Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sorghastrum nutans

Indian Grass!

It's not quite from today, but close- from Friday, again, taken on the Delaware Wildlife Area.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

21 Months and Counting

Weston at 21+ Months plus little creative Photoshop work.
It's hard not to say that Weston looks like me- we both share a dark complexion and brown eyes, while Megan's eyes are hazel and her skin quite fair.  But when I look at this picture of Weston that I took last weekend- I can't stopped being reminded of Megan. Weston's mouth, his nose, it's all hers.  It's hard to believe that in about two and a half months, we'll be welcoming another human being into the world.

Tom

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mallard, Belted Kingfisher


I have been remiss to capture any photographs of Delaware County the past two workdays, so this evening, I'm posting two images that I captured on Sunday afternoon, just before I photographed the great blue heron.  This drake mallard was doing its best to swim upstream through a riffle on the opposite bank, while this female belted kingfisher was perched high above the river, ready to dive for a fish.




Ohio and the rest of the east is experiencing frigid temperatures.  A few years ago at this time, I was still able to photograph autumn meadowhawks, but now everything is absolutely frigid- we're headed for a low of 14 tonight. Stay warm!

Tom

Monday, December 06, 2010

Great Blue Heron


Yesterday afternoon I returned to my old stomping grounds- Kenney Park. I went there looking for deer, but didn't find any. This great blue heron made the short trip down High Street worth my time.

Tom

Sunday, December 05, 2010

It's a Mast Year

Red Oak Acorns, November 2010,  Munroe Falls, Ohio
Not long after the start of this year's deer bow season in Ohio, which opened September 25, I started reading reports that Ohio was experiencing a "mast year".   For some reason(s) that are not entirely understood, some years, most every oak tree in a forest will produce a bumper crop of acorns, far more than normal. During a mast year event, the woods can just be littered with acorns.

But why is this event called a "mast year"?  A little searching through online dictionaries and I found the answer- this usage of the word "mast" most likely derives from an old English word that meant food.  So a mast year is when the woods is full of food, and in the case of this year's deer season, full of food for deer.  And that brings me back to the deer season.  The number of deer harvested during the early archery season was down- a fact attributed by many to the deer staying put in the woods and feasting on the bumper crop of acorns, instead  running out into fields and farmland to search for leftover corn and soybeans.  I'm not sure if I buy this argument, but I recently visited my parents house and experienced this "mast" event first hand.



"Mast"
 
They're lucky enough to have a nice red oak in their backyard.  When I was growing up, I remember finding a few acorns underneath this tree- maybe five or six per year.  The gray squirrels got all the other ones. So I was absolutely shocked to see the pile that had formed at the base of this tree.  Granted- my dad had raked the acorns off the lawn and moved them all closer together, but what a bonanza of acorns.

Why does this happen?  The prevailing theory seems to go like this: In one year, if you flood the woods with many more acorns than the squirrels, deer, and other wildlife can eat, than there is an actual chance of getting some of those extra acorns to germinate and eventually become trees.  By in large though, from my brief research this morning, there is much that needs to be learned about this phenomenon.

My hand with "mast"
This morning I asked this question-  Is it just Ohio's oaks that are experiencing a mast year?  After a quick search for "mast year" at the newspaper article search topix.net, I found stories from Florida to Connecticut and New York to Chicago.  I can't make the argument that the phenomenon is happening across the eastern U.S.  Perhaps every year there are places that experience local mast events. Still, I was surprised to see so many articles.  Maybe something unusual is going on, or quite possibly, it could just be a coincidence.  Needless to say, my interest is definitely piqued- I'm starting to see a whole PhD dissertation developing in my brain.....

My question to you is- are you having a "mast year" in your neck of the woods?

Tom

Friday, December 03, 2010

Morning Sky


A simple image of this morning's sky with the sun trying to clear the low clouds in the east.  Have a great weekend.

-Tom

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Welcome Winter


Do you know why I know it is winter?  Upon arriving at work this morning all our door locks were frozen!  We eventually got in- but not before I was seriously regretting leaving my gloves at home.  There's something about the first subzero temperatures that surprises me each winter, and this morning was no different.  I thought I didn't need gloves- and I was wrong.

