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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The trip to Florida was a much needed respite. We had plenty of sunshine and warm temps. I had high hopes of going out and looking for scrub jays and other fun things, but I mostly ended up just reading and sitting around the beach.

Not that I was sunbathing, mind you. When you have fair skin and your father is a red-head, you tend to slather on the sunscreen (I think I had SPF 270….).

But seriously, the picture below shows the view from one of the beach cafes we sat at….how could you not just linger (and yes, there was a wee bit of drinking, too).

dining-view

The one thing I did NOT expect was the amount of plastic washed up on the beach. When we last went down to visit my father, about two years ago, there was quite a lot of plastic on the beach.

But that was nothing compared to what it is now. You couldn’t walk along the wrack line looking for shells unless you were wearing shoes or you would cut your feet open on the jagged plastic waste. All I could think of was that not only was it going to keep getting worse but that these things would be around for thousands of years to come.

Here’s an interesting site that encourages you to collect the plastic, make an art sculpture out of it and then recycle it. There are some intriguing creations there and you should look at this picture, too. (BTW, if you put in “plastic” and “beach” together in a Yahoo search, I find it amusing that cosmetic surgeons are what pops up).

Want more bad news? Check this out: Great Pacific Garbage Patch Bigger Than Texas

Despite all of the waste, I did manage to find a few sea beans! The three I found seem to be the more common Hamburger Bean (Mucuna sloanei), which look like….well, duh! These are apparently bat pollinated flowers, according to this article. Sea beans can travel amazing distances on the ocean and look beautiful when they are polished.

Thumbnail for version as of 21:55, 8 March 2008 (from Wikipedia)

While searching through the wrack line, I also found this pretty seaweed (at least, I think it’s seaweed..)

Anyone know what it is?

Anyone know what it is?

seaweed-bunch

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Hodgepodge of Photos

Here are a bunch of photos that I was going to write a blog post around but never found the gumption to actually do so. Enjoy the randomness!

July 4th Sunset

July 4th Sunset

It kept changing in intensity.

It kept changing in intensity.

We were up high for a good view.

We were up high for a good view.

Pretty nice view, too.

Pretty nice view, too.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.

Saw this young starling peeking out in our front yard tree.

baby-starling-edited

Time for dinner.

Time for dinner.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

We call our resident pigeon Barry White due to his soulfull sound.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

My camera doesn't do justice to this isopod.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.

You can't tell in this photo, but the snail was blue with an almost translucent shell.

 

It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

It's very flat here but it is beautiful in summer....sigh.

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(I was thinking about Inspector Clouseau, with the bumpf on his head…)

I came across an interesting book the other day: Central Park in the Dark: More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife by Marie Winn.

More Mysteries of Urban Wildlife

You should check it out as it’s chock full of interesting nature/science stuff. Plus, the author has an awesome blog: http://www.mariewinn.com/marieblog/

I miss going out on night hikes and monitoring frogs…sigh. There’s nothing better than being out in the park at night: no people, much less ambient noise, and it’s peaceful. Of course, some people are freaked out about being out in the woods in the dark. According to the author, there’s even a scientific name for this fear: nyctohylophobia. Usually, the worst thing that can happen to you in the forest at night, however, is that you will trip over something or get whacked in the face by a low branch.

Still, we all can give ourselves the heebie-jeebies at times. Years ago, I was frog monitoring (this involves walking a transect at night and counting the number and type of frogs we hear) with another park naturalist. For some reason, maybe too much caffeine or bigfoot stories, we both got spooked by a rustling off the trail in the bushes. It was like something was following us down the trail but hiding and lurking. Trembling, we both trained our flashlight beams on the sound. All of a sudden, something came out of the undergrowth with a crash. We both screamed and jumped about 4 feet in the air. It was an opossum. Admittedly a large one, but still, just an opossum. We told no one of our foolishness (until I blabbed today).

Oh, and don’t miss this blog:  http://urbanhawks.blogs.com/  with great pics of the birds in Central Park.

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Big Fish

Took a trip to one of my favorite places: The 577 Foundation

Usually, this is something that just the dog and I do every weekend (girl time!), but we were happy to have Greg along with us this time. The dog is bonkers about the geodesic biodome there (maybe all the rich, oxygenated air?), so we went in to feed the fish. There are some real monster koi in there…about 2 feet long! And, boy are they piggy (wait..can a fish be piggy…) eaters.

bear on bridge     One of the staff says that they have a real problem with people touching the koi. They often inadvertently rub off the protective “slime” or mucus from the scales of the fish which leads to infection on the fish (NOT people, silly) and can cause lesions to form. Lesson #1: Don’t Pet the Fish!

