13 June 2017

2017 Grass Identification and Ecology Workshops to be Offered at The Morton Arboretum

For several years I have led a very popular and relatively inexpensive grass identification and ecology workshop at The Morton Arboretum.  I will be leading that workshop again this summer.  In addition, for anyone who has taken that workshop in the past or who takes the workshop this year, there will also be an advanced grass identification workshop following the first workshop.  Information on the workshops follows.  If you know of someone who may be interested, please spread the word.

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Tired of seeing "unknown grass" and "Dichanthelium sp." on your vegetation sampling datasheets?  Need to know what species that Elymus is to figure out if you're in a wetland or an upland?  Interested in learning vegetative characteristics for some of our more common grasses?  Just want to know more about grass identification and ecology in general?  If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the workshops discussed below being held on September 5-6 and 7-8, 2017 at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois may be for you.  If you have any questions about the workshops, email Scott Namestnik at snamestnik@orbisec.com.




Learn to identify the grasses that add beauty and interest to the summer and fall landscape. Grasses allow us to read the landscape: from soils, habitat, disturbance and past land uses. They form a critical component of the biodiversity and with nearly 11,000 species, this is the fourth largest plant family. This workshop consists of an intensive, hands-on approach incorporating both classroom work and field study.  Identify warm season grasses in the field and lab, learn the specialized terminology and distinguishing features, discuss their ecology, and practice identifying species from keys. 
Instructor: Scott Namestnik, senior botanist, Orbis Environmental Consulting
Notes: Held both indoors and outdoors. Please dress for the weather each day. Limit 20
Supplies: Please bring a water bottle, a hand lens, and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes for walking over uneven terrain. Fee includes all workshop handouts, morning refreshments and a box lunch.
Intended audience: Advanced students and professionals.
Prerequisites: Prior experience with plant identification required
Course number: 
S318
SCHEDULE AND LOCATION: 
Tuesday, September 5, and Wednesday, September 6, 2017, 9:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m.
Thornhill Education Center
FEES AND ADMISSION: 
Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum. 
$195.00 members
$230.00 nonmembers
REGISTRATION INFORMATION: 
ONLINE: REGISTER NOW
CALL: 630-719-2468 (or to be wait listed)
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.

Expand your grass identification skills in this expert workshop. You've taken the first step towards learning the specialized terminology used to identify grasses, and you've learned some common woodland, prairie, and wetland grasses. Now it's time to delve even deeper into the complex world of these economically and ecologically essential monocots. This workshop consists of an intensive, hands-on approach incorporating both classroom work and field study.  We will use what we've learned in the introductory grass identification and ecology workshop as we become more comfortable using dichotomous keys to identify several grasses in the lab. We'll then incorporate our learning in the field as we learn key identification characteristics of even more grass species in varied habitats. 
Instructor: Scott Namestnik, senior botanist, Orbis Environmental Consulting
Notes: Held both indoors and outdoors. Please dress for the weather each day. Limit 20
Supplies: Please bring a water bottle, a hand lens, and your Grass Identification and Ecology notebook, and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes for walking over uneven terrain. Fee includes all workshop handouts, morning refreshments and a box lunch.
Intended audience: Advanced students and professionals.
Prerequisites: Grass Identification and Ecology (S318) or permission of the instructor. Please contact the Registrar’s Office at registrar-ed@mortonarb.org with questions about prerequisites.
Course number: 
S319
SCHEDULE AND LOCATION: 
Thursday, September 7, and Friday, September 8, 2017, 9:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m.
Thornhill Education Center
FEES AND ADMISSION: 
Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum. 
$195.00 members
$230.00 nonmembers
REGISTRATION INFORMATION: 
ONLINE: REGISTER NOW
CALL: 630-719-2468 (or to be waitlisted)
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.

11 March 2017

2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count Results

Well, it seems that I have no time to add to this blog anymore, but since I've discussed our results from the Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count since 2009-2010, I don't want to stop now. During this Indiana citizen science project, the greatest number of each bird species observed at feeders in your yard on the 20th to 25th of November, December, January, and February are tallied.  For our results from all but the 2008-2009 Winter Bird Feeder Counts, see our past posts: 2015-20162014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011, and 2009-2010. 