Although my morning and evening commutes were draped with clouds, central Ohio was treated to a quite nice mid-day sunshine event.  As winter drags on, sunny scenes like this one will decrease as we plunge into the gray abyss that is winter here in Ohio.  It's hard to believe that this field will be warm and full of soybeans in only six months or so.

Tom

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nature in Manhattan


It isn't too difficult to capture a traditional nature photograph in Manhattan.  When I need a little dose of nature, I head to the northern section of Central Park.  There are quite a few forested areas, with giant native trees- These areas are mostly fenced and signs are posted letting park visitors know that these are natural areas.  While walking along "The Ravine" which eventually leads to this waterfall, I saw a Cooper's hawk, tufted titmice and chickadees, and a flock of about 20 white-throated sparrows.  Not bad for an island where most people live in tiny brick, concrete, and steel boxes stacked on top of each other.

Tom

Sunday, November 28, 2010

West End Avenue & 96th Street


There's no place like Thanksgiving in New York City- and that's where Megan, Weston and I headed this past holiday weekend.  This was just a very quick trip- but there's nothing like spending a few days in Manhattan to make one appreciate the relative calm of a "little big" city like Columbus.

Tom

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cattails


Today in Delaware County, the stand of cattails that rim the pond behind our office caught my eye.  There isn't much more fun a kid can have than ripping into a cattail- I remember getting covered in the white fluff more than a few times  The fluff is a combination of tiny seeds and small silk like fibers that enable the seed to be spread by wind and water.  And they sure do get around- it's hard to find any semi-permanent bodies of water that don't have cattails rimming the edges.

In Ohio, we have three types of cattails.  The increasingly rare broad-leaf cattail is our native species.  There's also the narrow-leaved cattail, originally thought to be native to the Atlantic coast but now believed to have come to us from Europe.  And last but not least- there's a super aggressive form that appears to be a hybrid between the two species. Wherever you see a massive stand of nothing but cattails, it's most likely the hybrid.

And speaking of the east coast-  we'll be off for a few days for the long holiday weekend- Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Tom

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tattered Wings of an Autumn Meadowhawk

The tattered wings of an autumn meadowhawk, photographed today on the Delaware Widlife area. 
Over the past months, I have struggled to give direction to this blog.  The best blogs are focused and updated frequently, and those two qualities have been sorely missing here.  To get me back into the blogging mood, during the work week, I'm going to present one image each evening that represents a simple nature observation I made earlier in the day.  I expect that my 30 mile drive north into the farm country of central Ohio should give me plenty of material for this venture.

During today's lunch break, I encountered this tattered, autumn meadowhawk that has survived several significant frosts.   With snow in the forecast for the end of the week, this insect is not long for this world, but our 60 degree temperatures gave me something to be thankful for- the opportunity to photograph a dragonfly in late November.

Tom

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ready for Winter


All the leaves are down from our backyard bur oak- finally. We've spent the last four Sunday afternoons blowing, raking, and hauling leaves.

Tom

Friday, November 19, 2010

Back to Yellowstone


If you've been following me for a while, you'll remember my trip to Yellowstone this past June.  After I came back, I started a new job, so I didn't have much time to really pour through the images from our three night camping adventure.  I'm off from work today, so this morning I took a second look at the images from America's megafauna capital.

A series of images of this bison scratching its head caught my eye, and I started to work on this particular shot in Adobe Camera Raw. After playing around with several different ways of cropping the image, I saw a little black speck perched upon the dead log.



Ah ha!  A brown-headed cowbird hiding out right next to a bison.  How cool is that?  If you've studied birding or ecology in north America, one of the biggest stories told in the field is the eastward migration of the cowbirds as America's forests were cleared. Adapted to range with the bison of the American plains, the cowbirds didn't have time to raise a nest full of young, so they somehow learned to lay their eggs in other birds nests.  Quite an interesting strategy for sure.  But as we opened up the forests, they started laying eggs in the nests of species that hadn't learned to recognize the cowbird eggs, and, to make  a long story short, we've got plenty of cowbirds around these days.


