Friday, March 27, 2009

Looking at Lichens

A few days ago, Tom, aka "Fishing Guy" did a "what is it post", showing three cropped images and asking his readers to guess the subject of each image. One of his images was a close up view of Lichens.

Lichens are really fascinating creatures, a symbiotic combination as two organisms, a fungi and an algae or blue green bacteria, living as one. These composite organisms are described and given species names, even though they technically are two different organisms. I have not studied lichens, but I do find them fascinating. They seem to really "pop" on gray, wet days, like yesterday, so I decided to photograph some of these interesting organisms in our back yard, Mostly on fallen limbs of our Bur Oak, but also some on the fence post, and even on our concrete front porch. My question, what do you see in these lichens? Consider this a Rorschach inkblot test for naturalists.






What do you see?


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Our First Hike

Life is a collection of firsts, a string of events which we will never forget. Although it was short and sweet, this past Friday, Weston and his mom and dad went on their first nature hike along the Olentangy Bike trail. What a great day, and what a great job Weston did, sleeping most of the time strapped to his mom in a Weego baby carrier.

First, a stop at the playground. Now I have a reason to hang out at these places again. In a former life, I was a professional playground attendant in Shamu's Happy Harbor at Sea World Ohio.

A beautiful, early spring, blue sky day. I love how American sycamore bark contrasts with the blue sky. There are several majestic sycamores that line the Olentangy just north of I-270.

Three trees or one? Just off the asphalt path, this triple sycamore can't be missed. The trunks to come together about 5 feet off the ground, making it one tree.

The triple sycamore is situated near a bridge which crosses over this small tributary. As it heads towards the river, its path is quite natural and sinuous. The shale bedrock of the area is exposed- This is the same shale that is found all the way up in Cleveland. It is also the source of Central Ohio's high radon readings in homes and schools.

We took a small side trail near the creek, and I spotted a hermit thrush, a relative of the American robin.

Robins were also plenty active in the area, and were certainly less wary than the hermit thrush. There is something nice about seeing Robins in natural habitats instead of green lawns.

Going back towards the asphalt path, I noticed that small minnows were active in the stream, some of them tipping their noses and rubbing up against the stream bottom. How many fish do you see? If I had to guess, I would say these were probably black nosed dace, but that is just a guess. I used to catch these all the time as a kid in the creek behind our house, which eventually led to the Cuyahoga.

Yet another thing that reminded me of exploring creeks when I was younger was some of the bubbling brown algae that had started to bloom. This stuff is extremely slippery.

We left the creek, continuing to walk north, until we met up with a flock of white-throated sparrows.

At about this time, Weston was starting to stir a little bit, so we decided to turn back and head south to Worthington. On our walk back, I took note of what plants were starting to bolt, including:

Perhaps poison hemlock? You don't want to touch this one, ever. It will grow to 6 feet tall or more by the end of the summer.

Garlic mustard, a nasty non-native invasive species which you may remember from this post.

And, several clumps wild leeks, or ramps, which are famous in West Virginia.

Finally, I noticed a two species of plants in full flower. The flowering of these trees just happens to coincide with my spring hay-fever.

American elm,

And silver maple.

Thanks for joining us on our first adventure.


Monday, March 23, 2009

13 Lines + Squirrel =

The thirteen-lined ground squirrel!

Central Ohio is home to the easternmost populations of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus. How about that for a scientific name?





My buddy and co-worker Rick G., who many of you know and love as Ohio's Natural Heritage Botanist, and his lovely wife, were out gallivanting this weekend near Circleville, Ohio, and spotted this quite photogenic creature. Fascinating, isn't it? Ohioans, have you ever had an encounter with these? How about our friends on the plains? Apparently, the Minnesota Golden Gopher is actually a thirteen-lined ground squirrel. I guess the nickname "The Minnesota Spermophilus tridecemlineatuses" was too long, so they went with the golden gophers. Thanks Rick for these awesome images.

