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Published: Wednesday, 5/16/2007

Annual 'blues' celebration puts spotlight on endangered butterfly

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
WILD LUPINE - ONCE A MAJOR FEATURE OF THE OAK OPENINGS REGION ITSELF - NEARLY VANISHED YEARS AGO. WITH THE HELP OF T
The Karner blue butterfly, placed on the federal endangered species list in 1992, is making a comeback. The Karner blue butterfly, placed on the federal endangered species list in 1992, is making a comeback.
AP Enlarge

SWANTON, Ohio - The Oak Openings region is having its annual "blues" this weekend and it has nothing to do with the way people feel about their predicament in life. Nor does it involve that gritty, soulful music from the Deep South that influenced jazz, rock 'n' roll, and hip-hop.

Nope, this particular two-day event is centered on a delicate insect that's barely the size of your thumb: The Karner blue butterfly (and the male one at that - sorry, ladies, but nature made the female Karner blues a nondescript gray).

In the world of butterflies, the Karner blue is one of America's biggest comeback stories.

Biologists everywhere, it seems, now rave about how in 1998 it became America's first successful reintroduction of an endangered butterfly. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1992.

The Toledo Zoo's efforts in reintroducing the Karner blue have appeared in prestigious national science journals.

The Karner blue feeds exclusively on wild lupine, which has a blue hue for purposes of this story. Those who have trouble distinguishing blues from purples might argue otherwise.

This year's blues celebration begins bright and early Saturday, with bird banding that starts at 6 a.m. Other events from hikes to wildlife shows take place through Sunday afternoon.

Most will be at the Nature Conservancy's 732-acre Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, 10420 Old State Line Rd., Swanton.

Some of the guided hikes will be nearby in Oak Openings Metropark, the Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve, and the Meilke Road Savanna Wildlife Area. For a complete listing, go to www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/ohio/events/events4185.html.

All events are free. The Kitty Todd site, named after one of the area's early conservationists, was established in 1972 to protect one of the best remnants of the historic Oak Openings region, a sandy belt deposited more than 10,000 years ago as glaciers gradually melted to form the Great Lakes.

What's left of the Oak Openings region today is a 130-square-mile area in Lucas, Henry, and Fulton counties under development pressure.

The Nature Conservancy says the region supports rare oak savanna and wet prairie plants, and that it is home to more rare species of plants and animals than any other area in Ohio.

This is the latest of several annual "blues weekends" the Nature Conservancy has organized in conjunction with the Oak Openings Region Conservancy and other partners.

Experts on hand at the family-friendly event will include botanists and wildlife biologists from the Nature Conservancy, Toledo Zoo, Toledo Naturalists Association, Toledo Area Metroparks, and various state agencies.



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