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Notes From The Field Blog



Martin Calabrese

Martin CalabreseMarty has a BS in Natural Resources (wildlife management) from The Ohio State University and a master's degree in Biology (ecology) from John Carroll University. Marty began his career in 2004 as a biological sciences technician for the USDA, then worked as a seasonal naturalist for Cleveland Metroparks, wildlife education specialist for Lake Metroparks, wildlife specialist turned Science Resource Center coordinator at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, and finally landed back with Cleveland Metroparks in 2014 as a naturalist.


Topics

Creature Feature: Mute Swan
Posted: 4/28/2016
“I’ll open the hatch and you grab the swan,” Maggie states assertively. It’s 2006 and my wildlife handling skills are green. Holding incalculable years of animal restraining experience before me, I dogmatically brace myself for what my boss advises. We stand at the entrance to the wildlife rehabilitation facility at Lake Metroparks in Kirtland, Ohio. I get myself organized, both physically and mentally. Maggie raises the hatch of what seems to be a tiny SUV, given the gargantuan swan within. I quickly e...

 

Creature Feature: American Mink
Posted: 3/24/2016
The animal kingdom lays claim to the highly secretive, often ferocious, but lovable class of mammals. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as of 2008, the mammal class had 5,488 living species worldwide. First appearing 225 million years ago (mya) during the Late Triassic period, mammals did not grow numerous until the Cenozoic Era (66 mya - present). Aptly nicknamed the Age of Mammals, the Cenozoic Era pushed the expansion of the mammalian class by adding new species at hist...

 

Honeydew For Dinner
Posted: 2/24/2016
The honeydew to which I refer is not the edible melon, but aphid scat. To the untrained ear, this may sound like the hip name for an indie rock band. Allow me to clarify. Aphids are animals. They comprise a family of insects with nearly 4,500 species identified to science! Yes some are pests. Well, many. This is not an article on agribusiness or the human-wildlife conflicts therein. Rather, it’s a piece on a hidden relationship of the natural realm. There are different types of symbiotic relationships t...

 

A Big Year in Review
Posted: 12/24/2015
I live and breathe naturalist. I search for and find the ultimate in nature. From hawks to meadowhawks, I will patiently find the findable. Why? Because I need to see it through my senses before I can share its steward-worthy story. When I’m not biologizing in the field, my unshakable duty is to share with family and friends the wonderful world of wildlife. You see my professional and personal targets focus one another. I began 2015 with aspirations to seek and see the biggest number of birds one could f...

 

Autumn Meadowhawk
Posted: 11/26/2015
Gracing the shores of Sanctuary Marsh flits the easily spooked, yet expectedly-present autumn meadowhawk ( Sympetrum vicimum ). An unseasonal animal, the insect darts gently from fallen leaf to rock to conveniently placed log. A nighttime low of 40 degrees is no match for the delicate baby-beast of the northeast [Ohio]. This past summer you may have spotted the ruby meadowhawk ( Sympetrum rubicundulum ), a calmer and more easily approached black-legged version of the autumn meadowhawk. Notably, an outdat...

 

Hummingbird Nest (chapter 2)
Posted: 9/24/2015
On 8/7/2015, I posted a Notes from the Field entry titled “ Hummingbird Next (chapter 1) ”. The post featured an active ruby-throated hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris ) nest located near Rocky River Nature Center on West Channel Pond Loop Trail. The first week of August proved busy for the adult, as she was incubating 1-3 eggs without assistance from the male, long-since departed for Mexico or further south. The nest activity was monitored closely until something happened on or about August 10.  &...

 

Hummingbird Nest (chapter 1)
Posted: 8/27/2015
Along West Channel Pond Loop Trail, 1/10 of a mile north of Rocky River Nature Center is an active ruby-throated hummingbird ( Archilochus colubris ) nest! The lichen-lined nest is well camouflaged in a maple tree beside the east wing of the loop trail, well over 20 feet from the forest floor.   Can you find the ruby-throated hummingbird nest in the mosaic of blues and greens? The 2-inch wide by 1-inch deep thimble-shaped cup nest is in the direct center. The male and female were observed hovering ...

 

Horns vs. Antlers
Posted: 6/25/2015
The same traits that help an onlooker identify a wild creature can also help the animal send nonverbal messages such as territoriality or reproductive maturity. The intended recipient of such communication is usually another creature of the wild realm, but you too have a chance to decode the not-so-hidden memos of the wild. A skilled wildlife watcher may observe and interpret certain cues at a glance, while other signals may go undetected. From the aging inner-ring suburbs edging the City of Cleveland to...

 

Coyote Q&A
Posted: 5/28/2015
The coyote ( Canis latrans ), highly adaptable, intelligent and often misunderstood. Along with phone calls about deer fawn, fledgling songbirds, and mistakenly-orphaned small mammals, lately the dialogue about coyote encounters has increased. Here are the facts.  How do I know if I’ve spotted a coyote? Coyotes resemble small German shepherds, weigh 20-40 pounds, and often have grizzled tannish-gray fur. They have a black-tipped tail that is normally pointed down. Photo credit: ODNR Division of Wild...

