Saturday, October 15, 2016

Changing Things Up

First, no baby.  Our due date is Monday.  We are anxious.

Second, the oak is gone.  It is a giant weight lifted off our shoulders, literally.

Third, I will say again, Instagram is THE BOMB.  I'm loving it.  Two photos a day, one in the morning, one in the evening.  And I'm meeting other amazing people there who produce wonderful photographs.  And I'm seeing a wide variety of styles of macro images, which leads me to today's post:

I'm bored of using the same old lenses in the same old style, and today, I turned my eye away from the technical to the artistic. Using an ancient Vivitar zoom designed for the Pentax screwmount film cameras, coupled with an adapter and extension tubes, I came up with the following imagery for today's blog.  The theme will become clear. After all, it is October!

Think of us, think of Megan, and send us labor vibes!  We need them.....


Sunday, September 25, 2016

It's Time to Say Goodbye to the Backyard Bur Oak

When we moved to Worthington in June of 2008, we chose a house with a massive bur oak tree in the backyard.  If you've followed this blog for a while, you will surely remember many great stories and photos about this tree.  The tree is truly massive, weighing an unbelievable amount- there's probably 250 TONS of wood suspended in the air in our backyard.

Well, since October 2013, we have been falling out of love with the tree.  One morning that fall, we awoke to a massive limb down in the backyard, having fallen overnight during calm weather.  At that time, we scheduled a tree company to take the tree down, but at the last minute, I made the call to give it one more chance.

Last Friday, Megan was at home, in her office, when this massive limb fell in a wrenching force.  If With the help of my dad, we've cleaned up most of the downed leaves. If anyone had been in the impact area, they would not have stood a chance. Thank God no one was injured, however, this giant limb remains perilously attached by a thread, threatening to fail at any minute.

Knowing that we can just not live with this anymore, Megan and I have decided without doubt that it is time for our family to say goodbye to the backyard bur oak.

The Old Bur Oak in 2009

When our house was built in 1966, this was literally the only tree on the block, as seen below in this photo hosted on the Worthington Memory website.

We have tried to be good stewards to the tree. As you can see, the tree is a part of the neighborhood and beloved by many. The three former owners before us obviously loved and cared for the tree.  We have tried to keep that legacy, unfortunately, this is a decision that was just too easy to make; we cannot live with this risk anymore.  The tree will be taken down within the next two weeks.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the limb failed this season is that the tree had an incredible year of growth, producing a flush of leaves and an incredible amount of acorns. Weston and Brody love the tree, and this is a difficult decision to explain to young boys.  "Don't you love nature, Dad?  If you cut the tree, you are destroying nature!?!" Yes, Weston, but we are fortunate this year that we have dozens of acorns to collect.  We can plant these, and grow many more young bur oaks, trees that we will gladly give to any friend that has plenty of space for a wonderful shade tree to watch and grow.

Goodbye old girl!


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Are you on Instagram?

I've used Instagram for quite some time, but I've only recently found my voice there, at least photographically.  If you are a photographer, it's an amazing platform to share your work, and to find other inspiring nature photographers.  I've been using Adobe Lightroom Mobile to get my DSLR taken images to my mobile device, a workflow that is quick, easy, and automatic.

Join me on Instagram!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Bean Leaf Beetle: Backyard Biodiversity Project Species #7

While it may seem hard to believe, each one of these beetles is a member of the species Ceretoma trifurcata. While highly variable in color and pattern, the characteristic to look for in this species is the triangular shaped patch on the abdomen just behind the thorax.  I photographed these three beetles in my front yard, all within a area no bigger than 100 square feet.  In the plant world, flower color doesn't mean much; apparently that holds true to at least some species of beetles as well.
As I dig in deeper to this project, I'm finding more biodiversity in my yard than I could have ever expected.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Backyard Insects to be Identified

I've been busy photographing all types of insects for the backyard biodiversity project I've began.  Here are a few things from a weekend afternoon of exploring the insects of our yard.  I will be doing my best to identify each one to species, but here's just a peek from all the different types I photographed.

Does something look familiar to you?  I'm here to learn!


