10/1 Hummer heaven

A white dusting of jewelweed pollen coats a young male Ruby-throat’s forehead.

There is one sure place to find Ruby-throated hummingbirds during fall migration – a jewelweed patch. But the yellow flowered Pale jewelweed Impatiens pallida won’t do, only the bright orange blooms of Spotted jewelweed I.capensis. It’s an ancient relationship, finely tuned over time to suit each partner’s needs.

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9/8 the Fruiting forest

Most Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries are all red; this one plant appears to have unique genetics.

Perhaps the word “forest” should be a verb, not a noun. From the first tiny Black locust trees pioneering an old field, to a centuries old Sugar maple and Beech forest, there is continual change. Disturbance of course accelerates the process, and this little forest has been changing on the fast track over the past ten years, thanks to invasive plant removal and the Emerald ash borer.

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8/24 Two young Birds

This young female Pileated woodpecker is almost the size of an adult, but still has some of that “baby” look about her

Young birds lucky enough to survive the egg, nestling and fledgling parts of their lives are now juveniles. Though they look a lot like adults, they’re only a few months old at most, and many will soon be facing a long migration south. It’s a precarious life for young birds, needing to learn not only how to find food and escape predators, but also navigate in a world full of of human hazards. (Many window strikes at this time of year are juveniles).

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8/16 I Take Pictures To See

 

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There is nothing ordinary about the predatory Robber fly (this one is in the genus Diogmites). But I did not realize they had such amazing feet – spiny with claws and fleshy pads called pusilli.

But of course, everyone takes pictures to see something. Kids, cars, dogs, houses, birds, landscapes, cats, babies, sunsets, ourselves – we are endlessly saturated with images of what we like (and what we don’t). Our first response to most anything is to point a phone at it, but could it be this habit is actually lessening our powers of observation? Read More

7/23 She’s a Survivor

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The first time I met this turtle was about eight years ago. We were walking in the forest with our then pre-teen children and trying to get them to take an interest in their surroundings. So we offered five dollars to the first one who spotted a Box turtle. I already knew a goodly number of boxies lived in this little forest, and was not surprised when ten minutes later my son yelled in triumph upon finding this big old female. Read More

7/5 Spring is a Birdy Memory

 

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Young male Indigo bunting in a grapevine tangle

It was a glorious spring, long and cool as it rarely is in the Ohio valley. The woods were filled with singing birds and families with nothing else to do. Warblers, thrushes and other neotropical travelers rested and foraged, affording a rare chance to see the many birds that don’t nest here. Read More

6/10 The Very Crowded Nest

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What felt like a warm and cozy cradle only a week ago, has now become a prison cell for the gnatcatcher nestlings. There isn’t enough room in the little nest for all four of them, so the oldest ones are continually squirming and stretching and hanging over the edge. Read More

6/6 The Nest, Continued

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Eleven to fifteen days – that’s how long Blue-gray Gnatcatchers incubate their eggs. The nestlings were hatched right on schedule; the one above likely is the firstborn of the brood. Read More

6/1 Done

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Male turkeys don’t gobble all the time. Sometime around now they pack it in for the season, and spend the summer relaxing in the shade. I learned this, and many other fascinating turkey facts from a forest friend who’s also a hunter. Though I did notice big Tom’s gobbling was becoming less frequent, and he wasn’t hanging out by the trail anymore, I didn’t know his looks were changing too.

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5/27 Invasion of the Cuckoos

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For the past few weeks, neotropical migrants have moved through the forest in waves. They pause for a few days of food and rest, then one fine night they’re up and out. By morning a host of new arrivals is busily feeding in the same trees. A group of hungry Yellow billed Cuckoos arrived last week, allowing me the chance to view up close these usually furtive birds. Read More