Zick is coming to town!

Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest

babybirds-plainSunday, January 22 • 2:30 p.m. Marie S. Aull Education Center (1000 Aullwood Rd., Dayton, OH 45414   http://www.aullwood.org)

Admission is $5.00/adult and $3.00 child, Friends of Aullwood and National Audubon Society members are admitted free.

One of my favorite nature peeps will be speaking in the Dayton area January 22. Julie Zickefoose is an Ohio Writer/Artist that has the heart of a angel where nature is concerned. She is a widely published natural history writer and artist. She shares her experiences through word and brush/pencil stroke, much to the delight of her fans…… Needless to say, I am one! Check out her blog at www.julieckefoose.blogspot.com 

Here is a description on her upcoming program as noted in the Aullwood Audubon newsletter:

Why and how do baby songbirds develop so quickly, some launching into flight only 11 days after hatching? In 2002, Julie Zickefoose began to draw and paint wild nestlings day by day, bearing witness to their swift growth. Over the next 13 years, Julie would document the daily changes in 17 bird species from hatching to fledging. Baby Birds is the enchanting result, with more than 500 life studies that hop, crawl and flutter through its pages. In this talk, Julie shares her influences as well as her artistic process, a must- see for the aspiring natural history artist. Art and science blend in every Zickefoose pursuit, as the scientist’s relentless curiosity joins the artist’s quest for beauty. The work, wonder and fun of studying nestlings, including being foster mother to orphaned hummingbirds, chimney swifts and bluebirds, makes for an irresistible and highly inspirational presentation.

Writer/artist Julie Zickefoose, author of Letters from Eden, and The Bluebird Effect, is a Contributing Editor to Bird Watcher’s Digest. Julie loves to introduce people to birdwatching, speaking at a number of festivals around the country, and now leads natural history excursions abroad. Because she believes birds to be the most vibrant vessels for the life force, painting baby birds as they grow has been her favorite project to date. Her new book is Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest (2016). She lives with her family on an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio.

Long time no see

Two months have flown by since my last post. Volleyball season finished (hubby coaches, I photograph), the backyard honeysuckle fencerow was removed and replanted and then…..there was a hospital visit. Emergency. Come to think of it, I’ve accompanied two people to emergency, lately. The first was when I drove to the hospital like a mad woman with dear hubby in tow. Let’s just say that our huge ‘Skyline’ locust tree didn’t like being limbed up and took out the chainsaw operator AND the ladder upon which said operator was standing with vengeance. End result? Over $8K in medical charges and a broken bone in his face. He is so very lucky it wasn’t worse. The second opportunity to visit another emergency room was when I accompanied my mom in the squad car after she suffered a heart attack at church. She’s home resting and will recover with time and new meds. And if she listens to her doctor. Easier said than done!

Hummingbird nest

Miracles abound. Take, for instance, the vengeful locust tree. She now is protecting a miniature cup woven with fluffy down and held together with spider webs; she holds a hummingbird nest in her branches. I discovered the location this past Sunday by following a female who was gathering fluff from my nesting material cage. If only the nest was closer to the ground – it sits about 10-12′ above my head.

Nesting Material Cage

The American goldfinches are just now getting into the nest-making mode and are also making a dent in the fluffy stuff. Check out one of the dispensers sold at your local Wild Birds Unlimited store. Nesting birds will thank you.

Sales alerts

Seasonal sales going on: Check out your local garden center/nursery for some fantastic sales. As they say at my favorite place to eat (Hot Head Burritos), “Get out and get you some!” Some of the sales/discounts going on that I am aware of are:

Knollwood Garden Center – 25% off store wide and 50% off select items.

Grandma’s Gardens –  vegetable plants, flats of annuals, flowering almonds, fruit trees and 1.75″ caliper ‘Sargentina’ crabapples are 50% off;  2.5″ caliper ‘Bosque’ elm trees and 5-6′ ‘Autumn Brilliance’ serviceberrys  are 30% off; 4″ annuals, tropicals and in-stock azaleas are 25% off; variegated red twig dogwood (reg. $29.99) are now $19.99; $7.99 1-gallon perennials of the week include ‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint and Blue Star Creeper

Siebenthaler’s Garden Center – all annuals, herbs, vegetables and tropicals are 30% off.

