Friday, May 27, 2011

Waiting for Magic

Thank you for taking a few minutes out your busy day to stop by and share with me my vision of the natural world.  This space on the internet has changed over time since I started blogging back in 2006, but the overarching theme has been my passion for nature.  I use digital cameras to help illustrate what I see, but I don't often go into details about the photographic process.  This is something I want to start diving into occasionally, and I hope those of you that are interested in photography will find these types of posts engaging.  If not, I hope you enjoy the images!

Early this week I had the rare opportunity to have an evening free to explore a few acres in Williams County, Ohio.  I meandered through area of grasslands and swamps looking for interesting photographic opportunities.  A low cloud deck obscured the sun, resulting in rather washed out, uninteresting evening light.  I tiptoed around the edge of a swamp searching for something of interest to photograph.  This dead stump, covered with living poison ivy vines, became my subject.  An interesting story, but not really a compelling photograph.  On my walk I did note a few white-barked quaking aspen, that if the clouds lifted, would make fantastic subjects bathed in the light of the "magic hour".

As I waited for that light, I sat on a large glacial erratic boulder, watching a gray colorless sky.  I looked at the rock and felt its ridges and furrows- it had engaging colors and patterns.  I was lamenting that Ohio doesn't have any granite bedrock like that at Yosemite, whose shear cliffs the great Ansel Adams made famous.  Then something clicked! With the right perspective, I could use this giant boulder as my Ansel Adams Cliff.  Since there wasn't much color in the scene, an Adams-esque high contrast black and white would be perfect.  What do you think?  Did I trick your eye into thinking you were looking at a tree-less mountain?

Finally, the light that I had visualized earlier did come- the sun dropped below the cloud deck, pouring golden light over everything.  What I hadn't anticipated was how cool the dead stems of last year's prairie grasses would look against the new spring greenery. I was pretty happy with this image- it was the one I was waiting for, and I almost went inside at this point.  The mosquitoes had enough of my blood already.

But I am glad I stayed put.  As the first cloud deck moved across the landscape, another quickly replaced it- but these clouds did not obscure the sun.  Just as the sun was at the horizon, these clouds started to catch "fire", and by this time, I was really excited- I don't often get sunset images like this, but I absolutely love this phenomenon.   Galen Rowell, an incredible photographer and mountaineer, loved photographing these types of moments. 

So there you have it- an hour long peek into my photographic brain.  Although I missed my family dearly, an overnight work trip allowed me to photograph the sunset.  If I have to be away, hopefully I can bring home images like these every time I am gone.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

It's been one of those weeks- our two year old son Weston has had complications with his ear tubes.  One is jammed with dried blood that won't come out despite two a day ear washings with hydrogen peroxide.  Accompanied by horrible screaming, and I don't blame him.  And on top of this, the same ear is infected  His Momma is the best momma in the world- he's a lucky duck.  Second ENT followup appointment tomorrow a.m.

This rabbit has been hanging outside our office door this week- I just happened to bring my camera in to work today- thanks for the great pose.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Plants Rock

Friday evening I was searching for creative inspiration in the back yard.  I found that inspiration in the details of plants.  Many of you know I was a botanist for the State of Ohio for seven years- I often viewed the small details of plants with a hand lens as part of my job.  Looking at the intimate structural details of plants through my camera lens on my own time is a completely different experience.  Plants are an amazing but often overlooked part of the biodiversity of our planet.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Female Red-bellied Woodpecker Searches for Food

This week, Megan alerted me to a woodpecker on our bur oak, in close view from our kitchen window.
I ran upstairs with the camera, and saw that she was exploring the deep furrows.
Red-bellied woodpeckers use their really long tongues to help them explore deep within trees.  You can barely make out that the tip of the tongue has barbs to grab hold of insects.
She must really be on to something tasty!
Look at that tongue, it's pink!
She explored dozens of furrows and holes in the bark.
And came up with a meal, which I believe is a non-native house centipede.  

Woodpeckers have amazing adapdations for living in and around trees, it's really incredible that I was able to capture all of this detail right from my kitchen.  We love our bur oak, it is an incredible tree.

For more information about the amazing tongues of woodpeckers, including some very cool photographs, visit Hilton Pond Center.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Wild Hyacinths in the......SUN!

Is that the sun I see today?  What an awesome day- you can't beat sunny, big puffy white cumulus clouds, 75 degrees, and a gentle breeze.  Especially after a week of rain, record low high temperatures, and gray clouds.  This is a patch of Wild Hyacinth at Delaware Wildlife Area.  What's strange about this population is that it grows alongside the road, and it's absolutely huge.  I've been admiring to and from work the past week, but today, I stopped and captured this 60 second landscape.

Enjoy the weekend,


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Butterweed, Packera glabella

Crop field in Delaware County, Ohio
As you drive across Ohio's farmlands, are you seeing acres of yellow right now?  If so, you're most likely seeing what I like to call butterweed.  This plant is native in the central and southeast U.S., but has rapidly expanded across Ohio in recent decades.  Just take a look at the range map for Ohio from USDA Plants:

It's all over central and western Ohio, but by looking at this map, you'd think it was a rarity.  It's even showing up in my front yard as a weed!  Why has this plant expanded so rapidly?  Is it taking advantage of no-till agriculture?  Is there something else to the story?  I'm not sure, but I bet that it grows in every county in Ohio's corn belt plains, and on this map, it barely registers in a few Ohio counties.

Plants get around- they move, and they can do things that we never expect.  And that's why I think they're incredibly cool.  Look out Pennsylvania, butterweed may be headed towards you!


p.s. (I bet it's probably there already)

Ohio Nature Blog "Wordle"

Make your own at !


