October 1, 2012

Diving into the blogging world

I always said that I would never do a blog, but here I am. I dabbled with Blogger two years ago, when I was doing a 6-week substitute teaching gig in 9th grade Physical Science. One of the assignments was to create a blog, so I figured that I had better noodle around a bit with Blogger so that I could be of some help to the students. 

The title, Around the Bend, reflected both my mental state resulting from trying, with very little knowledge, to help students for whom the blogging assignment was extremely difficult, and my lifelong love of exploring the out-of-doors and discovering the interesting plants and critters that might be lurking just around the next curve in the trail. That blog pretty much languished in draft form for two years, but for several reasons I am resurrecting it and as it turns out I still like the title and am still passionate about the subject matter.

So why start this blog now? Well, the house renovations are just about done, the kids are raised, and I’m ready for a new project! I’ve always enjoyed writing, but didn’t want to take on another deadline-intensive newsletter editor position. On our weekend forays into Ohio’s parks and nature preserves we have rekindled our interest in botany; I figure that blogging about what we find will help me remember what I’m learning. (I’m finding it much harder to retain all this new information than when I was younger!) Lastly, it is just fun to share nature information and I miss doing that since I’m not working as a naturalist right now.

So this blog will explain and illustrate plants, insects, birds and other critters that we encounter in our travels. I’ll focus on what I find most interesting, in the hope that readers will learn a bit, be inspired to get outside, and find many reasons to support conservation and wise stewardship of our natural resources in Ohio and beyond.

Saturday's outing took us to Blendon Woods Metro Park. It has become a favorite destination because it is only about a half hour from home, has a variety of habitats, and often has friendly birders and plant enthusiasts wandering the trails. The fall color there was excellent, from bright red sassafras and poison ivy to the rich yellows of goldenrod, walnuts and spicebush.

 The purple of the New England Asters and the yellow of the Canada Goldenrod was particularly striking:

Here is another gorgeous fall wildflower in full bloom, the Bottle Gentian:

Our most exciting find of the day was an enormous caterpillar, slowly making its way across a paved trail:

This creature was longer than an iPhone is wide and as thick as a non-pinky finger. At first we thought it was a Hickory Horned Devil, the cat of the Royal Walnut Moth, but it didn’t look quite right. A quick check in my caterpillar book revealed its identity as an Imperial Moth which was really exciting because I had never even heard of an Imperial Moth! (I’d still really love to see a Hickory Horned Devil sometime—what a great name.)  Bruce Simpson, the Blendon Woods naturalist, said that these caterpillars were a staple feature of Japanese horror films in the 1960s—who knew. 

These caterpillars overwinter in the soil and emerge as adults in the spring. The white spots surround the openings through which the animal breathes, and the hairs probably make it less palatable to hungry birds. The head end of the caterpillar is on the right in the photo above, and just behind the head you can almost see 3 pairs of true legs—the six jointed legs which are characteristic of all insects. The other four pairs of “legs” are actually called prolegs. They are muscular protrusions that enable the animal to cling to skinny twigs and branches.

Here's an upside down view--up close and personal! Jointed legs are on the left and prolegs are in the middle, with two more muscular structures on the end.

So there you have it--my first blog post. Now it's time to get off the computer and go outside!


  1. Great post! Welcome to the blogosphere!

  2. You weren't kidding about the caterpillar!! I loved the post!

  3. I didn't know about "prolegs". As to the Japanese using this particular caterpillar in their sci-fi flicks: LOL.