So although I've seen cowbirds here in Ohio a thousand times, seeing them in the open plains of Yellowstone National Park, sitting right next to a bison, leads me to respect this species just a little more.  They didn't clear the forests of the east- we did!

Slough Creek Valley, Yellowstone National Park, frequented by hundreds, if not thousands, of Bison.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Backyard Mystery




This is what I found in our backyard underneath our giant bur oak this evening.  What can take down a crow in a suburban-within-the-beltway backyard in Worthington, Ohio?  Could a Cooper's hawk really take a crow?  Perhaps a great horned owl?  No carcass in sight- just two wings, some scattered feathers, and a smidgen of intestine.

Tom

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Fall in Maine








In early October, Megan, Weston and I traveled to Little Pond Maine.  I'm not going to blog extensively about that trip, but I did want to share images of this beautiful state.  I can't think of any other place that I would rather be in early October.

Tom

Friday, November 05, 2010

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis   
I'm not sure when I first learned about white-throated sparrows.  It was sometime when I was in college- I remembering seeing one on the grounds of a motor inn in Bar Harbor, Maine sometime after I had purchased the Peterson's Birding By Ear C.D.s  I learned the song of this sparrow before I had knowingly seen the bird.  The whistling "Oh Sam Peabody Peabody" or "Oh Sweet Canada Canada Canada", whichever you prefer, is easy to learn and hard to forget.  So when I saw one singing for the first time from atop a planted blue spruce, I knew exactly what I was looking at.

I've gone on to see many white-throated sparrows both in Ohio and Maine, where I captured this image in early October.  Also residents of the northern coniferous forests like the Pine Siskin, these birds are regular common winter visitors here in central Ohio.  I've been encountering flocks of a dozen or so birds on my daily lunch break walk around the Delaware Wildlife area.  I encounter them most often in thickets and edge habitats.  It's neat to think that there is a chance, all be it minuscule, that I might encounter the same bird in Ohio that I may have photographed during the summer in the woods of Maine.

Tom

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pine Siskin


Hello nature lovers- I'm back in the game, at least temporarily.  After a six week break from my computer, I finally got it back up and running again.  I've been photographing things along the way, like this Pine Siskin that was hanging out at Deer Haven Preserve on Saturday.  I've never photographed this species, so I was lucky to get this one perfect pose.  If you aren't familiar with pine siskins, they're a type of finch that often migrates southward from coniferous forests further north.  The species  occasionally "irrupts" in large numbers when the food supply is low in the boreal forests.  This one was feeding with a flock of 20 plus goldfinches feeding on nyger and sunflower seed- if I wasn't tipped off by naturalist Kim at Deer Haven, I probably would have never noticed it.

Tom

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let's Catch Up

Sometime you just need a break, and that is exactly what I've had the past few weeks when my #1 computer, the command center of my digital photography workflow, ceased to work.  I have been taking photos, but at a much slower pace than before the computer breakdown.  And if you remember my post on Car Fever- I have somewhat solved that problem.  This past weekend Megan and I purchased a 2009 Subaru Outback.  It's a great car and I love it, but now it is time to sell my  supercharged 2003 Toyota Corolla S.  If you know anyone close to Columbus that is looking for a sporty car with great gas mileage, please shoot me an e-mail.

And there are more updates to our lives.  Weston is now 19 months old, and every day he seems to need more attention.  It's great, it's fantastic- I love how he is aging and becoming more interactive with us- it just means that there is less time to do other things. Like blogging and taking photographs of nature.  What am I doing more?  Playing the piano and the electric guitar at Weston's request- he loves music.

Congratulations go out to Megan, who has a new position as a full time assistant professor of nursing at the largest university in SW Ohio (think bears...think cats...think the Ohio River).  Fortunately for us, she'll be working exclusively in said university's online nursing program, meaning she can do almost all of the work here at our home in Worthington.  She will travel to the afformentioned university only a few times a quarter.  She has found it incredibly rewarding to be able to take care of our son and hold a full time faculty position at a major university.  I'm mega-proud of Megan!

