Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bald Eagle

An adult Bald Eagle was seen along Ohio Brush Creek on Wednesday, December 30 2009. The winter months often offer good opportunity for seeing eagles in Adams county.

Photo was taken by Mark Zloba.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Bird Count Tomorrow

Each year, right around Christmas-time, small groups of hearty souls set their alarm clocks for a pre-dawn awakening, don winter apparel, and set off in cars and on foot to participate in the Audubon Society's annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The CBC is one of the most successful, and longest-running citizen science monitoring programs ever. Ohio has been involved with the CBC since its inception in 1900.

A little history (from Ohio Audubon Society's website):

The CBC was first instituted by Frank M. Chapman, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and an officer in the relatively new Audubon Society. At the turn of the century the depletion of bird populations through unregulated recreational hunting, and over-harvesting for the fashion industry of the time were major concerns for many people throughout the U.S. In an attempt to create greater awareness for the plight of bird populations, and develop an alternative activity to hunting Chapman created the Christmas Bird Count. Christmas was chosen for Chapman’s Bird Count because that date had traditionally been used for a hunting-related activity where hunters split up into different competitive teams and went out into the field to shoot as many birds as they possibly could. The winning team was the one that had shot the most birds.

The first Christmas Bird Count had 27 volunteer participants who counted birds in 25 distinct count circles across 13 different states and two Canadian provinces. They collectively counted 18,500 individual birds and 90 total species. Today there are nearly 50,000 volunteer CBC observers throughout the world, including groups that participate right here in Adams County.

To get involved in a Christmas Bird Count near you, click here.

Photo by Jeff Ratliff

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sandhill Crane Flyway

For at least a week, flocks of Sandhill Cranes, Grus canadensis, have been flying over Adams County on their way south for the winter. Cranes are North America's tallest bird. Sandhill cranes stand 3-5 feet tall. There are currently six recognized sub-species of Sandhill Crane. Sandhill cranes are grey with red foreheads, but adult birds often preen mud into their feathers, giving them an orangish-brown look. They probably do this to camouflage themselves while sitting on nests, which are located on the ground. Cranes fly in a "V" pattern, similar to Canada Geese. To distinguish between the two, look for the tell-tale long legs of the cranes. Image by J. Schmidt - NPS Photo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Gifts for Nature Lovers

When your little one (or spouse) would rather explore the back forty than sit on the couch playing video games, you might want to consider some of these great outdoor gifts for Christmas:
  • Field guides - Fantastic for anyone with an interest in nature, field guides are now available for birds, wildflowers, trees, reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, mammals, and many, many other topics. When buying a field guide, the most important considerations are 1) the level of expertise of the user and 2) the geographical range of the guide (a guide to the birds of the southwestern United States will not be much help here in Adams County).
  • Water bottle - Consider a metal water bottle instead of plastic, (plastic bottles can leach a substance called bisphenol-A (BPA), which is suspected of messing with our hormones.
  • Pocket knife - Out on the trail, far from your house or car, a little knife can come in mighty handy sometimes.
  • Binoculars - Consider a pair that is water-resistant and durable, like Nikon's Monarch ATB model, which sell for around $270.00.
  • First aid kit - Don't bother with a "space blanket", waterproof matches, or band aides. Soak some cotton balls with Vaseline, store them in a film canister, buy a "metal match" and put it in the kit. Use the metal match to ignite the cotton balls, which will burn several minutes while you add tinder for a fire. For shelter, throw in some neon orange contractor-grade trash bags (just crawl inside to stay dry and trap body heat if you're stuck outdoors overnight - the orange color helps others find you more easily, too). Include a whistle and you're set.
  • Travel pack - Toting field guides, a water bottle, pocket knife, binoculars, and a first aid kit is made much easier with a comfortable pack that fits snugly around your waist or on your back.

