Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tracks in the Snow

Saturday the 7th brought a lull in two back-to-back snowy days, so I decided to head out after lunch to The Ridges in Athens, OH, to get some relaxation in before finals week and see what I could find.

The snow wasn't too deep; in fact much of the gravel trail had already melted in places, but the forest floor was still covered as you can see. I was the first human on this trail, but far from the first animal.

One of the first tracks I came across, and one I wanted to share, were these. These are the tracks of a Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo. Notice the distinctive shape. These are large prints and definitely stand out from the other tiny, half-inch songbird prints you might find around. I had not found turkey at The Ridges before, but had assumed they were probably in the area. Finding these tracks confirm my suspicions, and now the next step is to see them.

While at one of the cemeteries along the trail, I came across these tunnels. They were very small, but what made them? I'm not exactly sure, but I know it was either a vole, mouse, or shrew species. Come snow fall, those tiny mammals are probably happy to be able to hide in tunnels they dig all around instead of being exposed.

I came across these tracks a few miles in on the trail. They were grouped like this and went across a bridge and off into the forest. There was a decent sized gap in between these "clusters" of tracks, meaning whatever it was was running over the bridge and into the forest. So what made these tracks? Well, there was some snowfall in the tracks so they weren't the crispest which made it hard to see all the details that would make an ID easy. Also add that to my little knowledge of animal tracks, and you have a stumped blogger. I knew it was some sort of carnivore, specifically a canine or feline species, but that was it.

So I posted these photos on the Facebook group Mammals Ohio for some help. In comes naturalist Joe Letsche. He said he "Can't say for sure, but they appear to be Red Fox tracks based on the trail width, the oblong shape of the track outline, and the gait. Bobcats rarely run unless they are chasing something or being chased." I had originally thought it might have been Bobcat tracks because there are supposedly multiple Bobcats at The Ridges; however, after comparing these and Red Fox tracks, I agree with Joe Letsche in this most likely being Red Fox Tracks.

I also found hundreds of deer tracks, raccoon tracks, and some songbird tracks on the trip, but I didn't get photos of them. Also, since my first semester is over, I will have some time to go back and write some more posts on photos I might have saved away, so keep on the lookout!

Monday, December 2, 2013

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: On bird conservation in the Lake Erie region

Hey guys! This is an important issue that needs action!

There has been a push to build wind turbines along Lake Erie. This seems like a good move as it promotes green energy; however, people are failing to realise the ecological damage this would result in.

Location is key with wind turbines. Wind turbines create vacuums behind the blades which suck in and crush flying animals, such as birds and bats. Lake Erie is an important flyway for many species of migrating birds, and these wind turbines would result in the deaths of thousands of birds every year for as long as they would stand. While it is green energy, the ecological harm these turbines would cause would be catastrophic and undo much of the "green" part of it.

Kenn Kaufman, whom you may know from Kaufman Field Guides, at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio has created a petition to stop these turbines. Please take a moment and sign it. The instructions are below:

"Black Swamp Bird Observatory would like to invite all you to register your objection to wind energy development in the highly bird-sensitive areas of Ottawa County, Ohio, specifically the wind turbine projects at the Camp Perry Air National Guard facility and the Lake Erie Business Park.

Rather than an online petition, we opted for a special email address at BSBO where we offer a 100% guarantee that we will not sell your information to advertisers! Your information will ONLY be shared with elected officials.

Please follow these instructions to the letter to save the BSBO staff time and effort.

1) Send an email to:

2) Put 'RWE' in the subject line

3) In the body of the email, include the following information in this exact format:

City, State, Zip
Email Address

4) OPTIONAL! - A brief comment (1 - 3 sentences) about why you object to wind turbines in these bird-sensitive areas.

The BSBO staff will create a spreadsheet with all of this information and include with our second official letter of opposition which we will send to elected officials. Thank you so much to all the caring birders out there! YOU are the key factor in swaying the opinion of these elected officials!"

Thanks for reading. Remember, we are the ones who must help protect the Earth from the others wanting to destroy it (even if it may be from ignorance). Do not sit idly by; do your part, take action.

These birds and more would be at risk from wind turbines that would be located along Lake Erie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Hocking Hills Trip

So Friday night (November 22, 2013), the Ohio University TravelCats headed out on their first ever trip. The trip was simple enough; rent a cabin in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio for Friday and Saturday night, and hike Saturday and some Sunday in the Hocking Hills State Park. Who are the "TravelCats?" Well, the TravelCats is a club that was just started this year with the idea to bring together people at Ohio University who love to travel so we can talk to each other and learn traveling tips, and hopefully even plan trips to take with other members. Here is the TravelCats blog if anyone is interested.

My main goal was photography on this trip, so pardon the lack of creatures and so on like my posts normally have. Be warned, this is sort of a "mega-post."

The first stop Saturday was Old Man's Cave, which is one of the multiple "mini parks" of the large Hocking Hills State Park. Old Man's Cave is definitely the most popular part of the park, and visitors are greeted with a three tiered parking lot that can completely fill some days. It's one of the most popular hiking destinations in Ohio, and for good reason. The area is beautiful. The central feature to Old Man's Cave is a carved out gorge with waterfalls, rock formations, and more. This is one of the main features: The Devil's Bathtub. The stream cascades down into a deep pool that is a few feet deep, before flowing back out into the normal stream.

As we hiked from The Devil's Bathtub up the gorge, we came to the beginning of the gorge, marked by the Upper Falls. The recent heavy rains had swollen the stream, and the waterfalls were really flowing. Back when I visited in August, this waterfall was only a trickle. Above the waterfall, just out of frame, is a stone bridge that gives visitors a view of the falls and the pool from above.

We turned around and began heading back past The Devil's Bathtub and on to the area of the Middle Falls. These cascades begin the Middle Falls area, as they continue off frame and over a small waterfall. These cascades are always beautiful, but the lighting is normally harsh and as a result I've always struggled to take a decent photo. Finally, with the sky overcast, I was able to get a photo of this exact area I liked...after 4 years of trying. Go persistence!

And of course, if there's an Upper and Middle Falls, there's got to be a Lower Falls too, right? And that's what this photo is of. The Lower Falls flows over the rock and into the air before falling into a really expansive pool of water.

Next we headed on over to Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve. While nestled in the mid section of the Hocking Hills State Park, this is a separate Nature Preserve and notice that because of that, there are different laws. One I see people constantly breaking (even though there is a decent sized sign right at the very beginning of the trail) is the "No Pets Allowed." All State Nature Preserves have this law, and people constantly bring their dogs to Conkles Hollow. Please don't. But anyway, we decided to opt out of the Gorge Trail due to time constraints, and focus solely on the 2.5 mile Rim Trail.

The gorge in Conkles Hollow is one of, if not the deepest in Ohio. The 200 foot cliffs are some of the highest in Ohio. The Rim Trail is absolutely spectacular, but definitely not for one who fears heights or small children. I want to stress that. For much of the trail, you are literally about 1-2 feet from a sheer 200 foot cliff. People die here on a regular basis, and, to be blunt, it's essentially all from acting stupidly around these dangerous cliffs. Otherwise, this trail is incredibly beautiful with amazing vistas. If you are a hiker, I strongly suggest doing this trail.

While halfway through the trail, much to our delight, it began snowing. Flurries at first, but then it started up in earnest and immediately stuck to the ground. The sight was amazing; looking into the gorge revealed swirling snowflakes as they traveled to the ground and snow-covered hemlocks. It was truly beautiful, and we had no idea snow was even a chance that day.

Sunday we headed out to do a quick hike at Cedar Falls. It was freezing that day; I had put my tripod in the water to take one photo, and the water made the legs freeze up within two-four minutes after that. Cedar Falls has the highest average output of water of the waterfalls in the Hocking Hills, and it was definitely a sight, and a sound, from the recent rains; you could hear it from the parking lot! Anyway, here is a shot of the falls, along with one of the founders of TravelCats in there as a size reference for the falls (she's on the lower left side).

Here's a side view of Cedar Falls. As I said previously, you could hear the roar of the falls from the parking lot, and this show gives you a good idea of why. You can also see some of the icicles that were everywhere around that area of the park.

