Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hey Folks - We have been negligent in our postings! This season is just getting to be interesting. There seems to be a hiatus between fall and winter when things are just leaving and nothing is showing up yet from the north. We hear about the crowds of siskins coming down (none seen at my feeders yet!) and the redpolls, white-winged and red crossbills heading this way (again not at my feeders). However, in the last two weeks I have seen two merlins in West Union (chasing pigeons) and have heard that some of our field staff saw one heading over the creek towards my house (must be eating those siskins, crossbills and redpolls!). Regardless, the winter finches, sparrows, hawks and owls should be on their way. Good birding!


Friday, November 21, 2008

winter birds

Today's weather offers wind chills in the teens and probably does not bring bird watching to the top of the list of activities you have planned. But the cold finally arriving here might provide the opportunity to see a few birds that you might not normally see. If you have not yet cleaned your feeders and put them out, now would be a great time to get started. Reports from the listserves hint that we might have pine siskins in good numbers this year. Look for them along with the goldfinches at your feeder. Many species of waterfowl continue to migrate through. We have seen both "hoodies" and "woodies" on Ohio Brush Creek in the last two weeks. A single American Widgeon was present south of the 125 bridge this morning. Its also time to watch for Eagles that might be passing through. Typically, along the Ohio River and Ohio Brush creek we have sightings of eagles during the winter months. Winter offers the hope of Northern Harriers and possible short eared owls over the overgrown fields in the county. The sparrows that we might expect to see include white crowned sparrows, white throated sparrows, tree sparrows and fox sparrows among the song, field and swamp sparrows that reside here. There are other sparrow posibilities out the so be sure and take a close look at those sparrows. If you have the opportunity, remember to sign up and participate in the Christmas bird count that will occur in December in Adams or Scioto county. Keep your binoculars close and share those unusual bird sightings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cicad's & crayfish

I was fishing on Ohio Brush Creek a couple of days over the long weekend, and I observed three things (beside the bass biting pretty good), the crayfish are finally starting to emerge from under the rocks, the smallmouth are spawning late (at least in the main branch), and the cicadas are coming out of the ground. The ground around the area I was fishing was full of small holes from the emerging cicadas. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A Good Day's Birding

On May 10th as part of the celebration of International Migratory Bird Day a group of us went birding in Adams County. Over a course of about an 8 hours we ended up seeing 96 different species (98 if you count the Whip o will and Chucks Will Widow he heard the night before). Birds that were seen included: 12 types of waterfowl and shorebirds ,19 types of warblers, 5 types of hawks and accipiters and 8 types of sparrows. There were numerous migrants that were just passing through

All of the birding was done along the Appalachian Discovery Birding Trail

We started out along State Route 41, birded the Wheat Ridge fields, headed down to Adams Lake State Park and ten went down the river and birded along it. I would recommend the trip to anyone who wants to experience the diversity of the county.

Monday, May 19, 2008

They're Heeeere

While out walking along the Ohio River yesterday, I came across this ADULT periodical cicada.  This means that the other million-or-so of his fellow insects are not far behind.  Soon the air will be filled with the buzz of their calls, and the ground beneath our feet will crunch as we tread over their cast-off skins and bodies.  

Here are few interesting cicada facts to pass along:

Cicadas are NOT locusts; in fact, locusts are more closely related to grasshoppers than to cicadas.  The cicada is a member of the leafhopper family of insects.

Only male cicadas sing.  

The sound male cicadas create comes from their abdomens, and scientists still aren't 100% sure how such a loud sound (120+ decibels) can come from such a small creature.  The noise of even one male cicada singing is enough to hurt the human ear at close range.  It is even more painful to the sensitive ears of birds and other wildlife (which is why singing is a good predator defense strategy for the cicada).  Cicadas have ears, too, so they must protect their version of an eardrum by creasing it as they sing, which keeps it from vibrating and injuring the ear.

Female cicadas mate then lay their fertilized eggs on the branches of trees.  They do this by piercing the bark with a special egg-laying device called an ovipositor.  The ovipositor can cause damage to trees by exposing them to disease, which is why we should cover our most vulnerable ornamental and fruit trees with netting BEFORE the cicadas arrive.  In Maysville, trees in the downtown area have been protected with green netting (not to be crass, but the locals are calling the netting "tree condoms").  

