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.


Monday, November 09, 2009

The Mossman

Just call me the Mossman!

I spent the weekend at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve in Adams County attending a moss identification workshop taught by Dr. Barbara Andreas, who I have had the fortune of botanizing and naturalizing with several times in the past. She knows her mosses!

I'm completely exhausted after spending the weekend looking through a compound microscope- it was intense. Mosses are so small that they are identified looking at really tiny parts- like the shape of their leaf cells, and weather or not there are any bumps on the cells. Pretty cool stuff!

I had a great deal of fun, learned a ton of new things, and after three days, I was completely wiped out, hence the lack of pictures in this post.

More to come soon, including photos of the incredible Edge of Appalachia Preserve and other botanical wonder sites in Adams County, Ohio.

Enjoy your week. We government employees get a big day off right in the middle of it, thanks to Veterans Day.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Midway, Message from the Gyre, by Chris Jordan

I must say I had never heard of photographer Chris Jordan before this morning, but after viewing some of his work, I don't believe I'll ever forget these images. Powerful and gut wrenching, Chris travels around our coasts and produces images of what he sees as a "slow-motion apocalypse in progress."

Although I usually stay upbeat and positive about nature and our connection to it, these images affected me so much that I felt obligated to share them.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Gray Jay, a Bird from the North

Streaked Mountain, Maine, October 2009

Hi everyone- how are you adjusting to daylight savings time? I'm loving the early morning sun, but the evening blackness will take some time to get used to. I was telling Megan this evening that it isn't all bad. The early night makes me want to settle onto the couch at about 6:30 and do nothing for the rest of the evening. I'm not going to be able to keep that pattern up for long without consequences, so perhaps a re-commitment to the Worthington recreation center will be in my future on these upcoming dark winter nights.

Speaking of dark nights- when Megan and I visit Maine come Christmas time, the north woods sky will be pitch black by 4:30 or so. It's amazingly early. I can't imagine living a full winter with that little light, but this bird is probably used to it. Megan spotted this avian friend on the top of Streaked Mountain on October 2009 near South Paris, Maine. This was a new one for me, and observing it and photographing was thrilling. Do you recognize it?


P.S. The pronunciation of the Mountain in question is not the same as if I were to say "I just streaked through the streets of Worthington." It is decidedly said with two syllables, as most words in the local vernacular of western Maine are drawn out into two, three or four syllables where here in Ohio they would just be one syllable.

Say Stree-ked mountain, and you've got it down.