A few days ago, I was able to photograph my first butterfly of the year, a Mourning Cloak Butterfly. The reason the outer edges of its wings are frayed already is because it has been hanging out in Ohio all winter… well, not exactly hanging out. When it’s very cold, this butterfly sneaks into a crack in a tree or some other little nook and hibernates there until it gets warmer. And it doesn’t necessarily wait till spring. Whenever we are having unseasonably warm, winter weather, there is some chance of these butterflies emerging and flitting above the snow.
Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa)
After a walk at Wahkeena Nature Preserve, Bob and I stopped to chat with Robyn. Robyn is one of the naturalists at Wahkeena, and she’s the author of the Wahkeena Nature Preserve blog. Robyn asked us how our walk went. I mentioned that I had seen lots of amphibian eggs in pools of water, but I didn’t know how to tell the difference between frog eggs and salamander eggs. She offered then and there to show us the difference.
We went to a little pool and Robyn lifted up two groups of eggs from the water.
These are frog eggs, specifically those of a wood frog.
The osprey have returned to the northern edge of Hoover reservoir. Osprey are brown and white birds of prey measuring two feet (61 cm) tall with a wingspan of almost six feet (183 cm). They build nests near water and feed on fish.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus
) photographed March 17th of this year
A male wild Turkey — the faux eyebrow is a shadow from a fold of skin over the eye.
This past Saturday I stopped by Blendon Woods Metro Park in central Ohio. While going on a walk there I watched a large flock of turkeys slowly move from one side of the trail to the other. The females were the most shy, and they scooted across the trail lickety-split. The males, however, took their time, often pausing in the middle of the trail as if to say, “I’m big and tough, and if anything you should be intimidated by me.” Consequently the photos below are all males, what with them posing and all.
Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Squirrels and chipmunks both stockpile acorns, but it matters whether the acorns fell from a white oak or a red oak. The acorns dropped by white oaks sprout soon after landing on the ground, but the acorns of the red oak lie dormant all winter and sprout in the spring. Since the sprout consumes the energy that was stored in the acorn, rapid sprouting makes the acorns of the white oak a poor choice for stockpiling. So squirrels and chipmunks typically eat the acorns produced by white oak as soon as they fall, and they stockpile the acorns of the red oak since they’ll last till spring. However periodically white oaks have a mast year in which they produce an unusually large number of acorns. In mast years both squirrels and chipmunks would like to be able to set aside some of these extraordinarily abundant acorns. So they have a clever way of preserving them over the winter. They remove the portion of the acorn from which the sprout would emerge, or if it’s already present, they just remove the sprout. Once the sprout is gone, even white oak acorns can be stockpiled.
Structure holding the spores of a Ground Cedar plant.
The above plant has a number of names. I’m going to go with Ground Cedar, but it belongs to a family of plants (a genus) that’s also called Groundcedar, Crowsfoot, and Clubmoss. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think its specific species is Diphasiastrum digitatum. It is a vascular plant which means that it has veins within its stem and leaves for transporting fluids, minerals and food. Before I became acquainted with it, I had thought that ferns were the only vascular plants that reproduced via spores. But it turns out that there are other plants called fern allies that also produce spores. Not only is Ground Cedar a spore-producing fern ally, it produces spores that can catch fire in a spectacular way. It’s fire-catching spores are used to this day to make special effects fireballs in movies. In the past its spores were used in old-time flash photography and to my complete surprise the combustible spores of one of its relatives were used to power the first internal combustion engine.
Common Walkingstick, also known as Northern Walkingstick
I was in luck as I approached the Nature Center at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Columbus. A staff member told me that she was just about to release a walking stick into the wild, and she asked me if I’d like to watch. You’ll note that the insect above has a pincer like appendage at the end of its abdomen. She explained to me that this meant this particular insect was a male walking stick. The appendage is used to grip the female while mating. Another difference between the sexes is that the male is brown, while the female is greenish-brown. The male is also smaller than the female with the male being about 3 inches long, while the female grows up to 3.75 inches.
I decided to set up a bird feeder a few years back because there was just so much snow that year that I felt bad for the little creatures.
Butterflies with elegant projections extending from their hind wings are known as “swallowtails”; the swallowtails can be seen clearly below. However as a butterfly ages, the outer edges of its wings start to wear away. The thin, little swallowtails are usually the first to go. So you may find yourself looking at a swallowtail species without seeing any swallowtails at all. The “tiger” part of this butterfly’s name comes from the four black stripes that start at the outer, front edge of its wings
Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)
It’s easy to distinguish between the male and female butterflies belonging to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail species. The above photo is a female representative of the species as viewed from the top. The underside of a female’s wings can be seen below.
The open blossoms of a beechdrop (Epifagus americana).
Most plants are green because of their chlorophyll which both tints their leaves and allows them to manufacture their own nutrition. However there are plants without chlorophyll; these plants aren’t green, nor do they have leaves. So they turn to other living things to meet their nutritional needs. There are two categories of plants without chlorophyll depending on whether the plant directly gets its nutrition from another plant, or indirectly via a fungus which in turn gets its food from a plant. Those plants that directly “feed” off other plants are parasites. The beechdrops pictured above are examples of such parasitic plants. Beechdrops get their food by tapping into the roots of their host plant, the American Beech tree.