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.

Going wild in Ohio

Man! What a great, WILD week. It all started last Saturday at the 8th annual Adams County Amish Bird Symposium and finished at another wild adventure this past Wednesday at the Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference in Columbus. Do yourself a favor and make time to attend some of the amazing educational opportunities offered around our great state.

Adams County (OH) Amish Bird Symposium

As I’ve joked before: the birds are not Amish. However many in the Amish community near West Union are serious bird watchers. If you are a bird watcher, you will want to mark your calendar for October 14 – the day the movie “The Big Year” (with Jack Black, Steve Martin and Owen Wilson) will open. One of the people who the book of the same title is based on is Greg Miller. He was our first speaker and shared some of his experiences from his “Big Year” – when birders attempt to spot the largest number of observed species of birds in one year: hence the name, The Big Year. It sounds like a hoot and may be something akin to “City Slickers” but based in the birding world.

Among the other speakers, some highlights include Jim Berry, Director of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and author Scott Weidensaul’s program, “Living on the Wind: The Miracle of Bird Migration.” Migration is an amazing miracle indeed. Of course, the wonderful Amish-made doughnuts and lunch are a bonus.

Ohio Wildlife Diversity Conference

This was my first time attending this amazing conference at the expansive Aladin Shriner’s Complex in Columbus – with around 1000 of my wildlife-minded friends! Oh, my!  We heard from experts on many subjects including: Sandhill Cranes, Spiny and Smooth Softshell Turtles, Steelhead Trout, Masssauga Rattlesnakes, Freshwater Mussels and – wait for it – Eastern Hellbenders. What is a Hellbender? It is the rare stream-dwelling salamander that can grow to reach 29 inches. A creepy name to be sure but one of the indicator species of clean and healthy streams. Though I don’t have a picture of a Hellbender you’ll have to make-do with the timber rattlesnake who was on display. Doug Wynn, the herpetologist who is handling the snake above, was the surprised recipient of the 2011 Wildlife Diversity Conservation Award.

Bald Eagle nest cam 24/7

Here’s a cool link to a live webcam of a Bald Eagle nest in Decorah, Iowa. There are three eggs in the nest that measures 5-6′ across by 5-6′ deep. It is estimated that the nest weighs over a ton. It’s mesmerizing.

Support Wildlife Conservation in Ohio.

Get your 2011 Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp today at: wildohiostamp.com.

There is still time

If you are getting a little stir crazy with all of this rain, why not head downtown to the Dayton Convention Center and take in some of the sights at the Dayton Home and Garden Show running through Sunday afternoon. One of the highlights to see is the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) competition. The displays are reminiscent of what one might see at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

Landscape vendors have some beautiful displays. One of my favorites was designed by our friends at Knollwood Garden Center in Beavercreek. This cute Fairy Garden is located out in the convention center lobby.

The thing you don’t want to miss out on – and really makes the event a fantastic value – is the wonderful selection of speakers; 56 programs over the 3-day event. Exhibitors span the gamut of interests from home improvement to personal improvement. It was great way to spend a day out of the rain. Look for discount admission coupons HERE.

Better build me an ark!

I don’t know what it is about nighttime storms. I cannot sleep when it is windy and last night was horrible. Add in the heavy rains and hail hitting the side of the house and bathroom skylight… let’s just say I will be looking forward to taking a nap this afternoon. At the back of my backyard is an old fence row and it pretty much looks like a vernal pool right now. ANYTHING I do outside today will require my fancy-smancy garden boots. Or my hip-waders. Or a canoe.


Dayton Home and Garden Show presentations

Here is a reminder that if you haven’t done so already take a moment to check out the Garden Academy’s and How-To Stage’s course schedule for this coming weekend’s Dayton Home and Garden Show at the Dayton Convention Center. There will be 56 presentations on the two stages. All programs are free and included with your entrance fee.


Vote for Chadwick Arboretum’s Green Roof

There is still time to vote for the Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens’ Green Roof project. Rainbird, the irrigation company, is promoting an inter-active grant award program called The Intelligent Use of Water Awards. Check it out at the link below. The project with the most votes wins $10,000. You can vote once a day until March 22, 2011 so spread the word and help a worthy project.


Blooming in the Rain

While the skunk cabbages might be blooming out in the wetlands of Ohio, they aren’t exactly a poster child for ‘early spring beauty’. This week I’m going to nominate the witch-hazel for the ‘early AND cute’ award.  While visiting Five Rivers MetroParks’ Wegerzyn Gardens today, I spotted a spectacular witch-hazel specimen in full regalia. Yes, today. In February. From a distance, you might think this yellow shrub was a forsythia, but no – it is too early for those. The witch-hazels (Hamamelis) all belong to the Hamamelidaceae family and are primarily understory plants. I think I NEED one.


Aullwood Holds Waffle House Spirit Fundraiser (Wednesday, February 23)

You can help the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm and fill your tummy at the same time. Just head to either the Englewood Waffle House (9295 N. Main, Englewood) or the Beavercreek Waffle House (across from the Greene, 4382 Indian Ripple, Beavercreek) between the hours of 2-9pm. Tell them you are are there supporting Aullwood and Waffle House will donate 25% of your order to Aullwood. Ohio’s former first lady Hope Taft will be at the Beavercreek Waffle House around 5:30pm that day. I’m dreaming of my loaded hashbrowns right now!


Knollwood Garden Center Announces Spring Seminar Schedule

Knollwood Garden Center in Beavercreek (OH) will hold Saturday seminars beginning March 12 and running into April. Featured programs will spotlight many different topics including herbs, fruits, fairy gardens, and even an opportunity to tour their growing range. Check it all out at their website.


Great Lakes Hosta College – March 12 (Piqua, OH)

The Great Lakes Region of the American Hosta Society has opened registration for the 2011 Hosta College on March 12. The event features 6-12 different programs each of the 6 periods of the day. The school is held at the Upper Valley JVS Center in Piqua and the $40 registration price includes lunch. Some classes have additional class fees. Hosta Society members can register on-line now. On-line class registration opens to the public February 26 at 12:01 am.