Once the eggs are laid, they will develop for about 6 weeks before dropping from the trees to the ground.  They will then burrow into the soil and remain there for  until they emerge to change into adults years later, sucking juices from plant roots for nourishment.  

There are many "broods" of periodical cicadas.  Broods emerge in different areas at different times.  Some broods emerge every 13 years, while others emerge every 17 years.  Some brood ranges overlap.  In Cincinnati, for example, Brood X emerged in 2004, and this year's brood (Brood XIV) will emerge there as well.  To add to the confusion, more than one species of cicada can make up a brood.  Brood XIV is made up of Magicada septendecim (85%), M. septendecula (13%), and M. cassini (5%).  

For more information on Brood XIV, please visit the University of Michigan's Cicada web site by clicking HERE.  In the meantime, enjoy this rare natural phenomenon, and keep an eye out for rare white-eyed cicadas!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Smallmouth fishing on Brush Creek

On a rainy Thursday evening, (May 8), I took my flyrod and waders and did a little smallmouth fishing on Ohio Brush Creek. I probably caught nearly a dozen ranging in all sizes from 5 to 15 inches. All were caught on olive, brown, or black, bead-head wooly buggers. Most fish were taken from the tail end of pools. Water was very clear with about 3' of visibility. I think I'll give the West Branch a try tonight or Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Black Vultures

The local West Union newspaper, The People's Defender, recently published an article about black vultures, Coragyps atratus, that was less than flattering to the species. Though black vultures are known to prey on weak or newborn animals, including calves and lambs, their greater role in the scheme of nature far outwieghs this negative character trait.

Vultures are scavengers. Their main niche is that of "clean-up crew". Consider the countless hapless creatures who lose their lives to our poor response time along the roads of America. If we imagine the reek of all of those decaying bodies lying in the humid Ohio River valley, we can finally appreciate the service vultures provide by clearing away that carnage. C.J. Maynard is quoted in "Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey" (Bent, 1961) as saying, "[Black Vultures] will seldom eat fresh meat but prefer to wait until decomposition has set in before beginning their feast... when the odor from the decaying mass became insufferable to human nostrils, they would eat to repletion."

Black vultures also possess traits normally attributed to better-loved species. Black vultures are extremely attentive parents. Both male and female help incubate the speckled eggs, which are laid on the ground in old buildings or in caves. The adults keep their young "gorged with food continually, the distended stomachs being plainly visible" (Bent, 1961). After fourteen weeks, the young vultures are finally able to fly. Until then, their best defense is to feign death if approached by a possible predator. If harrassed, vultures will regurgitate half-digested food. Considering the state of such food when it was eaten, the shock of its reappearance would certainly be enough to frighten away most creatures.

Black vultures are fascinating birds undeserving of their grotesque reputation. Hopefully, others will be able to forgive this bird its flaws and accept it for the natural - and helpful - janitor it is.

- Jessie Huxmann

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

First Box turtles 4/23/08

While turkey hunting I came upon three box turtles this morning. I actually saw one drinking water from a hillside seep. I never saw a box turtle drink before and these were the first box turtles I have observed this year. I suspect they have just come out of hibernation.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Barn Owls in Adams County?

On Monday evening I received a phone call from a local farmer who had observed a barn owl in his barn this afternoon while getting out hay. Possible nesting? I'll check it out later this week. Stay tuned.

Wild Turkeys

Today's was opening day of Ohio wild turkey season which will continue until May 18. This morning I probably heard about a dozen gobblers, two of which were directly in front of me. I obliviously sat down right under a small roosting flock because as daylight appeared, three hens were sitting on limbs high above me.
    Shortly after daylight the two gobblers flew down and started walking an old logging road right toward me. They were big, long bearded gobblers too. The hens flew down in three different directions around me and started clucking. The gobblers responded by gobbling and strutting their way right toward me. A hen that was with the gobblers walked within 20 yards of me but the ol' gobblers hung up on a knob about 75 yards away and strutted and gobbled but did not follow the hen. Another hen appeared from out of nowhere in the woods and walked right up to the gobblers and led them off away from me. Imagine that! 
### end


Flora and fauna abound!

