Thursday, May 29, 2014

Some Butterflies

Over the past month or two I've been trying to get some photos of butterflies for a post, and let me tell you it is not easy to get a good, close photo of these guys. If you get anywhere near them they generally fly away leaving a frustrated blogger. However, I've had some luck and here we are.

Sleepy Duskywing, Erynnis brizo
First off is the Sleepy Duskywing, Erynnis brizo. This is a Spring butterfly that flies from April to July, but mostly in May. This species and the Dreamy Duskywing, E. icelus, are very similar, but upon consulting some others it was agreed this was a Sleepy Duskywing. This individual was found in Vinton County. Duskywings belong to the family Hesperiidae, better known as the skippers. Skippers are known for their fast, darting flight.

Juvenal's Duskywing, Erynnis juvenalis
Next is another duskywing. This one is Juvenal's Duskywing, Erynnis juvenalis. This is another Spring butterfly that has only one brood here in Ohio. They are closely associated with oak woods as oak trees are what the caterpillars feed on. This one was found in Vinton County also, in Raccoon Ecological Management Area.

Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela
Next we have a Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela. As the name suggests, you can find these in the woods (and shrubby areas) throughout Ohio from May to July or August. Notice the eyespots on the wings. Most people think butterflies have these eyespots to scare off predators, but that is not always the case. The exact reasoning behind eyespots in butterflies is not known, but it is most likely more than simple mimicry to scare off predators. Eyespots may be used in sexual selection, like the eyes on a peacock's tail, or may be byproducts of other evolutionary adaptations. Eyespots might also be helpful in drawing a predator's attention away from the body of the butterfly, which a butterfly would obviously want to protect a little bit better than a tip of the wings.

Falcate Orangetip, Anthocharis midea
And finally we have the Falcate Orangetip, Anthocharis midea. This butterfly is found in the eastern US, including the southern half of Ohio. The Falcate Orangetip is yet another Spring butterfly, flying from April to May. In fact, this individual is feeding on a Spring Beauty, an early Spring wildflower. Interestingly, the caterpillars of this species are actually cannibalistic and may eat smaller individuals nearby.

female Falcate Orangetip
This is a female Falcate Orangetip. Notice the two black dots; both the male and female have these. However, the male has those two orange tips on its wings as shown in the previous photo.

I hope to be able to get more butterfly photos throughout the summer. I would love to do a swallowtail post, so hopefully I'll be lucky enough to get photos. As of right now, there are about four more posts I am currently working on, so stay tuned for some insects, spiders, more flowers, and a turtle!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Spring Wildflowers, Pt. 2

More wildflowers have been coming up in the past weeks as the early Spring wildflowers fade out, so I've got a few more flowers to show. You can find the first part posted here. I'll start off with three common violet species.

Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia
First up with the violets is Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia. This is a common violet species and can be found throughout the eastern portions of the United States. In Ohio, this species has been officially recorded in every single county except for Madison. Interestingly, violets are not visited by insects often. So how do they get pollinated in order to reproduce? Well, violets exhibit something called Cleistogamy. Cleistogramy is where flowers actually self-pollinate, instead of relying on insects or other animals to pollinate their flowers. This species was also used historically as a food source (the flowers and leaves are edible), and was also used by some Native American tribes to treat various medical issues.

Viola striata
Next up is Viola striata. This species goes by a few common names including Striped White Violet, Striped Cream Violet, and Creamy Violet. I will be using Striped Cream Violet as that is what the US Department of Agriculture lists it as. This species is also found in the eastern US, but is a bit more restricted in range than V. sororia. In Ohio, Striped Cream Violet has been recorded in all but three counties, so it's a wide-ranging wildflower. The Latin name "striata" means striped, which describes the blue veins on the flowers as visible in the photo above.

Downy Yellow Violet, Viola pubescens
Last up of the violets is Downy Yellow Violet, Viola pubescens. It has a range similar to Common Blue Violet and has been recorded in all but four Ohio counties. The flowers of this violet are smaller than the previous two violets, which aren't overly big to begin with. These three violet species aren't the only species present in Ohio, but are the most common violet species you'll run into here.

False Solomon's Seal, Maianthemum racemosum
Sorry for the bad quality; I only had my cellphone with me.
Moving on from the violets, next up is False Solomon's Seal, Maianthemum racemosum. This really wide-ranging plant has been recorded essentially everywhere in the US and Canada, and is probably in every single county in Ohio. These have just started flowering en masse in my current neck of the woods (Central Ohio), so keep an eye out for them.

Large White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum
And finally, I have more photos of a flower I went over in the first part of Spring Wildflowers. I came across a large patch of Large White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, at AW Marion State Park last week. The photo above is just a small portion of the patch, which also contained some species of phlox as you can see in the background.

Large White Trillium
As mentioned before, Large White Trillium (also known as Great White Trillium and simply White Trillium) is the state wildflower of Ohio. You can easily ID it by its three large, white petals. This species is found mainly throughout eastern Ohio; records are missing from a dozen or so western counties.

As summer nears, a whole other set of wildflowers will be getting ready to bloom, so keep on the lookout for new species on your hikes!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Looking Back Over the Past Year...

On May 2nd, I finished my freshman year at Ohio University. It went by very quickly, as I was warned it would, but that doesn't mean it wasn't jammed pack with new things. I wanted to write this post as sort of a sum-up of the past school year in both my life and my blog.

I am currently attending Ohio University to pursue a degree in Wildlife and Conversation Biology. Upon graduation, I will officially be an ecologist/wildlife biologist/zoologist. As one might guess, pursuing this major makes for a very nature-filled few years. This year I went on birding trips, herping trips, and more. For example, the photo above was taken on one of the Eastern-Fence Lizards trips. On these trips, a handful of undergraduates and I would join a few graduate students to help them find and capture these lizards and then collect field data on them so these graduate students could continue with their research.

Speaking of research, I now have a new job lined up for next school year. I was hired by a professor through OU's PACE program to be a research assistant for one of his graduate students. I will be assisting this graduate student with her research on Red-Backed Salamanders, like the one pictured above. I will be accompanying her to northern Ohio to gather data on a few weekend trips, then helping her analyze the data in the labs down at OU in an attempt to see if there's any reason behind the gradient in color morphs (from the red-backed morph to the lead morph) in Red-Backed Salamanders that is present in northern Ohio.

Eastern Garter Snake
Finally, a little update on the blog itself. Ohio Nature has taken off. It just broke 13,000 views a week ago or so, and currently has 13,389 views as I write this. I can't thank everyone enough for the support I've been given with this. Trying to run this blog has made me take a closer look at the world as I try to find interesting material to write about, and I hope it has made others take a closer look at the world too.

That's it on the update. Keep on the lookout for some new posts soon!