Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Yueyang Tower

Yueyang Tower by andiwolfe
Yueyang Tower, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

One of the pre-conference trips for the International Wood Culture Society Symposium on Taxodiaceae was a tour of Yueyang Tower. This is an ancient structure that has been rebuilt over the course of several dynasties. It's made entirely of wood, most likely from genera in Cuppressaceae (to which Taxodiaceae has been subsumed), and the site is very interesting from a cultural and architectural viewpoint.

While we were there a group of school kids was on a field trip. The place was overrun, in fact, with children in identical uniforms. Many of them wanted to practice their English skills on me. I was an easy target, being such a tall Caucasian woman. I enjoyed these brief interactions, and I'm sure I gave the kids something to talk about amongst themselves....

Monday, December 30, 2013

Black-crowned night heron in flight

South Africa: September 13, 2013.

I was sitting atop the rocks above the vlei at DeHoop Nature Reserve, watching the birds fly by in the early morning sunshine.

DeHoop is a magical place. The campsites are along the vlei, and the place is fantastic for birding - not only aquatic birds, but the typical assemblage one finds in fynbos and dune systems. The added bonus for me was finding a population of Hyobanche, which was the goal for this site.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter leaf study

Winter leaf study by andiwolfe
Winter leaf study, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

A frozen puddle in the forest at Inniswood Metro Park makes an interesting winter scene. The sun was low on the horizon, illuminating a small patch on this icy scenery.

Steve and I were with a bunch of birders, doing a walk through the park. I was more interested in finding little nature scenes such as this than watching the winter birds. It was nice to see some bluebirds, though. We also went to another park to take a look at some screech owls roosting in a bridge over Alum creek.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Leaf study

Leaf study by andiwolfe
Leaf study, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Winter at Inniswood Metro Park. There are many frozen puddles with fallen leaves in the park. This one happened to be in some sunlight.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cape Weaver

Cape Weaver by andiwolfe
Cape Weaver, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
One of my favorite groups of birds in South Africa are the weavers. There are several species, and each one produces an unique style of nests.

This past field season I learned a bit about the behavior of the weavers. The males make several nests to try to attract a female. She will inspect each nest, and if she rejects them all, the male will start the process again. He's very territorial and will do some interesting display behaviors to announce his territory. I don't think these mating pairs are monogamous, which is not surprising given the colonial nesting behavior. Trees are chock full of nests and, from a distance, look like Christmas ornaments adorning a tree. They don't look quite so tidy from up close.

Weaver colonies are noisy and busy places. I wouldn't spend a lot of time hanging out under the nests, unless you have an umbrella....

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Clouds by andiwolfe
Clouds, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

During my field season in South Africa, the weather was typical of late winter in the Western Cape. There was plenty of rain, but there were many days of beautiful blue skies. Every time a cold front came up from the south, the skies put on an incredible show.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bar-throated Apalis

Bar-throated Apalis by andiwolfe
Bar-throated Apalis, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

DeHoop Nature Reserve. Christmas in the southern hemisphere means summer time. Instead of snow, ice, and short days, my friends in South Africa have beautiful weather, many interesting birds to see, and beautiful flowers. I'm not sure which I'd prefer. I'm used to Christmas in the northern hemisphere....

As I reflect on what Christmas means to me, I admit to myself that I don't like what it's become in the USA. The commercial season starts in October. By the time Christmas arrives, I'm sick of all the corporate displays of "buy now, get a 50% discount on this-or-that, free shipping", etc. There has been so much media coverage on the alleged 'war on Christmas' that I think people have lost sight that the real war on Christmas is our emphasis on catering to corporate profits, and a loss of the spirit of helping those in need. When corporations such as Walmart and McDonalds have to coach their employees on how to manage their budgets in order to buy food and gifts, there's a message we're missing in this country. Income inequality and the lack of a living wages for the working poor are issues we really need to address. If we're going to return to the class system of the 1920's, then why can't we return to the way Christmas was celebrated in the last century - sans commercialism.