And finally, perhaps the biggest news of all.  If everything goes OK (I'm extra cautious, being the husband of a women's reproductive health professional), we'll be adding one more member to our family come March.  We just had our twenty week ultrasound and everything looks good.  This pregnancy has been different for both Megan and I- we can only imagine just how different this child will be from Weston.  Like Weston, we chose to find out the baby's gender at its birth. We are still working on potential names- picking two great names this time is much more challenging- yes, I think we've even scrapped the girl name that we had picked last time.
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All in all, I have enjoyed a little break from the Blogosphere, the Twitterverse, and Facebook.  Once I get my computer back up and running, you'll see more of us, but for now, I'm enjoying this little break.  I'll be back, refreshed and rejuvenated before you know it.

Tom

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Car Fever

Yes, this is a particularly off-topic post, but behind every great naturalist, there is a great vehicle. We've all seen Jim McCormac's sweet VW Jetta TDI, or Jim Bissell's subaru outback, or Rick Gardner's Hyundai Elantra, right?

The car I drive now, and have since May of 2004, is decidedly unfit for a naturalist.  It's a 2003 Toyota Corolla- which sounds plain and boring, until I let you know what has been done to it.  The previous owner had the dealer install a supercharger, making it quick as lighting.  They lowered the car two inches and put on the 16-inch double spoke wheels that came standard on the early 2000's Celica.  The bottom line?  It's a sweet car, and it's been amazingly fun to drive all of these years, but it no longer meets my needs.

First of all, I'm a dad now.  Fatherhood was quite possibly the farthest thing from my mind when I purchased the 'yota when I was a young bachelor in a new, big city (although maybe that's how things work, if you catch my drift).  Fast forward six and half years, and I've got a 19 month old dragging me into the living room as soon as I get home from work, wanting me to play the electric guitar.  Although I'd love to cruise around the city with the little guy in his car seat, the Corolla is too low to be safe for little kids.

Second of all- The car is undrivable when we have more than a few inches of snow.  Winters in Columbus are hit and miss.  That means that the cities here don't invest enough in snow plow equiptment to really take care of things when a big snow event does happen (although I must say the comparatively rich suburbs are great with snow plowing).  I'd say we have a "bad" winter every other year, and when we do, the city shuts down for a few days after we get 6 or more inches of snow.  When that happens, I'm not going anywhere in my Corolla.  Normally that had been OK-  I would just take Megan's car to work.  But now Megan has a new job where she might have to drive to the University of Cincinnati now and then.  She needs her car, and I can't rely on it any more.

Thirdly-   I don't have a five mile, one way commute anymore- I have a 30 mile one-way commute.  My car won't cut it in winter.

So I'm looking for a new ultimate naturalist vehicle.  I have test driven four crossover SUV type vehicles.  On paper the Honda Element would be fantastic, except that I just can't get over it's boxy profile, and the drive of the CR-V was too plain for me.   I have fallen in love with the looks of the 2010 Chevy Equinox, but it feels like a bigger car than it really is. When I test drove it today, I was reminded of my Grandpa's 1995 Oldsmobile 88.  Both General Motors products are great cars, comfortable with a smooth ride, but fun doesn't really factor into the equation with either.  We also tried the Toyota RAV-4, a great car despite the recall- I just don't like how the back door swings open and to the side rather than up.

So what vehicle do I keep thinking about?  What car did I like driving the most?  Quite simply, it's the Subaru Forester. It's understated elegance coupled with a just a little bit of quirk, including a huge panoramic windshield make it quite appealing.  It just might be the ultimate naturalist vehicle that I'm after.

Tom

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Computer Update

As most of you know, this past week I had a major computer crash and my hard drives became un-bootable.  I've been shut down since then.

Well, not entirely- I'm actually writing this post from the problem computer.  But the computer isn't running Windows- It's using an Ubuntu Linux OS straight from a CD.  I must say, it's sort of cool using a computer without any hard drives- It reminds me of my Apple IIe days back in the late 80's and early 90's.  Put in your program on a disk, and it runs just perfectly.

With the help of my friend James, we were able to determine that both of my hard drives are actually completely fine, and I will be able to recover any data that I had previously lost.  In fact, it's already been recovered on a brand new tiny little 750 GB external hard drive I picked up at Microcenter yesterday.

