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December 2, 2017

Ever see a wildflower blooming completely out of season?

I’ve seen them here and there over the years.  I call them ‘erratics’ because it surely seems like something erratic is going on when a flower blooms months after its blooming season is done!

I’ve done a cursory check to see what’s going on here, but other than temperature and moisture affecting the length of growing seasons, I’m not finding much information on this phenomenon.

Here’s my most recent example-

Above is a White Violet seen blooming this past October 14th.  Violets typically bloom in April and May in Ohio, June at the latest, so October is strange indeed!

I’ve seen other wildflowers such as a Wild Parsnip growing in October/November and even a Purple Iris in a garden during those same months.  Perhaps they are some kind of mutation in particular flowers?  Some kind of very late starters growing from recent seeds?  They are rare so I don’t think it’s a climate issue.

Anyway, this is a mystery to me- keep an eye out for such things out of place.  This happens in the bird world- birds who don’t migrate who should have, perhaps due to injury or some other issue- but flowers, who knows?

I’d be happy to get any input on this 🙂



Autumn at A W Marion State Park.

November 4, 2017

A W Marion State Park

I recently walked the 5-mile trail around Lake Hargus, the central feature of A W Marion State Park, in Ohio’s Pickaway County.

The rolling woodlands and quiet waters of A.W. Marion State Park offer visitors a welcome escape from the rigors of everyday life. This small (309 acres) but unique park offers a variety of recreational activities while maintaining a quiet atmosphere of natural serenity. 

I found this blurb from the park website to be very true.  The park is near Circleville Ohio, yet is remote enough, nestled in the till plain country of eastern Ohio, to be peaceful and quiet when I visited.

My visit- on the last day of October- coincided with central Ohio’s peak autumn tree color fashion show.  Here are some pictures!

(how the marina area looked last month)

…and now

Mallards approaching, looking for some food

Birds could be seen in the park area:

a young Chipping Sparrow, part of an autumn flock

a White-Breasted Nuthatch

Cardinals love the Honeysuckle berry thickets

a female Bluebird

Autumn colors were evident:

…and two lonely swallows wheeled overhead, very late in the season for them.

Was that an island out in the lake?

the path took me out onto the dam causeway

a Woolly Bear Caterpillar crawled across the path-  I wrote about them years ago, here

Some wildflowers still bloomed along the causeway, most likely because the nearby water is warmer than ground or air.  Jerry over at Quiet Solo Pursuits pointed that out to me years ago.  I haven’t forgot!

coming down off the causeway

an autumn sparrow lurks in the thickets- October is a big sparrow month for birders

it was time to enter the forest that surrounds the lake

the majority of the trees were Maples, their leaves predominantly yellow

the path followed the shoreline much of the time

occasional outcroppings of slate rock were seen

…and a fern here and there.

Trees that were spotted include…

many Maples


Sycamores, with their hollowed-out trunks


Black Walnuts, often bare of leaves by now, but leaving behind many walnuts- it’s been a banner year for them, I was nearly hit by some falling from a good height

PawPaw trees in large colonies

Sasafras trees  with their lobed leaves

I spotted this lone Osage Orange fruit

there were many ravines crossed by foot bridges

occasional wooden stair steps helped with the steeper slopes

there were a few small benches scattered throughout the woods next to the footpath

a few streams needed to be forded

the path went through a camping area

Knotweed (also called Lady’s Thumb and Smartweed), an autumn wildflower, was seen here and there in the woods

…as were the occasional birds:

Winter Wren

Tufted Titmouse

Blue Jay

glimpses of the lake could be seen

and the Hargus River

the view of the lake opened up as I neared the end of the circular path

my most interesting bird of the day- a Great Egret on an island out in the lake- late in the season for this one!

this Indian (Mock) Strawberry caught my eye in the grass

I was favorably impressed with this park- ODNR does a good job with them

it would be neat to own a house with a state park for your yard!

I enjoyed the day’s outing.  I hope my pictures give some indication of why.  Enjoy this glorious season before wintertime arrives!



Kelley’s Island on Lake Erie.

October 7, 2017

Kelley’s Island

Last month a buddy and I went up to Kelley’s Island on Lake Erie.  We didn’t see a lot of birds, but the scenery sure was nice!  Ohio road trip!

The trip up was good as usual.

We went up to Marblehead to take one of the frequent ferries out to Kelley’s Island.  The rate was reasonable. You could go on foot or take your car over.

Lake Erie was fairly smooth for the trip out.  It’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes.

We passed another ferry coming back from the island.