Christmas should be about celebrating a spirit of giving and kindness to others, a celebration of family and friends, and, for people who are still engaged in organized religion (i.e., Christianity), a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. It's not about making corporations' profit margins as wide as possible...

Don't get me wrong here, I enjoy shopping for gifts to give to loved ones. However, I do resent being bombarded with advertisements for 2+ months, and with piped-in Christmas music from Halloween to New Years. I'd like to return to my childhood years when the Christmas season started after Thanksgiving. The anticipation for those short weeks made Christmas a very special holiday, rather than an extended buying season.

OK, rant off for now. I hope all my readers enjoy the holidays, whatever the season means to you, and that you find peace and joy in the new year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings by andiwolfe
Season's Greetings, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but I'm taking a few days to spend at home for the holidays. I had such a wonderful autumn, first doing an incredible field season in South Africa with my good friends, Dennis and Gigi Laidler. Two more wonderful international trips (Australia and China) followed soon thereafter.

The travel was exciting, productive, and fun, but it left me so far behind on everything else in my life. I have mostly caught up at work (gearing up to teach a double load in spring semester to make up for the time off to do my field season), but I still have a lot to do at home to make up for two months of travel. So, I'm very much looking forward to being home this week, spending time with family, my dogs, and, I hope, some quality time in my workshop. I want to do some carving and turning again - this will be my best chance to make some art to end 2013 with a smile on my face. I'm ready for my self-imposed wood sabbatical to end...

I do hope that 2014 brings all of you great joy and prosperity. Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Female Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal by andiwolfe
Female Northern Cardinal, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

The state bird of Ohio is the Northern Cardinal. The males are a beautiful red while the females are subtle shades of brown, gray, and red. I enjoy watching these birds year round, but in winter, they stand out against the stark backdrop of snow and ice to cheer me up.

This photo was taken last spring at Blendon Woods Metro Park. There is a bird blind near a small lake. There's always a lot of activity in the brush and on the ground near the blind - probably due to the several feeders that are located near the blind.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sunrise at Pickerington Ponds

Winter sunrises are always beautiful, but a bit challenging to record. This photo was made on December 7, 2013 - the morning after one of the first snowfalls of the season. Along the shoreline of this pond, the ice was starting to skim over the surface. There were geese and ducks on the water, a lone heron wading along the shore, and the occasional chickadee scolding us from among the shrubs.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Puget Sound

Puget Sound by andiwolfe
Puget Sound, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Last weekend, Steve and I took a very quick trip out to Seattle, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon to visit our parents. They're all octogenarians, and we've not had a chance to visit for a couple of years.

We flew in and out of Seattle, but took Amtrak to Portland. From there we rented a car to drive to Eugene. We'll never drive the I-5 between Seattle and Portland, ever again. This was our second train trip on that route, and it is comfortable, convenient, and very scenic.

I really wish there were more Amtrak routes in this country - especially in the midwest. Why can't there be a route from Cleveland to Cincinnati, or from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis? We could learn a lot from the Europeans and Asians with regards to train travel for public transport.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

At the Louvre Plaza

At the Louvre Plaza by andiwolfe
At the Louvre Plaza, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

I was in Paris last May to take a photography workshop (Streets of Paris) with Peter Turnley. I can highly recommend this workshop to anyone who would like to become more familiar, and comfortable, with street photography. That genre has never been my forté, but I learned a lot that will help me in doing other types of photography - especially event photography.

There was a group of school kids having a grand time playing in the plaza. This is one of a series of photos from that few minutes of interaction.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Phoenix City

Phoenix City by andiwolfe
Phoenix City, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

One of the attractions of this ancient town is a boat trip to see the sights along the river. I suspect the boats are made from Cunninghamia (Cuppressaceae) - one of the abundant timber trees in China. The majority of structures in the old town are made from this timber, which is why our group from the International Wood Culture Society was visiting the site. We had just completed a symposium focused on the genera in Cuppressaceae (formerly from the family Taxodiaceae).

