Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back from Ash Cave

Ash cave is like a little Disney Land. You park your car, walk for a while, see tons of people, and finally, you arrive at what everyone came for. This is quite a place, and for some reason, having half a county there almost makes it more spectacular. Megan, Weston and I made a quick trip to visit friends as they were spending the weekend in a cabin in the famous Hocking Hills region of Ohio. For our afternoon excursion, we ventured to Ash Cave, part of Hocking Hills State Park. The HH region is a mecca for central Ohioans- it is so popular that I typically stay away during busy weekends, but we had a very nice time, and so many people added to the excitement.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Around the Office with the Point and Shoot

It has been one of those weeks. I'm still sick, unfortunately. Megan is pumping me with meds, but I've definitely got a virus that has been really hard to shake. Its tough because I'm pretty much worthless around the house- she has to do more work with Weston. I'm typically full of energy, but this week, not so much.

My coworker says he thinks I have tuberculosis. You've got to know him, some of you do, but I just think that is hilarious. He is completley kidding. Well, as you can imagine, I've been taking it easy, but that didn't stop me from capturing a late sky watch image Friday evening which I posted at TA Photography.

As for here, I took fifteen minutes yesterday with my point and shoot camera, a nice little Panasonic number (more specifically, the LZ-8) I picked up from Big Lots for 100 bucks. It pays to always have a camera ready. And even if its a point and shoot- don't forget about composition. Make everything in the frame count, always, before you hit that shutter every time. Does that little branch really need to be in the frame? Can I use a different focal length? Can I get closer? Analyze your scene critically before you hit the button, and if you do that you'll always get better images. It doesn't matter if your camera is a Canon 5d Mark II or a Kodak disposable film thing you picked up because you forgot your camera battery.

Mosquito on Crab Apple

Red Maple Samaras

Eat your heart out Redbuds...I drool over this plant. These things are all over calcareous Ohio, not so much in the acidic N.E. part of the state where I grew up.

Ant on a sandbar willow flower.

The recently cut stump of an ash tree, spared from death by the EAB, but not spared from death.

Umm, Ok, wait a minute did my head pop in that picture? Wasn't I just ranting about good composition? :)

And there you have it....Ok, I'll admit, sometimes it is fun to just point the camera at see what you get. For the last image of the Virginia bluebells, that is just what I did. I actually had the camera laying on the ground, pointing straight up, and I think this is a fairly neat perspective. It shows how we've integrated native plants around our office buildings. And that is great for a guy who's been sick all week and just needed a quick native plant rush.


Monday, April 20, 2009

You Never Know What You'll Find in the Backyard

Not exactly what you were expecting? Part of the fun about buying a new home in summer is that there is some mystery involved. You don't get to see what spring plants you've just bought until long after you have signed on the dotted line. I knew there were plenty of common blue violets (Viola sororia) in our backyard, especially around the bur oak, , but I wasn't expecting this.

This flower, however, has taken me by surprise this spring. Look at those freckles. Aren't they cool? I have seen a light blue, almost white form of Viola sororia in lawns, but never one with spots. A little internet searching, and I do believe that this is Viola sororia "freckles", quite an appropriately named cultivar. A few places even sell it online. I'm lucky to have a little patch at the far back of our yard. Isn't spring great?


Friday, April 17, 2009

Evening Webs

Well, one work week in the books, almost. It has been a crazy week and it didn't end at all how I was expecting it to. Some of my facebook and or twitter friends may have caught that I was planning to join NEON and Cleveland Museum of Natural History folks at a swamp in Trumbull County. On my way up I-71 in the work vehicle, my brakes didn't respond the first time I tried to stop. Fortunately, after the second and third pumps, I felt some pressure build up, and I decided I could stop the car if I were to get off the ramp. This I did, and turned around, back to Columbus. I called our famous named fix-it shop, it was magically picked up by them, repaired, and returned later that afternoon. The service manager told me over the phone that the rear brake "just fell apart in their hands" when they took the wheel off. New rear brakes, new front brakes too. Nice. Very nice.

So that was my Thursday, expecting to survey a beautiful wetland, but stuck in the office. What could be worse? How about getting sick. I started getting a sore throat last night, and it was worse this morning, so I stayed home to spare my office the wrath of yet more illness. I slept most of the day.

This evening I dared to brave the sunny 70 degree temperatures by stepping out onto our deck. Our tall grass, the last to be mowed in the neighborhood, shimmered in the sun. What seemed like a billion cobweb strands glistened. Still images didn't capture the slow waving movements, so I got out the video camera. Isn't this cool? Insects abounded in the back yard too, flying about it circular motions all across the neighborhood. Our backyard has awakened from its winter slumber, now if I can just kick this crud, I'm set. I'm sure bats will be flying, maybe I can stay awake a few more hours.

