Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Creatures of the Night

I know that you're probably sick of me writing about it, but since we move to our new house about a year ago, I've had to look harder for interesting photographic subjects close to home. But really, the subjects are endless. One of my favorite places to photograph biological diversity is the lamppost that sits in our front yard, and one of our lights in the backyard. Take a look at what I photographed this past Saturday evening, and this selection doesn't even include the moths. I don't know the names of these creatures, scientific or common, and I'm plenty OK with that. I would like to learn them in time- now I'm just trying to observe them and learn about them, without having the trouble of learning names. Once I really learn each creature, the name should be easy. That being said, I wouldn't mind input if you recognize one of these buggers.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Gypsy Moths at Highbanks Metro Park

Spring in late June???

A unsolicited, rather interesting comment appeared on my blog several weeks ago, completely unrelated to the post subject on Carex.

"Just thought you might know about Highbanks Metro Park. I was walking there today and noticed that a few acres near the top paths across from the nature center seem to have lost all of their leaves. Have you seen this and do you know what is going on there? All the trees are bald in that section of the trail."

My reply: "Maybe Gypsy Moths?"

Well, surely, an outbreak of the non-native gypsy moths, have defoliated at least ten, if not closer to forty, acres of oak dominated forest southwest of the nature center.
On Saturday, June 27, Megan, Weston and I went to hike at Highbanks, and I wasn't quite ready for what we experienced. Megan perhaps described it best, as "a fairy land". We were walking through dark, shaded forest, slowly coming upon the defoliated tree area. We were greeted with not only bright sun and mostly naked trees, but also thousands of fluttering male gypsy moths. They weren't shy either, and had no problem landing on me as I photographed them.

A male gypsy moth

Female gypsy moths, flightless, with eggs

The ultimately gross pupae cases of the moths. Notice the silk- they were originally imported to Massachusetts for their silk producing abilities, escaped, and the rest is history.

A few ash trees were spared- the maples and oaks were not.

The park now has excellent signage that tells the whole story. Regular runners and hikers at the park seem unfazed by the creepiness that is a gypsy moth infestation. Next year, the park will be using GypCheck to limit damage. GypCheck is actually made from dead gypsy moths, and is currently the most environmentally friendly control method available.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Evening Photography Fun

Last night I stayed up just a little bit later than normal, and captured these images. Any guesses as to what I'm showing here? Just a little Sunday evening fun. Enjoy the week.

Carex Retrorsa, Reflexed Bladder Sedge

We botanists love sedges. With over 160 Ohio species in the genus Carex alone, this group alone can provide a lifetime of wonderment. On Friday June 26th, at Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve, Ryan Schroeder and I happened across a nice wet sedgy spot that was home to a really rare sedge in Ohio (state endangered), Carex retrorsa, or the reflexed bladder sedge. How did it get that name, you ask? Well, the word retrorse, when used in the botanical vernacular, means bent or curved backward or downward.

See anything retrose about this sedge? The perigynia, which are actually the sedge's female flowers, are the large spiky things. The balloon shaped sack is where the seed of the sedge develops, called an achene. In Carex retrorsa, the perigynia are pointed out and even downward. Reflexed = retrorse. Reflexed bladder sedge. It all makes sense, doesn't it?

The most interesting thing about this find is that Carex retrorsa had been found in Lucas County before 2009- but over 100 years ago. That was until Wednesday, when Oak Openings botanical guru Tim Walters found it somewhere in the area, and showed it to my boss. Said boss just happened to mention Tim's find to me on Thursday. Then, Ryan and I just happened to find Carex retrorsa at Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve. Quite a story, isn't it? Not documented for over 100 years (in the oak openings), then, twice in three days.


The next post I'm working on is video and photographs of the gypsy moth infestation at Highbanks Metropark.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Floral Wonders of Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve

Although not intentionally planned, I have visited two of Ohio's most interesting botanical regions the last two Fridays of botanizing. Last week, it was the Adams County area, full of dolomite prairies and other cool things, and yesterday, I was in the Oak Openings at Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve, recently opened to the public. The commonality between the two areas? Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, was in full bloom during both my visits. Here in the Oak Openings, it just wasn't covered with great spangled fritillaries.

Wow, isn't that a great view? The fountainous big bluestem intermixed with the orange of the butterfly weed would make a gardener jealous. I'm always impressed by nature's arrangement of the landscape- we can only attempt to replicate this arrangement with hard work and dedication, but in natural systems, it just happens all by itself, with a little help from us via prescribed burns.

Speaking of grass like plants, during this trip, I found what our friend Jim McCormac has termed a "mega-rarity". An endangered sedge species, that until Wednesday, was only known from the most extreme northwest county in Ohio. Tim Walters discovered it somewhere in the Oak Openings on Wednesday. Ryan Schroeder and I found it on Friday at Lou Campbell preserve, just two days later. I'll detail the find in a future post, look for it soon.

But now, some of the showy early summer flowering plants from Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve.

White colic root, Aletris farinosa

Flowering spurge, Euphorbia corollata

Lythrum alatum, winged loosestrife, our NATIVE loosestrife that is also purple.

Virginia mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum

Kalm's St. John's wort, Hypericum kalmianum

Swamp rose, Rosa palustris

and finally, a Pucoon, a Lithospermum species.

