27 June 2014

Frog Monitoring Comes to a Close

During the last two nights I conducted my third of three sets of frog and toad call monitoring for the year at five sites for the FrogWatch USA citizen science program. This year was a pretty good year for my sites, as I logged 10 of the 11 species that could be expected in the South Bend, Indiana area:
  • Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)
  • Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata)
  • Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
  • American Toad (Bufo americanus)
  • Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)
  • Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)
  • Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi)
  • Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor)
  • Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)
  • American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
I did not hear a Fowler's Toad (Bufo fowleri) at my sites in 2014.

Calling Eastern Gray Treefrog in South Bend, Indiana, June 25, 2014
Chamberlain Lake Nature Preserve is one of just a few places in this area where you can find Blanchard's Cricket Frog.  In the video below, you can hear the "clicking marbles" call of that species, as well as the loud  "Red-bellied Woodpecker-like trills" of the Eastern Gray Treefrog and the "banjo twang" of the Green Frog.

video

It's always a treat to get to see how these tiny frogs produce such a loud sound.  The video below shows a calling Eastern Gray Treefrog.

video

Frog and toad calls are starting to wind down a bit for the year, but that only means that the singing insects are just getting started.  Now is the time to start listening for them as they fill the night with their characteristic melodies.

26 June 2014

A Rare Treat

If you follow this blog, you know that I am a big fan of the milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), not only for their unique flower morphology but also for their importance to a long list of insect species.  It is no surprise, then, that on a recent trip to Starved Rock State Park near Utica in LaSalle County, Illinois, I had to stop to snap a few shots of the somewhat uncommon Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata).


Unlike many of our milkweeds that grow in open to partly shaded conditions, Poke Milkweed thrives in rich soils and grows in partly shaded to shaded conditions of woodlands and forests.  Its range includes much of the eastern part of North America, extending west just past the Mississippi River into Minnesota and Iowa.


Although it isn't necessarily considered a species of conservation concern, when you are lucky enough to find Poke Milkweed, you generally don't see it in large numbers.  According to Swink and Wilhelm (1994), Poke Milkweed can be absent or found in very small numbers in a given forest for many years, and then inexplicably it will be found in great numbers in the same woods.


The flowers of Poke Milkweed are interesting in part because they are bi-colored.  The corolla lobes (petals) are greenish-yellow, whereas the hoods of the corona are white to faintly pink.


Although it has opposite leaves with milky sap, the leaves have a texture and venation that can superficially be confused with the alternate-leaved Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), giving rise to the common name Poke Milkweed. This similarity was noted by Frederick Pursh, who assigned the Latin name Asclepias phytolaccoides to this species.  The older name Asclepias exaltata, assigned by Carl Linnaeus, is the currently accepted Latin name.

Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. 4th edition. Indianapolis: Indiana Academy of Science.

24 June 2014

Scenes from the Hill Prairie

Late May is a spectacular time on the gravel hill prairie.  The gravel provides a low-nutrient substrate that keeps vegetation competition to a minimum, and as a result several prairie species that are generally not as competitive have the opportunity to thrive.  The photographs that follow are from 28 May 2014 on a gravel hill prairie in McHenry County, Illinois.
 

Viola pedata (Bird's Foot Violet)

Minuartia stricta (Rock Sandwort)

Lithospermum incisum (Fringed Gromwell)

Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)

Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke) in fruit

20 June 2014

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

UPDATE: THE AUGUST 21-22, 2014 WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT.  A SECOND SESSION IS BEING HELD ON SEPTEMBER 17-18, 2014.  RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY!
 
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 August 21-22, 2014 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.


GRASS IDENTIFICATION AND ECOLOGY WORKSHOP
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.
Certificate information: Can be used as a Naturalist Certificate, WSP elective (14 hours)
Prerequisites: Prior experience with plant identification required
Course number: S318

SCHEDULE AND LOCATION:
Thursday, August 21 and Friday, August 22, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Botany Lab, Research Center, The Morton Arboretum

FEES AND ADMISSION:
Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum.
$150.00 members
$176.00 nonmembers
$50.00 students; call 630-719-2468 or email registrar-ed@mortonarb.org for student rate

REGISTRATION INFORMATION:

CALL: 630-719-2468
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.
ONLINE: REGISTER NOW at http://www.mortonarb.org/courses/grass-identification-and-ecology