A Hidden Gem

Have you noticed how many people are out and about lately? Running. Walking. Biking. Pushing strollers with kids (or dogs, yes – not kidding). It’s a good thing, but it makes social distancing more of a challenge, which is why I’m always looking for interesting places to go to get my “nature fix” without joining the crowds.

This past week it was Chadwick Arboretum North.

I went on a Tuesday morning, and I saw five people in the two hours I was there. It’s truly a hidden gem in the middle of Columbus. Chadwick is a little nature oasis on The Ohio State campus, just off SR 315 and Lane Avenue (2235 Fred Taylor Drive). It boasts a 3.5 acre Research lake which allows fishing (catch and release) and lots of pollinator habitat, not to mention more dragonflies and damselflies than I could begin to count (or photograph).

I always have a camera in hand, hoping to catch that next great photo or find that particular camera angle that makes a scene eye-catching. I’m not so sure I’ve achieved that, but I do have a few that you might enjoy.

I always learn something new when I’m out in nature. That’s a given. On this day I found an Allegheny Monkeyflower that was on the edge of the lake. It’s a beautiful flower that looks a bit like a snapdragon but isn’t.

It gets its name because the bloom is supposed to look like a monkeys face – but I couldn’t see it no matter how I tried. It’s native and grows near water. It was about three feet tall and it spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. It attracts butterflies and is a larval host for the Common Buckeye and Baltimore Checkerspots. It’s a perennial and blooms June to September. It’s an endangered species in Maine.

I’ve been taking online pollinator classes this past spring and summer through the Ohio State University extension service, so this blog will be filled with a number of “critters” on flowers. It expands my education to not only identify what I’m seeing, but also understand a bit of its behavior and preferred environment. Plus, it’s just fun to do.

On this day the Brown-belted bumble bees (Bombus Griseocollis) were favoring the Coneflowers and Wild Bergamot/Bee Balm. Brown-belted bumble bees are recognizable (at least for me) for the brown belt that is on the T2 area of their back, which can be seen in the photo below.


Of the bumble bees in Ohio, it is estimated that 19% are Brown-belted. The most common bumble bee (69%) is the Eastern Common bumble bee (Bombus Impatiens).

The Arboretum also had a number of Hibiscus flowers lining the lake. They had big, beautiful pink flowers that were filled with insects and bees, like this Hibiscus Turret bee (Ptilothrix bombiformus). It’s a solitary ground nesting bee. This one is has a bit of pollen on it, and I believe it’s a male that is waiting for a female to arrive for mating purposes.

Wasps were also enjoying the flowers. This may be a Metric Paper wasp (Polistes metricus) but am unsure of that identification. Due to the red coloration, it may be a female, but don’t quote me.

Here’s a cute little guy (a Western honey bee I believe but the photo isn’t good enough to confirm that). But what intrigued me was actually the flower that it was on – a Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus). A reed like wetland plant growing at the pond edge. They spread by rhizomes and can grow to four feet tall. While the flower is very pretty, it is an invasive plant in Ohio.

As mentioned earlier, there were a number of dragonflies and damselflies all around the pond area. Many dragonflies were doing great sweeping flights around the lake, but were too much for my poor camera to capture. I had to wait for those that would land on something. But a few did cooperate. Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies did quite a bit of posing that day. They’re pretty impressive due to size and color.


There were a couple of pennant dragonflies that were very colorful – the Halloween pennant and the Calico pennant. Both bright vivid bits of color that attract the eye.


And finally, here’s a male Twelve-spotted skimmer missing a wing, poor little thing. Most likely due to a close encounter with a predator. I’ve read that even with a damaged or missing wing they can still fly and find food. Obviously he wouldn’t be able to fly as well as an undamaged dragonfly.

And finally one last dragonfly I always find beautiful, the male Widow skimmer. Dramatically beautiful.


I would be quite remiss if I didn’t give you one last look at Chadwick Arboretum North and encourage you to go for a visit. It’s a beautiful, peaceful area right in the middle of Columbus. And it always provides new nature wonders to explore.


Until next time, keep exploring nature up close.

A Little Bit of Everything

I love writing this blog. I strive to have eye-catching photos with interesting facts about nature you may not have heard before. Or if you did know it, it still brings a smile to the face and some sunshine to your world.

My hikes and walk abouts have been numerous lately. I’ve visited creeks, trails and woodlands – all within the general vicinity, but little patches of paradise none the less.

I’m taking a course on pollinators in Ohio, so I’m always on the lookout for wild bees (non-honey bees). Ohio has about 500 species of wild bees and about 70% of those are ground nesting solitary bees. And predominantly non-aggressive. Here’s a cute little green metallic sweat bee which I believe may be Augochlora in the Halictidae family. It’s photographed on fleabane so you get an idea of how small it really is.

I’m learning to appreciate the intricacies of dragonflies and damselflies. They’re amazingly beautiful. Look at this female Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). These dragonflies fly over ponds, marshes, and slow-moving rivers looking for insects. Lucky for me they like to land on objects near the water and sit with wings outstretched. Makes for a better photo.

I’ve been seeing a tremendous number of Ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) damselflies. They can be found near streams and in wet areas but also further away from water. They are the most common type of damselfly you will see in the area. On a recent hike, I saw more than two dozen in a relatively small area by a stream. Males are an almost metallic blue with black wings. Very striking. Females are more brown with a white spot at the end of their wings. Just look at those eyes…aren’t they beautiful?

They eat bugs and gnats and (according to Wikipedia) they also eat six-spotted tiger beetles (Cicindela sexguttata) – those metallic green bugs you may have seen flying around or crawling on dirt paths and trails (shown pictured below). I’ve read their color and preference for certain types of ecosystems make them popular for ecological studies (ref: Indiana Department of Natural Resources).

Sometimes you find things you don’t expect to see. I was photographing a purple rocket (Iodanthus pinnatifidus) blossom when I noticed the photo contained more than just the petals of the flower. I’m not a spider person, but this one was pretty cool looking. It’s in the Tetragnatha family and is sometimes called a stretch spider. It’s usually found near water and can hide very well in plain sight as this photo shows. It’s also called a longjawed orbweaver.

Along with the creepy, crawly things I’ve encountered, I’ve also had the good fortune to be at the right place at the right time to capture some poses of a Prothonotary warbler. It loves being near the water and nests in dead trees and nest boxes. We’re lucky here to have one of the best viewing sights for Prothonotary warblers in central Ohio. This warbler has been banded, though I’m not sure of the significance of this specific blue band as the photo isn’t clear enough to determine letters and/or numbers for identification.

With all the rain we’ve had recently, it’s brought out fungi. I have a tough time identifying some of it, and these photos are no exception. But this one reminds me of the old-fashioned pleated skirt I used to wear as a kid. And that makes me smile, so that’s why it’s included here.

And finally, I would be remiss if I wrote a blog that talked about being near water and didn’t include one of my favorites – the Great Blue Heron. This week I happened upon six of them playing in the stream. A couple of them kept a close eye on me, while the others continued fishing and splashing, content to allow me to observe from a distance…sharing the beauty of nature together. Peacefully. And that’s rather nice.

Until next time, keep exploring nature up close. And spread kindness.