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

60 Second Landscape- Whetstone Creek Swallows

I like the idea of creating 60 second landscapes- it gives me a challenge on my lunch break to come up with one view of the world to share with you. The recent rains have kept me in the office, but I make sure I walk down to the river during lunch. After a few minutes of poking around, I decided to set up the camera in the fork of a box-elder sapling pointed towards the creek. I figured that the nice flowing water would make a great subject. I was even luckier to have a few swallows flying around. I believe these are northern rough-winged swallows- but please correct me if I am wrong.

Be sure to select the 720p version if you have a fast connection- the HD video from the Iphone 4 is quite spectacular considering it is my phone that I always have with me.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pearl Crescent- An Underappreciated Butterfly

The Pearl Crescent is a tiny little butterfly that's easy to miss.  But it's common almost in every grassy habitat in Ohio, including the Worthington Olentangy Parklands near our home.  They're small and you'll miss them if you're not looking for them - the grass blades give a nice scale to this image

We're tired in the Arbour household- today Weston had minor outpatient surgery to have tubes installed in his ears.  Hopefully, the tubes will help prevent ear infections and help him hear better.  You can tell the little guy's hearing is different already, as he was talking and yelling at a higher volume this afternoon.  Let's hope it works- he actually had an ear infection today when he went in to get his tubes, so we're really glad we made the decision to go ahead with them.  Speaking of Weston...I hear his voice upstairs with looks like he wasn't ready for bed after all.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indigo Bunting

May 14, 2011- Worthington Olentangy Parklands

I can remember the first time I had ever heard that the indigo bunting even existed. I was probably in second grade.  There was a substitute teacher at Riverview Elementary, Mrs. Johnson, who to my seven year old brain was crazy. I thought she was just totally loopy and I still to this day have never seen anyone whose face was as deeply crimson.  You probably were a nice lady Mrs. Johnson, but I lived in fear that you weren't going to get me out of the classroom and out to the right bus.  And for a second grader, not getting home to one's family is about the worst case scenario one can imagine.

I don't know how I still remember this, but one day in class she just started talking about the "prettiest litttle bluuuuu bird" called an indigo bunting, and she hadn't seen one in a long time.  As a second grader, I had never seen one, and don't remember my first encounter, but I'll never forget Mrs. Johnson.

This morning while walking along the Olentangy River in Worthington, several indigo buntings were calling from the edge of the woods.  This species likes edges and shrubby areas. If you'd like to see them, head to the Worthington Olentangy Parklands or check around old fields and scrubby habitats near you.

Happy International Migratory Bird Day-


Friday, May 13, 2011

Eastern Box Turtle

Whew, what a week, is it really over? This week the field season for my day job began in earnest.  When you're working with birds, you've to go be on their schedule.  I set my alarm this week anywhere from 2:45 to 4:00 a.m. depending where I needed to be to count grassland birds.  Needless to say, adjusting to this new schedule is not easy, but I think I'm in the swing of things now. 

This morning on my way to a field site, I encountered this male eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina) just as you see it.  I quickly jumped out of the car to photograph this amazing creature with my trusty Iphone 4.  Although this gravel road gets little traffic, I still moved him to the other side where he was headed.  I don't think there's a better way to start a field day than with a box turtle.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

Kirtland's Warbler, Columbus Ohio

We've been quite lucky to host  in Columbus an extremely rare bird- a male Kirtland's Warbler.  Listed as Endangered by the Federal Government, this is the rarest of the rare amongst wood warblers in the United States.  First spotted this past Wednesday, I believe, it was still hanging out in an elm tree at 960 Kinnear Rd in front of a building owned by Ohio State.  I went with my neighbor Rick to see and photograph it this afternoon- it was still there at 2:00 p.m. What a great bird!


Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Tale of Two Irises

Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris verna

Dwarf Violet Iris, Iris verna

Shawnee State forest has two native Iris species that live in upland woods- not wetlands.  These two species are relatively frequent along the roads of Shawnee State forest and may be my favorite plants in the forest.  I'm just so fascinated by Irises that live in upland woods, rather than wetlands.  Aren't they cool?  I like the dwarf crested iris so much that I purchased a nice one gallon pot from Scioto Gardens last year that is quickly spreading in my backyard wildflower garden.  I could photograph these over, and over, and over again.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Flora-quest Isn't Only Flowers

Ringneck Snake, Diadophis punctatus

Although Flora-Quest is a celebration of the late spring Flora of Shawnee State Park and Forest, Cheryl allows us to look at other things too.  Shawnee State Forest has quite possibly the state's most interesting reptile and amphibian populations, and during the weekend I was able to photograph these charasmatic herptiles.

Mole salamander larva, possibly a spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculata.

Northern Slimy Salamander, Plethodon glutinosus


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pink Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slippers, Cypripedium acaule

As you may have guessed, it's Shawnee week!  After spending Flora-quest weekend at Shawnee State Forest and State Park, I've got plenty of images of amazing plants and animals to share.  I hope you enjoy!



Monday, May 02, 2011

Two Tiger Swallowtails

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus

Shawnee State Forest, May 1, 2011

Sunday, May 01, 2011

FloraQuest 2011

Here's an image I liked while I was quickly running through my photos from Shawnee- I love being a guide from Flora Quest- and I enjoyed meeting and talking to so many people, several of you who read my blog.  I really appreciate that you take a few minutes of your time to stop at this corner of the internet.  Flora-quest 2011 was fantastic, I can't wait for next year.