Click on the photo to see a larger version....

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Phoenix City

Phoenix City by andiwolfe
Phoenix City, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

The old part of Phoenix City has many museums consisting of residences of famous people. There are some lovely courtyard gardens on display. The heavy rains of the day (October 29, 2013) gave such a dramatic mood to these sites.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Phoenix City

Phoenix City by andiwolfe
Phoenix City, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

I visited Phoenix City, China after the International Wood Culture Society symposium on Taxodiaceae. This is an ancient city, which was built from wood. Today, it is the "old town" section of a large city, and it is a huge tourist attraction in Hunan Province. It rained the day I was there.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chinese cat

Chinese cat by andiwolfe
Chinese cat, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Cypress City, Hunan Province. We stopped for lunch in this town after visiting a forestry institute. This cat was on patrol through an open air shop.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Waterman Farm

Waterman Farm by andiwolfe
Waterman Farm, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
A brisk walk at dawn on Waterman Farm is always a great way to start the day. Winter scenery makes the walk even more interesting.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Waterman Farm

Sunrise at Waterman Farm

Another beautiful sunrise at Waterman Farm. I made this photo November 29, 2013.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easton Town Center

Easton Town Center by andiwolfe
Easton Town Center, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.Last night, Steve and I joined a dozen photographers to participate in a nighttime photo walk at Easton. This was sponsored by Midwest Photo Exchange.

It was cold (VERY COLD!) last night, but I stayed pretty warm in all the various layers I was wearing (think Himalayan trek gear). Despite the cold temps, I made several photos I liked after a couple of hours of walking around in the snow.

Here's a selection of photos from the night:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pickerington Ponds

Pickerington Ponds by andiwolfe
Pickerington Ponds, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Snow + teasel = a lovely study for winter. We continue with our very cold snap with snow and ice making walking a bit of a hazard. The roads, at least the main ones, are clear, but sidewalks are neglected.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Geranium spp

Geranium spp by andiwolfe
Geranium spp, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Winter is showing itself today with snow and ice. I do enjoy winter, but I much prefer spring, I have to admit.

I made this photo last summer while I was in Idaho. I'm not sure what species of geranium it is, but it's a lovely little thing, I think.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Pickerington Ponds

Pickerington Ponds by andiwolfe
Pickerington Ponds, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Teasel makes an interesting winter study, given the way it accumulates snow around the spines of the fruiting head.

We went to Pickerington Ponds on Saturday, to photograph the sunrise scenery. It had snowed Friday night, and we wanted to do some landscape photography with pristine snow.

The sunrise wasn't spectacular, but the way the sun lit some of the features was interesting.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Flickr members are very angry about the changes...

Bar-throated apalis. I do believe that "Angry Birds" was designed from this little guy.

Given the "black sunday" protests for today, there are obviously a lot of Flickr members who do not want to see the beta version implemented. Some of the concerns are that features we like to use are not yet available. From what I've read, it's just a matter of time for some, or all, of those to be added back into the mix. The bigger concern is the change in layout. There was quite a negative response when the current version was rolled out. I actually like the current version better than the old one, but I'm not crazy about what I've seen for the beta version that is being developed. I hope all my Flickr friends who are posting the black images are also contacting Flickr to let them know what features the want to make sure are rolled out with the new version, and to be specific in their feedback about what is not desirable...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Bar-throated Apalis

Bar-throated Apalis by andiwolfe
Bar-throated Apalis, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
DeHoop Nature Reserve, South Africa.

I'm wondering if the Angry Birds characters were modeled after this diminutive bird. The eyes and beak configuration sure reminds me of the angry birds logo....