As Tom has mentioned in his latest blog, the fish are swimming, the spring wildflowers are blooming, and the birds are migrating through. I experienced all of these spending time in Adams County this weekend.

Walking through the woods and driving various roads this weekend, I saw various blooming wildflowers. Everything from late blooming Hepaticas to early blooming Grandiflora Trillium. Other flowers that were blooming included Bloodroot, Wild Ginger, Bellworts, Virginia Bluebells, Blue-Eyed Marys (pictured above), Spring Beauty, Springcress, Sensille Trillium, Dutchman's Breeches, Wild Blue Phlox, Pennywort, Rue Anemone, and Cutleaf Toothwort. there were a lot of other plants who are just beginning to "spring" forth from the ground and others whose buds are starting to show. The Redbud trees are almost at their prime color right now!

As for the birds, I saw or heard this weekend they ranged from the early nesters to the migrants. They included Bald Eagles, Osprey, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Ovenbird, Prothonotory Warblers,Bluebirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Red-Tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered hawks, Great Egrets (pictured above), Green Herons, Great-Blue Herons, Kingfishers, and Wild Turkeys. (By the way the youth turkey season started this past weekend with the adult season starting today continuing through May 18th. I am sure Tom will have more to say on that subject shortly.) There were plenty of other birds that I saw or heard that I haven't listed here. What I would suggest is to take a walk in the woods, taking your time to look, listen, and observe. You might be amazed at what you will see.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

White Bass on Brush Creek

The white bass are running on Ohio Brush Creek. Saturday, April 19, several anglers were taking advantage of the nice day and catches of white bass were reported by all. I took 5 white bass that afternoon and a small KY spotted bass, the biggest white bass a whopping 16-1/2 -Fish Ohio size female that hammered a chartreuse Mepps spinner. The best fishing was from the SR 125 bridge downstream to the Beasley Fork bridge. If you found a pool with fish, the action was good. Fish seemed to be holding in the current. I expect the fishing to hold up for at least another two weeks, probably longer. Next week should be prime. The stream is in beautiful shape, While I was fishing I watched two wild turkeys fly over. Wildflowers are also blooming along the stream. It was great day to be out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

canada goose nesting above cedar falls

two weeks ago i saw a pair of geese acting oddly about 200 ft upstream from cedar falls. a few days ago returned to find one on a nest hovering above the falls.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring Ephemerals Pollination

Usually the weather in the early spring is still too cold for most flying insects, and because of this, ants and small insects pollinate some of the Spring Ephemerals and disseminate their seeds. Certain species - such as bloodroots, trilliums, trout lilys, and violets - produce seeds that are coated by elaiosomes, which contain attractive oils and maybe sugars. Ants will take these elaiosome coated seeds into their colonies to feed their larvae. However they end up eating the coating and leaving the seed somewhere in their nest. This action not only protects the seeds from other insects , rodents or birds that would feed on them, but are they usually are left in areas that help promote germination. The ants have a great food source and the plant's seeds are hidden, planted, and germinated to bloom another year. This symbiotic relationship is called "Myrmecochory".
For Dutchman Breeches and Squirrel Corn, pollination usually takes place by bees. Bumblebees will force apart to sip the nectar with their long tongues. However most of the time, their cousins the honeybee will just bore a hole in the side of the flower to accomplish the same action.
As Rich has said with the weather turning warmer each day, there is more and more going on out in the woods. Take the time to explore and you will be amazed at what you see and learn!

Friday, April 11, 2008

spring things

The last few days temperatures have really felt like spring. Spring happens fast and offers more color and variety in a limited number of days than any other time of the year. There are many great reasons to go outside and catch up on whats happening out there. Some of which include, singing prairie warblers, northern parulas, ovenbirds, yellow throated warblers, brown thrashers, chipping sparrows and yellow rumped warblers. An osprey that has been seen a couple of times near the office on Waggoner Riffle road. Tiger Swallowtail and falcate orange tip butterflies appeared this week. Spring flowers such as bloodroot won't last much longer, so if you plan to enjoy spring you should get out there. Migrating birds, emerging butterflies and spring flowers provide an opportunity to see the unexpected. What more should a person hope for?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Spring Ephemerals