That being said, my digital photography workflow is currently non-existant.  I haven't picked up my camera since all this happened, and to be perfectly honest, I've enjoyed my time away from the gear.  Nature photography had definitely turned into a second job (without pay) for me, and the break from being constantly behind a lens feels like a much needed vacation.

Tom

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ughh

What goes around eventually comes around, and I have been bitten by the technology bug, unfortunately.  My #1 computer is down for the count- The mirrored RAID array in my Dell computer has failed, and my two redundant hard drives are inoperable.   By going with a system that had two redundant hardrives, I was being extra cautious- or so I thought.  In the end, it wasn't the hard drives that went bad, but the system that creates the two copies screwed up each hard drive.  FORTUNATELY, I'm only going to loose a few months of photographs that weren't backed up.  With a combination of  online backup using Backblaze and manually backing up photographs on DVD, I consider myself very fortunate

Nevertheless, since my #1 computer is inoperable (right now I'm using an ancient Mac on permanent loan to me by a friend), my digital photography workflow will be seriously hampered, and the usual photography centric posts on this blog will come to a temporary pause.  The blessing in disguise?  Perhaps this is an opportunity to brush up on my nature writing.

Tom

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mourning Dove


This is my all-time favorite image of a morning dove that I have personally taken.  Usually, doves are on the ground scuttling about on their short legs, pecking around.  This typical posture does not make for interesting photographs.  This past Saturday at the Deer Haven Preserve,  I was lucky enough to watch this bird land on a branch but and give me this fabulous "look-back" pose.  I hope to work more with this model in the future.

Tom

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak



Today I started a new venture- I'll be volunteering my time with the Preservation Parks of Delaware County about once a month or so working at the Deer Haven Lodge nature center.  Today was my first day, and although visitation was light by human beings, the bird feeders there were quite active.  This beautiful female rose-breasted grosbeak stopped by the feeding station, and I had my camera ready.  What a great way to spend an afternoon.

Tom

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shawnee Smilax



On our recent visit to Shawnee State Park and Forest over the labor day weekend, I tried to climb a ridge one evening to get a clear view of the sunset. I was unable to find a clear view of the western sky, so I set up Megan's Canon SX20 is on my tripod to take an image of the interior of the forest.

Shawnee's dry ridgetop forests are often blanketed with the tangling vines of greenbriars (Smilax species). Thank goodness for trails, because you don't want to walk through a patch of these without thick pants.

Why was I shooting with Megan's camera? I forgot my wide angle lens for the trip! Megan's SX20 has a nice wide angle/telephoto zoom, so that is what I brought with me on my evening photo adventure. For this shot, I captured 8 different exposures, and combined them using Photomatix Pro. This technique of taking varying exposure information from multiple photographs and squishing it all together into one photograph is called High Dynamic Range photography, or now simply known as HDR. It's a technique that is evolving- many point and shoot cameras can create this type of image without extra software.

Some have scoffed at HDR while others love it- it is certainly a polarizing topic in photography. To me, it is another tool in the box of camera goodies that I have at my disposal. And for something like the interior of a forest, at sunset, with bright highlights and very dark shadows, using HDR imaging allows me present an image of what my eyes actually saw better than a single photograph would have allowed.

-Tom

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum

Check out TA Photography for a MUCH  larger image.

I'm sitting  in our basement after returning from a quick visit to Shawnee State Park.  Although we were only gone two nights, it actually seemed longer- we felt like we really had a great family getaway.  I photographed mostly in the early morning and evenings- just a few things here and there that I will share over the next week.  Shawnee is a spectacular wonderland that abounds with nature- I can't get enough- and it certainly beats our basement!

Tom

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Stalking the Arrow Clubtail


And for my third post of the day (that has to be a record!), I wanted to give a quick update for those that saw my talk at the Great Lakes Odonata Society meeting this past July.  I dropped in to Kenney Park this evening to see if the arrow or russet-tipped clubtails were flying, and it didn't take more than five minutes to spot this guy.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a good shot, and it soon zipped up into the trees.  This is the arrow clubtail, previously unknown from Franklin County until I photographed it in 2007.  In late 2008, Bob Glotzhober and I went to the Olentangy to look for them again, and we found the super rare russet-tipped clubtail, which had never been collected or documented in all of central Ohio.  No luck with the russet-tipped today, but if you go to Kenney Park to see these clubtails, be on the lookout for something that looks like the dragon pictured above, but with a brownish tip to the abdomen.