Last photo! Here's the members of the TravelCats that went on this trip. The co-presidents are the two in the middle, and your blogger is on the right end. Future trips currently in the planning stages for TravelCats include a possible Seattle trip, with a visit to Olympic National Park (which is at the top of my bucket list).

Anyway, hope you enjoyed! And one final plug. I recently made a Facebook page for my photography. If you like my work, check it out! You can see other photos not posted on here, and even buy prints if you're interested. Click on this link to visit "Kyle Brooks Photography!" Thanks again, and keep tuned; there are more posts in the works!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Some Really Strange Midge Behavior

While on a trip to The Ridges, in Athens County, a few weeks ago, I came across a very strange phenomenon in a deep ravine. I had no idea what I was looking at, so I went to Reddit and posted my photo on the very helpful "subreddit" called What's This Bug to get some help on finding out what the heck I was looking at. 

Here is the phenomenon in question. Hanging from the exposed rock outcrops were these "strands" of midges. And there wasn't just one; there were multiple strands all along these rocks. The midges were all still alive, but appeared to be holding on to something like a single strand of spider silk. The people on /r/whatsthisbug quickly pointed me to a BugGuide page on the phenomenon. Here is what that page had to say: "The Porricondylinae and the Cecidomyiinae together are monophyletic. They differ from the Lestremiinae in the loss of ocelli and the shortened first tarsomere. This modification may have arisen as an adaptation for roosting on spider webs, where Porricondylinae and Cecidomyiinae are often found. Lestremiinae are never found on spider webs." -- Raymond Gagné
BugGuide also noted that "Cecidomyiidae found on spider webs are likely to be the longer-lived fungus feeding species hanging around waiting for mates to appear; gall-forming species tend to live a day or less." To me, this behavior was incredibly interesting; I had simply never observed anything like it. This is just another reason why you should keep your eyes peeled for the smaller organisms around you, because you never know what you might come across.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

This past Saturday, (November 2, 2013) some members from the Ohio University Wildlife Club traveled to the Earl H. Barnhart Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve (what a name!) outside of Chillicothe in Ross County. The goal was simple, visit the Northern Saw-Whet banding station there that was run by Dr. Kelly Williams in hopes of seeing some of these adorable little owls.

Well, long story short, we netted no owls in over four hours of waiting. It was a disappointment, but the rest of the trip was great. For those of you interested in the Saw-Whet aspect (which is incredibly interesting), please check out these posts on Jim McCormac's blog: Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.

We arrived a few hours before sundown to participate in some passerine (songbird) banding, just in case we didn't get in owls (so thankfully we got to see some birds!) They banded a Downy Woodpecker, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. The kinglet is the star of this post.

This tiny guy is a male Golden-Crowned Kinglet. I wanted to include this photo to give you guys a scale of just how small this species is. Now, they might be small, but they are definitely a packet of energy. In Ohio, Golden-Crowned Kinglet migration peaks in April and October, but some stick around all winter. They breed in Canada and western montane ecosystems of the US.

Here's a close up that shows the namesake golden-crown. In the breeding season, this tiny songbird actively forages for insects high-up in the canopy of coniferous forests; however, in winter this species can be found in a variety of deciduous and coniferous forests.

Dr. Williams, while holding this kinglet in the "photographer's grip," soon discovered that by slowly petting his back, he would raise his crest. Normally, they only raise their crest for intimidation and the likes, so I'm not sure if this one was raising it out of anger or fear, or if he was raising it because he simply liked the petting. He wasn't putting up a fight really, so who knows why he raised his crest exactly. Regardless, it was really awesome to see because one normally doesn't get to witness this in the wild.

That's all for this post! Keep tuned; there's a lot of posts I have backed up that will hopefully be published soon!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Some Spiders Part II

Spiders. You may hate them. You may be apathetic about them. Or, if you're like me, you may love them. Spiders are seriously cool once you get over the fear society tries to instill in you. 9 time out of 10 they won't even bite you unless they think you're trying to kill them (like if you start to squish them). And in Ohio, there's really no reason to be afraid of them. Any of the very, very few semi-dangerous spiders here are ones you have to really search out to find, and not ones you just come across. Okay, now that that rant is over, let's look at a few cool ones I came across from summer to now.

Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira
This is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira, found at The Ridges, Athens, OH. This is a female, and it was a really, really large individual. I've seen these before, but this one was essentially double the size of the others I've previously seen. You can identify P. mira by its eye structure, which helps in the ID of many spider species. With P. mira, the two rows of eyes go almost straight across the front of the head, versus being strongly curved. This girl was guarding her dinner from me, which you can see right below her.

Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus
Next to jumping spiders, this is one of my favorite types of spiders: the fishing spider. This specific one is a Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, which I found at Conkles Hollow SNP, Hocking County. There are 5 species of fishing spiders in Ohio, and they're definitely the largest types of native spiders in the state. These guys can be massive; I've personally seen individuals that are 5-7 inches across if you measure leg to leg. This individual was probably 3-4 inches across, leg to leg. But while fishing spiders may be massive and scary to the surprised individual, these guys are harmless, and very, very shy. When I see one, they normally run away from me, leaving me to run after them for a photo. The Dark Fishing Spider will sometimes enter homes in Ohio (Been there, done that, mom screamed, the usual), but pose no threat to you. Last tidbit: They aren't like traditional spiders which spin webs; these guys chase their prey and ambush them!

Black Purseweb Spider, Sphodros niger
I came across this spider at the Slate Run Historical Farm (part of Slate Run Metropark, Pickaway Co.), and boy did it catch my attention quickly. I had never seen a spider like this. The head was massive, and look at those massive chelicarae (the appendages that the fangs are attached to). Later, I learned this was a purseweb spider, and someone at the wonderful BugGuide IDed it as a Black Purseweb Spider, Sphodros niger. It reminded me of a tarantula, and sure enough they are related. Pursewebs are what are known as "primitive spiders," along with tarantulas, funnelwebs, and others, and are some of the least evolved spider species. Their hunting technique is also unique compared to other spiders. They build a web tunnel and conceal it. When a bug lands on it, the purseweb spider will burst through and pull the surprised bug into the tunnel to become its next meal.

Araneus pratensis
Many spiders in Ohio are very tiny, but nonetheless can still be very flashy. This is an Araneus pratensis, a species of orbweaver currently with no common name. And that's a piece of prairie grass at Lynx Prairie, Adams County, that it's on. I actually didn't even notice all the colors and designs on it until I got home because it was just so tiny.

And last, here's a wolf spider! As to what species... I don't know. Someone got it down to the genus Schizocosa, but couldn't get any farther. There are currently 10 species in Schizocosa listed in Ohio, and a few could be ruled out, but we could never decide on a definite one. Anyway, I found this individual at my house in Pickaway County, and it was a pretty large wolf spider compared to the more common ones that I see. The colors on this spider were spectacular, with browns, oranges, and creams all taking place. Wolf spiders are another type of roaming spider that actively hunts prey, versus waiting for a web to do their work.

Hope you enjoyed! Remember, spiders are your friends, not your enemies! And fish are friends, not food, Dory!

Caterpillars of the Fuzzy Variety

We have all seen the black-orange-black "woolly bear" caterpillars before, but there are a whole slew of other hairy caterpillars out there. I recently came across a few at The Ridges in Athens, Ohio, so let's take a look!

Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar
First, let's start with a commonly encountered species. This gray, tufted individual is a caterpillar of the Banded Tussock Moth, Halysidota tessellaris. What exactly are the fuzzy hairs covering his body? These are something called "setae," which are hair-like bristles. A seta (plural setae) is a stiff bristle which originally evolved to aid in sensation, sort of like how a cat uses whiskers. However, in many species these setae have been modified for defensive purposes in a manner analogous to the spines and bristles which a cactus uses for defense.

Banded Tussock Moth Caterpillar
Banded Tussock Moth caterpillars can come in a variety of color morphs. They can be gray, as you saw in the previous photo, but they can also be yellow, like the individual in the photo above. This is a very abundant species in the forests of the eastern US, and an observant hiker can often find several during a walk through the woods from July to October in a good year. 

Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar
This fuzzy individual is a Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar, Estigmene acrea. Don't let the name full you; these guys are found all throughout North America (save Alaska and the Yukon), and not only in salt marshes. The caterpillars feed on a really wide variety of plants, and many times will be seen wandering around on the ground in search for new food sources.

Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar
While many caterpillars will feed on a variety of plant species, some specialize in only one or two specific groups of plants. An example of this would be the caterpillar of the Milkweed Tussock Moth, Euchaetes egle. This species feeds primarily on various milkweed species, but will also feed to a lesser extent on dogbane (Apocynum spp.). Like the Monarch, the Milkweed Tussock Moth has evolved an adaptation to withstand the toxins in milkweed plants (and also dogbane species), and they can consequently exploit a food source that many species cannot use. And, again like the Monarch, the Milkweed Tussock Moth is able to sequester a modified version of the toxin and use it as a personal defense. Although the Milkweed Tussock Moth and Monarch derive different toxic compounds (cardiac glycosides and cardenolide aglycones, respectively), the results are the same: a caterpillar or adult that is unpalatable to any would-be predators.

Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar
Next, I want to talk a bit about this infamous caterpillar. This is the Hickory Tussock Moth, Lophocampa caryae. It's infamy stems from the numerous news and social media stories passed around every year about its supposed "dangerous venom." But here's the thing: it is not venomous. This species is actually pretty harmless, but misinformed stories sadly continue to be shared via Facebook and even national news outlets. If you want to learn more, check out my post dedicated entirely to the Hickory Tussock Moth caterpillar, which you can read: right here!

Woolly Bear
And of course, what post on fuzzy caterpillars wouldn't be complete without the "woolly bear" caterpillar everyone knows and adores? This commonly seen caterpillar is the caterpillar of the Isabella Tiger Moth, Pyrrharctia isabella. And you know what? These caterpillars are amazing. They hatch from eggs in the fall and overwinter as caterpillars. And when they overwinter, they can withstand freezing solid! Their heart stops, then their gut freezes, then their blood, and then the rest of its body. This would kill most other organisms, but not the Woolly Bear. They simply thaw out in the spring, pupate in a cocoon, and then emerge as adults. Depending on how short the growing season is, the Woolly Bear can sometimes take several years to reach the pupation stage. Some individuals have lived through 14 winters before pupating!

What about the wive's tale which claims the amount of orange/red on the Woolly Bear indicates how harsh the winter will be? It's just that—a wive's tale. Even within a single batch of eggs, each caterpillar can vary in the ratio of black to orange. The central band also grows with age, and it has nothing to do with the weather.

Adult Woolly Bear
An adult Woolly Bear, known as an Isabella Tiger Moth.
Pyrrharctia isabella is an example of a Lepidopteran (butterflies and moths) species having two common names—one common name for the caterpillar stage, and another for the adult. In this case, the caterpillar is known commonly as the Woolly Bear, but the adult is called the Isabella Tiger Moth. Another example of this double-naming would be Citheronia regalis, which is called the Hickory Horned Devil (read about them here) as a caterpillar and a Regal Moth (or Royal Walnut Moth) as an adult.

The species covered in this post are only a fraction of the fuzzy caterpillars out there—there are dozens and dozens of other species. If you're really interested in identifying caterpillars of all kinds, I highly recommend the Princeton Field Guide to Caterpillars of North America. It is a wonderful guide to caterpillars if you live in the Eastern US!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Some Findings at The Ridges

I went on a hike at The Ridges the other day, which you can read about right here, and came across a few interesting creatures and plants.

This is an Eastern Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis. He was lucky; I didn't see him at first and almost stepped on him. This garter was really cooperative with me. He let me get within 5 inches of his face to take some close ups before he slithered away into the forest. Eastern Garter snakes are very common snakes and if you pay attention you'll probably notice one sometime while out hiking. This one was a smaller one, only about a foot long, but they can reach up to three feet or more. Soon this one will be grouping up with other garters to hibernate for the winter.