Enjoy the outdoors in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk in Adams County

At approximately 3:00pm today, Richard McCarty spotted a white bird soaring overhead while driving west toward West Union on St. Rt. 125 near Vaugn Ridge Rd. He called in to his colleagues at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve office and there were soon four pairs eyes straining behind cameras, binoculars, and a spotting scope to get a better look at the unusual bird. After fifteen minutes in the freezing wind, we decided the bird was an abnormally-colored Red-tailed Hawk. It was white with yellow beak and legs, and had some darker feathers on its wings, as well as a few reddish feathers in its tail. According to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology website, in rare cases, a bird does not produce melanin at a normal level or in a normal pattern. The resulting color patterns are referred to as being albino (white), partially albino or leucistic. The color patterns can be the result of injury, poor nutrition or a genetic imbalance.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dredging the Ohio

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is considering granting permission to a private company, Nugent Sand of Louisville, KY, to dredge sand from the Ohio River near Portsmouth, Ohio. "So what?" you ask. The problem with this is three-fold: first, taking away sand from the river will almost certainly result in erosion on the bank, threatening the property of folks living close to the waters' edge. Second, filtering sand from the river bed will stir up thousands of tons of muck, which will be allowed to wash downstream, wrecking havoc on ecosystems below the dredge site. And third, pulling up sediment will disturb existing benthic (bottom-dwelling) creatures, especially freshwater mussels. Mussels have had a rough time of it since European settlement in the Ohio River Valley. They have been exploited for their shells (used to make buttons before plastics were supplemented around WWII), suffocated in silt, and displaced by rising water levels when the Ohio was dammed.

To have your say in the outcome of the decision whether or not to allow dredging for profit near Portsmouth, you can attend a public meeting at the West Portsmouth High School at 6pm on Thursday, December 10.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is it a stick?

Meet the thread-legged assassin bug. It is not a stick (though it mimics one), nor is it a stick insect. This slender predator uses its mantis-like forelegs to capture unsuspecting prey. This photo was taken by John Howard at the new Shoemaker State Nature Preserve in Adams County on Wednesday, November 11.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shoemaker State Nature Preserve

A group of us celebrated Veteran's Day this year by exploring the newly formed Shoemaker State Nature Preserve here in Adams County. Shoemaker Preserve is 22 acres in size and is located near the Plum Run Quarry along Pine Gap Road, Peebles. During our 1.5 mile hike, we saw natural arches, dolomite cliffs, and sparkling Plum Run, a tributary of Scioto Brush Creek.

The following description was taken from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website: "Shoemaker State Nature Preserve was a gift to the state in 2007 by Joyce Shoemaker in memory of her husband, Alvie Shoemaker. A portion of the land had been in Mrs. Shoemaker's family for more than 100 years. The 22-acre site protects several significant natural features including seven state-listed plants. The rarities found at this Adams County preserve include heart-leaved plantain (Plantago cordata), a state endangered species only known from three other sites in Ohio. Not only botanically significant, the site is geologically significant as well. It features two natural arches, dolomite cliffs and slump blocks harboring several species of ferns and other plants found in calcareous cliff communities.The preserve also protects both banks of Cedar Fork for nearly a half mile. Cedar Fork is a tributary of Scioto Brush Creek which is considered one of Ohio's most pristine waterways."
Photos, from top to bottom: Walking Fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum, Elliott's Beard-grass, Andropogon elliottii, Cricket Frog, genus Acris, British Soldier Lichen, genus Cladonia. All photos were taken by John Howard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meet Your Neighbor

This is a Southern Two-lined Salamander, Eurycea cirrigera, and she probably lives in a stream near you. At a maximum length of about 3.5 inches, the Two-lined Salamander is a small salamander. This salamander gets its name from the two dark lines running along its sides from behind the eyes to the tip of the tail. The general coloration is usually a shade of yellow or yellowish brown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'Tis the Season

