Mothapalooza 2016: Learning about moths

Promethea moth (Callosamia promethea); a more normal-sized moth appears to its right to provide scale.

Mothapalooza is an annual conference sponsored by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. As its name suggests, the focus on the conference is on moths. Just like people who go bird-watching are said to go “birding,” people who are on the lookout for moths are said to go “mothing.” The conference is geared both toward the mothing enthusiast and the beginner. Activities included daytime field trips, in-house talks, and night-time moth viewings. Some of the daytime field-trips delved into other topics besides moths. This year Mothapalooza was held at the Shawnee State Park Lodge.

Bob and I had considered going to Mothapalooza the previous year, but when we tried to register a couple months ahead of time, they were already sold out! This just goes to show how popular this event has become. So this year we signed up extra-early. Previous to Mothapalooza Bob and I had attended one other mothing event (described here), so we consider ourselves to be beginners.

Tulip Tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera) a more normal-sized moth appears to its right.

Tulip Tree Silkmoth (Callosamia angulifera); a more normal-sized moth appears to its right.

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Summer Wildflowers 2016

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

The photos below are a sample of some of the wildflowers we’ve seen in June, July, and August. All were photographed in Ohio.

Native Orchids

I had the good fortune of seeing two, new species of native orchid for the first time while we were attending Mothapalooza. Mothapalooza is an annual conference held in Ohio that focuses on moths, but also deals with nature more generally. The most colorful of the two was the Yellow-fringed orchid.

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

Yellow-fringed orchid (Platanthera-ciliaris), photographed at Shawnee State Forest

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Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve

New England Aster

Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve is a remnant of the Darby Plains prairie. While most of Ohio’s prairies were converted into farmland, its status as a 19th-century pioneer cemetery meant that the land was never cultivated. Fortunately this has allowed it to preserve the original prairie grasses and wildflowers. The is a one acre preserve is located in Madison County.

We visited three prairie remnants west of Columbus on the same day: Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve, Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, and Milford Center Prairie State Natural Area. These three can be seen in a single half-day trip. Other nearby prairie remnants include Prairie Oaks Metropark, and Battelle Darby Creek Metropark which features bison. These are remnants of a prairie that once covered 5% of Ohio.

New England Aster, photographed in September.

New England Aster, photographed in September.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Ledges Trail

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

The Ledge Trail is located in the Virginia Kendall Unit of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail follows along the sandstone cliffs that make up Ritchie Ledges. The trail map at the kiosk says that the Ledges trail is a 1.8-mile loop. However, I have seen numerous other sites on the web say the trail is 2.2 miles. According to park officials it is a moderately difficult trail to hike. If the loop isn’t enough of a work-out, there are connector trails leading to other, nearby trails, so you can lengthen your hike to suit your available time and physical ability.

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

Large boulder at the foot of the cliffs.

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Early Summer Evening at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve

Hot-air balloon over the trail

Yesterday we went on an early evening walk at Char-Mar Ridge Preserve. We were half-way around the loop trail when we heard a strange sound. It sounded like a fire-breathing dragon (if there were such things) and it was getting closer. I immediately recognized it and we started watching the sky. Deb was ready with her camera as the hot-air balloon flew over still fairly close to the ground. It drifted overhead, firing its burners to gain more altitude. Then it vanished over the tree line, the roar of the burners fading in the distance.

Hot-air balloon over the trail

Hot-air balloon over the trail

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Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve: Robinson Falls

Robinson Falls (telephoto shot from overlook)

We recently visited Robinson Falls (aka “Corkscrew Falls”) at Boch Hollow State Nature Preserve. The waterfall is located off-trail at the preserve, so we obtained a free permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to visit the falls. Along with the permit, they sent us a map showing the falls, where to park, directions, and preserve rules.

Robinson Falls

Robinson Falls

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Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve

Tombstones and flowers

Last summer we visited two of Ohio’s smallest state nature preserves: Bigelow Cemetery and Smith Cemetery. Within these two preserves are remnants of prairie that once extended over 5% of Ohio. Because both sites were 19th century cemeteries, they were undisturbed by the plowing that converted 99% of this rich, prairie soil into Ohio farmland. Today I will discuss the half-acre Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve, and I’ll save the nearby Smith Cemetery State Nature Preserve for a later post. Both preserves are located in Madison County and are remnants of a prairie once known as the Darby Plains.

Tombstones and flowers

Tombstones and flowers

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Hell Hollow Wilderness Area

Bench near the top of the stairs... a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

Hell Hollow Wilderness Area is one of the sites owned and operated by the Lake County park district (Lake Metroparks). It is 783 acres in size, with a total trail length of just 0.65 miles. However, it is nonetheless a strenuous hike due to the 262-step stairway that leads to the base of the ravine in Hell Hollow. On the return-trip that’s an impressive number of steps to climb. Hell Hollow got its name because of how challenging it is to climb out of the ravine. Another Lake County park, Penitentiary Glen, also received its name because of how difficult it is to leave its ravine.

Bench near the top of the stairs... a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

Bench near the top of the stairs… a welcome sight to those returning from the bottom of the gorge.

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The TrekOhio Challenge – Summer 2016

Challenge accepted!

We’d like to invite our readers to participate in the TrekOhio challenge. The challenge is to complete FIVE hikes during summer (June 21 – Sept 21) 2016 from the ANY of the parks and preserves listed below. The hikes are arranged by Ohio region for your convenience, but feel free to mix and match any five. We’ve provided links to TrekOhio articles to get more information about the hike. Once you’ve picked your five parks or preserves, you choose the trails and hike durations.

So what do you get from participating in the challenge? You’ll get the memories of some great hikes (and perhaps photos too, if you brought a camera).

You’ll also get fame, fortune, and glory!! OK, perhaps a little fame … kind of. We’ll publish a list of names of those who successfully completed the challenge. We’ll also randomly draw five names from the list and send them TrekOhio hats. Full rules are listed below.

Challenge accepted!

Challenge accepted!

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Cedar Bog in Late Spring

Bee emerging from Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Cedar Bog is a State Nature Preserve located in Champaign County. We visited the preserve twice during the past several weeks to look at the spring wildflowers. Like many people our favorite bloom from this past weekend was the Showy Lady’s Slipper.

Bee emerging from Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

Bee emerging from Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae)

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