Friday, November 20, 2009


Ephemeroptera are persistent.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This Time


Written in March 1993 for a couple friends; but hopefully others will like it, as well. It's not about anything specific, but it's been around in different guises and is one of the only things from that time I can stand to read. The two visual pieces came together out of nowhere recently, so perhaps that means it's time for This Time. Or not. Give it no time if it's deemed not worth it. Time is valuable: your time/my time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This is a fairly common fall scene in SW Ohio, which everyone is familiar with. Our fall skies can be an intense white-blue (or blue-white) this time of year. I hope you can see November and read November in the trees below the Sharp-shinned Hawk and the mob of Starlings. There are a few more red rectangle pieces to go through, but they're about done.

Friday, November 13, 2009


This is a Stenonema femoratum mayfly nymph, sometimes called a "Cream Cahill." Mayfly taxonomy has changed dramatically over the years, and unfortunately, the best sources for field or microscope ID available to the non-specialist are out of date. To make the sources sync with today's taxonomy requires various translation sheets. It gets rather confusing. Across the mayflies of North America are many genera and species that have been lumped or reassigned, in many cases to the consternation of anglers who point out that some lumped species contain two or more forms that have different hatch periods as well as different and distinctive body markings. Genetic work has had a huge impact on mayfly taxonomy and from what I've read, or at least from what I understand, the majority of the taxonomy changes have resulted from laboratory work.

Maybe a better explanation for some of the problems taxonomic changes have caused fly fisherman and interested non-specialists would be to consider how birders would respond if the Dendroica genus were to be rearranged such that there were only five or so "good" species, containing assorted lumps of species with distinctly different songs, plumages and even ranges. Blackpoll and Bay-breasted? A single species. Black-throated Green, Townsend's, Hermit, Golden-cheeked (toss in Black-throated Gray, too). One species. And then for a topper, Black-and-White Warbler would be moved to Dendroica, but since its genus, Mniotilta, was described before Dendroica, under the taxonomic rules, Dendroica would disappear and everything remaining in that genus would be called Mniotilta. In a word, we birders would go cuckoo.

The "" site has a brief explanation of the rather dramatic changes to the once mighty Stenonema genus, which used to contain a host of field identifiable species, but now contains a single species, femoratum, which is a lumping of at least two forms that many fisherman and even some scientists agree are field-identifiable critters.

Stenonema femoratum is a member of the family Heptageniidae, and like the other members in that family, the nymphs have distinctly flattened bodies, and are usually found clinging to the undersides of stones and debris in shallow, fast-flowing areas of streams and rivers. S. femoratum is a very common species in these parts. The specimen in the piece above is about 1 cm in length, not including the tails. The two cream-colored "x"-looking marks toward the end of the abdomen (grid "D3") are distinctive in this species, as are two rows of usually three or more black dots at the tip of the underside of the abdomen. One can usually identify this species in the field. Find a local stream, pick up a few rocks in a section of shallow riffles, and soon enough, you should find S. femoratum. If you don't find any, the stream you're crawling around in might not be the healthiest place you could choose to do your wading.


This is similar to "Drift Would" from a few days ago. The source photo was taken along the Great Miami River on August 31, 2008, on the edge of a contrived lagoon created by the outflow from the Fairfield water treatment plant. To the credit of the people who run the plant, the water in the outflow channel seems pretty clear and clean. It's not "gunky," never stinks, there are patches of duckweed, and the vegetation on the margins and in the pools leans towards smartweeds, sedges, and other (mostly) native plants. There was a Northern Waterthrush bobbing and chipping along the water edge when the original image was made and the photo taken; so in a way, this image is in the image of the bird. It's an example of photorealism in that respect, though I don't imagine many would agree.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How The Mayfly Created The World In Twenty-seven Steps

Owl Stretching Time

Owls, like most birds, undertake migrations or regular or semi-regular movements from one place to another. That's not news to anyone. Specific and new information on migration is still needed, though. There are a number of researchers out there doing interesting work on owl migration, particularly Saw-whet Owls. A few work in our area and are part of a larger network of dedicated owl stretchers. There's a history of Saw-whet Owl research in southwestern Ohio, dating back to at least the work of Worth Randle and Ronald Austing in the 1950s. For more information on the earlier research, see the article Randle and Austing published in 1952: "Ecological Notes on Long-Eared and Saw-Whet Owls in Southwestern Ohio. Ecology: Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 422-426."