In 2015-2016, we saw the greatest summed average of individuals of any of our counts (202.5).  In 2016-2017, our summed average of individuals dropped by nearly 100 (108.75).  We tallied 26 species at our feeding stations during the count, which ranks third for all of the years we've participated in the count (we had 29 species in 2015-2016 and 27 species in 2008-2009; 21 species in 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 are our low counts).  The number of species observed was greater than our nine-year average of 23.78 species. We tallied an average of 19.5 species per month (ranking third behind 21.0 species per month in 2015-2016 and 20.5 species per month in 2008-2009).  We observed 18 species in November 2016, 22 species in December 2016, 16 species in January 2017, and 22 species in February 2017.  Our nine-year monthly averages stand at 17.6 in November, 17.9 in December, 17.9 in January, and 19.8 in February.  In general, numbers seem to increase when more snow and colder temperatures are present, and we didn't have much of either in 2016-2017 (as discussed below).

We began putting out bird food for our winter birds, such as this male Downy Woodpecker and female Northern Cardinal, on October 1, 2016.
The list of species observed during our 2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count is found at the end of this post.  Species not observed during this count that we have seen on at least one other count include Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus).  We had an early Pine Siskin before the November count period, but this was not an irruption year for Common Redpolls or Pine Siskins, so it is not surprising that we did not have either of these northern visitors at our feeders during the count period.

We've now tallied 37 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the nine seasons that we've participated in this count.  A Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) showed up and was eating bird food from under a feeder during the February 2017 count period, marking the first time during the Winter Bird Feeder Count in the nine seasons we've participated that we have observed this species.

A single Song Sparrow was present under our feeders in December 2016 and February 2017.
The low temperature during our 2016-2017 count was 14 degrees Fahrenheit in December and the high temperature reached 63 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  November and December temperatures during the 2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property were within the range of previous years, but January and February were much warmer than average. January saw the highest low temperature during the nine-year history (36 degrees Fahrenheit) and the highest high temperature during the nine-year history (61 degrees Fahrenheit).  February saw the second highest low temperature during the nine-year history (28 degrees Fahrenheit, second only to 33 degrees Fahrenheit in February 2016) and the second highest high temperature during the nine-year history (63 degrees Fahrenheit, second only to 67 degrees Fahrenheit in February 2016).  The low temperatures were below average in December but above average in November, January, and February, and the high temperatures were below average in November and December but well above average in January and February.  Snow cover was within the range of other counts, with the exception of January and February, when there was less than 1 inch of snow for the first time in any of the counts during our nine-year history.  Low and high snow cover totals were below average in November, January, and February.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in December (6 inches).
 
We tallied between 3 and 6 Downy Woodpeckers at our feeders during the count.
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2016-2017 were Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

House Finches were present during all four months of the count.
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos, 28 in December), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, 15 in December), American Tree Sparrow (13 in December, 10 in January, and 12 in February), Dark-eyed Junco (10 in December, 10 in January, and 10 in February), American Goldfinch (22 in November and 23 in February), and House Sparrow (32 in November and 25 in January).  The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were House Sparrow (17.0) and American Goldfinch (14.0). 
 
White-crowned Sparrow numbers took another hit at our feeders in 2016-2017.
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) numbers have been a roller coaster during the nine seasons we have participated in the count.  From 2008-2009 to 2013-2014, this species declined in number of individuals at our feeders from an average of 3.0 to an average of 0.3.  In the next two seasons, numbers increased back to an average of 2.3. In 2016-2017, we found an average of just 0.5. We'll need to keep a close eye on this species moving forward.

We had not observed White-throated Sparrows at our feeders during the first six seasons of the count, but they've been present in the past three seasons.
We logged average high counts for 9 species in 2016-2017: Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus, 0.50), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.75), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus, 1.75), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus, 0.50), White-breasted Nuthatch (3.50), Yellow-rumped Warbler (0.25), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis, 0.50), Dark-eyed Junco (9.50), and Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus, 0.25). 

2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

25 May 2016

Grass Identification and Ecology Workshop to be Offered at The Morton Arboretum

As I've done the past two years, I'll be leading a grass identification and ecology workshop at The Morton Arboretum this summer.  Information on the workshop follows.