In case you needed a koi ID sheet, you can find one here. Selling and maintaining koi is a big business and they even have plastic surgery for fish:

“Fish diagnostics range from a basic exam ($40), blood work ($60) and X-rays ($55) to the advanced: ultrasound ($175), CAT scans ($250). Veterinarians tube-feed fish. They give fish enemas, fix broken bones with plates and screws, remove impacted eggs, treat scoliosis and even do fish plastic surgery — anything from glass-eye implantation to ”surgical pattern improvement,” with scale transplantation, scale tattooing or unsightly-scale removal.”

You should read the full article…it is truly amazing stuff! What I did not know was that koi are also considered nuisance / invasive species:

Koi have been accidentally or deliberately released into the wild in every continent except Antarctica. They greatly increase the turbidity of the water because they are constantly stirring up the substrate. This makes waterways unattractive, reduces the abundance of aquatic plants, and can render the water unsuitable for swimming or drinking even by livestock. In some countries, koi have caused so much damage to waterways that vast amounts of money and effort have been spent trying to eradicate them, largely unsuccessfully. Because of the danger to the environment koi possession is illegal in many parts of America, South America and Australia.

Good thing these are kept inside in a pond. We also went out to the river overlook and even though it was bitter cold we saw this fellow scurrying along:

possum A Virginia opossum! And quite a robust looking one, too. Generally, the ones we see around here have stumpy tails and mangled ears from loosing bits to frostbite. I used to volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center and the joke was: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the opossum that it could be done!” If you see roadkill, chances are that it’s a possum…

Should you feel like becoming a card-carrying member of the National Opossum Society (yes, there is one) you can get a snazzy bumper sticker along the lines of “I Brake for Possums” or this fantastic picture only a mother could love.

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Sorting BugsSo, I made it back home with only two chigger bites. And I slathered on the bug spray, too (so far, I am NOT impressed with Picaridin….although, I was not bothered by any skeeters or ticks). And I have to say that Rt. 247 gets my award for the most twisty, scary drive this year. Now I don’t even need to go to Cedar Point!

Had a blast collecting hoppers and ID-ing them (with much help). The coolest bugs, by far, were the piglet bugs. They are very tiny planthoppers. We’re talking mere millimeters, here so I couldn’t take any pictures with my icky camera (again with the camera?!) The best I could find are these pictures. Cute little fellows with racing stripes.

I think the biggest shock to the naturalists in the group was learning that Homoptera is no more. These critters are all now classified as Hemiptera due to new genetic testing. But stay tuned because things are changing daily with reclassification, it seems.

We also spent a good part of the time looking at bug genitalia under the microscope, as that is one of the only ways to identify some species. It’s not as exciting as you think 😉

Check out this cool key if you are really into hoppers.

Seems we have a lot of invasive, non-native hoppers, in this country. A bad thing, as they are commonly vectors of plant diseases. In fact, there is a corn leafhopper from Mexico that causes widespread crop devastation south of the border and in California but has so far not been able to overwinter in the US Corn Belt. However, as our presenter pointed out, if global temperatures rise by a few degrees with global warming, you can imagine things will not go well… 

Here’s a scary article outlining some of this:

“Relatively small changes in mean temperature can result in disproportionately large changes in the frequency of extreme events. Des Moines, Iowa, in the heart of the Corn Belt, currently experiences fewer than 20 days above 90oF; this would double with a mean warming of 3.6oF.”

And since we are on depressing topics, I can’t even begin to describe the poverty that exists around this beautiful natural area. It’s a strange dichotomy of huge vacation homes on one side of the road as city dwellers expand out and across the street are rusted out mobile homes and barely standing shacks with out houses. While this is about an area a little further east, you get a good feel for the issues in this article. I just finished reading Night Comes to the Cumberlands by Harry Caudill and it is ironic how much that book describes conditions that still exist today in this part of Ohio.

I have to give a big shout out to Dr. Dietrich (for being so patient with all of our questions and our pitiful attempts to pin the tiny buggers!) and to the staff at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve (Chris, Mark and Jessica) for being great pancake cookers and genial hosts! I’m ready for another workshop.

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This is comfy?!

Lawnchair Naturalist hard at work 

Inspired by a bent lawn chair, I am finally getting this blog up and running. Well, more like up and walking briskly. Since I spend most of my outdoor time poking around in my backyard, I want to talk about what I find there.

Sadly, it is not pristine wilderness with mountainous vistas…..more like a lot of weeds and railroad tracks. So, it’s going to be urban nature mostly. Although, there have been some surprises….. (more on that later).

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