Friday, March 15, 2013
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The thin, green strip has been mowed again—that narrow band of grass and weeds that runs in the few feet of unplowed land on either side of the lane that I walk along each day.
The danger in letting it grow, I have not quite determined, for nothing woody remains along the field's edge—nothing that, if not cut severely back each month, would soon overtake the road.
Yet the tractor trims it harshly. On rural land, nothing must grow unbound.
Each chicory, each great lobelia, each milkweed succumbs to the blade until all that remains beside the farmer’s field of beans is one towering bull thistle, just out of reach. How it must have irked him to leave it standing, proudly swaggering, a dozen purple heads staring back at him!
There used to be scores of dragonflies here, perching atop each tall stem on a heated afternoon, then coursing high above the bean field, hawking insects. Sulphur butterflies tumbled from one flower head to the next, drinking in the nectar. Scores of spiders built broad, round webs between them, capturing grasshoppers along every few feet of the road’s edge—all now gone. Except one, who by good fortune placed hers quite near the bull thistle—a magnificent black and yellow garden spider.
She’s been transplanted—to a golden field atop my hill, where she’ll rebuild her broad, round web and capture scores of grasshoppers. And not be mowed by the tractor.
Although female black and yellow garden spiders may be quite showy and large (over an inch), they are considered harmless to humans. Argiope aurantia (from the Greek aura for breeze) build large circular webs (up to 2 feet across) which they situate themselves in the center of and are able to undulate in a breeze-like action that may help elude predators and/or ensnare prey.
The male is considerably smaller than the female (less than ½ inch) and is drab brown.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
A journey into the untamed brush of southern Ohio in pursuit of the Amorpha Borer,
a seldom seen longhorned beetle, described by the few who have found it as
‘the most beautiful insect in the world.’
(in alphabetical order)
Wheel... and ...Bug
His keen spotting on this expedition secured our trophy of the day and earned him the title ‘Chief Beetle-Watcher.’
The Amorpha Borer, Megacyllene decora, is a longhorned beetle in the family Cerambycidae—a family heritage shared by the more well-known Locust borer, Megacyllene robiniae. Both brightly-colored, yellow and black-striped beetles require, as a host plant for their developing larvae, a different member of the legume family. For the Locust Borer, it's black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia; for the Amorpha Borer, false indigo, Amorpha fruticosa.
Not surprisingly, both beetles’ names reflect the names of their respective host plant. It’s this critical connection, the life-supporting role of a host plant, that dictates where one might expect to find the beetles, and where we would begun our quest.
Amorpha means 'without form' in Greek, referring to its flowers,
which are lacking the usual petals of those in the legume family
And perfectly timed to bloom profusely, offering a late-season hearty meal of pollen to hungry emergent beetles, the flowers of goldenrod and thoroughwort open on tall stems.
Yay! We found one!
Amorpha Borer, Megacyllene decora,
August 28, 2011
If you’re extremely lucky, you might find one feeding or mating or preparing to lay eggs within a stem, but you’ll never find the white, worm-like larvae, which feed only on plant tissue inside the host plant. They’ll chew their way through next year’s growing season to emerge once again as a snazzily-clad adult.
Extreme infestations might weaken a tree and make it susceptible to wind damage.
(Several members of this family have become quite well-known as pests for their wood-boring life-style. Asian longhorned Beetle)
But not the Amorpha Borer.
of whom some say is none more beautiful,
cruising the tops of the field flowers,
masterfully eluding all but those
whose one purpose
is to see just
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Ohio’s a Midwestern state, right?
Farmland boasting fertile fields of both corn and beans, a hint of hill country to the east where the Appalachian plateau rises from the Ohio River Valley, and Columbus situated at its center—including, of course, the sprawling campus of The Ohio State University, where, this time each year, thousands relapse into a case of Buckeye Fever that consumes the region until football season has passed.
A lighthouse is perhaps the last thing you might associate with the state of Ohio.
In the center of what is termed the Lake Erie Western Basin, sits the quaint village of Lakeside—the site of the 2011 Midwest Birding Symposium—surrounded by many legendary opportunities for great birding.
Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, known as the Warbler Capitol of the World, is probably best known for its famous boardwalk along the lakefront that draws thousands of onlookers each spring as warblers rest and refuel before crossing the Great Lakes to points north. Other sites that are frequent favorites include Black Swamp Bird Observatory, East Harbor State Park, Marblehead Lighthouse State Park, Meadowbrook Marsh, and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
To be unveiled by the Ohio Division of Wildlife at this year’s symposium, is the Lake Erie Birding Trail--84 sites in an expanded area from Toledo to Conneaut, organized into 7 easily-driven loops and offering birders a chance to tally nearly 400 species along its length. As popular as birding has become, the grand opening of this newest of North American birding trails will surely be welcomed by birders beyond the borders of Ohio, for, situated in “The Heart of it All,” Ohio is within a one-day drive of nearly half of the population of North America!
Feeling a little torn between a desire to travel these trails in the pursuit of the birds and a desire to curb your carbon footprint?
This year at the Midwest Birding Symposium, an experimental and voluntary Carbon Offset Bird Project will be launched giving attendees an opportunity to calculate the impact of their bird-related travel to and during the symposium.
As monetary values are suggested to offset emissions based upon mileage and vehicle type, donations collected in this effort will be used to secure additional wetland habitat adjacent to Meadowbrook Marsh, just east of Lakeside.
No, the beaches of Ohio's lakefront don't smell of salt air.
And you won't find clams or lobster on the menu here.
But the birding is world-class.
The birders, too.
If you're not signed up for the Midwest Birding Symposium, get on board!
And be sure to follow the course of events as these bloggers report from Lakeside, Ohio.
Monday, August 29, 2011
My hummingbird is happy for the change…in me.
A newly cleaned and freshly filled reservoir hangs, brimming with cool nectar, in what feels like September’s first fall breeze. I’d gotten lazy in my tending of the small, plastic globe suspended from the eave of the upstairs front porch and blamed, instead, the awful August heat for the mildew-blackened holes and clouded liquid of the neglected hummingbird feeder.
The demands of summer ran away with me. Carefree hours spent on the porch watching hummingbirds dart in for long drinks or perch quietly within firing range and zoom back around in defense of the plastic flower soon dwindled to nothing. And as the birds themselves disappeared in my neglect, so did my desire to spend time porch-sitting.
Before long, a faded and revoltingly dirty (and unhealthy) feeder was the only hint that remained to suggest that this had once been a place of great joys.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days with a friend.
The hum and whir of birds outside her doorstep began at dawn and continued through the day until dark. Back and forth they’d travel by the dozens to the sizable reservoir—hers always fresh and full—hanging near a copper bucket tucked and fastened beneath the eave.
Flowers filled her yard.
As you’d expect from one whose life has been largely devoted to caring for and nurturing even these tiniest of winged creatures, many plants had been chosen as natural nectar sources. But the artist’s eye and poet’s soul had gone beyond to create a beauty so lively and rich, that it remained after dark, afloat on the air of a night lit only by full moon and fireflies.
And I drank it in.
And remembered the places and stories that had first registered those feelings of connectedness, the inspiration that flows with her words from the page.
The friendship that I can only describe as a ball of yarn--
cords wrapped this way and that, intertwined one with another,
until I can no longer tell where it began.
I only know that, with time, it has gotten bigger.
Dropped back into my daily routine from this refresher of sorts, I began with an overhaul of the feeders.
After all, I know what it is to be thirsty.