 

Tips for Teachers: Fossils
Posted: 4/23/2015
Teaching young audiences about the nature of fossils is a tricky process. For example, you’re planning a field trip that will navigate a valley with exposed Ohio shale formation and would like to spice up your lesson with the topic of fossils. Rocky River Nature Center overlooks 100 feet of the most impressive outcropping of one particular member of this formation, which I’ll refer to as Cleveland Shale. This view is widely accepted as extraordinary because a total of only 20 to 100 feet of the northeast...

 

A Dry Swim
Posted: 3/26/2015
Over the course of a year, a bird will encounter unpredictable conditions. At times unfavorable weather, such extreme temperatures or high winds, can ground the otherwise airborne animal. Certain birds of a feather prefer water, including waterfowl that visit and revisit the Rocky River year after year. Late this winter, as the Rocky River churned the 12-inch glaze of ice from its surface, pools of open water provided grebes, mergansers, and other dabbling or diving ducks with refuge. The river water, so...

 

Sinzibukwud
Posted: 2/26/2015
The mechanics of maple sugaring call for creating a tap hole in a sugar maple ( Acer saccharum ), inserting a draining port (e.g., spile), collecting the 2-4% sugar-concentrated sap drips, and evaporating 39 gallons of water for every 40 gallons of collected sap. Various cultures have been perfecting this syrup-procuring method for centuries. Maple syrup can even be distilled further into maple sugar, a crystallized tasty treat. Maple sugar was the American Indians’ only sweetener prior to honeybee intro...

 

Big Years & Big Birds
Posted: 1/22/2015
For the bird-seeking wildlife enthusiast, New Year’s Day refreshes the annual list of species recorded through the lens of a spotting scope, binoculars, camera, or eye. For some, the list may only be a fleeting memory of a regal raptor seen soaring above Lake Erie’s shoreline. For others, the list may be kept with scrutiny, noting such details as time, location, weather, all species present, and a total count of individuals from each species. More still, the most inclusive of birders treat their observat...

 

Blonding
Posted: 12/24/2014
A hike is more than a walk in the woods. It's a chance to exercise sure, but it's also a chance to work out your wild intellect. When I lead a hike, I usually do a bit of reconnaissance in the months preceding, and again days before the hike. This ritual is to familiarize myself with the trail and to get a sense of seasonal change on a local scale. An experienced naturalist has an understanding of biological and physical features present in the local ecosystem. Part of this sense is so we can provide vis...

 

Winterizing
Posted: 11/26/2014
The creatures among us in the natural world have unique ways of managing the arrival of winter, and I don’t mean bunking down with you by a warm crackling fire. In the case of wildlife, some have multiple techniques while others simply have one. Chances are that any avian, reptilian, amphibian or mammalian species you stumbled upon in the woods this fall participate in one or more of these fascinating winterizing methods. Winter survival pushes animals into migration, hibernation, or utilization of their...

 

Shoestring Root Rot
Posted: 10/23/2014
What is that? A simple question leads Naturalists down a road of curiosity, questions, and with a bit of skilled practice, answers. When an organism is identified it opens the door, takes on meaning, and hopefully allows a student to dig deeper. While leading a school group along West Channel Pond nearby Rocky River Nature Center, a student pointed to a snag (standing dead tree) and said, “What is that?” He wasn’t asking about the tree itself. Something appeared to be attached directly to the tree trunk...

 

Tree Roots
Posted: 9/25/2014
Stream walking the Rocky River last week led me down a rabbit hole. For reasons unexplained, I’m fascinated by natural phenomena that grace your everyday periphery. As a result, I scramble for more info until my brain feels denatured. This ambitious routine builds a jack-of-all-trades mental underpinning.  The hanging tree roots exposed along undercut banks of Rocky River scream “Look at me, look at me!” Okay they don’t actually resonate at a frequency heard by our ears, but they do beg your attenti...

 

Giant Hogweed?
Posted: 8/28/2014
To the budding field biologist-- Lately, giant hogweed ( Heracleum mantegazzianum ) inquiries are frequent. Visitors have asked our Natural Resources staff and Outdoor Experiences staff if the plant species is present in northeast Ohio. Specifically, folks are concerned about the skin irritation that giant hogweed can cause. This plant is an introduced/nonnative species to Canada and the Lower 48. From time to time, it does turn up in Ohio. One such rare occurrence is at a household residence in Pepper P...

 

Gulp!
Posted: 7/24/2014
In my last blog post, Dragons Still Fly , I dove into the natural history of dragonflies. These speedy creatures truly astonish me. A dragonfly willingly hunts and captures prey larger than its own body and at times, heavier. It performs such aerial feats on the wing and with an exceedingly high success rate. As an interpreter of all things nature, it’s difficult to even mention this prehistoric beast of an insect without paying reverence to its uncommonly delicate cousin, the damselfly. Both animals are...

 

Dragons Still Fly
Posted: 6/26/2014
The mythological dragon and the dragonfly navigating Cleveland Metroparks wetlands are both predators, but the similarity stops there. Although the dragonfly is real and the fire-breathing lizard is not, more people can describe the appearance of a dragon for you. Hmm… My gut tells me this trend is changing! Living fossils, dragonflies are part of the most ancient group of insects on this planet. Taxonomically, the 300-million year old group comprises the insect order Odonata. Around the world there are ...