I enjoyed photographing this bird - it was so active and fun to watch.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sand pattern

Sand pattern by andiwolfe
Sand pattern, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Sand dunes at DeHoop Nature Reserve in South Africa are swept by winds, which leave lovely patterns in the sand.

I've been going to South Africa to study parasitic plants endemic to the region since 1996 - about 14 months after the end of apartheid. I've watched the country blossom from a fear-laden paranoia (the whites were scared about the future) to a country where young people are not too concerned about the color of one's skin. Yes, there are still challenges to address in South Africa, and the future is not entirely secure. However, I have great hope that South Africa will continue to prosper and become a leading icon for the rest of the continent on how to overcome the legacy of colonialism, white minority rule, and corruption.

The pattern for prosperity and success is the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who served as such a strong leader, setting in place a new paradigm of peace, forgiveness, and unity. He will be sorely missed, but I hope his example will continue to give the rest of the world great hope for the future.

Thursday, December 05, 2013


Hyobanche by andiwolfe
Hyobanche, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

Hyobanche is a small genus of holoparasitic plants (plants that can't make their own food and depend on another plant for all their nutrition), native to southern Africa. I've been studying this interesting genus for quite a long time, and it is the motivation for my field seasons in South Africa.

After working on the biology and systematics of this genus for so long, I've come to appreciate it more each field season. This collection site was at DeHoop Nature Reserve, along the southern coast of South Africa. It's nestled in with some restios, but the host is most likely to be Metalasia.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Roses by andiwolfe
Roses, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
I made this photo last June, but I need a reminder of lovely colors and sunshine as we head into winter.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Sand pattern

Sand pattern by andiwolfe
Sand pattern, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

DeHoop Nature Reserve, South Africa - 12 September 2013.

The sand dunes at DeHoop are subject to wind and rain sculpturing, making lovely abstract patterns. This dune was at Koppie Alleen - a wonderful whale watching spot in the reserve.

Monday, December 02, 2013


Gigi by andiwolfe
Gigi, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
DeHoop Nature Reserve in South Africa: September 12, 2013. Camping at this reserve is a real treat for botanical exploration, birding, and for lovely scenery. The headquarters area has a restaurant and gift shop - both are welcome respites from roughing it.

This photo is of the lawn area in front of HQ. There's a Morton Bay Fig there. Near sunset, the gate was in a golden glow, and the air was calm, the birds were active, and it was a magical moment.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral by andiwolfe
Notre Dame Cathedral, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

During a visit to Paris in May, for a photography workshop with Peter Turnley, I had a couple of opportunities to visit Notre Dame. Arrive early to beat the tour bus crowds. If you do so, you'll have a sense of the peaceful majesty of this place.

As a place of worship, it is awe-inspiring. As an architectural monument, it is truly awesome. To hear the music reverberating through this space, one can imagine the purposefulness of its design.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Autumn gold

Autumn gold by andiwolfe
Autumn gold, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Another spectacular view of Chestnut Ridge Metro Park in its autumn splendor. We visited the park just a day or so after I returned from China. The refreshing and clear air was such a welcome respite from the persistent smog I experienced during my trip. It makes me ever so thankful for the Clean Air Act that was passed in the 1970's in the USA. China could learn a thing or two about government regulation for environmental pollution control....

Friday, November 29, 2013

Autumn at Chestnut Ridge

Autumn at Chestnut Ridge by andiwolfe
Autumn at Chestnut Ridge, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Central Ohio has many lovely metro parks - areas set aside for preserving some of Ohio's biodiversity, and for giving city dwellers a chance to get out and experience nature.

This photo is from Chestnut Ridge Metro Park - about an hour's drive from Columbus, but with a view of the distant skyline. We had not visited the park before this excursion, and we were pleasantly surprised by the the beech forest here. The maples and beeches were a nice combination for an autumn landscape.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Vervet Monkey

Vervet Monkey by andiwolfe
Vervet Monkey, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends....