Birds all over the country are well on their way to producung this year's crop of young-uns. This female Summer Tanager was photographed incubating eggs in the Wilderness Preserve, part of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve system. Summer Tanagers, Piranga rubra, specialize in eating bees and wasps, both in the summer and on its wintering grounds in Central and South America. Tanagers catch bees in flight and then kill them by beating them against branches. In order to prevent getting stung, the birds remove the stinger by rubbing it on a branch. Smart bird!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This last weekend was Flora-Quest, an annual event for folks from all over the state and in spite of threat of rain we ventured forth and all had a great time. The flowers were in great numbers and quite beautiful. One of the show stoppers was the Little White Ladies Slipper (on the far left) which is a threatened species so quite rare. The tiny Bishops Cap which you have to have a lens to view (we used our binoculars backwards), where worth the time to stop and look closely. An incredible 96 species of birds were seen also. There is not enough room to list all the flora seen by all the groups but it was amazing. Spotted mandarin, many species of violets, up to 5 species of orchids, the list goes on. Flora-Quest will happen again next year so mark your calendars.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

spring birds

On Friday, April 24, it seemed that all the migrant birds had finally arrived. Highlights since friday include worm-eating warbler, great crested flycatcher, prothonotory warbler, black throated green warbler, rose breasted grosbeak, and yellow warbler among others. We have the opportunity to see some beautiful birds, in our back yards, woods and even roadside here in Adams County. Take some time to look and listen at whats around you. If you are not familiar with some of the birds, search the internet for pictures and descriptions of what folks report here on the blog.
Its also a great time to look at the butterflies around your yard and garden. Some of the early spring species won't be here long. As spring flowers, such as Eastern Redbud, begin to fade away for the year, so do the species that nectar on them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

bird arrivals

On friday, we heard prairie warblers at a couple of spots in the Edge preserve. While they have been reported elsewhere, these were the first that I had heard this spring. Chris Bedel reported hearing an oven bird last week. A walk in the rain this morning revealed that few more of the migrant bird species have arrived! A singing hooded warbler, black and white warbler, and yellow throated vireo were the "new" birds for this spring. Oven birds were abundant.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Many of the bird migrants have arrived, may apples and morels have made it up through the leaf litter. It was reported on a list serve that Whip-poor-will had been heard calling near Peebles on Wednesday. An early morning stop along West Fork road produced Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. All signs that spring is here and will rapidly transistion into summer. Get out and enjoy while it lasts!

While you are out there, pay attention to whats happening with the birds in your area. In a short time you can learn a lot about who has territory in the area, who is nesting or who has recently fleged young already. All great information to record as part of The Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas. The Atlas effort could use your help. Additionaly, I would like to know when, and where, folks are hearing calling Whip-poor-wills AND Chuck-will's-widow. Especially the Chucks. Send us an e-mail with dates and locations of calling birds or let us know here on the Adams County notebook.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

this ravine salamander is only the second one i have ever seen. today, a volunteer from procter & gamble helping to clean up lynx prairie after the winter storms turned over a small log to find this elusive species. i don't know much about it's habits, perhaps another voice can share what they know.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

anglewing and serviceberry

got a snap of my first anglewing - i'm thinking , rather than ?

also the serviceberry looked wonderful against the blue sky at Lynx cemetery. an appropriate place for it to live for social and ecological reasons. it was called "service" berry because it blooms when the ground thaws and you can bury the loved ones who passed away during winter and since many cementeries are on the tops of hills, they are also on ohio shale, the acidic layer of soil the species requires! lucy

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Zebra Swallowtails

Zebra Swallowtail butterflies have been seen at various locations on March 30 and 31. Several other species of butterflies were in flight today....Mourning Cloak, Cabbage White, Spring Azure, Eastern Comma / Question Mark. Expect to see the Falcate Orangetip soon.

Still looking for the Louisana Waterthrush - I expect that they are here but have not yet confirmed that. Steve Willson reported singing Henslows sparrows on Saturday, March 28.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Woodcock Watch

Each spring brings about the extraordinary courtship displays of the American woodcock, a shorebird that inhabits the wet woodland and brushy areas of Ohio. March begins these acrobatic flyers courtship rituals that consist of tight spirals reaching over 300 feet into the sky and a zig-zag descent, resembling a falling leaf. Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve is home to these splendid sky dancers who are giving display to those that wish to observe.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves will be conducting a free educational program on the American woodcock at Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday, March 25 beginning at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to participate as professional naturalists offer a presentation on the amazing life history of the American woodcock and the opportunity for first hand observation of the courtship rituals of these birds.

