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.