Drift Would

Here's a piece based on a photo of a rock-and-stick-and-driftwood glyph from Four Mile Creek (Butler County) in August 2008. The original photo was reworked a bit with the grid lines and red rectangle box added to simulate a sense of a serious scientific approach to the subject: everything in its grid and every grid in its proper place. "Nature" can be forced into little boxes, after all. I'm certain this work was destroyed by flood, ATV, drunken teenagers, or bored river walkers soon after it was written; that is, something from nature rose up and erased it. I'd like to think someone altered it in order to make it really funny or to mock whoever it was who took the time on a hot day to arrange rocks and sticks into words . . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey"

Yoko Ono was involved as both participant and observer in a number of the recording sessions for the Beatle's "White Album." It used to be boiler plate to blame Ono for breaking up the Beatles. I think she made them much more interesting. The White Album is a collection of wonderfully odd, occasionally self-indulgent pieces, shaken out of a period in which the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein died, they began their up-and-down relationship with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, they released the unpopular and poorly received "Magical Mystery Tour" movie, and they began trying to live their lives as individuals following all the zaniness of the "Fab Four" mid-sixties. Eventually, of course, they went their separate ways; they grew up and moved on. Some critics point to the White Album as the beginning of the band's dissolution, claiming that the album is comprised of four solo albums, and that none of the four were really interested in what any of the other three were doing. I'm not sure that's a fair assessment, but within a year or so, the Beatles were basically kaput. Perhaps the critics are right!

Among some of the Beatles White Album classic rock hits such as "Back in the U.S.S.R," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "Birthday," are the peculiar minimalist pieces "Wild Honey Pie," "Why don't we do it in the road?" (two McCartney songs) and they lyrically minimal Lennon number "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey," which he said was about his and Ono's relationship. The classic cover of the White Album is itself a minimalist gesture. As a group, they were working on angles quite different from the albums that preceded the collection officially titled simply "The Beatles."

There's also the famous--or infamous--sound collage "Revolution 9," which Lennon and Ono collaborated upon (George Harrison was involved to a lesser extent). While that piece is known among its detractors for creepiness, self-indulgence, and lack of structure, much of what moves "Revolution 9" is minimalist in nature. "Number 9, number 9" repeated over and over, purposely distorted baby-like cries and gurgles, bits of crowd noise--"block that kick"--odd snatches of dialog--"the watusi, the twist"--short pieces of orchestral music and sound effects, sometimes purposely distorted, sometimes not. It's all very purposely structured.

How much of the influence and structure comes from Ono, who had a lengthy and distinguished avant garde resume and had worked on different visual, sound, and written projects (most notably perhaps with Fluxus) long before she met Lennon in 1966? How much was simply "of the times," with the Beatles being influenced by the art and music and writing of other people working in the era? (I can't say that Lennon had heard of Aram Soroyan in 1968, but I think he would have liked his work). McCartney, the bachelor Beatle for most of the sixties, spent a lot of time listening to avant garde music, hanging out with artists in London, and exploring other "heady" interests, though that background is papered over by Sir Mac's Tin Pan Alley-style songs such as "When I'm Sixty-four," "Honey Pie," "Your Mother Should Know," etc. But the same guy who wrote "Martha My Dear" and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" for the White Album also contributed "Wild Honey Pie," and "Why don't we do it in the road?" not mention "Helter Skelter," a dynamic and adventuresome recording that was sadly kidnapped and put to terrible use by a raving lunatic and psychopath in 1969.

The Beatles were doing interesting things at this time, and so was Yoko Ono.