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Welcome to September

I have been taking photographs, but I got out of the blogging routine.  Once you're in, you're in, but when you're out, boy is it hard to get back in.  I've been photographing many fascinating creatures for the backyard biodiversity project which will provide great material for posts during our dark gray winters! 

Yesterday during a trip to Kenney Park, my favorite local haunt for photographing nature, I spotted a single tall boneset in bloom on the riverbank.  It was filled with pollinators.  As I snapped away, however, there was a strange part of one of the flower heads that was waving in a way that just didn't match.  What is that?

Upon closer inspection, what I was seeing was an extremely well camouflaged caterpillar.  I'm not exactly sure which species this belongs to, but wow, isn't nature cool?  When ever you see insects on plants, look even more closely.  You're likely to see a whole host of awesome biodiversity that you never knew was there. 

Finally, we've hit the home stretch with baby Arbour. Megan is 34 weeks into this pregnancy; Brody was two weeks early.  Final preparations are being made, and we are all getting cautiously excited.


Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Arbour Adventures

My kids are loving our "Arbour Adventures" YouTube Channel we've created.  I thought it would last a few videos, but we just keep coming up with new ideas.  Here's their latest.  They would LOVE LOVE LOVE if you would consider subscribing.  They ask me every day if we have any new fans.



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Nature Photographers to Explore

A quick note: I'm working on repainting our stairs in preparation for the new baby- our old runner was failing, and it was time to rip it up, repaint the stairs, and install a new one. I'm updating my "Nature Photographers to Explore" section in the right sidebar of the blog. I've added many of my favorite photographers- take a look and visit their websites. Who are your favorite nature photographers that I'm missing? Who should I add to the list? Are you a nature photographer that would like more exposure? Add your link to your blog or photo archive in the comments. Happy weekend, -Tom

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

An Agalliopsis Species: Backyard Biodiversity Project Species #6

What I'm finding out about the world of insects is how relatively common species that I encounter in my backyard are poorly unknown.  This leafhopper is tiny, and supposedly there are 15 species in the genus Agalliopsis,but only two are listed on bugguide, and they look quite similar!  So for this species, as far as I'm going to get for now to identify it to genus. This one is truly tiny, probably 5 millimeters long or less!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Twenty-Spotted Lady Beetle: BBP Species #5

I photographed this beetle larva on August 9 on the undersides of the leaves of my double flowered green-headed coneflower.  I thought it was a long shot to identify, but thank you to and James Bailey who confirmed that this is the larva of the twenty-spotted lady beetle, Psyllobora vigintimaculata.  The adults are brownish and white, quite different when compared to the typical red and black of the more familiar species. This photo is a particularly nice image of an adult.  Now I need to find one and photograph one- I would imagine this larva, if it survived, would be an adult now.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Evening Ride Along the Olentangy

Olentangy River at I-270

Antrim Park

Alloway St. E.

We're back from Munroe Falls; we had a great time at the Hill family reunion on Saturday, and this morning we visiting my grandmother.  After the two-hour drive back to Columbus, I decided to take the bike out for an evening ride on the Olentangy trail.  The number of riders is nearly zero on Sunday evenings, my favorite time of the week to go for a ride.  The temperatures in the lower 70's really made for a perfect ride.

I first went north as far as I could go, pausing to photograph the location where the I-270 interchange with State Route 315 is being re-worked.  Then down to Antrim Park, where I stopped and watched the flock of mixed-parentage mallards.  Then finally home where I spotted the contrast between clouds and Norway spruce as I pulled into our driveway.

Have a great week,


Friday, August 19, 2016

Gone Fishin'

Well, not really.  This weekend my mom is organizing a big reunion of my maternal grandmother's family.  We haven't gotten together in 11 years, and I've been spending the last two nights preparing a slideshow of old family photos.  Here's a gem that I thought you might like- my great grandfather Floyd Hill with a nice rack of fish, most likely caught somewhere in Canada.  If you remember my post on my historical fishing tackle, most of it I believe was his originally.