Ah! A salamander! I flipped over a log hoping to find one, and sure enough there was. This is a new species for me - the Northern Ravine Salamander, Plethodon electromorphus. This is a relatively "new" species actually. It was separated from the old "Ravine Salamander," P. richmondi, now known as Southern Ravine Salamander, in the last decade or two. Northern Ravines are different from their Southern Ravine cousins in their protein composition and their distribution. As a result, information on them seems rocky. Most of the studies done in the 1900's at some point may have included mixes of both species, or one, or the other, so info on Northern Ravine Salamanders is lacking, to say the least. Now that they know it's a new species maybe new research will start separating our knowledge of the two.

Here's another salamander I came across. This is a shy Northern Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus fuscus. He was in some exposed rocks along a stream and when I looked at him he promptly pulled himself into a little crevice and tried to hide from me. ODNR says they are the most abundant of our salamanders. In the northern parts of their range, like Ohio, they prefer small streams (Like where this one was found), springs, and seepages. Interestingly, this species has an immovable lower jaw and the only way it can open its mouth is to raise its head.

You've might have seen one of these, if you pay attention to tiny critters. This is a Red Velvet Mite, family Trombidiidae. I'm not sure of the species, but it's most likely either a Trombidium sp. or a Allothrombium sp. Red Velvet Mites are actually arachnids, like spiders. Many species are very small, but this one was a bit larger than the ones I normally run across; still very small, but large enough to catch my eye from a few feet away. They won't hurt you, unless you're a small insect, in which case these predators will probably be going after you.

These are the flowers of the White Snake Root, Ageratina altissima. This is a poisonous herb. It contains the toxin tremetol, which can poison humans through an interestingly process. Cows will sometimes eat this plant, and as a result ingest the toxin. This makes the milk and meat of the cow poisonous. Humans would drink the milk, and if they ingested large enough quantities of the toxin, would consequently get tremetol poisoning. Before we knew snake root was the cause, we used to just call the subsequent poisoning "Milk Sickness." Back in the frontier days, it killed thousands of settlers, many of them in the Ohio River Valley. Abraham Lincoln's mom Nancy Hicks was actually a victim of Milk Sickness. Finally, in 1928, the official link between Milk Sickness and White Snake Root was pinned down.

Alright! That's all I have for this post. Stay tuned for another post really soon over a couple of "fuzzy" caterpillars I found on this trip.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Radar Hill and The Ridges

I'm finally back after a few weeks of a hiatus. I moved into Ohio University back in August as a freshmen and only recently brought my camera down. But anyway, I now have material for three posts or more.

This one is on the trail system up at The Ridges in Athens, Athens County, Ohio. Specifically, it's about the Radar Hill trail.

What is The Ridges? Well...

The Ridges Insane Asylum
The Ridges is a large complex owned by Ohio University that is mostly what used to be the Athens Lunatic Asylum. The Athens Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1874 and closed in 1993. This is a nature blog, so I'll only mention this place's history in passing, but if you're interested, SERIOUSLY read up on it. Its history is crazy. Check out Forgotten Ohio's amazing post on it right here! The Wikipedia article is nice too. Nowadays OU utilizes what it can of the buildings. For example, the main part of the hospital - the part in the photo above - is the Kennedy Museum of Art.

Anyway, The Ridges also has a large forested area attached to it with several trails, including a Nature Walk trail, connector trails, the Radar Hill Trail, and more.

The Ridges Hiking
Radar Hill is an incredibly popular destination for OU students and "townies" alike. A short hike of about one mile will take you to the highest point in Athens. The trail starts out in your "typical" southeastern Ohio forest and opens up to a more secondary-growth type of habitat that you can see here. The trail is well-maintained and wide. Radar Hill is that little mound-type hill at the end of the trail in this photo. So, here's how the trail works. If you start at the Hocking River (say if you're a student walking from OU) by Richland Avenue, you follow a brick path up a hill to The Ridges. Then, you climb another hill that takes you to where a water tower is. The path begins by the water tower. You climb up and up until you get on another ridge. You walk along the ridge until you get to the Radar Hill peak, which you also have to climb. It's almost like climbing 4 hills, but it isn't too strenuous, really.