I'm not clever enough to make the connections ("it's such a fine line between stupid, and clever"), but I can't help reading the lyric of "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" as cut from a similar cloth as some of Ono's pieces from her book Grapefruit, take "Snow Piece" as an example, or the minimalist work that people such Saroyan or Robert Creeley and others were doing in the late 1960s. Evidently, the Ono-Lennon influence went both ways. In 1970, Ono recorded "Mum's only looking for her hand in the snow," a piece sometimes listed as "(Don't Worry, Kyoko) Mommy's only looking for her hand in the snow," for her daughter from her second marriage, and which to my ears works as a melding of Ono's avant garde background with what we might call a roots-based rock-n-roll/blues accompaniment, which Lennon was using so prominently during this time on songs ranging from "Cold Turkey" to the pieces on his "John Lennon Plastic Ono Band" album--the (in)famous "Mother" album, some of which sounds as contemporary today as the White Stripes, with its basic, direct, and spare arrangements, no BS lyrics, etc. One source I found claims that Eric Clapton plays guitar on the Ono recording linked to, above. He was a guitarist in the Lennon/Ono "Plastic Ono Band," which played a few concerts and made some recordings circa 1969-70. Lennon's guitar playing was always rhythmically oriented first and foremost, and when I first heard "Mum's only looking . . . " I assumed it was Lennon's guitar backing Ono. Regardless, Ono and Lennon influenced each other in an interesting way. After years of abuse and scorn, it's nice to see Ono getting some of the respect she and her work have been due.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cave Swallows

Soon, if the precedent set in recent years holds true, there will be Cave Swallows reported in our region, possibly quite a few.

Cave Swallows were first confirmed in Ohio in 2005. For more details and photos, first-person accounts, vagrancy habits, thoughts on subspecies etc., of Cave Swallows in Ohio from that period of long ago, you can read this article, if you wish. Birders along the east coast of the US have been finding Cave Swallows in the fall months for a number of years. Ohio's first records in 2005 lagged a bit behind other states and provinces in the Lower Great Lakes Region, where Cave Swallows had been found in years previous to Ohio's first confirmed records.

Semi-conventional wisdom or prevailing opinion used to be that once wandering Cave Swallows struck south of Lake Erie they must drop dead or dissolve into the ether. But in 2008, Rick Asamoto and John Habig found two different groups of Cave Swallows at Rocky Fork State Park in Highland County, for what I think are the first records of the species away from Lake Erie or the near lake shore. Jay Lehman joined them at some point in the morning and they discovered that Cave Swallows were simultaneously flying at two locations on Rocky Fork Lake.

At least a few Cave Swallows found their way south last fall. Likely it will happen again; likely it has happened before Asamoto and Habig first discovered them last November. There is a lot of real estate to cover in southern Ohio and a few swallows--even a lot of swallows--could easily escape detection, even by serious birders, of which we have a number in this part of the state. Hopefully, southern Ohio birders will find Cave Swallows on some of the reservoirs, lakes, and rivers near them. In southwest Ohio and nearby Indiana, sites where one could imagine catching sight of a Cave Swallow on a blustery November day include East Fork Lake, Hueston Woods/Acton Lake, the Great Miami River, the Ohio River (possibly near hot water outlets on the rivers?), the Oxbow, Brookeville Lake, etc., etc. That's just to name a few, and even that short list comprises a lot of territory.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I found a Ginkgo leaf in a parking lot last week, and it reminded me of the Ginkgoes along Stewart Street near the University of Dayton--possibly they are no longer there. When the female trees would drop their fruit on the sidewalks in the fall, the air, and sometimes the hallways of the campus buildings, would be tinged with the scent of vomit for a week or two.

While doing some research on Ginkgoes, I found a website and a blog run by Cor Kwant from her home in the Netherlands. Kwant's website and blog are devoted to Ginkgoes and they are a pleasure to read. Every possible aspect of the Ginkgo, including a section about how it came to carry such an odd and awkwardly spelled name, is covered in detail. It's evident that the author has a lot respect, even love, for this ancient tree. Ginkgoes have been around since the dinosaurs; have survived atomic bomb blasts; are used in medicine; are integral parts of the arts and religion; have gorgeous plumage and fall colors, and if handled properly the seeds are a delicacy. It's all there on Kwant's website and blog.

Here are some fall Ginkgo leaves offered for good health, good luck, safe travels, and to ward off or defeat any illnesses that might be pestering you and yours. I wish my Ginkgo leaves were as nice as these examples.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

riverside (november)

The original fits on one side of an 8.5 x 11 sheet folded "accordian" style, such that the poem opens two or three sections at a time, and the different pieces echo or play off of each other--at least that was the intention. The distant (t)rain rolls through both halves of the poem when one is reading the paper copy. It loses something in the presentation here, though it might gain something else with the bleed-through from the cover of the National Geographic magazine used to hold the piece flat while it was being scanned. Come to think of it now, a year later . . . the lat-long coordinates at the end might be a bad move; someone might think Angelina Jolie found one of her children at the site.