This little critter is not invited to dinner. However, vervet monkeys make themselves quite at home at campsites in the Richtersveld, and this one was no exception. The previous campers had left some corn trash - a boon for hungry monkeys.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Euphorbia virosa

Euphorbia virosa by andiwolfe
Euphorbia virosa, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
The Richtersveld is an arid region in the extreme northwest corner of South Africa and southwest corner of Namibia. There is a transnational park flanking the Orange River.

I visited in September, 2013, while doing my field work in South Africa to search for species of Hyobanche. There were a couple of sightings of Hyobanche from the Richtersveld, so this was a prospecting trip for the area.

The side benefit for me was the opportunity to experience this amazing landscape. The aridity of the region is mind-boggling. The geology is laid bare to the eye since there is such a sparse covering of plants that can survive here. One of those that does well is Euphorbia virosa. Superficially, this resembles a North American cactus, but, cut a slice from a stem and you'll find a very sticky white sap.

I made this photo while doing a climb up into a kloof (ravine) that had a bit of moisture. I was hoping to find Hyobanche glabrata. No luck with that, but I did end up with a souvenir which still shows a scar today. I had a run-in with gravity and collided with a dead branch of a gnarled shrub. Huge contusion, huge abrasion and slice in my thigh. Not a pretty image to think about, but it's one of the things I will remember about the Richtersveld. Of course, I remember so many other wonderful things about this area - the night sky, the birds, the geology, the plants, etc. I would love to visit again....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Reminder of Spring

A Reminder of Spring by andiwolfe
A Reminder of Spring, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.

We're still nearly a month away from the start of winter, but we are definitely having winter weather this week. The temperatures have been well below freezing and we have snow on the ground. I don't mind winter weather, but this year I'm not mentally prepared for it. That's what happens when one spends August and September in the southern hemisphere - two springs in one year spoils the mind for facing gray and dreary days. So, here's my reminder that spring will return - say about April here in Ohio....

Monday, November 25, 2013

Penstemon payettensis

Penstemon payettensis by andiwolfe
Penstemon payettensis, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
A gem from this past summer, as I attended the American Penstemon Society meeting in Boise, Idaho. The day before the meeting started, Paul Blischak (one of my graduate students) and I did a short field trip up into the Boise Mountains. There we found four species of Penstemon in just a short while, including this lovely species.

For more information about it, check out the blog post I wrote: http://wolfelab.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/penstemon-payettensis-todays-featured-beardtongue/

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal by andiwolfe
Northern Cardinal, a photo by andiwolfe on Flickr.
The bright plumage of our northern cardinals always brings a smile to my face during the advent of winter. I love watching these birds in my yard and in the metro parks around Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My 2014 Ohio State University Calendar

For the past few years I've been making custom Ohio State University calendars for people in my lab group, and as gifts for friends.  After people saw the calendar for this year I had requests for orders for my 2014 calendar.  So, I am making my 2014 calendar available for purchase (not a profit-making venture - costs cover printing and shipping).  I have three versions. The first is a generic calendar that has no OSU-specific dates marked on it. The second one has OSU-specific dates (e.g., first day of the semester, final exams, graduation, football games, men's home basketball, etc.).  The third version includes everything in the second version, but is specifically for EEOB folks who might be interested in some history of biology trivia (e.g., birthdays of famous biologists).

Here is an overview of the calendar:

Here are some examples of specific months, comparing the generic with the EEOB-specific versions.

Generic for January and September:

EEOB-specific for January and September:

Cost of the calendar is $15.  Add $3 for shipping.  Calendars will be shipped for arrival by the end of December.  You can order below (deadline is December 6, 2013).


Generic calendar (no OSU dates) - $15 + $3 shipping:


OSU-specific calendar (OSU dates included) - $15 + $3 shipping:


OSU EEOB-specific calendar (OSU dates and biology trivia included) - $15 + $3 shipping: