Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Golden-crowned Kinglet and a snowy day on the Little Miami...

I saw this Golden-crowned Kinglet on January 30, 2011 along the Little Miami River. It was one of those rare "sunny" winter days (ours are most often gray), and deep evening shadows had stretched through the winter woods creating an eerie blue world. The kinglet paid no mind to the sapphire glow, and went about the business of feeding himself. He had a long night ahead and needed the fuel to stay warm...

Painting 140. A Golden-crowned Kinglet on a Snowy Day
Watercolor, 9x8 Arches Cold Pressed 140 lb Paper

This little fellow was so close to me. He was off the trail about 5 feet in a tiny gully. A dead branch was sticking out of the snow and offered him the perfect perch. I was looking down at him, watching his endless foraging when he paused for a moment and looked up at me. It was a tiny little look with a tiny little head tilt, but it was there. He immediately went back to the hunt, and in a few minutes flew further down the trail. This is the same bird that appears in paintings 118 and 119. Click here if you want to see them...they are among my favorites.

Pencil sketch of a Golden-crowned Kinglet
I completed the sketch for this painting back in February! It was snowing on that day, and now that I read the text, I remember the snowflakes were huge. Nature journaling (even if it is from the car) is a great way to remember the special moments of a day.

Trillium grandiflorum at Fort Ancient (Ohio's state wildflower)

This evening after dinner, Rick and I headed up to Fort Ancient to see if the Trillium grandiflorum plants I spotted in bud earlier this month along the steep hillside trail that leads down to the Little Miami River were still blooming. If you're familiar with the area, you know the Fort Ancient hill trail is fun--not only is it steep (it takes between 11 and 15 minutes to reach the top at a nice clip for a great workout), but more importantly, Trillium flexipes, Trillium sessile and Trillium grandiflorum flow down along the path in huge sweeps. Our goal was to find Trillium grandiflorum (Large-flowered Trillium) because the plant is missing from the Little Miami River near the powder factory where I hang out. We hoped the blooms were still fresh, and we weren't too late for the show...

...looks like we arrived for the last act because the blooms were already starting to turn pink,
an indication of advanced age and pollination.

...ruffly petals and yellow anthers (the part of the stamen that holds the pollen) help identify Trillium grandiflorum.

The grandiflorum blossom tops a long stem (peduncle), making it similar to Trillium flexipes,
but very different from Trillium sessile.

...the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has a nice description of Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) on their site and explains why you should never pick a trillium--the flower soon wilts, and without the leaves to feed the roots, the plant dies. They also explain why seed growth is not a quick fix--ants carry the seeds to their nests where they eat the outside coating (strophiole) and then discard the seeds unscathed, but even though the seeds will sprout the following spring, it will take at least 6 years before the plants will flower!

...even though the blossom is nearing its end, it's still beautiful...

I saw this Trillium grandiflorum blossom on April 3 along the Fort Ancient hillside trail.
I was just a little too early for the show then...

This is what a bright white Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Ohio's officail state wildflower, looks like soon after opening! (Unfortunately, I couldn't find any fresh flowers today on the Fort Ancient trail. I photographed this plant on May 1, 2010 at the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio.)

For more information and beautiful photos of this gorgeous flower, head over to Riverdaze. Grizz just posted on Trillium grandiflorum too!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trillium flexipes by any other name... Bent Trillium, White Trillium, Drooping Trillium, White wakerobin, Wood lily, Trinity flower...and sometimes even Nodding Trillium (although most often Nodding Trillium seems to refer to Trillium cemuum, not found in our area). This plant goes by a lot of aliases!

Recurved white petals of Drooping Trillium (Trillium flexipes) bend gracefully back over the sepals.

...water droplets cling to the petals of Trillium flexipes. This April, if you've been out looking for wildflowers in Ohio, you've probably seen water droplets on practically everything (including yourself). I think we've only had two days of sunshine...

Identifying characteristics of Trillium flexipes are creamy white anthers and filaments....and the anthers (the tip of the flower's stamen that holds the pollen) are longer than the filaments (the part of the flower's stamen that holds the anther). In this photo you can see the anthers (creamy white and coated in pollen) are much longer than the filaments because you can barely see the filaments!

The drooping peduncle (stem) that aptly gives this trillium one of its common names, and which makes it so different from the stalkless Trillium sessile from this post.

...the three big and beautiful leaves of Trillium flexipes often hide the blossom if it "droops" below the leaf level. Here the blossom hovers just above...

...another look at those beautiful recurved petals! (Can you tell I like this view...)

Rick, Matty and I found this stand of trillium along the Little Miami River this past Sunday. The Trillium sessile (from this post), were still blooming, but their petals were already shriveled and worn in many of the plants, and our attention shifted to the fresh and beautiful white blossoms of Trillium flexipes.

...the maroon/white form of Trillium flexipes. Most of the trilliums along the Little Miami River were white, but a few of the blossoms showed this maroon/white coloring. Of course, the anthers and filaments were still the creamy white color.

...trilliums have an interesting method of seed dispersal....from my "Wildflowers of Ohio" book by Robert Henn:
"The seeds contain an oil which attracts ants that carry the seeds to their nest. There the ants consume the oil as food, but do not harm the seeds, and thus the seeds are dispersed."

Andrew from "The Natural Treasures of Ohio" just posted on Tricky Trilliums. Head over to his blog for a detailed account of the trillium species in Ohio.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jack-in-the-Pulpit along the Little Miami River

Surrounded by Toadshade Trillium (Trillium sessile), Drooping Trillium (Trillium flexipes), spent Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), and Mayapples (Polophyllum peltatum), Green Jack stood unassuming among the lush green growth of the spring foliage along the Little Miami River...and I nearly passed him by!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) stands tall beside Toadshade Trillium (Trillium sessile). Its three leaves, which grow on a separate stalk, are just starting to unfurl.

Heavy with raindrops, the three leaves on this plant are much further along than those in the previous photo, and you can see just how large they can get.

"Jack" is the club-shaped spadix, while the cone-shaped spathe is the "pulpit."

...even Jack can look dramatic when the shadows fall on the dark hillside and rain threatens overhead.

The little patch of Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) I found last week along the Little Miami River is still safe and sound, but the water is getting higher, and the rain keeps falling...

Last May I drove up to Cedar Bog (which is really a fen...) in Urbana, Ohio and photographed Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants along the boardwalk. Many of those "pulpits" had the dark maroon striping on them. Click here for that post.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The beauty of a Garter Snake's scales...

Yesterday before Matty, Rick and I headed over to my parent's house for Easter dinner (yum--very good, Joni), we went to the Little Miami for a hike. We wanted to see how high the river had climbed, and I wanted to revisit a stand of Jack-in-the-Pulpits to make sure they weren't under water. At one point, Matty saw a Garter Snake slithering through the grass, and when I looked down I found this beauty curled up in the leaves by my feet. At first I photographed him with the long lens, but he was so comfortable with my presence I switched to the short lens! At times I was less than a foot was very cool to say the least.

A close-up of an Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) shows his beautiful scales.

...this guy definitely has a round pupil, so you know he's nonvenomous. Eastern Garter Snake's pattern is easy to identify. It has three light stripes with a dark background. I just read in "Ohio's Reptiles" (a free guide written by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife) that a Garter Snake's name "derives from the longitudinal stripes on the body which resemble the design on once-stylish sock garters." Who knew?

...the beautiful and colorful keeled scales of a Garter Snake. Some snakes have smooth scales, while others have "keeled" scales. A keeled scale has a longitudinal ridge on it.

Curled and coiled in the leaf litter, there is no denying his beauty.

A snake's scales are made of keratin, just like our hair and nails. They are formed out of the skin. The skin between the scales is soft and stretchy, which comes in very handy when a snake swallows a mouse or frog! You can see this in the photo above...the scales on the left side of the photo are compact and overlapping, while the scales in the middle have a space between them. Those black and white areas are the skin...stretched to accommodate his latest meal. As a snake grows, he doesn't grow more scales...they just get larger.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chiggy Cottontail...

Painting 139. Chiggy Cottontail
(Watercolor, 12x16 Arches Cold Pressed 140lb Paper)

Our little chickadee friend is always trying to get in on the action. Here he is as "Chiggy Cottontail."
Wishing everyone a Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sessile Trillium and a hidden Garter Snake

Sessile Trillium (Trillium sessile) is blooming all along the Little Miami River. To really appreciate its beautiful blossom, get down on your knees and have a look. The veining in the dark maroon petals are the star of the show, but its structure is just as interesting. If you look "sessile" up in Webster's dictionary, you'll find: "attached directly by the base; not raised upon a stalk or peduncle," which perfectly describes this little early spring maroon-colored trillium...

A fully opened blossom of Trillium sessile sits directly atop the leaves. It couldn't have come with a more descriptive name!

...even before a Sessile Trillium bloom opens, the maroon veining in the three outer sepals is striking. Eastern Garter Snake! When you're sprawled on the ground in the early spring communing with the flowers, don't forget other things like to sprawl (or coil) on the ground too. Thank goodness I LOVE snakes, otherwise, I would have been in for quite a fright. This fellow was coiled up about 4 feet from me. He blended in to the leaves so well I didn't see him until I was almost on top of him. It was cold...and he didn't even bother to move...

The first thing I do when I spot a snake is look at its eye. If the pupil is round, like the pupil on this Eastern Garter Snake, it is non-venomous and safe. If the pupil is elliptical, back away. It is venomous and can do some damage!

...the outer sepals will soon give way to the blossom within.

Sessile Trillium is also called Toadshade Trillium. I can totally imagine a toad finding shelter under the broad leaves...

..sets of three. The geometry of a trillium is part of its mystique.

...bright yellow pollen glows against the maroon petals.

...the sun backlights a petal of Trillium sessile, emphasizing the veining through the translucent petal.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mmmmm...late afternoon Florida sun...

...time to find a little depression in the sand, and take a nap...zzzzzzz.

...a friendly Willet was comfortable enough around me to doze just feet away. I love Florida birds...

...continued from the Captiva Island posts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)

While lying on the ground photographing the Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) from this post, I moved the camera to the left to focus on another set of blooms, and instead found the tiny hearts of Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis). Yeah! I was hoping to find this plant this year because I had never photographed it. With the Dutchman's Breeches in full bloom, this flower had not yet reached its peak and was still showing the green of a new blossom instead of the white it would eventually show (this weekend when I was on the trail, the Squirrel Corn blossoms were white, while all the Dutchman's Breeches were gone. It was as if tiny wood fairies had come along and taken all the wash down!). As I focused in closer, little drops of condensation collecting in the corolla captured my attention. At first I assumed they were dew drops coating the outside of the plant, but after studying them, I could see they glistened inside the plant! "Hmmm...what is that?" went through my mind. Not knowing anything about the structure of the plant, I wondered if nectar had dripped down to the translucent tissue, but when I got home, I did a little research and learned nectar was stored in the rounded spurs at the top of the "heart," so my next guess was condensation. An email to Jim McCormac (thanks, Jim!) confirmed condensation...there is always something new to learn...and marvel at!

Condensation collects at the base of the corolla in a Dicentra canadensis blossom.

...tiny drops of water trapped inside the corolla glisten and sparkle, adding to the charm of the little heart.

Squirrel Corn, Dicentra canadensis, is a native perennial related to the cultivated Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) we often grow in our gardens.

As the sun struck the plant, the tiny water droplets glowed through the translucent tissue.

...the little corn "niblets" that give Squirrel Corn its name. These little yellow bulblets or tubers really do like look like pieces of corn. I brushed aside the leaf litter to check it out...and had to laugh when I saw them!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Study of a Prairie Warbler...

...continued from the Captiva Island posts.
I heard Prairie Warblers singing throughout the park every time I visited the Ding Darling NWR this March, but they especially seemed to like the shrubby habitat and mangroves that bordered the Indigo Trail about a quarter mile down the crushed seashell path. This fellow was singing his heart out, and he came so close too...

A Prairie Warbler sings heartily in a mangrove tree on the Indigo Trail...

The crushed seashell path along the Indigo Trail in the Ding Darling NWR.
The shrubby habitat and mangrove trees that border the Indigo Trail were a favorite of the Prairie Warblers I saw there. (Just a touch different than the cedar barrens and scrubby fields they like in Ohio.)

To see birds from all over the world, visit: