Thursday, July 30, 2009

Macro critters

I still have lots of photos to share from our trip to Michigan, but there are some other things sitting in "the vault" that I want to address while they're still somewhat fresh in my mind.

For example, in late June I spent one afternoon after work taking a tour around parts of the Ohio University campus in search of gorgeous flowers to photograph. I was not disappointed, and I've already shared some of my flower photos over on my other blog (see Flower Power, parts 1 and 2), but I also want to share some of the critters I encountered on that afternoon.

Of course flowers attract all kinds of insects... this Sulphur on Echinacea (I'm not sure if it's a Common Sulphur or Orange Sulphur).
click to enlarge for the best view

I came across an interesting group of plantings that included succulents and pitcher plants. Pitcher plants are carnivorous.

Looks like this plant was in the beginning stages of a meal.

My very basic understanding of how pitcher plants work is that the insects are supposed to get lured within the pitcher where they will get trapped in a small pool of liquid which will gradually dissolve them. This particular bee seemed to already be dead (or stunned?) though, so I'm not sure how it would actually have made it down into the pitcher. I didn't want to touch the bee, but I did blow on it a little, and it offered no response, so that's why I assume it was either stunned or dead. If anyone out there knows the specific mechanics of pitcher plant food consumption, I'd love to hear about it or to be directed to a resource.

Stumbled across this frog in a pond. In one of my attempts to get closer to him I startled him and he hopped across the vegetation and ended up hiding himself pretty well!

And finally, a dragonfly (possibly a female Common Whitetail?).

I'll share some more of my flower photos from this outing soon!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A crustacean with many names

Yabbies. (apparently that's what they call them in Australia, so says the Wikepedia)
écrevisse. (in French)

What do you call them? We called them crawdads when I was little... but I think I lean toward the crawfish or crayfish camp these days.

Regardless of the name, I ran into quite a few of these crustaceans while on the lake in Michigan. The last time I recall seeing one was when I was quite young, after a heavy storm had blown through our urban neighborhood and flooded our street. There are no bodies of water near my childhood home, so I don't know if he floated in through the storm drains or what.

This guy, unfortunately, had very little life left in him, making for a good photo subject. I found one the next day that was a little more spirited, and he startled me by giving a good thrashing when I picked him up.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Squirreling around in Michigan

What would a vacation be without a silly squirrel invading the bird feeder? This time it was a Red Squirrel (we don't have them in southeast Ohio, at least not that I've observed). Of course he outsmarted the "squirrel-proof" feeder, as you will see...

Planning the attack

... searching for a point of entry

... the ol' "swoop and snag"

"No one's watching me, right? That's what I thought."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meeting a friend in Michigan

When Shelley heard we were heading up to northern Michigan for our vacation, she invited us to stop by their log cabin. It just so happens that it's only a little over an hour south of where we were headed, so we dropped by on the way to our destination.

Shelley's log cabin, and the view from the back deck

Looking out on the lake from the dock

Precious little Scout. She's a Bernese Mountain Dog, and she has her own blog!

It was so nice to finally meet Shelley and her husband Greg, and her new puppy Scout, and Marvin the cabin cat. Their log cabin is so cute and quaint, and in a great location on a small lake. We had a great visit but had to continue on after a few hours so as to get to our own lakeside location before dark. Thanks for inviting us to visit, Shelley! We enjoyed meeting you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sharing the Hocking Hills with a friend

My recent vacation got off to a good start when I spent a day hiking and birding the Hocking Hills region with my blogging friend Kelly of Red and the Peanut. Her son was attending a tennis camp at Ohio University, so she decided to spend the week exploring Athens and Hocking counties and all of the beauty this area of the state has to offer. I'm really glad we got to not only meet in person, but do some birding and enjoying of the great outdoors together.

left - Kelly snapping a photo
right - a path to the Upper Falls of Old Man's Cave

One thing that became apparent to us very quickly at our first stop (Old Man's Cave) was the special micro-climate that exists within the 6 Hocking Hills parks. A cool and moist environment was created here millions of years ago when the glaciers advanced to their farthest point south in Ohio, and that environment persisted within the gorges of the Hocking Hills even after the glaciers retreated. Another thing that the glaciers left behind were the seeds of more northern species of plants, such as eastern hemlocks and Canadian Yews.

