Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Blogging Buddies

One of the lingering bloomers into the fall season is the Sweet Everlasting, Pseudognaphalium obtusifolium. Formerly in the genus Gnaphalium, the flower itself is the yellow-brown area in the center. The white portions are bracts that surround the flower. Each flower head is very narrow, and does not spread outward like the similar looking Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis). Look for this in dry fields and prairies.

Potato Vine, Ipomoea pandurata, is a type of climbing Morning Glory. This plant is also common in dry sites. Easily recognized by the white tubular shaped flower and deep purple center. The leaves are round with a heart shaped base. I hear the roots are not very tasty, but have been used as a wild edible.

I've taken many pictures of Chicory, Cichorium intybus, but they always come out faded or off color. Rather than doctor them up, I waited until I could get the true color in a shot. This plant blooms throughout the summer and into fall. Speaking of autumn, I haven't posted anything in quite sometime. First of all, I don't do much photography at this time of year, and with the quarter to semester switch, I have been busier than usual.

Always looking for new topics, I thought I'd give a shout out to fellow bloggers that I spent some time in the field with this past year. Here is Mike Whittemore of Flora and Fauna of Appalachia, and Andrew Gibson of The Natural Treasures of Ohio. While most of my former students tend to be more wildlife oriented, Mike and Andy have quite the affinity for the botanical world.

More interested in shooting the plants than posing for photographs of themselves, we spent some time walking roadsides this past September looking for yellow composites.

Towering over our heads was this common woods edge and prairie species called Tall Coreopsis, Coreopsis tripteris.

Looking similar to a tall dandelion, this is the Hairy Hawkweed going to seed, Hieracium gronovii. It looks similar to the Rough Hawkweed, H. scabrum, but lacks any sizable leaves in the upper portion of the stem.

One of the many common sunflowers along edges is the Small Woodland Sunflower, Helianthus microcephalus. Here Andy shows why the name micro is appropriate for recognizing this species.

This hairy octopus is actually the seed pod of Leatherflower, Clematis viorna. Not a composite, but a member of the Buttercup family, the pink-purple flower is shaped like a vase, and is photographed more often then the fruit.

One of my favorite group of insects are the Slug Moths, in particular, the caterpillars. This is the Spiny Oak Slug, Euclea delphinii. The slugs are slow moving caterpillars ideal for macrophotography.

Sneaking up on moths is a little tougher. Setting up lights and sheets at night attracts many species and provides an excellent opportunity to try shooting these guys. This is the Lace-bordered Inchworm, Scopula limboundata. It is very common and occurs in several color forms. Often those brown stripes in the outer portions of the wings form a solid black streak.

One of those people showing a recent interest in moths is the king of the bloggers, Jim McCormac from  Ohio Birds and Biodiversity. Here is Jim doing what he does best, getting down and dirty. Perhaps I should say getting down and wet at McCraken Fen. I believe he was after some damselflies at this time.

Another person pursuing the art of insect macrophotography is Lisa Sells of the blog Zen Through a Lens. She has been doing a lot of portrait pictures of late. Examples of her other work are linked at her blog website.

Lisa has an excellent post on Aphids with much closer shots than these.

I still struggle with night photography, but that is because I'm a point and shoot type of person. Lisa has a great light setup, and is much more patient than me in shooting at night. Sometimes her flash attachments make her camera look more like a mini UFO. This Treehopper isn't the greatest, but I'll take what I can get.

Maybe I should stick to daytime work, it's much easier! Click on the pic of this Black Bee Fly. Its head reminds me of something from the original War of the Worlds. The name is also just as creepy, Anthrax georgicus.

Here is my attempt at shooting damselflies. This is the Azure Bluet, Enallagma asperum. First the male, then a female. There are a lot of excellent people out there photographing Dragonflies and Damselflies. While Jim and I strive to improve, some of the best work I've seen in S.E. Ohio is once again, from Lisa.

Say hello to Robyn Wright-Strauss. She runs the blog for the Wahkeena Nature Preserve. Robyn and Tom Shisler have provided excellent information and locations at Wahkeena for studying moths, other insects, wildflowers, ferns, and you name it.

Whenever Robyn gets a chance, she will raise caterpillars in the nature center. I have gotten some good photos of species at Wahkeena. Here's one called the Waved Sphinx, Ceratomia undulosa. This species is usually green, but when it is done feeding and getting ready to pupate, it turns this darker color. Most Sphinx or Hawkmoth caterpillars can be recognized by the pointy projection near the rear. Another common name for this group are the Hornworms.