Like animals? Visit Camera Critters.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Look Close

Everyone recovering from Easter? I know Megan and I are. Fun, food, and family this weekend, but boy did it suck the energy out of me. Couple that with beginning my first full workweek in over six weeks, and I'm zapped.

Yesterday, I posted a group of daffodils from Inniswood Metrogardens, a public park near Westerville Ohio, about 10 minutes from our house. I had never been there, and was hoping to get a few nice shots of spring flowering trees. Although that didn't really happen, I did get the image above, which is tight crop from my full frame shot.

There are a few interesting things about this plant, the first being that I don't remember its name, but I really should. It is in the genus Veronica, and it is a common lawn weed. It was one of the very first plants that I ran through Clara Weishaupt's Vascular Plants of Ohio dichotomous key, way back in 1998 while taking Prof. Matt Hils vascular plant class at Hiram College. At the time, I couldn't stand "running" plants through a key, and i'm not extremely fond of it still, although I do it all the time.

But take a look at those red velvet mites. Aren't they neat? The are absolutely TINY! The veronica flower is only 5 or so millimeters across, and the little red creepy crawlies are absolutely minuscule. I saw a dozen or so "serious" photographers that day, but I'm confident I'm the only one that had the patience to capture the smallest of the small at Inniswood.


P.S. Image will enlarge when clicked on.

P.P.S. Weston says hi. He's lying on my lap right now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Good Morning and Happy Easter

Daffodils, from Inniswood Metrogardens. I'll have more images soon.

To all, a brilliant good morning here in Central Ohio, and to those that celebrate, Happy Easter.

We've had a big weekend. Weston has had a big weekend. My family (brother, parents, two grandparents) and Megan's family (two parents, grandmother) have come from far and wide to visit us today for Weston's baptism. Today we'll be welcoming more friends and family to the house. It has been fun watching Weston watch all these new faces. To say he is the center of attention would be an understatement.

Hope everyone is enjoying a sunny morning like we are here in Central Ohio.

Tom, Megan, and Weston.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick Pic- Earth Worm

Good day everyone. It is a bright and sunny morn here in Worthington, Ohio, and I'm about to head out to the links with my father-in-law. Yesterday wasn't so pretty, gray and rainy, but that type of weather can be amazing for photography.

Here's a worm that I just happened to see on our driveway. Unfortunately, I probably ran over it with my car tires, but perhaps it was dropped by a Robin? Nature isn't always pretty, and this is a perfect example of that. Although I didn't examine this further, I'm wondering if this is the invasive earthworm that I've been hearing about. The ones with the rainbow sheen and setae all around their bodies. I'll have to take a closer look when I get back, but maybe you can see these characteristics. I uploaded the image at a larger size this morning. Hope you have a fantastic Saturday, and that the rain has past you by.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

What's Been Eating Our Oak.

While doing research when writing about my cicada images, I read that the underground nymphs munch on tree roots. Many of us have seen the shed exoskeleton of the larval cicada- they aren't hard to find attached to trees. You can even pick the paper thin shell up and put it on other things, including your friend's shirt, for example.

Anyways, I have never seen one of these larvae alive, until last weekend, when I was digging up some lemon scented mint in the yard. As I dug into clay soil with a potato rake and begin ripping out roots, I noticed a tan blog slowly waving its legs, clearly out of its element in the light. It was a LIVE cicada nymph.

Although the nymph's opque eyes make it look dead, it was very much alive, waving its legs up and down slowly but assuredly.

Take a look at the wing buds and those massive front claws.

And it is hard to believe that soon, this creature will climb up a tree, break out of its exoskeleton, and become an aerial tree dweller.

If you liked this, you may enjoy looking at more of my cicada images

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sky Watch Friday- Evening Sunset in the Neighborhood

Although I'm only an occasional participant in Sky Watch Friday, last night, Megan, Weston, and I walked through the neighborhood, and I carried my point and shoot Panasonic LZ-8. I couldn't help but think last night's sky would be perfect for Sky Watch Friday.

Welcome SkyWatchers, welcome regular readers, sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunset.

And after you've done that, you might enjoy viewing more of my images in a larger former. Please visit TA Photography.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Highbanks Wrapup

Although I've stretched this short hike out over almost a week, the trip did provide plenty of material that just screams spring. Highbanks Metro Park is great place, full of interesting habitats, and I hope to go there more frequently this summer.

After Megan and I stopped to check out the concretion in the shale, we walked slowly but steadily down to the floodplain of the Olentangy River. The woods at the base of the "high banks" are pretty srubby and weedy. Garlic mustard and Amur honeysuckle were definitely present, and the botanical diversity was fairly poor. But boy, the temperature was just right for a snake, I thought to myself.