I'm super pumped- tomorrow Megan, Weston and I are headed to Shawnee- A quick two night va-cay.  I'm super pumped.

Tom

Nature Isn't Always Pretty


I hadn't seen a eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) in our suburban yard until this morning- and it wasn't exactly the encounter I was hoping for.  As I stepped outside onto our front porch this morning, I scared up a band of five crows huddled over something at the edge of our driveway.  As I walked over, it didn't take long to figure out what they were after.  Megan came out with Weston, and our friend Kathleen met us to walk to the Farmer's market.  They wanted me to dispose of the body, but I let nature take its course.  Upon our return, a few bits of fluff were all that remained.

Tom

Striking Botanical Gold

This is my latest contribution to "Ohio Flora" a new blog all about the native and naturalized plants of Ohio.
-Tom-


An Ohio mega-rarity, Schoenoplectus smithii

Many of you know that I've spent the last seven years of my life as a botanist for the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.  I didn't start out that way.  Initially I thought I knew quite a bit about Ohio's flora, but I was quickly humbled by the knowledge of people like Jim McCormac, Greg Schneider, and Rick Gardner.  I really do remember one of the first days out in the field when Greg explained to me the basic differences between a grass and a sedge.  I've come a long way.

That brings us to last week, where I had perhaps my best discovery yet.  This summer I've been finishing out a grant as an employee of the Division of Wildlife since the demise of Natural Areas and Preserves as a stand-alone division this past June.  I decided to head up to Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve to see if I could find the elusive Potentilla paradoxa (state endangered) or perhaps Sagitarria cuneata, (state threatened).

I was skunked with those two species, but on the last mudflat I examined, I struck botanical gold.  My partners dropped me off at a small island near the mouth of the marsh.  I've visited the mudflat surrounding the island several times, but today, something caught my eye.  Like a bit gleaming precious metal, one grass-like plant stood out above the carpet of spikerushes and water purslane.

Mudflat at Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve
Below me was a bulrush, but unlike the much more common and large species like Softstem bulrush (Schoenoplectus taebernaemontani) or common threesquare (Schoenoplectus pungens), this plant was miniature.  Its green culms (stems) weren't much longer than a robust blunt spikerush (Eleocharis compressa) but instead of having a terminal inflorescence (flower head), the spikes were lateral, with long bracts above the spikes (a group of sedge flowers).

Immediately I knew this was something REALLY cool.  The first instinct of a professional botanist is to pick the plant to examine it in the hand.  It's a horrible habit.  I've tried to train my brain to stop and think before I pick something that I just found that I'm super excited about.  Fortunately, that gear kicked in and I began to look for more plants without any luck.  Only one clump!  Ugh....what to do?  Without a specimen, I wouldn't be able to identify it.  I carefully pried loose three culms from the mud, leaving eight intact.  I was super excited, not really knowing what I found, but also realizing that it was probably something really cool.  I have been studying the flora of the Lake Erie Coast for almost five years, but had never seen anything quite like what I had just collected.

Back at the office, I "Googled" the online edition of Volume 23 of the Flora of North America- the volume that treats the sedge family.  Fortunately for me, there are only a handful of Scheonoplectus species in Ohio, so I quickly narrowed down my specimen to one of two things- Pursh's bulrush (Schoenoplectus purshianus) and Smith's bulrush (Schoenoplectus smithii).  A look at a seed underneath the dissecting microscope, and the fact that the bract above the inflorescence made me believe this was indeed Smith's bulrush.  This state endangered species was last seen along the Lake Erie Coast in 1988 and is known from only one other modern location in Ohio.

I sent a few photos to Rick Gardner and Dan Boone, who had had last observed this plant in Ohio in 2006.  Dan called that afternoon and said "Tom, you've got Smithii".  But there was only one problem- I only found one plant at Sheldon Marsh.  Smith's bulrush is an annual that produces thousands of seeds. The seeds are incorporated into the soil, lying in wait for decades until the right conditions to return once again.  I had found only one plant, so my find could just be a meaningless waif.  I needed to find more.