I'll be back next week.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Polished Lady Beetle: BBP Species #4

The polished lady beetle (Cycloneda munda) is quite the stunning little beetle, despite its lack of spots.  The milkweed that I've planted attracts many aphids, and the aphids in turn attract lady beetles.  For us native plant gardeners, we get excited when we find bugs sipping the juices of our plants.  That's the whole reason we planted them on!  Bugs feed bugs, and those bugs feed birds and many other backyard wildlife species.  The genus Cycloneda contains three species in North America, all without spots. Munda is the one species likely to be encountered in Ohio; the other two either live south or west of the buckeye state.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Day of School

This morning the boys just left for their first day of school.  Weston starts first grade, Brody begins kindergarten.  Wow time flies!


Bursting from the Leaf - Backyard Biodiversity Project Mystery

I don't know what this is, but it isn't alive anymore.  Could it be the result of some type of leaf mining fly?  I'm not sure.  If you know, please let us know!  As you can see, this pupae is tiny, barely a millimeter long, taken with very high magnification.  Just look at the hairs on the undersides of those leaves!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Spotted Cucumber Beetle: BBP Species #3

Let me start off by saying I love insects, but I don't really know much about them.  Part of the reason I'm doing this backyard biodiversity project is to learn more.  The interest in insects started because I kept seeing all kinds of creatures living on the plants that I studied, both in the field and at home.

This is a species that it quite common, and it is quite a hated pest.  Known to harm members of the squash family, I actually found several climbing on the petals of my double-flowered green-headed coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata). They can also exhibit a green color, particularly on the thorax, but this one was primarily yellow.  Its scientific name is Diabrotica undecimpunctata,  the epithet roughly translating to "eleven spots".  The "V" shaped spot counts as one spot, apparently, but doesn't it look like it's split down the middle?  Who am I to argue!

I've been seeing this one for years nearly everywhere I go in Ohio, and now I finally know a little bit more about this relatively common inhabitant of our backyard.  To learn all about them, spending some time reading this page by the University of Florida.  They can damage crop plants in many different ways.  As far as I could tell, this is a native species.

As always, please feel free to add your experiences and knowledge about each creature I feature in the BPP series.  Thanks!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Arbour Adventures: COSI With Grandpa

Grandpa Glenn, aka "Bah" visited Worthington this weekend. We had a blast at COSI, central Ohio's famous science museum that draws families from across Ohio. Enjoy! -Tom

Friday, August 12, 2016

Monarch Butterfly: BBP Species #2

We planted quite a bit of milkweed last year, courtesy of Ohio Prairie Nursery's milkweed madness seed packet. We watched as dozens of monarch caterpillars feasted, grew, pupated, and eclosed.  With monarch numbers down this year, we didn't even see a monarch until yesterday. This evening during an outside check of the weather, I looked down and found this!  How this one escaped our eyes for so long-it's a plant just outside our door-we don't know, but we are happy to finally be hosting our first monarch cat of 2016.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle: BBP Species #1

Ah, were you expecting a orange and black beetle?  While I have seen the adult of this species a few times in our backyard, last night was the first time I saw its larva.  As you can see, this slimy looking creature was actively eating the margin of a common milkweed leaf.  I knew it must be one of the few insects that specializes on milkweed.  My first guess that it might be the larva of a milkweed beetle, but after doing a little research, I believe this is the larvae of the swamp milkweed leaf beetle, Labidoderma clivicollis.  It looks quite different from the adult!  Looking at it in this photo, I really should have touched the beetle- it appears to be wet- is the shiny body sticky?  Slippery?  Hard?  Gooey? I try not to disturb the animals I photograph, but in this case, I wish I would have explored more.

While I've photographed countless numbers of species in our backyard, now that I have started the backyard biodiversity project (let's use BBP for short), I'm going to reset and start from zero.  This is backyard biodiversity project species #1.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Backyard Biodiversity Project

I've been taking photos of the creatures in our backyard for some time.  I just haven't been blogging all these fascinating animals. There is an entire amazing world out there, just hiding among the native plant installations that have thrived over the last eight years since we moved here. I want to up the ante; I'm not going to just photograph these creatures, but I'm going to do my best to learn more about the insects (with the help of, do my best to put names on them, and to ultimately create a massive list of all the organisms that I have photographed in my quarter acre of Worthington, Ohio. How many species will I document?  1,000?  10,000?  Probably somewhere in between...