Radar Hill The Ridges
This is the view from atop Radar Hill, looking out the opposite direction the other picture showed. As you can see from the horizon, you can see for miles. Why is it called Radar Hill? Well, in World War II the US Army built a radar station on the hill. OU and the Air Force then took over the radar station and turned it into a defense research facility. Then, NASA contacted OU in the early 60's and had them use the station to help gather info on the moon for the upcoming Apollo missions. By the 70's, the station was abandoned, and now it no longer stands.

Radar Hill The Ridges
Remember, you can always click on the photos in this blog to view a larger version!
Here's the view on the opposite side of the hill. Miles and miles of sight; the rolling Appalachian foothills make up the horizon. As you can see, fall is here, well, at least us birders can see. Fall songbird migration has picked up and is really in full swing. I saw my lifer American Redstart and Blackpoll Warbler at The Ridges a week before these photos were taken. As this photo shows, you can see the trees beginning to change. The temperature has also began cooling (finally!).

Radar Hill Athens
This trail (as far as I am aware) is open all the time, and many people take night hikes. I did one late at night and watched the sun set. As you can see, tt was absolutely spectacular! On the way up, I saw about 15 deer, and these locals seem to have essentially no fear of humans. They just stand there, eating grass, like ten feet from you and don't even bat an eye.

You can also see part of Athens from the peak. This is a zoomed in view to better point it out. At night, it's an amazing view; The light of the town glows in the dark valley as darkness is all around you. If you want better views of town though, check out Witches Hill or Bong Hill, which I will make posts about sometime soon.

That wraps up this post! Keep on the lookout for more posts soon, which will most likely cover salamanders, some caterpillars, nearby Witches and Bong hills, and more! See you soon!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Some Moths

Moths are really spectacular, but sadly they are many times over-shadowed by the more "flashy" butterflies. While butterflies are nice, moths are so incredibly varied and fascinating that they deserve a closer look.

So let's take a look at some of the moths I've come across recently.

Some moths are quite flashy and in your face. This is one such moth. This is a Pandorus Sphinx, Eumorpha pandorus, (also known as the Pandora Sphinx). These guys are massive; they can have wingspans of 3¼–4½ inches. If you ever come across one, you will definitely notice it. I came across this individual a few years ago on my front porch in the city. Adults fly at dusk from May to October, depending where you are in their range. In Ohio, there's flight data from June through August. The north only has one generation a year. Sphinx moths are always flashy, and this one is one of the flashiest in my opinion.

While there are flashy moths, there are also very plain moths. However, many of these plain moths have a very subtle beauty if a person actually gives them the time of day to look. This is a Common Tan Wave Moth, Pleuroprucha insulsaria. This smaller moth lives throughout Eastern North America and is common in deciduous woods, forest clearings, and field edges. They are nocturnal and attracted to lights, which is where I found this individual by.

This nondescript moth is a Green Cloverworm Moth, Hypena scabra. It's a species found over the majority of Eastern North America, and has even been reported in Great Britain! They're also nocturnal and attracted to light.

This tiny moth is a Sparganothis Fruitworm Moth, Sparganothis sulfureana. When I first saw him, I just thought it was another tiny, drab moth, but then I took a closer look at it. It revealed a intricate cream-and-caramel-coloured moth. Next time you see a tiny moth, take another look; you'll never know what you may see.

This moth stood out because of its color. This is a Spotted Fireworm Moth, Choristoneura parallela. 

Here's another interesting moth. Tiny, but different. This is a Black-shaded Platynota Moth, Platynota flavedana. 

This is a Common Idia, Idia aemula. A pretty common moth, this species is found across most of North America and Eurasia. This individual was quite worn, as you can see!

This one turned out to be the highlight of one mothing (yes, mothing, like birding) night. I'm pretty sure (and others agree) that this is a Detracted Owlet, Lesmone detrahens. It appears to be a very worn individual, making ID a bit harder, but it really matches other photos of Detracted Owlets on BugGuide. Anyway, Detracted Owlets, a southern moth species, are uncommon/rare visitors to Ohio, so this turned out to be a great find!

That's all for this post. Keep on a look out for moths!