There are a few islands off Ohio’s shores in Lake Erie- Put-In-Bay, Kelley’s, the Bass Islands- and they attract vacationers and day-trippers.  For us land-locked central Ohio folks, it’s like a bit of the ocean 🙂

The ferry ride was only about 20 minutes.  Kelley’s Island is about 4 miles out into Lake Erie from Marblehead, Ohio.  It is the largest island in Lake Erie, being approximately 4.3 square miles in size.

Incidentally, Kelley’s Island is both an island and an Ohio village.  It has an estimated year-round population of 312, but much more housing, campgrounds and camps exists for the summer tourist industry.  The island has a few roads, but golf carts and bicycles seem to outnumber cars.  Pubs, general/convenience stores, restaurants and gift shops- many of which close at the end of the tourist season- dot the island.

Being birders, we kept our eyes out for our feathered friends and saw them here and there.

As you can imagine, boating is popular on and around the island.  Marinas dot the coast.

Here was the golf cart we rented for the reasonable rate of $14 an hour.  Many people prefer this mode of travel on the island.  Unfortunately, the horn button was placed right where one’s foot naturally rests on the floor, evoking the occasional startled tourist (and golf cart driver).  The funny part was we were making fun of people honking their horn in an accidental manner until we got our own cart and did the exact same thing.  Red-faced and humbled by a horn button badly placed!

There were a good amount of beautiful houses on the island, some done in the Victorian style popular when they were first built.  A smaller number are permanent year-round homes, a greater number are summer homes.


We drove around the island, taking in the sights.  We had a couple places in mind to visit, so all was not just convivial wandering.

Occasional signs brought a smile to our faces.

And there was history about, which always makes me happy!

Kelley’s Island was first settled by American settlers in the early 1800s- legend has it a man named Cunningham lived with Native Americans on the island in 1803 in a log cabin.  In 1830 the first quarry was created to extract limestone, abundant on the island.  Then the famous Kelley brothers showed up.

Datus and Irad Kelley were born in Middlefield, Connecticut on April 24, 1788 and October 24, 1791, respectively. Datus moved to Rocky River, Ohio in 1811, working as a surveyor and sawmill owner. Irad moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1812, eventually becoming a successful merchant, postmaster, sailor, and real-estate investor. Irad Kelley first became aware of the island after being forced to seek shelter there while transporting goods via sloop sailboat from Detroit to his shop in Cleveland. On August 20, 1833, the two began purchasing parcels of land on Cunningham Island at the rate of $1.50 per acre. They eventually owned the entire 3,000-acre island, and in 1840 changed its name to Kelleys Island. By this time, the population had risen to 68 people.

The brothers quickly began improving and expanding the island’s docks to export limestone, fruit, and red cedar lumber. Soon, 16 limestone kilns were producing lime. The village’s various industries hired a number of immigrants (including young children), many of whom would work on the island during the summer and return to their homeland during the winter. Among the nationalities working on the island at that time were Poles, Slavs, Macedonians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Italians and Portuguese. Datus Kelley encouraged sobriety, and paid his employees bonuses for abstaining from “intoxifying liquors”.

In 1842, Charles Carpenter (son-in-law of Datus Kelley) of Norwich, Connecticut began growing and harvesting grapes for wine on Kelleys Island; by the early 20th century, the island was annually producing 500,000 gallons of wine per year.

The quarries were the origin of the Kelley Island Lime & Transport Company, which was once the largest producer of limestone and lime products in the world, operating between 1896 and the early 1960s. Numerous ruins of these operations and quarries now dot the island.

The small village grew quickly, and soon a library and post office were erected. In 1901, the Estes Schoolhouse was built at a cost of $15,000.

Old quarries can be seen here and there on the island.

Speaking of geology, the Glacial Grooves Geological Preserve was one of our destinations.

The Glacial Grooves are the most popular natural destination on Kelleys Island. Our grooves are the largest and best accessible example of this geological phenomenon anywhere in the world! They are located at the intersection of Division Street and Titus Road, only a mile and a half north of downtown. A paved parking lot provides easy access. The grooves are visible from the parking lot or from a winding series of steps and footbridges that loop around their upper rim. Don’t miss this must-see treasure – a National Natural Landmark that draws visitors to Kelleys Island from all around the globe!

