Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coming to terms, part I

Hooray, OCVN classes are over!  Saturday was test and "graduation" day.  Everyone in our class passed (no surprises there - we were a pretty bright bunch, wink, wink!), so now all we have to do is get out there and volunteer and share our love and knowledge of nature with others.  And I look forward to getting back to sharing my love and knowledge of nature with YOU via this very neglected blog.  It may take a while to get back in the swing of things, so bear with me for a bit.

I've been agonizing over this particular post for days.  The main content has been steeping in my mind for about a week, but technicalities have slowed me down in getting it posted.  More about that in my next post.

I learned many new things during my 40+ hours of classroom and field time for OCVN, including lots of new terminology.  In addition to being a nature nerd, I'm also a word nerd.  I love words, and knowing what they mean (much like knowing the names of certain birds, flowers, butterflies, etc... but that's a topic for another post).  Today I'm going to share with you a set of terms that really piqued my interest because the words are so unique and new to me.

The first set is saprophyte and parasite (or saprophytic and parasitic).  I'm sure you already recognize the word parasite, but have you heard of a saprophyte?  That was a new one on me.  I learned about these words in relation to plants when we came across many examples of a particular plant during one of our hikes:

A discussion ensued as to whether this was a flower or perhaps some kind of fungi.  After all, flowers usually have some green in them, right?  Well, not all of them.  Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) is indeed a flower, but it's not green because it has no chlorophyll.  Since it has no chlorophyll, it cannot photosynthesize, so it cannot produce its own energy (or "food").  As a result, it has to get its energy from somewhere else.  Enter the term "saprophyte," which refers to an organism that gets its nourishment from dead or decaying organic material

By contrast, a "parasite" is an organism that obtains its nourishment from living material, often to the detriment and harm of the host from which it is taking energy.   This is a flower I happened upon a number of years ago:

At the time I was sure it was some kind of fungi, and I recall searching for "pinecone mushroom" and coming up empty-handed.  I was delighted to finally stumble upon it in my Audubon wildflower field guide one day as I was flipping through the photo plates, and was thus able to identify it as Squawroot (Conopholis americana).  This is a parasitic flower that gets its nourishment from oak trees.  Several other plants in this parasitic family (the Broomrape family) include Beechdrops (host: Beech trees) and Naked Broomrape (host: various, including asters and clovers), neither of which I have encountered in person.  In case you are wondering about the rather violent-sounding family name, it is in reference to what could be considered the "violent" parasitic nature of some plants within the family on certain shrubs in the pea family known as "brooms."

Lest you think that these terms can only be applied to plants, I came across an interesting example of these types of organisms in the animal kingdom: vultures are saprophytes and tapeworms are parasites.

In my next post we'll look at a set of terms that deals with reproductive strategies.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Blooming whites

White seems to be a dominant color of wildflowers in this part of the state at any time of the year when flowers are in bloom. There's Trilium, Dutchman's Breeches and Squirrel Corn early on in the season, and Mayapples, too. Clover, Queen Anne's Lace, Foam Flower and Black Cohosh start popping up in late spring. Right now the Oxeye Daisies are in full flower, lining roadways and filling fields with their bright white petals and sunny yellow faces. This year was also a stellar year for the blooming of Penstemon Digitalis, aka Foxglove Beardtongue. I don't recall it being so vigorous and ubiquitous in years past. Most examples that I have seen near the homestead are done blooming now, but I certainly enjoyed them for the several weeks that they were so showy.

Foxglove Beardtongue, Penstemon Digitalis

I love the little hairs on these flowers for some reason...

The rain drops really show off the presence of those hairs in this photo.

As I mentioned above, the Oxeyes are really showy right now, and are readily found in many locations near our property. I took some fanciful shots of them last weekend, one of my first days on a photo safari in weeks. It was a soothing exercise.

This dainty clover caught my eye, too. Something about it's pink coloring stood out as being very girly and appealing to me.

For a more artistic and impressionistic treatment of the daisies, please see Impressions of a Daisy on my photo blog.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Videos: Phoebe time-lapse and fishing heron

It's time for some new videos! The first is a time-lapse video that Dave (awesomely!) stitched together that encompasses the entire first nest attempt (and success!) of our resident Eastern Phoebe pair, from the first days that the Phoebes claimed and fixed up the nest up to the fledging of the 5 chicks.  It's 7 weeks of activity compressed into 5 minutes of footage.  Dave sums it up as follows:
Videos were taken from 3/19/2010 to 5/8/2010. Videos were triggered by a motion sensor so the time is not linear. Periods with more activity such as when the young birds were being fed are disproportionately longer than those with less activity. Fifty two hours of video were compressed (by removing frames) to this five minute video. Nest repairs began on March 19th. Eggs were laid around April 5th. Eggs hatched around April 19th and the last bird fledged on May 8th.
Here are some highlights to look for:
0:00-0:50 - repair and refurbish pre-existing nest
0:50-2:00 - egg laying and incubation
2:00 - eggs have hatched, feeding begins!
2:25 - look for heads to start popping up
2:50 - the young ones are now easily seen
3:10 - getting bigger...
3:49 - more activity and movement from babies
4:38 - 2 birds leave the nest
4:49 - #3 leaves the nest
4:53 - #3 comes back
4:55 - #3 leaves again
4:56- end: #4 and #5 argue about who's leaving next
5:04  - empty!

It's amazing to watch the progression of the nest being shored up, and the way the babies grow.  Enough of my babbling, though.  I know you guys want to actually see the video!

The 2nd video is one I captured just the other evening when we were out for a leisurely paddle on Fox Lake. The lake was thick with Great Blue Herons - I've never seen so many there at one time. They weren't too crazy about sharing the shoreline with each other, even though there was plenty of room to accommodate them all. There was one spot that seemed to offer up some great fishing, a spot well worth defending, as you will see in this video. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

This and that

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! The Hocking County region's Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist classes will be coming to an end in 2 short weeks. I have learned so much over the last month that I can hardly believe it. All of our instructors have been so knowledgeable and passionate about nature, they have made the learning process easy and fun. This coming week we will be focusing on interpretive techniques, which will be very important for us as we prepare to start volunteering and sharing our knowledge with others.

In addition to great instructors, our classes have been at some great locations. This past weekend we talked about forest ecology at Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve, Fairfield County, Ohio.

What a view, eh? We had to climb quite a steep hill to get to this vista, but it was certainly worth it.

Ack, everyone is writing down what he's saying, so it must be important. Maybe I should put down the camera and take notes!

Look at all those wooded hills. This is a good example of why southeast Ohio is sometimes referred to as the foothills of Appalachia.

Overall I haven't been out taking too many photographs lately, but I was able to spend some time out today just walking around and seeing what I could see. In addition to some nice flowers (which I will share in a later post), I saw some bugs. As you can imagine, one doesn't have to look far to see bugs at this time of year. In fact, this harvestman was on the leaf of a Jack-in-the-Pulpit next to our driveway:

I interrupted him (or her) while he was dining on this fly:

I also came across this most intriguing bug, which I assume to be some sort of beetle, but I can't identify it:

I love its coloring... almost like it's camouflaged to match the colors of the back of this daisy. If anyone out there can offer up an ID, I would appreciate it.
UPDATE: My thanks to reader Joy K who found this handsome bug on bugguide.net, identifying it as a Tarnished Plant Bug.  Great find, Joy - thanks!  Now I'm off to learn more about it!

Until next time.