So I decided to check out the last place where it had been observed- East Harbor State Park.  Dr. Ron Stuckey had documented two plants, yes, only two plants in 1988.  Perhaps it had returned to East Harbor this year as well?

After walking the mile and a half to the location where he collected  it along a rip-rap wall, I found what I was expecting- the habitat was gone-no mudflats, just the open water of a deep boating channel.  I wasn't ready to give up though. There was still one more place I needed to look- a deep water pond and mudlflats of an experimental wetland right near the parking lot.  I was expecting to see the state endangered Caribbean spikerush, (Eleocharis geniculata) growing there- I had observed it five years prior, but Smith's bulrush was not there then- would it be now?

After a few stops along the way where we found a few other state listed species, we finally set out to find the experimental wetland.  By this time, since I had found some other goodies- I was prepared to find the Caribbean spikerush, get into our nearby vehicle and drive off to our next spot.

When we arrived at the wetland, I saw great mudflats with tons of spikerushes.  My attention immediately turned to the rhizomatous red-footed spike-rush (Eleocharis erythropoda) and a really big weird thing that I hadn't seen before. Or at least I thought.  Carpeting the mudflats was the healthiest population of Caribbean spikerush I had seen.  I had known this species as micro plant with culms not much longer than an inch growing in dried out mud pools of abandoned limestone quarries.  But here on these mudflats, with optimal conditions, the clumps were downright huge, probably eight inches across.

It didn't take but a few more steps though, and the shiny botanical gold shined into my eyes once again.  A giant clump of Smith's bulrush was right at my feet! COOL!  It was such a satisfying moment- I had set out to find more of this plant, and right there at my feet was a robust clump.  I looked around with Chris Grimm, my botanical partner-in-crime this past August, and we just kept seeing more clumps- As we walked around the mudflat, no fewer that 75 Smith's bulrush were bursting from the mud.  How cool!

This past week has probably been my most satisfying week in seven years of botanizing around Ohio because of the Smith's bulrush find.  Only a handful of plants had ever been documented on Lake Erie's shore in the history of Ohio's botanical exploration, and I had found the mother-load.  In a week, years of searching for rare and unusual things in northern Ohio paid off right there in a mud puddle at East Harbor State Park.  I feel great about the work I've done- the hundreds of specimens that I have collected and processed, the thousands of miles I have driven across northern Ohio.  I certainly won't be retiring as a botanist, but this phase of my career will soon be ending.  I had the best job that I could ever ask for the past seven years.  But like all good things, it must come to an end, and I will look back with only fond memories- especially of a little bulrush named Smithii.

Tom

Thursday, September 02, 2010

This Day, Minus Three Years


Isn't it amazing how digital cameras allow us to document practically ever day of our lives?  I take photos almost every day, and I'm starting to build up quite a collection- over 300 Gigabytes of still images.  I'm using a service called Backblaze to backup my important files to "the cloud" so that if our house burns down, I won't loose them all.  The problem with this process is that it is slower than molasses when you've got to send over 500 gigabytes across the internet.  I've been uploading data to them for a month almost nonstop, and I've sent just over 130 GB.  As long as I don't create data faster than I upload it, I figure that eventually, I'll have everything backed up on a remote server in San Francisco.

From time to time, I check what's been backed up, and all of my photos from 2007 have been uploaded.  It's hard to believe I've gone from exclusively point and shoot photography to where I am today, but time does fly.  Tonight I asked the question, just what was I doing on this day back in 2007?  It wasn't hard to figure out.  Megan and I were celebrating our  first wedding anniversary a day early by attending her friend's wedding at the Cincinnati Nature Center.  As we left to head back to the hotel, I snapped this amazing shot of the beloved white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus.

I find it pretty amazing that I can go back and know what I was doing exactly three years ago todayAnd it's just only going to get worse since everybody is carrying a capable cell phone camera with them, we'll all be documenting every waking moment of our lives.  Here is the image that I took on this day three years ago- What was the subject of your "three years ago" photograph?

Tom