Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shawnee State Forest, Ohio's "Little Smokies"

We visit Ohio's "Little Smokies," Shawnee State Forest, Scioto County, Ohio April 23--25 in search of temperate and early neotropical migrating bird species.

Ohio's Little Smokies

The birds were few and far between at Shawnee this weekend due to this spring's prevailing high pressure over the Midwest limiting rainfall (no rain pools to attract shorebirds) and presenting unfavorable flight conditions for small birds eager to move northward (migrants 'stack-up' in the southern U.S.and points south waiting for low-pressure frontal systems to swing through bringing strong south winds--the wind beneath their little wings). Fortunately, a frontal system brought us some migrants Saturday morning, though still very low numbers.

A roadside apparition, moccasin flower Cypripedium acaule Aiton

Wildflowers did not let us down. Shawnee is a large tract of steep hilly woodlands criss-crossed by disturbance; roadsides & fire-breaks, intense ice-storm damage over large tracts (2003), tree pathogens--many following the ice-damage, and fire, both controlled burns and last year's 3000 acre wildfire. Plant diversity is very high in Shawnee State Forest for many reasons; disturbance is just one. Looking down for wildflowers is as tempting as looking up for wood warblers!

Yellow mandarin, AKA nodding mandarin
maculata (Buckley) A. Gray

My friends, Julie & Ken Davis, with my wife Jackie and I searched high and low for birds and we did find 107 species between Columbus and the Ohio River, mostly low numbers of them, but that's a low species count for the third weekend in April in south-central Ohio and at Shawnee (my goal was 125 species, and many of most)!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Invasive garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive species escaped from gardens: it's everywhere, now. Large areas of central Ohio's Hoover Nature Preserve, Hoover Reservoir, Galena, Ohio are dominated by tall garlic mustard during early spring.

A bottomland overwhelmed by invasive garlic mustard.

Gardeners introduced this species long ago. Garlic mustard greens, young shoots and leaves, are delightful ingredients putting the 'tang' into tangy salads. There's our solution, lets all dig in and eat it up!

This destructive invasive should be eliminated from wild places. The size of the plants in the picture, with small white flowers, is the ideal size for hand-pulling, roots and all, and bagging for disposal. Before seeds develop, the plants can be composted. Once seeds form, hand-pulled plants must be burned or left in trash bags for landfill disposal to prevent further spreading.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rare wildflower, Alum Creek State Park, Ohio

We find a wildflower that is listed as Potentially Threatened in Ohio.

Forkleaf toothwort (Cardamine dissecta) blooming

This dandy little flower has been found in seven Ohio counties since 1980 including Delaware County where this cluster was found April 14. Several thousand stems form about a dozen patches between Alum Creek Reservoir and Africa Road, and on the east side of Africa Road, too.

Early flowering downy serviceberry (Amalanchier arborea) is fairly common along Alum Creek, coloring the edge of shale bluffs with soft white petals.

Showy wildflowers occur where sunshine warms the ground under bare branches of winter-gray trees reaching into blue sky. Their showy displays are seen from far away, then. The cast of wildflower characters is ephemeral, diverse, and beautiful every spring, rivaling sunny summer prairies.

Another early flower coming on strong, littleleaf buttercup (Ranunculus abortivus)

A bug's-eye view of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My favorite marsh in early spring

My favorite marsh is not a typical wetland. It's a riparian forest seep with open emergent marsh, and more. It's my favorite because its geomorphology is unique and because it's close to home.

Marsh marigolds in full glory.

A spring marsh is a beautiful place.

Cowslip is an alternative name given to marsh marigolds among farmers raising stock. Seeps often were 'improved' to collect water for thirsty cows and horses. These showy wildflowers grow best in mucky slippery seeps.

The best known Midwestern wildflower, common blue violets.

Common blue violet up close.

A carpet of spring beauty flowers the flank of the marsh.

Skunk cabbage plants unfurling giant leaves form a belt along the base of seeping glacial deposits. Marsh marigolds, emergent sparganium marsh, and swamp rose tier the background.

Sessile trillium, I prefer the name toadshade

Ramps, a native wild onion and popular spring fare among rural Appalachians and others endowed with adventurous palates and tolerant spouses.

Boxelder in bloom--trees do it, too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Earth science from NASA 's Global Climate Change site

NASA's award-winning Global Climate Change: NASA's Eyes on the Earth website offers nifty gadgets for visualizing global climate change. Check out the feature Vital Signs of the Planet for the latest on CO2 (now 389 ppm, highest in over 650,000 years), temperature records (2000-2009 was hottest decade on record), Arctic sea ice minimums (plunging 11% per decade with 2009 resulting in the third least ice cover on record), rising sea level (up 57mm since 1993), and the size of the ozone hole (about 9.3 million sq. miles).
You can see the orbits of NASA satellites, enter the Climate Time Machine, and surf rising sea levels.

This is a visually spectacular website loaded with authentic original content created by NASA scientists and interpreted by NASA's communications team. Good stuff from money well spent supporting NASA.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Haiku for a nice evening

clangor of thunder
cool breeze before April rain,
fast winged birds singing