So how did this micro-climate manifest itself to us, other than the fact that it just feels cooler and more moist in the parks? Well, soon after we got into the park proper, we heard the ethereal, flute-like song of the Hermit Thrush. We were both in awe. They do not nest in Ohio (their nesting grounds are up in the most northeastern states and Canada), but there has been documentation of nesting pairs in various regions of the Hocking Hills during some years. While we don't know if the bird we saw was part of a nesting pair or not, he was certainly singing to attract the ladies. And we didn't just hear one. I believe at one time we heard Hermit Thrush song coming from 3 distinct locations. But even better, we saw one. It was an incredible sighting, about 10-15 feet in front of us in a tree, right at eye level, singing it's heart out. Then it flew across the ravine to a rock wall where it hopped around either catching bugs or sipping water. It was Kelly's eagle eye that spotted the bird, so I'm doubly thankful she was with me! Unfortunately neither of us got a photo of this beautiful creature, but the image surely burned itself into both our memories. Oh, and a bit of a bonus for me: LIFE BIRD (I'd heard one before, but had not seen one until this day)!

Another oddity: Fire Pink... blooming in JULY!!!! Ours quit blooming shortly after Mother's Day! Another thing to chalk up to the micro climate, I suppose.

Even though it has been a wet summer, the waterfalls were not running. Dribbling a little bit, maybe, but not running. Here are some side-by-side shots to give you an idea of what I'm talking about:

Old Man's Cave, Lower Falls
July 2009 on the left, April 2008 on the right

Cedar Falls
July 2009 on the left, March 2008 on the right

I was a little bummed, as I really would have liked for Kelly to have had a chance to see the majesty of these waterfalls in person, but I guess she'll just have to come back next spring to see them for herself!

We saw some other cool stuff along our walk, like this colony of mushrooms on a dead tree:

And a pair of snapping turtles!

Thanks for a fun day of birding and hiking, Kelly, and for helping me get my vacation started off right! I hope you enjoyed your time in the Hocking Hills - I know I always do! (See Kelly's blog, if you haven't already, for more photos and accounts of her time spent in the Hocking Hills region.)

Bird list:
Hermit Thrush
Cedar Waxwing
Wood Thrush (heard only)
Eastern Phoebe
American Robin
American Crow
American Goldfinch
Black-throated Green Warbler (we hunted this one down after hearing it sing for a long time, finally got a visual - LIFE BIRD)
Blue Jay (heard only)
Acadian Flycatcher (heard only)
Hooded Warbler (we THINK! - heard only - I'm 95% sure)
Grey Catbird
White-eyed Vireo (heard only)
Red-eyed Vireo (heard only)
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Eastern Bluebird (heard only)
Common Yellowthroat (heard only)
Carolina Wren (heard only)
Red-shouldered Hawk (heard only)
Turkey Vulture

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dramatic Michigan skies (SWF)

It's been a while since I've done a Skywatch Friday post, but photos from our recent trip to northern Michigan gave me some great sky images that I just had to share!

Being on a lake always makes for nice fluffy, puffy, dramatic clouds. This post is dedicated to my Dad, who is a big fan of taking sky photos. Hope you enjoy these, Dad!

(this photo was taken by Dave while I was reading bedtime stories to my niece and nephew - nice work honey!)

*Skywatch was created by Dot and put in motion by Tom, who made it a huge success. It is now hosted by Klaus with the help of Sandy, Ivar, Wren and Fishing Guy. To see more great sky photos from around the world, go to Skywatch Friday.