Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Zebra Swallowtails

Zebra Swallowtail butterflies have been seen at various locations on March 30 and 31. Several other species of butterflies were in flight today....Mourning Cloak, Cabbage White, Spring Azure, Eastern Comma / Question Mark. Expect to see the Falcate Orangetip soon.

Still looking for the Louisana Waterthrush - I expect that they are here but have not yet confirmed that. Steve Willson reported singing Henslows sparrows on Saturday, March 28.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Woodcock Watch

Each spring brings about the extraordinary courtship displays of the American woodcock, a shorebird that inhabits the wet woodland and brushy areas of Ohio. March begins these acrobatic flyers courtship rituals that consist of tight spirals reaching over 300 feet into the sky and a zig-zag descent, resembling a falling leaf. Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve is home to these splendid sky dancers who are giving display to those that wish to observe.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves will be conducting a free educational program on the American woodcock at Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday, March 25 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to participate as professional naturalists offer a presentation on the amazing life history of the American woodcock and the opportunity for first hand observation of the courtship rituals of these birds.

The program is free, suitable for all ages, and will be held at Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve, 209 Hawk Hill Road, West Union, Ohio. GPS coordinates are N38°50.422’ W083°34.427’. For more information about the program, call 937-544-9750. To learn more about Ohio’s state nature preserve system visit www.ohiodnr.com/dnap.

Micro-Botany Expedition

On Saturday, March 21, 2009, five of us, Janet Creamer, John Howard, Jeff Huxmann, Cheryl Harner, and Jessica Huxmann, got together for a micro-botany trip through the Preserve. We located several species of Draba, including the endangered Draba cuneifolia, (upper left), stone crop (Sedum), as well as some of the spring wildflowers reported by Lucy Miller, Randy Lakes, and Rich McCarty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

couple of flowers blooming

on a midday trip around the edge preserve today, helen black, ann geise and i saw snow trillium, skunk cabbage, hepatica, and rue anemone blooming. celadine poppy and cut tooth wort were setting bud.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh, its sprung all right!

This morning Lucy left early to go to a meeting in Dayton (about 6:00 am). About 7:00 she called me back to say to be careful driving down our road (Brush Creek Rd.) it is alive with critters! She reported over 30 brown snakes (upper right), a toad (upper left), spotted salamanders (center) and unknown numbers of red efts (lower right) crossing the road. I soon left and found that she was in fact correct. I had to drive 5 to 10 miles an hour to avoid them all! Now this is a seasonal thing that we look out for and it happens a bit when it rains but this was exceptional. The brown snakes seem to be synchronized so they move all at once but normally we see them in the fall, when they are going up the hills so it is unusual to see them heading down. The salamanders we start seeing them in December when they are laying their eggs in frozen or near frozen ponds. The toad was a little early as we have heard the peepers in great numbers these last few nights and would expect the toads shortly after that. Now the red efts, who knows what they were doing? They are actually young red spotted newts (lower left), they rise from eggs in the ponds as land dwelling creatures and they then go out on an American version of the Australian "walk about" for about 2 or 3 years. After that they grown slimy skin, gills and a flat tail and crawl back into the water to remain to breed and die. An interesting little bugger.
So watch out in the early mornings don't just be looking for deer (though not a bad idea also), the toads may be spotted with other lives, for goodness snakes. Remember the newt you save may be an eft!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

signs of spring

A Great Blue Heron rookery along Ohio Brush Creek has several occupied nests! Birds appear both sitting and standing on nests on this 70 degree day. This is potentially an early record for GBH breeding activity in Ohio and confirms that we should begin to pay attention to the spring arrivals - both plant and animal. It was reported on Thursday, March 5 that the Snow Trilliums were in full bloom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The often unseen

As I made my way to work this morning I saw a dozen Common Mergansers on Ohio Brush Creek along Waggoner Riffle Road. They are beautiful birds and we do not often see them. My last sighting of Common Mergansers was over five years ago near the mouth of Ohio Brush Creek at the Ohio River. The bold black and white color was easy to see against the green of the water.

There is another, often unseen occurence that could be easy to see if looked for now. As part of the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II effort to gather data about Ohio's breeding birds, I would encourage all to look for large nests that may be used by hawk or owl species. While we all see Red Tailed Hawks, and other hawk species, regularly in our area, how often have we seen one on the nest? How commonly, or uncommonly, do Red Tailed Hawks nest in our part of the state? Great Horned and Barred Owls will also be taking advantage of large stick nests in late winter / early spring. We can gather valuable information on raptor nesting even in the cold days of winter. It is a great time to scan the forests for large stick nests.

Once a nest has been located, try and determine if it being used. One obvious way to determine if a nest is active is to look at / into it to see if a bird is sitting in it. Often you can look onto/into a nest with a spotting scope or binoculars from some distance away. If the nest is visible from home or work, pay attention to how often birds are near it. Are birds carrying nest material to the nest? Are birds paired up near the nest? If you discover a nest and determine that it is being used by one of our hawk or owl species, please let us know. With directions from you about the location of the nest, we can report the activity in the Atlas effort and improve our knowledge base of Ohio's breeding birds.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Blooms of Spring!

Well, Here we are the first week of March and while walking around, I spotted my first blooms of Spring. Technically these flowers: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are not true natives. They are both native to Europe and Asia Minor and have been brought over to the United States where they have been naturalized. Some of the true natives that you should be seeing now or shortly include the Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa). Snow Trilliums (Trillium nivale) have been seen poking out of the ground, but not quite blooming yet. Spring, even though the windchill is around 0°, is really not far off!!!!!