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Tired of seeing "unknown grass" and "Dichanthelium sp." on your vegetation sampling datasheets?  Need to know what species that Elymus is to figure out if you're in a wetland or an upland?  Interested in learning vegetative characteristics for some of our more common grasses?  Just want to know more about grass identification and ecology in general?  If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the workshop discussed below being held on September 8-9, 2016 at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois may be for you.  If you have any questions about the workshop, email Scott Namestnik at snamestnik@orbisec.com.


Learn to identify the grasses that add beauty and interest to the summer and fall landscape. Grasses allow us to read the landscape: from soils, habitat, disturbance and past land uses. They form a critical component of the biodiversity and with nearly 11,000 species, this is the fourth largest plant family. This workshop consists of an intensive, hands-on approach incorporating both classroom work and field study.  Identify warm season grasses in the field and lab, learn the specialized terminology and distinguishing features, discuss their ecology, and practice identifying species from keys. 

Instructor: Scott Namestnik, senior botanist, Orbis Environmental Consulting
Notes: Held both indoors and outdoors. Please dress for the weather each day. Limit 20
Supplies: Please bring a water bottle, a hand lens, and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes for walking over uneven terrain. Fee includes all workshop handouts, morning refreshments and a box lunch.
Intended audience: Advanced students and professionals.
Prerequisites: Prior experience with plant identification required
Course number: 
S318
SCHEDULE AND LOCATION: 
Thursday, September 8, and Friday, September 9, 2016, 9:00 a.m.to 4:00 p.m.
Botany Lab, Research Center
FEES AND ADMISSION: 
Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum. 
$195.00 members
$230.00 nonmembers
REGISTRATION INFORMATION: 
CALL: 630-719-2468
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.
ONLINE: REGISTER NOW

27 February 2016

2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count Results

Lindsay and I have participated in the Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count during each of the past eight winters.  During this Indiana citizen science project, the greatest number of each bird species observed at feeders in your yard on the 20th to 25th of November, December, January, and February are tallied.  For our results from all but the 2008-2009 Winter Bird Feeder Counts, see our past posts: 2014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011, and 2009-2010.

Northern Cardinals were the fourth most abundant species at our feeders during the 2015-2016 count.  The bird in this photo is a female.
In the past couple of years, I'd reported that we may be seeing a trend of a decreasing number of individuals visiting our feeder.  That changed this year, as we had a greater summed average of individuals in 2015-2016 (202.5) than in any other count period during our history of the count (second highest is 154.25, observed in 2008-2009). 

Like several other species, Northern Cardinal numbers were higher at our feeders this year than in any year in the past.  The bird pictured is a male.
In terms of number of species observed at our feeding stations during the count, we had our best count ever in 2015-2016, tallying 29 species (27 species in 2008-2009 is our next highest count; 21 species in 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 are our low counts).  The number of species observed was greater than our eight-year average of 23.5 species. We tallied an average of 21.0 species per month (edging out our second highest average of 20.5 species per month in 2008-2009).   We observed 24 species in November 2015, 17 species in December 2015, 24 species in January 2016, and 19 species in February 2016.  Our eight-year monthly averages stand at 17.5 in November, 17.4 in December, 18.1 in January, and 19.5 in February.  In general, numbers seem to increase when more snow and colder temperatures are present.

American Goldfinch numbers have shown a decreasing trend over the eight years of observation at our feeders during the Winter Bird Feeder Count. 
The list of species observed during our 2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count is found at the end of this post.  Species not observed during this count that we have seen on at least one other count include Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus); a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up the day after the January count period.  This was not an irruption year for Common Redpolls or Pine Siskins, so it is not surprising that we did not have either of these northern visitors at our feeders this season. 

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was not tallied during the Winter Bird Feeder Count at our feeders, but showed up on January 26, 2016, one day after the count period ended.
We've now tallied 36 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the eight seasons that we've participated in this count.  Species observed at our feeders for the first time during the Winter Bird Feeder Count in 2015-2016 include Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus).

