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!