Walking around the woods this past weekend, I couldn't help but notice that the Spring ephemerals are starting to show up and bloom. An ephemeral is a plant which grows stems and leaves, blooms, is pollinated, goes to seed, and dies back to it's roots, rhizomes, or bulb very quickly. Sometimes this happens in the matter of days, but mostly it is over in a matter of weeks. This happens every Spring all around the deciduous forests of Adams County. Being ephemeral gives these plants the time to grow and reproduce utilizing the strength of the sunlight and the large amount of rain that falls at this time of year. As the leaves start showing up on the trees, the ephemerals will start dying back until next year. The leaves on the trees help protect these plants from the heat and evaporation of the summer sun. And come Autumn when the deciduous trees' leaves fall, the leaves protect and nuture the ephemerals through the Winter until the cycle starts over again.

Some of the commonly seen ephemerals around Adams county include: Trillium (of which there are 5 species in Adams County), Spring Beauty, Twinleaf, Trout Lily(there are two species found in Adams County, one, the White Trout Lily , is pictured) Cut-Leaved Toothwort, Dutchman’s Breeches, Virginia Bluebell (also pictured), May Apple, Bloodroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Ginger, and False Rue Anemone.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Continuing of the Nesting Season

As Lucy and Pete have posted earlier this month, more and more birds are beginning to start their mating and nesting rituals. Just this past week while taking a short walk through the woods, I saw quite a few birds either nesting or exhibiting their mating rituals. I saw Wood Ducks and Pine Warblers pairing off, and Eastern Bluebirds and Canada Geese on their nests. There were Eastern Phoebes and Woodcocks singing trying to attract their mates. Each week more and more species are beginning to appear. It not only is beginning to feel like Spring, but the morning chorus of birds is making it sound like Spring also.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

though i am sure i heard the deliberate check note of the louisana waterthrush at cedar falls on march 15th, some of my office mates doubted my identification skills! so my first visual confirmation of the return this highly anticipated (by me anyway) migrant was yesterday, the 26th at Tiffin Cliffs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An Early (and cold) Black Rat Snake

While walking through the woods last Sunday looking for Spring ephemerals, I came upon a very cold and slow moving Black Rat Snake.

Black Rat Snakes are extremely beneficial in the control of rodents, although birds and eggs are also part of their diet. This one probably just emerged from hibernating in one of the rock crevices that was nearby. They are also known to hibernate in cavities of trees (they are excellent climbers) and old buildings. They are constrictors which means they wrap their body around their prey until it suffocates. Usually when encountered they will "freeze" and if disturbed will hiss, rattle it's tail and bite (although it is not venomous). They have also been known to release a bad odor from scent glands if handled. Unfortunately because of it's tendency to rattle it's tail, it is also killed quite frequently.

The one pictured here was about 3.5 feet long. They can get as long as 8 feet. As they get older and larger, they will lose the pattern that you see here and will become darker and darker.

Since they start to breed in Spring, this might make sense why this one was venturing out. Although as I continued on and looked back at it gleeming in the afternoon sun, the cry of a Red-Tailed Hawk sounded overhead. I never stayed around to see if the snake survived another day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Northwoods Crier

Having lived in Wisconsin for over 30 years, I became used to a
certain set of creatures inhabiting my neighboring natural areas. I
then descended on Adams County about a year ago, and with this move
came a whole new set of plants and animals with which I'm now slowly
being familiarized. It's hard to absorb all this new information, so
it was a treat to hear the haunting cry of a Common Loon echoing from
the foggy darkness out on the Ohio River. The Loon is one creature
I've seen and heard many times out on the lakes of the Northwoods.
And the Loon I heard tonight is probably headed there, or even
farther North.

One thing I have yet to decipher is whether the cry of this Loon was
to relay its coordinates to an incoming mate, or if this was a cry of
bewilderment - at how fast it was floating down the river. With heavy
rains today, and more predicted tomorrow, the Ohio River is swelling
with runoff. Loons nest within a few feet of lake water levels. While
the Ohio River would make miserable nesting habitat for loons because
of water levels that rise and fall 18 feet regularly, the Ohio River
is a regular Loon stop-over during migration. The Loon I heard
sounded off at about 9:15 PM and was between Brush Creek and Manchester.

Vernal pool monitoring

I put out some traps last week to help capture and count salamander larva for a state-wide recruitment study. A herpetologist for the state is trying to see how many vernal pools are successfully hosting reproducing salamanders. The vernal pool I monitor hosts spotted, marbled and Jefferson salamanders. The 10 traps I put in the pool on Thursday night (3/13/2008) had a total of 64 larva swim into them and one adult Red-spotted newt. The majority of the larva were marbled salamanders. They hatch early (December-ish) and are already an inch or so long. There were a few smaller larva caught, which are most likely Jefferson salamander larva. They don't lay eggs until January or February. In April, I will put the traps out again, and typically get greater number of larva. Included should be spotted salamander larva which lay eggs later than the Jeffersons. By May, the pool will have dried up and the larva will all have gone through their larval stage, growing legs, and move underground in the forest. Included is a picture of Jefferson salamander eggs, and a marbled salamander larva taken by Lucy Miller.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Nuptials of spring

Sunday the 16th my wife Lucy was on the phone. She waved at me pointing up to the sky. I ran over and there was a redtailed hawk carrying nesting material for a nest near our home on Brush Creek Rd. If you look at these photos (while they are a long way off and blown up) you can see that he is carrying a large hunk of material, in fact it looks like a folding chair! Perhaps it is for his den, not the actual nest. Well, regardless, they will be on eggs soon, or at least she will. He may be leaning back smoking a cigar thinking hawkish thoughts..


Thursday, March 13, 2008

mourning cloak

Saw the first mourning cloak butterfly of the spring today. Also heard wood frogs calling. looks, feels, and sounds of spring.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American Pipits?

Went back and got a picture of the bird for all those who asked "What's a pipit anyway??"


American Pipits sighted in Adams County

Mark Zloba's eye was caught by a number of small oddly shaped brown birds as he drove to work this morning. We ran back to see them with binoculars and there were about 45 American Pipits. It seems a strange time of the year to be here. Usually way down south. He found them on the corner of 125 and Waggoner Riffle Rd.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Woodcocks and Peepers

Adams County typically has the earliest reports of displaying American woodcocks in the state. This year I believe a few reports came out of counties farther north that Adams before Rich McCarty's report last week. But the warm temperatures last weekend (March 2nd) and last night (March 6 2008) brought A. woodcocks out this week in force. In Ohio Brush Creek valley I could hear at least 4 different "peents" going on and a couple flight sounds. Accompanying the woodcock sounds were dozens of spring peepers. Hopefully the woodcocks got the weekend forecast and have not mated yet. I would not want to sit on eggs on the ground while 10 inches of snow build up around me. Although they do have long beaks, maybe they can catch a few breaths out the top.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

snow trillium up

snow trillium was up, about 1 1/2 inches, on south facing dolomite rocks on the west side of ohio brush creek at the edge of appalachia today.

Neat mammal sited

Whille driving to West Union from our office on Waggoner Riffle today I saw two crows leering down on the road in front of me. I looked over and just caught the tail and hindquarters of a mink as it jumped off the road into a drain. Had I been a little later I might have caught an interesting bout. My money's on the mink.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Help spread the word!

Do you know any birders, hunters, or salamander buffs? They may enjoy
reading this new Adams County, Ohio Nature & Outdoor Notebook. Please
ask them to bookmark so
they can return to this page and learn the latest natural happenings
in Adams County!

Pine warbler

First pine warbler of the season hanging out near our feeder on Waggoner Riffle road.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

spring arrivals

I had an eastern phoebe in a wooded area in Green township on monday (I am told that one arrived near our office on Waggoner Riffle road as well) and I had a woodcock displaying at dusk last night near my house. With the warm temps and lots of rain overnight, I would expect that the ambystomid salamanders were out in numbers.

Monday, March 3, 2008

skunk cabbage

Skunk cabbage is up at Shivener Prairie and we have seen a couple of butterflies in flight today, Spring is near!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Spring Peepers in February!

For very brief periods on February 5th and 6th Spring Peepers have been heard in Adams County. It appears like they sing for a few seconds..... stop, and realize that it's too early to get into mating season, and so they go back into torpor. Saturated land has made for many wet holes, and should this wetness continue, it should make for great spring nights of frog-listening.