The glacial grooves are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide, and up to 15 feet deep. They were created by the slow movement of the massive glacier that created the Great Lakes and Lake Erie Islands. When glaciers move across the earth, they pick up rocks, soil, and other debris, and drag them along. As the ice crept over the soft limestone bedrock of Kelleys Island, these harder bits of rock gouged the grooves that we see today. Originally, the grooves were filled with soil, debris, and quarry waste. In 1972, excavation to uncover the full extent of the grooves began, and they have been a popular tourist attraction ever since. The grooves are also important to historians, scientists and students. They give us valuable information about the direction and movement of the glaciers that shaped our entire landscape.

One of the interpretive signs said that the grooves were carved into the rock by the at the rate of an inch or so a year in the area of 18,000 years ago by the force of the sheet of ice in one of the recent Ice Ages.

Another area of interest was the state park on the island.  A modest beach was on the northern shore.

We saw this immature Bonaparte’s Gull at the state park.  It was a life-list bird for my buddy.  You have to be a birder to appreciate how good it feels to see a new species of bird!

A cemetery, containing the body of one of the founding Kelley brothers, was also on the island.

Suddenly, a reminder that human habitation of the island went back further than American settlers.  Inscription Rock Petroglyphs is an historical site on the south shore of the island.

Inscription Rock is a large limestone boulder on the southern shore of Kelleys Island. The rock takes its name from the many petroglyphs carved into its soft surface. These markings were made by Native American tribes that inhabited the island before European and American settlers arrived. Unfortunately, exposure to the elements has eroded the inscriptions and made them difficult to see. A scale replica, produced from sketches and rubbings done in the 1850s, is displayed next to the rock to help show visitors what the inscriptions once looked like. Inscription Rock is located at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Addison Road, a short walk from downtown Kelleys Island or the Kelleys Island Ferry. A wooden platform allows easy viewing of the inscriptions and the replica stone.

The precise age of the inscriptions is unknown. Based on the symbolism and the degree to which the soft limestone has weathered, they are probably less than one thousand years old. As a result, historians believe that they are the work of one of two groups: the so-called “Late Prehistoric” period Sandusky culture, or American Indian peoples living in the region during the period of European colonization. The remains of at least two Native American villages have been found very close to the rock.

Though faded, the inscriptions are some of the finest examples of aboriginal art in the Great Lakes region. No one is exactly sure what the unusual drawings depicted. The most widely accepted theory states that Native Americans used Inscription Rock as a message stone. They would carve drawings marking their passage through the area and noting details about hunting, fishing, and future destinations. In 1969, The Ohio Historical Society erected a cover in an attempt to protect what remains of the quickly-fading petroglyphs.

We saw the above Cedar Waxwing in a tree next to Inscription Rock.  The bird posed for us, nicely.

After a stop at one of the restaurants on the island, it was time to head back…sadly.

Back on another ferry and back to Marblehead- and eventually, home.  It was a fun and interesting trip, especially for us landlubbers!

Investigating Vines: An Itchy Problem.

September 2, 2017

Poison Ivy

It’s been a while since I talked about Wild Grape Vines, so I thought I’d follow up with a post about another vine that is abundant in Ohio.  There’s an old rhyme associated with this vine- “Leaflets three, let it be.”

Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as eastern poison ivy or poison ivy, is a poisonous Asian and North American flowering plant that is well known for causing Urushiol-induced contact dermatitis, an itchy, irritating, and sometimes painful rash in most people who touch it. It is caused by urushiol, a clear liquid compound in the plant’s sap. The species is variable in its appearance and habit, and despite its common name it is not a true ivy (Hedera), but rather a member of the cashew and pistachio family. Toxicodendron radicans is commonly eaten by many animals, and the seeds are consumed by birds, but poison ivy is most often thought of as an unwelcome weed.

When I was a kid, I got poison ivy rash all the time playing outdoors.  That’s no surprise, because this vine is very common.  Take a stroll in the woods and chances are you’ll see a lot of it here in Ohio.

Poison Ivy can not only be found on the forest floor (sometimes in shrublike bunches), but climbing high into trees as well.  Next time you’re in the woods, look at tree trunks closely- you may see it (or a few other vine species) there, looking like leaves growing out of the trunk, but really coming out of vines.  Old vines can get really thick, as in Tarzan-swinging thick.  But don’t ignore the ground either- sometimes Poison Ivy covers whole areas of the woodland floor.

Sometimes the leaves almost cover tree trunks.  After winter, the vines can leaf again.  It is quite persistent.

You may have noticed that the trifolate leaves (famously clustered in 3s) can vary in shape.  This can make it tricky to avoid, unless you just avoid all leaves growing in clusters of 3.  Most of those are Poison Ivy anyway 🙂

In the autumn, Poison Ivy turns yellow and red, adding to the colorful leaf show.  I’ve seen a bit of the color change already in late August.