Even though we're entering summer, Ohio still has very interesting wildflower species in bloom. We're "in-between" the typical heights of the season- spring wildflowers and summer prairies, but Lou Campbell Preserve has plenty to offer. If you're in the northwest Ohio area, be sure to visit and check out the trail that Ryan and his staff have built. Wet prairies, oak forest, lupine savanna- it's all there. Just remember to bring your mosquito gear- if you aren't careful, they'll carry you away.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Adams County Teems with Life

Isn't this butterfly weed, covered with eleven (can you count more?) great spangled fritillaries, spectacular? We had a great time botanzing and naturalizing on last Friday's trip to Adams County, which one of Ohio's southernmost counties on the Ohio River. No names today, please just enjoy the photos of these plants and animals. Thanks to the Ohio Heritage Naturalists for a great trip.


Monday, June 22, 2009

16 Weeks and Counting

Weston noticed today that he dropped off the front page again, so it must be time to give him some face time. Can you believe that today he is exactly 16 weeks old? Hard to believe, it seems like he was just born. Here he is riding in his car seat, on the way to the Columbus Zoo. He's doing his best job to calm himself- thumb in mouth and finger wrapped around the nose. Happy 16 weeks, little guy.


Friday, June 19, 2009

The Spatterdock Darner Lives in Southern Ohio Too

Singer Lake Bog, 2006. This vegetation filled water basin can be treacherous. The sort of olive green, round shaped leaves with an upward pointing tip are those of spatterdock

Great day of botanizing at Singer Lake Bog yesterday, but no pictures. Just not a place I was willing to take the camera. A quaking wet bog mat just begs to suck cameras right in. Although, today I met Greg, a museum staff member that is currently making a short film of Singer Lake. He brought his video camera, all $15,000 dollars worth of it. I held my breath. It stayed dry.

Spatterdock darner, Lawrence County, Ohio, photo by Rick Gardner.

We were able to see interesting dragonflies, including the elfin skimmer, a state endangered species. But one dragonfly that we didn't see was the spatterdock darner, even though there is plenty of spatterdock, an emergent yellow flowerd water-lily type plant, in the bog. My co-worker Rick Gardner photographed did find a spatterdock darner, however, while botanizing the Wayne National Forest in Lawrence County, way down in southern Ohio. Rick is not only one of the best botanists in the state, but he also has his camera at the ready if an interesting animal cuts across his gaze between his eyes and the plant that he is scrutinizing. In case you missed them, also check out his images of a thirteen-lined ground squirrel.

What's even cooler about Rick's find is that the spatterdock darner, at least according to the somewhat outdated range map on the Ohio Odonata Society's website, is not only a county record, but a regional record, having never been documented for any county south of Franklin (the county from which I write this blog). Check out this map. Lawrence is the southernmost county in Ohio. Great find, Rick.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Catawba Nights

Howdy all, are you ready for the weekend? Big day on Saturday for us at the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, our annual Cranberry Bog open house, and we have 550 people signed up, with walkups sure to come as well. It makes for a long day, especially if it is hot and sunny.

Some of you have seen my TA Photography blog where I put some of my favorite images that I've recently taken. I've set that blog up to be a photo gallery- the images are much larger there. I just added a thirty second time exposure from our Lake Erie trip two weeks ago. Here's a sample, but it looks so much better just a little bigger and viewed on a black background. See it here.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Always Nice to Find What You're Looking For

As many of you know, my job involves looking for rare plants and high quality natural ares in the Lake Erie watershed portion of Ohio. Searching for rare plants is a combination of knowledge, intuition, sticktoitiveness, extreme attention to detail, and sometimes downright luck. Last week, I searched for the tiny one flowered wintergreen at Oak Openings Metropark for about 3 hours, only to come up empty. It was the only sight know for that little plant in Ohio, and if I can't find it in the next week or two, it will probably be considered an extirpated species instead of endangered, because it won't have been seen for over twenty years.

Today was a different story. I went to relocate Iris brevicaulis at Dupont Marsh State Nature Preserve, adjacent to the Huron River in Erie County. Coupled with the knowledge of where the plant had been found, and the knowledge provided to me by my guide today, Brad Phillips of Erie Metroparks, were were able to locate this beautiful iris within about 5 minutes of stepping off the trail. A good day, indeed. This species was last documented from Dupont Marsh in 1991. It differs from our other blue irises, mostly distinctly, by its short, zig-zag stem, spreading perianth (the flower), and its 6 angled capsule (if fruiting).

Here's the more common iris of the Lake Erie marshes, Iris versicolor. I snapped this shot at the Navarre Unit of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge while co-worker Rick Gardner and I were surveying the vegetation of the diked marshes in the area, so very close to the Davis-Besse nuclear power station.

Notice how much longer the flowering stems are in the directly above, and then compare that with the low flower image in the next image up- the Iris versicolor flowers are the same height as the leaves, whereas the Iris brevicaulis flowers are hidden amongst the lower reaches of the blades.

It's always nice to find what you're looking for, and today, that is exactly what happened.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remember Warbler Mania?

It's hard to believe that it was only about a month ago that our trees were dripping with warblers, and now, not so much. Over Memorial Day weekend spent at Little Pond, Maine, I photographed a few birds, including several warblers. Here are those images for your perusal.

To learn more about Little Pond, check out this short film I created during our time their this past May.