Look carefully, this snake really blends in amongst the leaves and debris of the forest floor.

And after a quarter mile or so, I heard that distinctive rustling of the dry leaves sound, very subtle, but instantly recognizable. Either a lizard or a snake. I wouldn't expect to see any lizards in Delaware County although a five-lined skink wouldn't be out of the question, I would be surprised. It turned out to be a slithering garter snake. It is great to see native reptiles here at Highbanks. Down in Columbus, I never once have seen a snake.

We continued on and went under a bridge, and finally saw the mighty Olentangy. I'm kidding of course, this is not a gigantic river, definitely, but Highbanks has excellent riverine habitat. This portion of the stream has been designated as an official State Scenic River by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

As we continued back up into the woods, I picked up three more wildflower species not seen yet on our hike. The first was Erythronium, or trout lily, but it was not blooming.

Then, a little patch of harbinger-of-spring, a delicate little wildflower that I've never really seen in abundance,

And, a toadshade trillium just about to burst.

We kept walking, further upwoods, and we crossed a bridge. I've been proud of Megan- she's learning many of the names of common birds. I'm the person that is good with names in the family- she isn't. Still though, she'll see white breasted nuthatches, carolina chickadees, and call them out by name. At the aforementioned bridge, Megan saw this bird, and wondered what it was.

Two eastern Phoebes, a pair, with grass in their beaks. It looked like they had begun to build a nest somewhere on the bridge, probably underneath the structure. The first bird is pictured in an Ohio buckeye, one of our first native trees to leaf out here in Central Ohio.

We walked a little longer, picked up a hairy woodpecker, and I could tell Megan was getting a little tired with the little guy attached to her in the carrier, so I decided to give it a whirl. It is pretty fun.

And that my friends is a wrap-up of our April 2 hike, a beautiful spring day. The sun has returned, although it still looks to be cold for a few more days, slowing spring down a little bit. The countdown to the first killing frosts of Autumn surely has begun.


In the Summer of 2009, there was a large Gypsy Moth infestation at Highbanks Metropark. Take a look at pictures and video of the devastation.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Nature Photography Interlude

This afternoon, I set out to photograph snowflakes. I put my reversing ring on my macro lens, and attached my 50mm 1.8 II lens for increased magnification. I even got out a piece of black posterboard. When I finally made it outside, the flakes had stopped falling.

I looked around and saw that one of our perennials, a prostrate herbaceous thing thing with white bell shaped flowers like a petunia (Kylee, help!), had water droplets beaded up on its hydrophobic leaves. What a great opportunity! I also used my Vivitar 285HV, off camera for this shot. The drop was only about a centimeter from the rear element of my reversed 50 mm lens. Tripod used as well. This shot reminds me a little bit of rain drop tipped moss spores I photographed last July.

RAW file processed in Canon Digital Photo Pro, sensor dust removed with CS4.

For those that are interested in shots like this, it can take quite a bit of gear. Here's all what I used.

Canon Digital Rebel XTI
Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM
52mm to 52 mm reversing ring
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II reversed on the 60mm macro
Gitzo Explorer tripod (aluminum version)
Induro SA12 ball head.
Vivitar 285HV flash

Camera settings, Manual Mode, 1/200 of a second, f/22, Flash on manual, hand held off camera with sync cord, 1/16 power. Once a week I'm going to try to do one of these "how i got the shot" posts, they're fun, and it is time for me to start passing along some of my photo knowledge that I've been accumulating for the past year and a half, since I purchased my first DSLR camera.

One other thing- amid all this tech talk, be sure to compose your shots carefully, and try to put meaning into each and every capture. To me, the round drop of water reminds me a bit of our own little earth, just as it was birthed out of the center of a gigantic mother plant.

Tomorrow we'll finish up our Highbanks Hike. Lots more in the pipe as well, like macros of a live cicada larvae and the gelatinous gooey seeds of native mistletoe.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Wildflowers and Sunshine- Highbanks Hike Continued

As I drove to work this morning, as I was curving around the off ramp and stopped at the traffic light, rain drops began to hit my windshield. I then realized that mixed in with the liquid water was semi-frozen slushy snowflakes. They were gone as soon as they came, but is was no-doubt-about-it snow.

And then just as I accelerated up the ramp to I-71, on my way home this afternoon, the heavens opened up once more, this time releasing wind driven heavy rain, and mixed in, big, wet, slushy snowflakes. With the high clouds that let quite a bit of light through, it was a strange sight. I'm just glad we're not going to receive the 6-12" of snow our local weatherman Jim Ganal predicted for my homeland, Northeast Ohio. Tom (fishing guy), have fun with this one, can't wait to see pictures.