What makes Poison Ivy so itchy?  Urishiol oil.  This oil is the bane of many a rash-covered individual.

Urushiol-induced contact dermatitis is the allergic reaction caused by poison ivy. In extreme cases, a reaction can progress to anaphylaxis. Around 15% to 25% of people have no allergic reaction to urushiol, but most people will have a greater reaction with repeated or more concentrated exposure.

Urushiol binds to the skin on contact, where it causes severe itching that develops into reddish inflammation or non-coloured bumps, and then blistering. These lesions may be treated with Calamine lotion, Burow’s solution compresses, dedicated commercial poison ivy itch creams, or baths to relieve discomfort, though recent studies have shown some traditional medicines to be ineffective. Over-the-counter products to ease itching—or simply oatmeal baths and baking soda—are now recommended by dermatologists for the treatment of poison ivy.

The oozing fluids released by scratching blisters do not spread the poison. The fluid in the blisters is produced by the body and it is not urushiol itself…Urushiol oil can remain active for several years, so handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects (such as pet fur) can cause the rash if it comes into contact with the skin. Clothing, tools, and other objects that have been exposed to the oil should be washed to prevent further transmission.

The urushiol compound in poison ivy is not a defensive measure; rather, it helps the plant to retain water. It is frequently eaten by animals such as deer and bears.

In the late spring or early summer, teeny little white flowers bloom, but they are very easy to miss.  These flowers will turn into berries (called drupes), green in color at first but eventually turning white.

Poison Ivy berries are edible to animals, and I’ve seen many a bird eating them.  They are a favorite of Yellow-Rumped Warblers, a rare warbler species that eats something other than insects.

I’ve seen woodpeckers eat the berries too.  The seeds pass through birds and will grow where they fall- some shade is all they need.  This helps to spread the plant widely.

Berries that don’t get eaten can be easily noticed in the winter, when all of the leaves have gone.  This is a good food source in the lean season for animals and birds alike.

I’m not as allergic to Poison Ivy as I was when I was a kid.  Every once in a while I’ll still get a few bumps on my ankles along the sock line if I wear shorts in the woods, but it doesn’t spread over me like it used to.  That’s fine with me!



Cedar Bog.

August 5, 2017

Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve

Last June, a friend and I went to Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve in west-central Ohio.  This is a unique place geography-wise and species-wise and was worth the trip!

As usual, back roads and small towns are always fun to travel-

Then we were there, just south of Utica, Ohio.

Cedar Bog State Nature Preserve is a fen left behind by the retreating glaciers of the Wisconsin glaciation about 12,000-18,000 years ago. A protected area of about 450 acres of fen remain from the original area of approximately 7,000 acres.

Cedar Bog is located in Champaign County, Ohio, United States, near the city of Urbana. Ground water from the Mad River Valley and the Urbana Outwash percolate through hundreds of feet of gravel left behind by the glacier in the Teays River. The Teays River is an underground river that existed before the Wisconsin glacier which, before the glacier, rivaled the Ohio River in size.


Even though I am an Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) member and could have gotten in free, I gladly paid the $5 entrance fee because The Cedar Bog Association needs the money- they get no state funds.

In addition to the water that feeds the bog, the glacier also left behind plants that are unique to Cedar Bog. Many of these plants are rare or endangered. The sedges and other plants that grow here left behind by the last glacier were the food for mastodons and giant sloths that once roamed the earth. Also, trees found here like bog birch and northern white cedar are more commonly found in the more northern boreal forest. Cedar Bog is also the home of the endangered spotted turtle, massasauga rattlesnake, and Milbert’s tortoise-shell butterfly.

Cedar Bog was purchased in 1942 by the Ohio Historical Society and was the first nature preserve purchased with state monies. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1967.

An Eastern Phoebe hung around the nature center- they love to nest on human structures

This sign is very true- last year I went and it had rained recently, and the wood was slick

This sign gets one’s attention- rattlers are rare in central Ohio!

The boardwalk takes you through the fen, with exotic plant sights all around you


There were some wetland wildflowers you don’t see very often

In the clear cool stream, there were young Wood Ducks and fish

There were nice spots to sit and take it all in

This Fritillary Butterfly seemed to like the vivid colors on a map sign

As we left near the nature center, we spotted this Skink Lizard scrambling across our path.  Once again, this was a sight I’ve not seen in central Ohio very much.  Cedar Bog is a place to go for the exotic.

We ended our day at a favorite restaurant.  And a good day it was!