Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stop raking leaves and read a book!

 Leaves make good mulch...and they're free!
Speaking of leaves...I wonder what tree they fell from?

 Oh...wasn't that caption such a clever segue to our first book? Where's that Pulitzer Prize? Just think of the camera gear AND that 500mm lens I could get...but anyway...

Princeton Field Guides recently came out with this timely tome, "Trees of Eastern North America" by Gil Nelson, Christopher J. Earle and Richard Spellenberg with wonderful illustrations by David More. I'm hoping with time and a little study of this book I'll be able to say, "Hey! Look in the Common Hackberry! There's a Turdus Migratorius at 4:15!" or something intelligent like that.

All joking aside, and that's very difficult for me, this is a great book covering over 800 species of trees found in the US. I even figured out what tress we have in our yard! Similar to a bird guide, trees are broken down by families with detailed descriptions of each. Habitat and ranges are listed for each as well as great illustrations  of the tree, it's bark, leaves and fruit. I now know that those large, painful nuts that the squirrels chuck at me are from our Shagbark Hickory! They hurt more than the acorns from our Black and White Oaks that we also have.

You know if I can learn something, this must be a worth while book to have. Oh...and for you folks on the other side of the Rockies, there's a guide for the western trees as well.

 Passenger Pigeon from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History collection.

I'm sure you are all aware of the 100th anniversary of the death of the last Passenger Pigeon, Martha on September 1st. I think the media glossed over the importance of that milestone. Audubon has recently released a report of bird species that are creeping closer to extinction. As they said, only nine bird species have gone extinct in continental North America in modern times...reading their report, we learn that as many as 314 could disappear by the end of this century.

It's time to wake up or politicians and leaders and tell them they can't rape the landscape for their profits any longer. Something need to be done NOW..not tomorrow when out children and grandchildren are so angry with us because there's nothing but parking lots and gas wells left.

I would highly recommend  reading "The Passenger Pigeon" by Errol Fuller as this appropriate time. This beautifully illustrated book has many interesting facts  about the Passenger Pigeon and its demise. There are illustrations, photographs, paintings(including John James Audubon's,) specimens, poems, historical accounts of the billions that roosted and blackened the skies for miles and days and more.

Very easy to read with answers to the many questions I had about this bird and it's life...and the over hunting that wiped it out.
 Red Kites flying over Wales during our visit a number of years ago.

I seem to have a theme here...birds on the brink. We were lucky enough to visit Wales in 2007 with a friend and see a farm where Red Kites were being raised and released back into the wild. They were virtually extinct in the U.K.due to persecution by farmers. Now they are on the rise along with other species of raptors in Britain. Which brings me to my next favorite book...

 "A Sparrowhawk's Lament:How British Breeding Birds of Prey Are Faring" by David Cobham with Bruce Pearson. You may recognize David Cobham from the nature documentaries he's made over the years, such as "The Vanishing Hedgerows" the first conservation film of 1972.

Mr. Cobham discusses fifteen species of raptors that reside in the UK today and the efforts by scientists and conservationists to stabilize their populations. He uses personal stories and connections to the effects of documentary films on changing peoples perceptions of these wonderful birds.

Every chapter has great illustrations by Bruce Pearson which brings the stories to life. A number of these raptors have counterparts in the US such as the Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. The stories describing each bird and it's fate in life are very engrossing and enjoyable to read. This book really brings to light the great work all of the film makers and volunteers have done to safeguard these species.

This female Mallard photo was published in the November/December issue of Bird Watcher's Digest!

On a more personal note, I had another photo published in BWD magazine! If you've never heard of this magazine, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING! This is a great family owned and run publication headed by the ever delightful Bill Thompson III. Me and The Doodles have been lucky enough to meet Bill, his wife, Julie Zickefoose and their children a number of times as well as other family members. Great folks that deserve our support!

You're probably aware that more and more people are getting all of their "infotainment" on line now and smaller publications like Bird Watcher's Digest are having a hard time. This really is a worth while magazine to subscribe to. They have regular contributors like Bill and Julie of course, but they also have Kenn Kaufman(who will deny knowing me if you ask,) Paul Baicich(who will also deny knowing me!,) ID articles by Alvaro Jaramillo, humor by the hysterical Al Batt(he's of Welsh heritage by the way,) and all the great regulars. PLUS you get to see photographs and illustrations by some of the greatest folks in birding...oh...and me too.

SO, sit down, shut up and read a book AND a magazine.
Thank you, the sermon has ended...for now.

Monday, October 20, 2014

...uh...what?'s a blog post.

 Meanwhile...back on the mainland...
 The dreams of Kelleys Island are fading and we're back to reality, or as close to it as I can get. We decided to chuck gardening and chores for a trip out to Sandy Ridge Reservation. It was a little chilly and very cloudy that morning. It's autumn in Ohio and you never know how the weather will be from minute to minute. It turned out that we over dressed a bit as it became sunny and very warm. Ya never know around here...

 Frogs like this bull frog were still active and hopping about.
We're still seeing a few green frogs in our little pond at home too!

Neither one of us can remember ever seeing a Double-crested Cormorant out here on our past trips.
He was all alone and far out in the marsh.

 There's always a few flycatchers like this Eastern Phoebe here.

 This pair of grasshoppers (differential sp.) were a little too busy for this time of year.
I guess there's not much else to do if you're a grasshopper though...

 This is a Peeping Tom Grasshopper. Really, that's what he's called.
He was watching the grasshoppers from the above pic.

When ya got an itch, scratch it!
This Great Blue Heron had plenty...

A master stalker...this Great Egret had his eye on something under water...

I think he found it!

 A little fishy snack...I'll stick with my granola bar...

 Way off in the back are a couple of duckies...

 Oh look...a couple of Green-winged Teal butts.
They were too busy eating to be bothered by me.

 I'm amazed at the number of Large Milkweed Bugs we've seen this year!
We have them at home in our butterfly garden on common milkweed that we planted for the monarch butterflies.

 Finding this Lincoln's Sparrow was a nice surprise!

 And there's always a gang of Mallards...

 Another good find was a lone Rusty Blackbird along the side of the trail.

 We saw the Sandhill Crane pair wandering and feeding through the back of the marsh.
 This is just past the Cranes...beautiful place for a walk!
Just left of center, all the way on the other side is where Bald Eagles have been nesting and raising their family.

White-crowned Sparrows are here for the winter... ick...winter.

 I moved around for a better shot of the sparrows and this is what I got...

 Wood Ducks nest in this area.
Soon, we'll see flocks of migrating ducks of all sorts out here.

 Since I said the "WINTER" word, I thought I better leave you with the last of the wildflowers that bloom at Sandy Ridge...

Until we meet again...toodles!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Island Twitch that never seems to end...part...uh...3?

 This is a very angry Blackpoll Warbly in his fall finest.
He will eat your face.

Meanwhile...back on Kelleys Island...
Hard to believe how many places we visited on our short weekend visit! We hit four spots on the Lake Erie Birding Trail, that puts us at 38...only a "few" more to go... 

We also went to see our friend, Tom Bartlett's bird banding operation at Long Point, part of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History's preserves. Tom enjoys teaching visitors and residents of the island about the wonders of these birds and their amazing migratory adventures. Folks come away with a much better appreciation of our tiny friends and what they go through twice a year. Thanks Tom!

If you ever have the opportunity to meet Tom, do it! He'll be banding northern saw-whet owls sometime this month on the island, and he does the "Big Sit" every year(20 years in a row!) at The Biggest Week in American Birding.
 This is Tom talking nicely to a bird.
Sometimes he doesn't...

 Tom kindly showing off the butt of this American Redstart.
He's so helpful!

 Don't worry, The Doodles didn't kill that bird.
It's just tired from his flight and is resting.
Within a few moments, off he flew and on to South America!
And that's why he needed a little rest.

 Lincoln's Sparrows are much more comfortable skulking around in the leaves and debris than in your hand.

 Did I mention that there are a few Grove Snails on the island?

 Back to birds...
Swainson's Thrushes are much calmer than sparrows.
 Black-capped Chickadees were abundant...and fast today!

 In between banding, we wandered around a few of the other parks and preserves.
We found this Least Flycatcher on the North Pond Preserve.

 Yep, that's a Magnolia Warbly hiding in the leaves.
They would not come out.
I even said please!

 You never know what you'll find in the woods...
Like an old truck from the 30's or 40's with trees growing through it.
I checked the spark plugs, they looked okay...

 And of course...just a few more Grove Snails.
If only I liked escargot...

 There were still a few butterflies like this Pearl Crescent floating about.

 Have you ever had a berry so tart that it made your head spin?

 This Philadelphia Vireo avoided that sour berries that made the others head spin.

 So...I was looking at the fruit on this flower and couldn't believe how bright they were.
"What is that stick on top?" I said as I was looking at the photo on my computer...

 Funny how you get so focused on one thing when you're out in nature and sometimes miss the bigger picture.
When I looked closer and followed the "stick" up the frame, I found that it was attached to something!
A Katydid!
What a surprise...The Doodles didn't notice it either, even when she was looking at the same thing with her 10X50's!

 The Doodles did spot this Wilson's Warbly hiding in the branches.
He never did come out to say hello.

So sad, we had to leave the island BEHIND!
Ha! Gotcha on that one!

There may be one more part to this island adventure...stay tuned!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Island Twitch...part 2!

 What do you do to a terrible photo?
I heard that! So, Besides deleting it, you make it infrared!
I know...just delete it next time...

 Meanwhile back on Kelleys Island...
The friends that we stayed with are connected to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and had access to a new preserve still closed to the public. Shhhh! The Huntley-Beatty Quarry has globally endangered Great Lakes Alvar habitat with a dozen state endangered plants growing among the rocks and scrub. Special thanks go to the Ohio Wetland Association for discovering these plants hidden away here. These quarries haven't been used in decades, but in the past produced much of the limestone used in a number of the great public buildings in northwestern Ohio.

The museum is protecting 800 acres of habitat on Kelleys Island and we'll have more in upcoming episodes! In the mean time, enough talk, let's see what there was to see...

 That's a Carolina Locust hiding in there.
We saw plenty of grasshoppy things hopping among the rock.

 Double-crested Cormorants are goofier looking!

 Everyone walked right past this Drone Fly looking for pretty flowers and plants.
Gotta give equal time to all the insects that keep the world going!

 This Eastern Carpenter Bee in having a wonderful time on this unusual Goldenrod.
They must be a dwarf species as they were only a foot or so tall, compared to normal goldenrod which is about 4 to 6 feet tall.
More fun facts you will never use...I'm here for you!


Don't be scared, it's only an  Eastern Hognose Snake or heterodon platirhinos.
Fancy , eh?
It's only a baby snake, less than a foot long.
Attitude makes up for his size!

This is Green Milkweed, one of the rarities on the preserve.

This Hackberry Butterfly has lived a rough life.
You can see his proboscis sucking up minerals from the rocks...

 Our co-hosts grandson and his friend found a number of fossils in the rocks, but this was a special find for them!
They also found the pelvis and it looked like it may have been a squirrel once upon a time...

Stoopid Merlins.
ALWAYS flying away from me!

 Hmmm...we can't remember what the name of this rare Orchid is...
We'll call it "Pretty White Orchid."

Yea! Another bird!
The birds were few and far between today.
There was a small flock of Palm Warblies that zoomed through.
A day with warblies is always a good day!

 This is a cut running down the center of the quarry.
We didn't see a single fish or frog in there.

 You want to know an easy way to identify this butterfly?
Besides looking in a field guide...

 See that little silvery spot?
Use your imagination looks like a question mark!
Therefore this is a Question Mark Butterfly.
A comma Butterfly would have a smaller mark without the dot at the end.
Really and for true, this time I'm not making things up!
Maybe later though...

 Another rare milkweed, a Whorled Milkweed.
I dream of whorled peas.
One day.

This is a flower.
Yep, it is.
Which one you ask?

So, until next time...have a peachy swell day!