olentangy.

Mallard ducks, also ubiquitous.

The white barked sycamores, adapted to thrive in the floodplain.

The corky bark of the hackberry

The evergreen leaves of a Carex.

The seed head of wild rye (Elymus)

The former home of a woodpecker,

A Carolina chickadee,

And a white-throated sparrow, hiding amongst the mast of box-elder samaras.

Although Megan and I have only recently been removed from this park- a place that felt like an extension of our backyard, it feels like years have gone by. It is hard to believe that when our pregnancy began, our house sat only 100 feet away from the green corridor. When I walked into the woods this past Monday, I must admit, I looked at the weeds and my analytical botanical mind started to trash the place. However, I was quickly reminded why I enjoyed the place so much. There simply is nothing like having a little bit of nature, not matter how trounced upon and full of invasive species, that you feel a part of. We haven't found that connection yet at our new house, but as we live here, I'm going to slowly transform the backyard into a mecca for Ohio native plants where our future naturalist, if he or she chooses, can grow and explore.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Downy Woodpecker and the Clarity of Canon "L" Lenses

Mon@rch asked me what lens I used to capture the willet image a few posts back. I used a Canon telephoto 400 mm 5.6L, which is a freaking awesome lens. I wish I had it to take the shot above. My telephoto now is an eight year old tele zoom 70-300 from Sigma, and it just isn't cutting it. I look at my images from Sanibel and I just drool for that 400 5.6! If you haven't tried this lens, check out Roger Cicala and You'll love it. As far as super telephotos go, it is great bang for the buck. Here's a direct link to the lens. (sorry Mon@rch, you'll have to rent a Canon body to use it!)

I've tried fairly hard to lure birds to our backyard this winter, and have been fairly successful. In fact, at my old place, we had so many creatures that my suet was stolen every time I put it out. When I wired the suet cage shut, the next morning, the entire suet cage was gone. At our new house, I've been more lucky, and we readily have a downy woodpecker visit the feeder, which I have located just off the porch.

Down to 12 days to go on baby watch. We're almost ready, I think. We can't wait to meet this new person that is growing inside Megan.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Australia 1999

Megan and I are about to go see the movie "Australia" at the dollar theater.I had the fortune of spending about 3 months in this wonderful country, exactly 10 years ago from right now. Here's a shot taken by my buddy Bryan at a botanical garden in Canberra that was crawling with Australian water dragons. Hard to believe it has been that long. I'm almost 30, my birthday is Monday. My Australian birthday was particularly cool for one reason- it occurred in the summer. We had a water balloon fight-you can't do that in February in the northern hemisphere! My mom's birthday is also February 16th, and my my maternal grandfather's 89th birthday is today. With 13 days and counting to our due date, will all the birthdays this weekend compel our baby to be born early!?


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Birds of Sanibel- Ring-billed Gull

The ring-billed gulls in Florida look a little brighter than ours here in Ohio. Are ours just dirty? Do I not get up to Lake Erie enough to see adults? When we first arrived on Sanibel, Megan and I headed straight to the beach. A storm has washed up tons of sea life- urchins, molluscs, etc., and most were still alive. The shore birds were feasting on this bounty. I think the parts of the ring-billed gull that most intrique me are the red at the base of the mouth and the ring around the eye. What a beautiful bird. It is amazing that I had to travel to Florida to appreciate this species, when we have tons right here in the Midwest.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

Early Salamander Run?

I'm just looking at the forcast for the next few days, and I'm guessing that the warm temperatures and rain might trigger some of the early breeding salamanders, especially Jefferson Salamanders, to make their march to vernal pools. The countdown to spring has begun. I'd also be interested to know if anyone further south has started seeing the ambystomatids emerge.

Partly Cloudy
43° F | 25° F

Partly Cloudy
52° F | 43° F

Chance of Rain
58° F | 47° F

Rain Showers
54° F | 38° F

Chance of Snow
40° F | 23° F

Roseate Walk

Last year at this time, I was counting the days to our trip to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Although I had influenza, and I shot the whole week with fevers over 100 degrees, I still managed to get some great images. I rented the Canon 400 5.6L from, and it served me quite well in the Florida sunshine. This week I'm going to go through my images from that trip and post a picture of each species I encountered during our trip.

View on black at

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Lake Erie Ice Fisherman Rescued, One Death Reported

Hi All- I botanize along the coast of Lake Erie quite a bit. I don't get up to the coast in winter, so I'm not familiar with ice fishing. Apparently, this morning, a large ice floe broke away off of Crane Creek State Park (aka Magee Marsh Wildlife Area), stranding hundreds of people. A large rescue effort is over, but the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting at least one death.

UPDATE: This has become quite a amazing story, making national headlines. I've head a few links to my blog from interesting. My heart goes out to everyone today- the rescuers, the fisherman, and the families. You can only imagine what that was like. I've been to Crane Creek many times-the park where the ice floe broke off. It is one of the best birding areas in the country, and is adjacent to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. For those of you that don't have experience with the Great Lakes, they really are inland seas. They are dangerous systems- its not like walking out on the ice at Little Pond in Maine or even an inland reservoir. Thousands of people ice fish on the lakes every year, and I here that the fishing has been great this year. Amazing stuff, again, I know this area of the state pretty well, so my heart again goes out to everyone involved today.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Morning Stretch

Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis

For More Camera Critters, and to participate, go here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Bur Oak by Moonlight

Be sure to check my Sky Watch contribution for this week, over at Tom Arbour Photography.

Spread of the Giant Grass

Invasive Phragmites from Barbara Lucas on Vimeo.

Another great video produced by Barbara Lucas, this short film focuses on the non-native invasive Phragmites australis subsp. australis. Sometimes referred to as common or giant reed, many of us in "the biz" just call it Phragmites, pronounced frag-MY-tees. This plant is a wetland species, but will also grow on beaches and even wet, seeping hillsides- it doesn't need very much water. This is one plant that I've seen expand in my relatively short lifetime.

Also- There is a native phragmites that has been recently described and named Phragmites australis subsp. americanus. It too is mentioned in the video. Currently, this native grass is a state threatened species. I wrote and article detailing it in the 2007 Winter issue of Natural Ohio.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Garlic Mustard!

Garlic Mustard Identification and Control from Barbara Lucas on Vimeo.

Take a second to check out this video about Garlic Mustard, a nasty invasive plant here in eastern and midwest woodlands. Our natural resource managers spend time and money managing invasive plants- I think some tend to discount the threat of invasives, but this video by Wisconsin Family Forests puts it all out there. It humanizes invasives a little too much for my taste, but overall, it is very well done.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Brown Creeper

What an interesting little bird? It almost looks like those parts shouldn't go together- Its feet are huge compared to its body and the curving bill is longer than its head. I was lucky enough to have this feathery sprite land our our giant bur oak tree. Megan and I were standing in the Kitchen when it flew onto the trunk and slowly made its way up, investigating the furrows of the oak bark.

As it climbed upward, I went upward as well, to our our upstairs bathroom. I followed it as it ascended up and directly over my head. I had removed the screen of our bathroom window and stuck my head and camera out the window.

I found myself pointing the camera straight up for the last shot. And as quickly as it came, with a few squeaks, it was gone.


P.S. 24 days and counting! Wow!~