Robber Fly

In central Ohio it’s been several weeks since we’ve had any appreciable rain. Add to that numerous days with temps greater than 90F and you have the recipe for a very dry landscape. On concrete hard ground, if it has been walked on at all, as dust rises grass seems to break apart under foot. For the grass it’s hard to believe life will return before next spring. In what seems almost a miracle, the green of most trees continues to contrast with the brown of the grass. Perhaps we should plant more trees. The water level in the reservoir near our home has held up well, and is amazingly clear with little rain to stir it up. In contrast a reservoir a little further away, that supplies water to the city, is down over six feet. Now, with it’s expanse of dry clay lake bottom between the water and shoreline trees, I tell myself it looks better if I just imagine it’s “low tide”.

Trees do their best to maintain the green canopy along the Big Darby, Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

It’s hard to have high expectations for seeing wildlife in these conditions. But in the middle of the day, as we cower in our air conditioned homes, life goes on. Unlike buzzards, smaller birds, that typically don’t catch thermals to the higher cooler air, are more likely to restrict their activity to the morning and evening. On the sun baked ground at noon I try to imagine what it would be like for an ant to travel any distance. I don’t see many travelers. However, as long as they have access to sources of food, the airborne insects seem unfazed by it all.

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Recently, in the morning’s relative coolness, we found ourselves walking at waters edge in the park near our home, Only a couple hundred yards into our walk a very small bird or large insect was spotted hovering, flying around, then perching on the branches of a partially dead tree. It was a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a “free range” one at that, how exciting. It’s always so much more rewarding to see a creature, not all that often seen in it’s natural habitat, in it’s natural habitat.

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird takes a brake while on the prowl for insects.

Another look.

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After the hummer just disappeared into thin air, as they have a habit of doing, we wondered what the rest of our time in the park would offer up.

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New England Asters

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Actually I’ve wandered of topic a bit because I started out with the thought of highlighting the really good day we had with robber flies. They seemed to be everywhere on a recent hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. They’re not an insect that other members of the bug world are happy to see. From the perspective of other insects they are a very efficient killing machine usually waiting in ambush and going after just about anything no matter it’s defenses. Click here for more information. What made the day really good was not only seeing numerous robber flies, but seeing a number chasing and then with captured prey. At one point one loudly buzzed the top of my head as it unsuccessfully pursued a Zabulon skipper. The erratic flight pattern of the skipper undoubtedly contributed to it’s escape.

Red-Footed Cannibalfly perhaps 1 1/2 inches in length. There are over a thousand species of robber fly in the US.

Robber fly with a moth in it’s spiny, not easy to escape, clutches. Barely visible is the piercing-sucking proboscis which is used stab and paralyze it’s prey, inject liquefying enzymes, and then extract the nutritious snack.

. . . with what appears to be a grasshopper nymph.

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Morning light faintly touches Crimson-Eyed Rose-Mallow

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Robber flies weren’t the only insect on the prowl.

Unlike the robber fly, solitary wasps do not consume their prey but instead lay their egg(s) in a nest near or within an insect that has been captured and paralyzed with venom. If all goes as planned, as the larva develops the insect will be it’s food, (Donna).

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Other creatures were also eating other creatures.

Low clear water in the Scioto River made crayfish easy pickings for this Great Blue Hero, (Donna).

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Green-Headed Coneflowers with a visitor.

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Nature always seems to be generous as long as you hold your expectations in check. Often when looking for one thing other things will become part of the mix. It’s usually best to just see what you see.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hides in the foliage.

When one thinks Monarch one thinks milkweed, but there are a variety of other flowers they enjoy. In this case it’s thistle.

The only Little Wood Satyr seen during a hike of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Question Mark Butterfly, Big Darby Creek Metro Park

A tiny, but very common, Pearl Crescent on a New England Aster, Griggs Reservoir Park.

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In the summer I sometimes just like to sit in my small canoe or walk slowly with no particular focus but only to let nature speak with a more all embracing voice. Realizing at that moment just how much is going on around me that I have no knowledge of, much less understanding. Perhaps a lesson in life in these trying times as I strive not to be ignorant of my own ignorance.

How you choose to look at something determines what you see.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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August Ramble

In August insects catch our attention more often than birds. Compared to the frenzied activity of spring it can seem very quiet unless you look closely. In some ways feeling a bit like the “dead of winter” except that it’s summer. During a recent visit to Prairie Oaks Metro Park it was hard not to notice the toll that a few weeks of dry weather had taken on a wetland that relies on regular rainfall to stay healthy.

I would have been standing in water to take this picture a few weeks ago.

But as the water disappears a lone immature wood duck, with a few friends peering above the waters surface, holds out for the promise of rainy days to come.

This pic leaves a little to be desired in terms of sharpness but can you see the wood duck’s friends?

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Not far from the wetland are three ponds (Darby Bend Lakes) formed when old quarries filled with water from underground springs. Surrounded the ponds, and interspersed with plant life, is fine gravel undoubtedly left over form the quarry days. We were looking for dragonflies but were immediately stopped when we noticed a number of very large wasps. They were Cicada Killers, a member of the family of digger wasps that make their home underground. As the name indicates, this one provisions it’s nest with the cicadas.  One one egg gets implanted in each cicada. The female is noticeably larger than the male, up to 2 inches long, and of the two, it is the only one able the catch the rather large cicadas. Click here for more information.

Cicada Killer exits it’s nest, (Donna).

Cicada, (Donna).

Wasp with cicada, (Donna).

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This time of year at waters edge the landscape is graced with the large flowers of the Swamp Rose-mallow.

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We weren’t disappointed in our quest for dragonflies. No new discoveries but the fascination is always there. I was once again reminded that it’s truly a jungle out there when a catbird swopped down to snatch a dragonfly as I moved closer hoping to identify it. No matter what one thinks about the level of consciousness of a dragonfly, this one, now a nutritious snack for the catbird, no longer exists. It’s demise, the flow of life from one from one creature to the next.    

Eastern Pondhawk, (M), (Donna).

Eastern Pondhawk with prey on Blazing Star.

Halloween Pennant, (M), (Donna).

Halloween Pennant, (F) .

Common Whitetail, immature male.

Widow Skimmer (M).

Eastern Pondhawk, (F).

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Black-eyed Susan’s are also part of the Darby Bend Lakes habitat.

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Moths and butterflies were also enjoying the sunny day.

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

A Monarch and Hummingbird clearwing moth enjoy the flowers, (Donna).

Hummingbird clearwing moth, (Donna).

A Great Golden Digger Wasp also enjoys the swamp milkweed.

Zabulon Skipper (M) on Chicory.

A female Zabulon spurns the affection of a male.

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Great dragonfly habitat adjacent to one of the Derby Bend Lakes, Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

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Mid-summer flowers and other critters made the day complete.

The unique beauty of False Dragonhead is part of the cicada killer habitat..

It was a real treat to see a Red-headed Woodpecker in the tree right at the edge of one of the Darby Bend Lakes. The first I recall seeing at Prairie Oaks Metro Park.

Purple Prairie Clover is also part of the cicada killer habitat. it’s occurrence in this habitat can be explained by the fact that it “is used for revegetation efforts on reclaimed land, such as land that has been strip mined. It is good for preventing erosion and for fixing nitrogen in soil. Though it is often found in mid- to late-successional stages of ecological succession, it may also be a pioneer species, taking hold in bare and disturbed habitat, such as roadsides”. Ref: Wikipedia

A small Painted Turtle enjoys the morning sun.

This year early August has been a great time for Ironweed.

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It’s been a good year for Red-headed Woodpecker sightings which, due to their rarity, are always very special but seeing the very large cicada killer wasp was what really created a sense of wonder on this day.

Mid-summer and low water along the Big Darby.

Thanks for stopping by.

Measuring Wealth

Certainly not an original thought, but most would say that if you have your health, enough resources to ensure adequate food and shelter, some leisure time when you are not dealing with “resources”, and good friends with whom you enjoy sharing life’s adventure, additional wealth is probably not going to contribute to life’s meaning or happiness. It also doesn’t hurt to have a curiosity about life as It will keep you engaged and seeking until the day your number gets called.

So what does any of this have to do with nature and where is Central Ohio Nature going with this? Well to get to the punch line without further delay, it has to do with an awareness of wealth that was experienced after a recent outing in the canoe. Of course this awareness doesn’t just drop out of the sky, it is facilitated by reading and enough research to appreciate what is being seen and experienced, good health and fitness to undertake the adventure, and last but not least, the company of a willing co-conspirator (in this case my wife) never hurts.

So what exactly contributed to the awareness of wealth on this particular day?

First, there’s the aesthetic of the canoe, it’s graceful purposeful shape, and the way the paddler and the canoe become one as they quietly move through the water with only the sound of the paddle as it brakes the water’s surface, is drawn back, and then, with droplets shed from the blade playing the stroke’s final notes, it leaves the water and returns to the beginning. A meditation; paddler, canoe, and water.

The north end of Griggs Reservoir. It’s hard to believe we are in the middle of a metropolitan area. We had the place to ourselves that day.

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Secondly, along with a good cast of supporting characters, at the north end of the reservoir in a stand of dead trees we had our first ever sighting of red-headed woodpeckers at that location.

Red-headed Woodpecker

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The supporting characters, not all of which are pictured, included osprey, juvenile spotted sandpiper, great blue heron (common), green heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, belted kingfisher, great-crested flycatcher, wood ducks, double-crested cormorants, mallard duck, map turtle, large eastern spiny soft shell turtle, and a large snapping turtle.

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Great Egret

Black-crowned Night Heron

Female Belted Kingfisher

Great Crested Flycatcher

Mother Wood Duck with young.

A large Eastern Spiny Softshell.

With the exception of the canoe all other photos are by my wife.

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The well connected lawyer or successful entrepreneur measures their wealth in a different way than most equally successful individuals who love nature but may have a less demanding career. The “buy in” on a wealthy street in our area may require that one to be engaged with a community of like minded individuals who have also attended prestigious institutions of higher learning. This coupled with a family legacy, and the “cross pollination” with other like minded established families may be key stepping stones to shared values and wealth which include the necessary hard to fake accoutrements, such as a large beautiful house and luxury cars, which signal one’s membership in the tribe. 

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But we are all destined to travel a narrow path and are all members of a some tribe. A path taken often excludes others. There is only so much life we can live. While there are undoubtedly exceptions, one would not expect that a successful high net worth entrepreneur would consider it a worthwhile use of their limited free time to walk a wetland path learning about dragonflies. Perhaps a business ski vacation to Colorado would serve their purposes better. However, is the person with more limited resources, for whom Colorado ski vacations are a bit out of reach, but who spends their time in the company of dragonflies and thus the interconnected web of life, any less “wealthy”?

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So the challenge for us all is to increase our wealth in ways that speak to our soul. The sacrifices that an entrepreneur makes to be successful in their realm are significant. From the point of view of a lover of nature they will miss out on at lot. The wealth bestowed from time spent in nature comes from a deep sense of connectedness that transcends our own self, allowing us to no longer think it terms of boundaries but instead to embrace the whole. It is something that money cannot buy and is beyond valuing. Perhaps Thoreau said it better than anyone has since:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
 
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
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Thanks for stopping by.
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