A walk on the wild side

American Kestrel (photo by Roger Garber)

I hope I never lose the burning desire to learn more about natural history. I knew that Mother Nature could be quite the designer but I learned some new things at the Wildlife Diversity Conference this week. Things that tell me she has quite a few more tricks hiding up her sleeve. From discovering how nonnative earthworms are detrimentally impacting our forests to learning what is down in a terrestrial crayfish tunnel….It was great. Sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife, this annual conference draws nearly 1000 people to hear researchers who are tops in their fields. Consider attending next year. You won’t regret it.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “Tell me something I don’t know.” I’ll try to add a new snippet in my posts that just may give the reader something to ponder. Something to demonstrate just how magnificent the natural world is. Here we go:

American Kestrel (photo by Roger Garber)

Did You Know? The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest of our falcons. About the size of a Mourning Dove, they can frequently be seen sitting on a power line or telephone wire or hovering over a field just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting meadow vole or grasshopper. It goes without saying that raptors (hawks, falcons, eagles and owls) have great eyesight but here’s something even more unusual. Because kestrels can see ultraviolet light, and because vole urine reflects that color, it’s possible that kestrels can follow vole urine trails to potential prey. Go figure! Thank you to our friend Roger Garber who kindly provided some of his spectacular photos for this post.

Arc of Appalachia Wildflower Pilgrimage

Now in its sixth consecutive year, the popular Wildflower Pilgrimage is a weekend event hosted in southern Ohio celebrating one of Earth’s greatest natural spectacles – the grand showcase of wildflowers gracing the world’s temperate forests in the spring. Located at the southern edge of the glacial advance, and also occupying the edge of the Appalachian foothills, this region has one of the richest wildflower displays to be found in America’s Eastern Forest. The Wildflower Pilgrimage is timed to catch the blooming of many of the showiest species and will be held April 20-22. Check it out HERE.

Area garden centers gear up for spring season

The area garden centers are BURSTING with a riot of colors and fresh new ideas to get you in their doors and out in your garden. Grandma’s Gardens and Landscaping (Centerville/Waynesville) is celebrating with their Spring Preview Open House March 9-11. Knollwood Garden Center (Beavercreek) has already started their spring series of seminars. This Saturday, March 10 at 10 am is “Spring Tonic: Early Vegetable Gardening”. Call the store to register at 937-426-0861. Meadow View Growers (New Carlisle) also has a list of upcoming seminars. Check them out HERE. Siebenthaler’s (Centerville) is having a Potato Planting Party. Check it out HERE.

Raptors: Hunting on the Wing

Great Horned Owl

This past Saturday I traveled to Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, just south of Urbana (OH) in Champaign County for a Raptor Workshop led by the amazing Tom Hissong, education coordinator for Aullwood Audubon Center. Participants were schooled on the numerous hawks, eagles, falcons and owls that can be found in at Cedar Bog as well as around Ohio.

Cedar Bog is an Ohio Historical Society property that is managed by the Cedar Bog Association. The bog is the largest and best example of a boreal and prairie fen complex in Ohio formed by retreating glaciers about 15, 000 years ago. It is home to many rare, unusual and endangered plants including the Small Yellow Lady Slipper and Showy Lady Slipper orchids. The 450-acre site features a one mile long board walk and an eco-friendly nature center, which was the location for the raptor workshop.

Small rodent bones in an owl pellet

Weird one that I am, I thought the highlight of the workshop was the opportunity to dissect an owl pellet. Less you are grossed out by this thought, would it soften the weirdness to know that the pellets were sterilized? Hmmm. I didn’t think so. Anyways, owls, as you may know, hunt and eat small animals like shrews, mice, voles and birds. They tear their food and swallow large chunks whole. They can’t digest all the hair and hard materials such as bones, so they regurgitate these in the form of a pellet. Sounds like an owl version of a cat’s hair ball!

Bones found in an owl pellet. The tiny bones just under the jaw are less than 1/4 inch.

Using a bone sorting chart (yes, there is such a thing) we discovered teeny, tiny vertebrae, ribs, shoulder bones, leg bones, sculls and teeth. It was quite interesting. It bears repeating: do yourself a favor and discover the wonders of nature by taking the opportunity to check out some of the wonderful places like Cedar Bog. You won’t be disappointed.

Yummy shortbread owl cookies. Who says birders don't have a sense of humor?

Sales alerts

Knollwood Garden Center – Beavercreek – Knollwood is really getting in some great and unusual house plant in stock. Just in time for Valentine’s Day (though who REALLY needs an excuse to buy a plant?) all tropical foliage plants are 20% off through the 18th. (Flowering plants not included.) Website HERE.

Grandma’s Gardens – Waynesville/Centerville-ish –  Grandma’s Gardens website has a $5 off a $30 purchase of regular priced items (some exclusions) through Wednesday, February 15. Coupon HERE.

Birds of a feather

Snowy Owl, Hardin County, OH

Were you one of the lucky few who caught a glimpse the glorious Snowy Owl in nearby Hardin County north of Bellefontaine (OH)? If not, our Viner friend Roger Garber put his new camera lens to work and has shared a wonderful shot for you. Snowy Owls, normally residents of the Arctic north, have been spotted much, much farther south of their native range. This unusual visitation is called an irruption and may be the result of inadequate food sources, primarily lemmings, that may have driven some owls this far south.

Sadly, it was reported today on the Ohio Ornithological Society’s Facebook page that our local avian media star was found dead today perhaps a victim of starvation. Take a listen to Jim McCormac, a biologist with ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, who was interviewed on  NPR’s All Things Considered by Melissa Block HERE.

The Harry Potter fan in me says, “Hedwig, we hardly knew ye….”

Pileated Woodpecker

I always enjoy feeding the birds in my backyard. Suet is a great way to attract many birds. Imagine my excitement spotting this pileated woodpecker. Thank goodness the feeder had a tail prop or else this guy would have been left hanging!

Educational Opportunities

Yes, it’s that time again! WHOOOOO HOOOOOO! The seminars, conferences and symposiums are gearing up.

Adams County Amish Bird Symposium – Saturday, March 3

This daylong celebration of birds features speakers, vendors and activities at the Wheat Ridge Amish Community Building, West Union (OH). Speakers include Harvey B. Webster, Cleveland Museum of Natural History; author Geoff Hill, Auburn University professor; Chris Gilkey, Wildlife Officer; Jim McCormac, Division of Wildlife; and Kimberly Kaufman Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Amish lunch included. Find registration information HERE.

Wildlife Diversity Conference – Wednesday, March 7

Wildlife Diversity: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Held at the huge Shriner’s Complex in Columbus, this event is awesome. Speakers are among the best in their field. Worms, Freshwater Mussel Restoration, Aquatic Invasive Species, Lake Erie Pelagic Bird Survey, Wildlife Orphans, Wetland Restoration & Small Mammal Community Structure and Beavers/Porcupines and Fishers. All in one day! Read more/register HERE.

Hosta College – Friday/Saturday, March 16 & 17

One of the most anticipated events of the spring is the American Hosta Society Great Lakes Region’s Hosta College in Piqua (OH). This year the date is Friday-Saturday, March 16 & 17. Check it all out HERE. Early class registration for Miami Valley Hosta Society members opens 12 midnight January 13. Non-member registration opens January 25 at midnight.

Awaiting to be seen

Gray Tree Frog

A friend’s facebook status recently said, “…beauty awaits when you are ready, only to be missed when you’re not.” True. So true. Such is the case as my splotchy, amphibious friend pictured here. Mind you, I’m rarely out of bed before 7 am. None the less, this was my reward for doing some last minute pre-vacation gardening at 6:30 am. Even before having my morning coffee! The cute Gray Tree Frog was perched in the crease of a daylily leaf and apparently thought he was hidden. Ohio’s gray tree frogs are masters at changing colors and may be found in many shades of gray or even browns and greens. It is a bit unusual that this one strayed so far from source of water. I’ve never seen one in my yard before so I’m even more grateful to have met this little guy. You can listen to and read more about Ohio’s tree frogs HERE.