I've found the diversity of flies to be quite incredible.  While this one was encountered in Munroe Falls Ohio during are Weekend and Grandma's adventure, I thought this was the perfect image to kick off my backyard biodiversity project.


Monday, August 08, 2016

Introducing Arbour Adventures

The boys watch quite a bit of YouTube. And they really want to have their own channel. After a little brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a channel called "Arbour Adventures". This is our first installment. I hope you enjoy a little look into the weekend of a life in the Arbour family! -Tom

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Last View from Maine

One last shot of Maine.  Weston is my guy who likes physical adventures- boating, swimming in the pond, riding big wheels, and new this year, playing basketball.  We had a great trip in Maine.  I hope you enjoyed it!  Back to Ohio tomorrow...


Friday, August 05, 2016

My Frog Catcher

My Frog Catcher

Brody is a budding herpetologist; in particular, he loves frogs.  During our trip to Maine, Grandma Kate I believe flushed this pickerel frog out of her flower beds as she watered them one evening. Needless to say, we had to catch this beautiful little frog!

Unlike the leopard frogs, pickerel frogs have squarish shaped, rather than round spots, but even more diagnostic is a wash of yolk-yellow on their bellows, in particular where their limbs meet their bodies.  You can just see a little bit of that yellow on the frog's belly and where the its front arm meets the body. While we love catching frogs and a bunch of animals at Little Pond, we do have one rule- all animals caught must be released before the day is over.  This one little guidline has worked quite well over the years, I recommend it for all parents that have frog and bug catching little ones.


Thursday, August 04, 2016

American Birding Expo 2016

Vendors from around the world will be right here in central Ohio during the weekend of September 16-18 at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center just south of downtown Columbus on the Scioto River. I'm hoping to try out a wide variety of optics, with the hope of coming away with new bins and perhaps a spotting scope. I'll see you there.... -Tom

The Azure Bluet

I have just about tapped all my Maine images and I will be returning Ohio material soon; even so, many of these species I have been sharing can also be observed in the buckeye state and other locales around the Midwest and Great Lakes.  Let me know if you're enjoying my daily posting schedule.  I'll just keep sharing until I run out cool things to find; and you know that will never happen! (*or, realistically, until Megan and I usher a new human being into this world come mid-October.)

The azure bluet is an absolutely stunning damselfly.  I must admit that I've photographed hundreds of bluets over the past 10 years, but I have not put in the work needed to sort them out and truly learn them all.  That's a project for the winter as I'm currently sorting through all my images of wild creatures with the eventual goal of hosting them in galleries at my Smugmug website.  For now, the bird gallery (Aves) is complete; every species of wild bird I have ever photographed is represented there. I'd appreciate it if you took some time to explore what I've posted there- it's been fun to build, but a ton of work!


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Female Elfin Skimmer

The elfin skimmer is an extremely rare dragonfly for Ohio, known from only a few sites, including Cedar Bog.  Maine is one of its strongholds in the U.S., but I had never seen one at Little Pond, until this trip. I only saw this one female, a wasp mimic, leading me to believe they are not frequent there, and on this day, I just got lucky.


Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Ohio's Hellbenders Make the New York Times

As I get back into this blogging game, I think I'm going to offer quick posts on current topics that I think lovers of all Ohio nature stuff might like to read. I happened to catch this article on social media that details the plight of our largest salamander, the eastern hellbender, featuring herpetologist Greg Lipps.  If you'd like to see a hellbender, the Columbus Zoo has had at least  one on display in the past (although I'm not sure if they are there right now) and the Wilds near Zanesville has a entire building dedicated to this species, which includes windows into several of their breeding tanks.


Green Darner Mega Closeup

Dragonflies are amazing creatures!  They can see in nearly every direction.  Just look at those compound eyes.  I don't usually net dragonflies, but at Little Pond, I did just that this year.  Catching this male green darner was no easy feet.  After a few shots, he was returned to the friendly skies around the pond.  Green darners are just one of the dozens of dragons and damsels that live within close proximity of Little Pond.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Frosted Whiteface Mating Pair, Take 2

When writing this morning's post, I tried to composing it on my iPad.  Needless to say, the results were less than stellar.  This photo should be much better!