The Carolina Wren on the right provided our first ever record of this species at our feeders during a Winter Bird Feeder Count.
The low temperature during our 2015-2016 count was 11 degrees Fahrenheit in November and the high temperature reached 67 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  Temperatures during the 2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property were mostly within the range of previous years with the following exceptions: November saw the lowest low temperature during the eight year history (11 degrees Fahrenheit), February saw the highest low temperature during the eight year history (33 degrees Fahrenheit), December saw the highest high temperature during the eight year history (62 degrees Fahrenheit), and February saw the highest high temperature during the eight year history (67 degrees Fahrenheit). The low and high temperatures were below average in November but above average in December, January, and February.  Snow cover was within the range of other counts during each month.  Low snow cover totals were below average each month in 2015-2016, and high snow cover totals were above average in November and February but below average in December and January.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in February (7 inches).

Dark-eyed Juncos are common winter residents.
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2015-2016 were Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

This male House Finch is lacking carotenoids from his diet.
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater, 220 in February, 80 in January, and 14 in November), Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus, 50 in November), American Tree Sparrow (30 in February and 13 in November), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, 20 in January and 15 in February), House Finch (19 in January and 14 in November), Northern Cardinal (18 in February, 14 in January, and 10 in December), House Sparrow (18 in November and 10 in February), American Goldfinch (14 in December and 12 in November), Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula, 11 in February), and Dark-eyed Junco (10 in January).

This female Red-winged Blackbird hung around into November.
The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were Brown-headed Cowbird (78.5), American Tree Sparrow (14.8), Red-winged Blackbird (14.5), Northern Cardinal (11.5), House Sparrow (11.3), House Finch (10.8), and European Starling (10.0). 

Fox Sparrows have shown up during our feeder count the last three years and four of the last six years.  This year was the first time we had more than one.  During the Great Backyard Bird Count (just before the February feeder count period), there were four Fox Sparrows feeding on cracked corn in our driveway at one time.
White-crowned Sparrows continued to rebound at our feeding stations in 2015-2016.  From 2008-2009 to 2012-2013, this species declined in number of individuals at our feeders from an average of 3.0 to an average of 0.3.  In 2015-2016, we found an average of 2.3 White-crowned Sparrows at our feeding stations during the count period.  Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), however, have been decreasing at our feeders during the feeder count since 2011-2012 (to an average of 2.3 in 2015-2016).  House Finches have increased fairly consistently since we've been conducting the count, whereas American Goldfinches have shown a generally decreasing trend.
 
Just can't get enough of those Fox Sparrows!
We logged average high counts for an astounding 17 species in 2015-2016: Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.25), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus, 0.50), Blue Jay (5.75), Tufted Titmouse (3.25), Carolina Wren (0.25), American Robin (Turdus migratorius, 0.50), Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca, 1.00), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia, 1.00), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis, 0.50), Dark-eyed Junco (8.75), Northern Cardinal (11.50), Red-winged Blackbird (14.50), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus, 0.25), Common Grackle (3.50), Brown-headed Cowbird (78.50), Purple Finch (0.25), and House Finch (10.75). 

2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

10 February 2016

February 21, 2016 Program at INPAWS North Chapter Meeting

 
Some examples of the places we'll be talking about...
 



Hope to see you there!

28 December 2015

January 17, 2016 Program at INPAWS North Chapter Meeting

On Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 2:00 EST at ETHOS Science Center in Elkhart, Indiana, I will be presenting "Dumb Luck: The Stories Behind the Collections" at the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) North Chapter monthly meeting. The presentation will highlight 25 of my recent plant finds from northern Indiana and southwest Michigan, including new county and state records, and the events and odd happenings that led to me being in the right place at the right time. The public is invited to attend this meeting and program.


Mimulus alatus in Berrien County, Michigan

Carex decomposita in Allen County, Indiana

Lonicera canadensis in LaPorte County, Indiana

Wolffiella gladiata in St. Joseph County, Indiana

26 October 2015

Fall in St. Joseph County, Indiana

Potato Creek State Park

Potato Creek State Park

Mud Lake

Cooper discovers an Eastern Box Turtle at Potato Creek State Park.

15 September 2015

On the Radio...

Listen to an interview with me at Spring Lake Woods and Bog, an ACRES Land Trust Preserve, at https://lnkd.in/esnVD23. The interview was recently aired on Northeast Indiana Public Radio station WBOI.