Last but not least is Alex Webb. Although he is not a blogger, he is responsible for getting me out of my Lazyboy and out collecting insects. Alex is one of our N.R. Law graduates, and currently works for Muskingum Watershed Conservancy.

Alex discovered a population of the Splendid Tiger Beetle, Cicindela splendida on our land lab, only the fourth county record known from Ohio. After posting this in the past, I now have photographers interested in coming down to get pictures of these.

Even more special was the capture of this Obscure Sphinx Moth, Erinnyis obscura. Only three records exist of this species ever found in Ohio, and one of those is from the 1800's! This is important because this species occurs in the Gulf States. I found it in Florida, but nowhere else.

Jim McCormac has posted articles before on the idea that many species of plants, insects, birds, and other organisms seem to be extending their range northward. We don't know if these are all 'accidental' sightings, or if climatic change is playing a part. Like Jim says, only continued observation from year to year will tell us for sure.

Alex has recently taken up an interest in the Catocala. I'd say he is becoming a prodigy studying under one of the best Underwing Moth experts in the country, John Peacock. Here Alex shares his knowledge about this Giant Millipede with a couple of my entomology students. I have always believed that if you are a uniformed employee working in natural resources, regardless of your position, you should have a background in natural history. You should understand what it is you are protecting, managing, or interpreting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Woo-hoo! a pageview milestone

Well after two years 'on the air', I just passed 100,000 hits. Even though I know most of those are from Google and Yahoo searches and not direct visits, it's still cool. Kind of exciting, but then I see last week Jim McCormac at Ohio Birds and Biodiversity just passed the one million hit mark. Well, maybe someday........

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Blast the Chloroplast, I've had my Fill of Chlorophyl

Autumn is upon us, and the green leaves are starting to disappear. Sunday was too nice a day to sit inside, so I took off to shoot the leaf change, and still made it back to actually see the Browns win a game. Nothing special in this post today, just a slide show. Then again, red, green, yellow, pink, orange, maroon, and scarlet mixed together really can be kind of special.

Red Maple Acer rubrum, in a grove of Big-tooth Aspen, Populus grandidentata. I wish I had taken more shots like this, but the rest are just closeups. Photosynthesis is coming to a halt, and the true colors of the leaves are seeping through. These are all shots of woody plants found in our common oak-hickory and beech-maple forests.

Here's a series of Red Maple as it goes through its color changes.

While we may not be New England, we still have a lot to brag about in S.E. Ohio during foliage change. This is Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum. Though it is mostly known for its yellow color contribution, this maple will also have red tints.

Black Maple, Acer nigrum. Considered a valid species by some, and just a Sugar Maple variety by others. Either way, the colors of Black Maple can be striking.

Rainbow Sherbert anyone?

Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra.

Winged Sumac, Rhus copallina.

Maple-leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium. Looking similar to Red Maple, these leaves are covered in soft velvety hairs. You can see those hairs on the leaf petiole. Viburnum fruits are drupes, not samaras, the papery winged fruit of maple.

Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida.

Dewberry, Rubus sp. Dewberries are a type of Blackberry that grows along the ground rather than upright.

Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum. Sourwood leaves can be pink and orange as well as red. The margins on young saplings have fine serrations. On older plants, the leaves will be serrate only on the upper half.

Mockernut Hickory, Carya tomentosa.

Though not as bright as the maples, the oaks add their own shades of color to our hillsides. This is White Oak, Quercus alba.

Chestnut Oak, Quercus montana (prinus).

Black Oak, Quercus velutina.

Red Oak, Quercus rubra.

How about a little purple? This is Biltmore Ash, Fraxinus americana x biltmoreana. This is a green and white ash hybrid found on dry ridgetops. Green Ash leaves turn yellow in the fall, while White Ash turns purple.

Pawpaw, Asimina triloba.

Beech, Fagus grandifolia. I didn't know Pawpaw and Beech turned black in the fall? Well they don't. If you have followed the news, or my blog, you'll know this is the Black Sooty Mold, caused by the large outbreak of this years Tulip-tree Scale insect.

The oblique or uneven leaf bases and the stalked naked buds are visible on this Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. Those identification keys are overshadowed by the yellow flowers that bloom in October. These spider like petals add a "different" kind of yellow to the forest.

Protruding next to the flowers is this aphid gall common on Witch-hazel. The spiny points will separate it from the similar looking fruit capsule.