House Finches

Another such find was this not-so-hidden nest of House Finches. The nest was built in plain sight in a wreath hanging on a front door. They fledged the next day. House finches are not native to the Eastern United States. It is reported that in 1940 they were captured illegally in California by New York pet dealers and fearing prosecution, the birds were released on Long Island.

There’s an app for that

Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed books with facts and photos. Our family’s World Book Encyclopedias were well used by the time I left home. I grew up with the Golden Book field guides and continue collecting field guides of all sorts. Apparently I’m showing my age here because I often prefer holding the ‘written word’ in my hand rather than heading to the computer. That being said, it is interesting to see some of the exciting new trends in nature identification resources.

Thanks to my son, I have discovered that there is a Smartphone app to help identify trees. Simply by photographing a leaf, the app called Leafsnap instantly searches a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds it returns a likely species identification, high-resolution photographs and information on the tree’s flowers, fruit, seeds and bark. Users make the final identification and share their findings with the app’s growing database to help map the population of trees one mobile phone at a time.

Leafsnap debuted in May, covering all the trees in New York’s Central Park and Washington’s Rock Creek Park. The iPhone and iPad app has been downloaded more than 150,000 times in the first month, and its creators expect it to continue to grow as it expands to Android phones. By this summer, it will include all the trees of the Northeast and eventually will cover all the trees of North America. I’m thinking this is one more thing to help rationalize the purchase of an iPad. 🙂

Gettin’ a little figgy with it

Brown Turkey Fig

You can put what I currently know about figs in a thimble. Growing up eating the less expensive generic Fig Newtons, I pretty much thought all figs came in graham covered slabs. I couldn’t have identified one in its natural form to save my life. Well, now I have a reason to immerse myself in fig research because I’m going to be a fig mamma. I picked up my $8 four-foot tall Brown Turkey fig plant while on my North/South Carolina in April (much to Keith’s chagrin) and it has about 20 little bitty figs. Does anyone have any culture input they can give me for growing one in Ohio?

Go local

One of the great things about summer is the opportunity to buy products that are locally grown or produced. Here in the Centerville area the Centerville Farmers Market just opened at its new 2011 location: Centerville Shopping Center (northeast corner of South Main St./Spring Valley Rd.) Open from 2:30 pm to 6:30 pm on each Thursday through mid-October, there is plenty of parking to be found. Post a comment to include other area farmers markets you have discovered.

Native Plant Conference offering 1 day registration price

The July 8-10 Midwest Native Plant Society is now offering a 1-day (Saturday only) registration price of $90 for its annual native plant conference at Bergamo. It is not listed on the site’s home page so you’ll have to click on the registration link for this discount. I attended the first one and had no idea that this was a national event. If you have any interest in learning more about growing native plants, this is the place to be.

Periodic Cicadas again? Already?

Viner Angie in Bellbrook reported hearing some periodic cicadas singing again. Having quite the deluge of cicadas in 2004, she probably wasn’t looking forward to another influx. Ironically, I had heard one yesterday as well over by Normandy Park in Centerville. Without looking into its beady little eyes and getting a positive ID, I’m not sure which species we heard. You can learn more about brood XIX at this link and even make a report if you’ve identified them in your neck of the woods.

Nature pics from the yard

Mourning Cloak butterfly

My attempt to attract and keep the orioles to the yard failed. Here, you see my attempt to attract them: a grapefruit half that had grape jelly in the cup. It is mounted on top of the shepherd’s hook of my birdfeeder. Ironically, in its spoiled state, it attracted the mourning cloak butterfly who likes to sip on rotting fruit or scat. When its wings open it is about 3-4″ wide.

This next picture is not for the squeemish. Viewer beware. It is a picture of a spider on the inside of my kitchen window who was having breakfast on a Crane Fly. If you can stand it, click on the photo to make it larger. The spider was on the inside of the screen. The fly was on the outside. How weird is that? Not all spiders resort to spinning webs to catch their food. Many, as this example demonstrates, catch their victims on the prowl. I love the cute (yes, I said cute) jumping spiders. Up close, they look like a sort of an oogly teddy bear…….sort of. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife has a wonderful field guide for Spiders of Ohio though with this back lighting, I can’t tell which spider this is.

Breakfast at Vickster's