With all this talk of snow, why not head back to last Thursday, a glorious spring day bursting with native wildflowers? I can't think of any reason not to, so here we go.

The other Tom (Mon@rch) that we all know and love apparently needs a baby fix, so why don't we give him one?

Here's Weston and Mom, wearing a wonderful little cap made by his Aunt Rachel. She's studying to be a nurse practioner in Virginia, so we'll have two advanced practice nurses in the family soon. Thanks Rachel, he wore this hat well.

Here we are at the trail head, near the nature center at Highbanks. We picked up on the pileated woodpecker trail, which winds through beech-maple-oak forest ravines, eventually down to the floodplain of the Olentangy River, and back up again. There were plenty of bloodroots, as you saw from yesterday's post, but several other interesting things were blooming as well.

Like this little guy, which I think is long spurred violet (Viola rostrata) but I looked at it only to take the picture. I remember way back when, 10 years ago, when I saw my first spurred violet at Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve. Ohio has over two dozen species of native violets, and this is one of them. Compare this one to the violets in your yard, and you'll see that they don't have this long spur.

The first flower I typically see each spring, without fail, is spring beauties. Although I had seen some by the time I had taken the violet image, it wasn't until I caught a few Dutchman's breeches just beginning to unfurl that I got both species in a picture. Look carefully, the breeches are the solid over exposed white flowers in the top right with feather divided leaves, while the spring beauties are in the lower left, with linear spongy leaves.

And what is spring without an early blooming sedge? I believe this is Carex pensylvanica, Pennsylvania sedge, which is a common early bloomer in mesic to dry woods.

As we walked, the trail dropped down to a small head water stream that cuts down to the bedrock of the area, the Devonian aged Ohio Shale. Same bedrock here that is in Cleveland that they find gigantic armored fish fossils called Dunkleosteus in. It also is the source of Central Ohio's home radon issues.

After leading us down, the trail led us back up the ravine on the other side. From this location, I could see the opposite eroding bank, and I spotted one of the concretions that I have blogged about before, even comparing Megan's pregnant belly to one of these round rocks. This shot was at full telephoto from about 100 feet away, and I would estimate the boulder to be about 3 feet in diameter. The jury is out about how these round concretions formed in rather flat, finely bedded shale, but my sister agency has put out a great fact sheet that is well worth a read. Would you believe that one of these concretions found at highbanks metropark actually had a devonian aged fish jaw fossilized in the center of it? They've got a picture of it at highbanks. Obviously, I'm finding it more interesting now than when we were there, or else I would have photographed the fossil!

Thanks for joining us on part two of our Highbanks adventure, tomorrow we'll make it down to the river, see what's inhabiting the upper reaches of the floodplain, and find out what bird species are already building their nests.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Highbanks Metropark

Megan, Weston and I went on a hike Thursday to Highbanks Metropark, and it was a glorious spring day, warm, sunny, and perfect for the first splash of color throughout the maple-oak-beech forests there. Perhaps "the flower" of the day was bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, which we seemed to catch at the peak of bloom. A few more days, and the white petals will be a pile on the ground at the base of the plant. Named for the orangish red sap in this plant's underground tubers, bloodroot is perhaps my favorite spring wildflower. This wasn't the only thing blooming, and I'll have the rest of our hike soon.


Friday, April 03, 2009

2009 Ohio Botanical Symposium

Today was the Ohio Botanical Symposium, a yearly event put on by ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, along with several partner organizations. Today's event held in north Columbus had over 400 people in the attendance. A slate of excellent speakers gave talks ranging from the best botanical finds in the state, to fungi, fern allies, and even bees. I got to meet several people that read the blog, and thanks for all of your kind comments. These are the types of things that keep me going here. I'm all geared up for a great field season, and yesterday, Megan and I introduced Weston to our yearly early spring wildflower hike at Highbanks Metropark. Although today was dreary, and tomorrow won't be much better, yesterday was one of those idyllic spring days where we hit the bloodroot just right, in full bloom. I'm working on those pictures from our hike and will have those here soon.

The symposium is over, we can now officially launch the botanical season. Go out and botanize!


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ohio Nature Blog to Become "The Ohio Golf Blog"- APRIL FOOLS!

All right, I know what you are thinking, you must be out of your mind. But I used to love golf. In fact, when I was 11 years old, I won the Leisure time 11 year old league championship, my only singular athletic trophy that I have won to date. But that may all be changing. I've decided to take up golf again, and, since I am just getting a little bit bored with nature, why not start a golf blog?

Each week I'll be visiting a new course and I'll post my review. Stay tuned, it looks to be a fun and wild adventure exploring what wonderful courses Ohio has to offer. Please be sure to send me your favorites, and maybe I'll check them out.

Again, thanks for all your support with the nature thing, it is old hat now, so I'm going golfing.