Also, if you are out and about, and happen to capture some great images of Ohio's Natural History, but don't have enough time to do a blog yourself, send them to me, and I'll feature them here. My e-mail is in the sidebar on the right, just above my facebook badge.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Good Work Little Man

So I just happened to catch Weston the other day laying on a blanket on our family room floor. He was studying his field guide, and looked especially interested in the box turtle, oak, and maple leaves. Good work little man, we're proud.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Grackle Wars

Have you started seeing common Grackles where you live? The past three days, our backyard has been inudated with them. At first, I thought it was pretty neat, but after dozens started eating the our seed, and tearing up the yard, and surely freaking out our densely populated suburban neighborhood, I'm starting to think I might have created a nightmare. I don't mind a few grackles, but hundreds is a different thing. I'm speculating that the flocks that have come to our yard are migrating north? Today, for instance, they seemed to have moved on.

When I first saw all these grackles feeding, I got a few blurry shots through our downstairs window. To get some better shots, I bolted up the steps and into our small master bathroom, newly painted green, to open up the window to get some clear shots. Unfortunately, as I slid the creaking window open, I scared the birds away.

Except for two, that literally dropped out of the old bur oak and onto the ground, seemingly locked together by the feet. Battling with each other, pecking at each other, I wasn't quite sure what they were doing, how they were attached, or how long this scrum would last.

The birds quickly wiggled across the ground, fighting all the way, until they went just out of view behind the big oak. Has anyone seen anything like this?

This is my contribution to this week's Camera Critters Meme, hosted by Misty Dawn.

Also- around mid-day, I added another camera critters post at Tom Arbour Photography, an Image of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos from Australia.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Last Night's Sunset- Sky Watch Friday

Welcome SkyWatchers! I invite you to follow my blog or subscribe to my feed. This is the giant bur oak my wife and our 10 day old son (pics here) have in our backyard. I took this picture last evening of this incredible sunset right here in Worthington, Ohio, hanging out the window of our upstairs bathroom.

For more Sky Watch images, and to participate, go here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Finally, Cardinals

I came to take northern Cardinals for granted when we lived at our last house. Our neighbor had been feeding birds for years, and dozens came to the feeders that I set out only feet from his yard. That hasn't been the case at our new house. I would see cardinals alight on our fence and wires, but they were just staging to land at the neighbor's feeder. Finally, in the last two days, the Northern Cardinals have come to our yard to feed as well. It is certainly a nice feeling- I'm doing what I need to do to lure the birds to our yard.

Monday, March 09, 2009

My World Cooper's Hawk

I've been working diligently to lure birds to our backyard with seed and suet. The persistence seems to finally be paying off. Apparently, enough prey is present to attract the neighborhood Cooper's hawk. The bird alighted on our neighbor's Siberian Elm, above some already flowering silver maples, as Megan, Weston, and I were enjoying Saturday's 70 degree weather.

Since I shot this picture right in my backyard while sitting on my deck with my new family, I thought it would make a great contribution to the "My Word" Meme. Go here to participate and view other images.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Finding Signs of Spring

Part of what makes blogging interesting is reading other blogs and looking to see what are people are finding. I try to come up with unique, interesting things that jump out or make you stop here for a second to view my images. There are a ton of good nature blogs out there, almost so many, it sometimes gets overwhelming.

So here is my attempt to catch your interest-my foray to my backyard this afternoon, routing through about 2 square feet of leaf litter, and discovering a bounty of life beneath the old bur oak.

In this next shot, I found two millepedes in a tight clutch. I'm not quite sure what they are up to. I also noticed some other interesting things. Look closely at the photo, then check out the next two photos, which are tight crops of the image below.

There seemed to be plenty of these little creatures- very small, approximately 1 millimeter long.
The last creature of the afternoon, an ever so tiny, probably not more than 2mm long, leafhopper.

The soil is warming, these creatures are stirring, Spring, here we come.

This is my contribution to Misty Dawn's Camera Critters Meme.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Ohio Cave Exploration

My co-worker Erin is featured this morning in an awesome article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She has led a two year project to document cave biota in Ohio. This discovery hasn't been vetted through scientific channels (published in a scientific journal), but it is still a great find. There are so many things to be discovered right here in the buckeye state. Here's a video featuring Mike Johnson, natural resources director of Metroparks Serving Summit County, showing off this interesting creature in its natural habitat.

Shrimp-like creature found in Summit County cave

Ohio Cave Exploration


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Baby Weston

Here's Weston and MOM! I was absolutely exhausted last night, so I came home and got about 9 hours of great sleep. I'll be down to the hospital again to check on Mom and Babe this morning.

Again, thanks everyone!