The program is free, suitable for all ages, and will be held at Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve, 209 Hawk Hill Road, West Union, Ohio. GPS coordinates are N38°50.422’ W083°34.427’. For more information about the program, call 937-544-9750. To learn more about Ohio’s state nature preserve system visit

Micro-Botany Expedition

On Saturday, March 21, 2009, five of us, Janet Creamer, John Howard, Jeff Huxmann, Cheryl Harner, and Jessica Huxmann, got together for a micro-botany trip through the Preserve. We located several species of Draba, including the endangered Draba cuneifolia, (upper left), stone crop (Sedum), as well as some of the spring wildflowers reported by Lucy Miller, Randy Lakes, and Rich McCarty.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

couple of flowers blooming

on a midday trip around the edge preserve today, helen black, ann geise and i saw snow trillium, skunk cabbage, hepatica, and rue anemone blooming. celadine poppy and cut tooth wort were setting bud.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh, its sprung all right!

This morning Lucy left early to go to a meeting in Dayton (about 6:00 am). About 7:00 she called me back to say to be careful driving down our road (Brush Creek Rd.) it is alive with critters! She reported over 30 brown snakes (upper right), a toad (upper left), spotted salamanders (center) and unknown numbers of red efts (lower right) crossing the road. I soon left and found that she was in fact correct. I had to drive 5 to 10 miles an hour to avoid them all! Now this is a seasonal thing that we look out for and it happens a bit when it rains but this was exceptional. The brown snakes seem to be synchronized so they move all at once but normally we see them in the fall, when they are going up the hills so it is unusual to see them heading down. The salamanders we start seeing them in December when they are laying their eggs in frozen or near frozen ponds. The toad was a little early as we have heard the peepers in great numbers these last few nights and would expect the toads shortly after that. Now the red efts, who knows what they were doing? They are actually young red spotted newts (lower left), they rise from eggs in the ponds as land dwelling creatures and they then go out on an American version of the Australian "walk about" for about 2 or 3 years. After that they grown slimy skin, gills and a flat tail and crawl back into the water to remain to breed and die. An interesting little bugger.
So watch out in the early mornings don't just be looking for deer (though not a bad idea also), the toads may be spotted with other lives, for goodness snakes. Remember the newt you save may be an eft!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

signs of spring

A Great Blue Heron rookery along Ohio Brush Creek has several occupied nests! Birds appear both sitting and standing on nests on this 70 degree day. This is potentially an early record for GBH breeding activity in Ohio and confirms that we should begin to pay attention to the spring arrivals - both plant and animal. It was reported on Thursday, March 5 that the Snow Trilliums were in full bloom.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The often unseen

As I made my way to work this morning I saw a dozen Common Mergansers on Ohio Brush Creek along Waggoner Riffle Road. They are beautiful birds and we do not often see them. My last sighting of Common Mergansers was over five years ago near the mouth of Ohio Brush Creek at the Ohio River. The bold black and white color was easy to see against the green of the water.

There is another, often unseen occurence that could be easy to see if looked for now. As part of the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas II effort to gather data about Ohio's breeding birds, I would encourage all to look for large nests that may be used by hawk or owl species. While we all see Red Tailed Hawks, and other hawk species, regularly in our area, how often have we seen one on the nest? How commonly, or uncommonly, do Red Tailed Hawks nest in our part of the state? Great Horned and Barred Owls will also be taking advantage of large stick nests in late winter / early spring. We can gather valuable information on raptor nesting even in the cold days of winter. It is a great time to scan the forests for large stick nests.

Once a nest has been located, try and determine if it being used. One obvious way to determine if a nest is active is to look at / into it to see if a bird is sitting in it. Often you can look onto/into a nest with a spotting scope or binoculars from some distance away. If the nest is visible from home or work, pay attention to how often birds are near it. Are birds carrying nest material to the nest? Are birds paired up near the nest? If you discover a nest and determine that it is being used by one of our hawk or owl species, please let us know. With directions from you about the location of the nest, we can report the activity in the Atlas effort and improve our knowledge base of Ohio's breeding birds.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Blooms of Spring!

Well, Here we are the first week of March and while walking around, I spotted my first blooms of Spring. Technically these flowers: Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are not true natives. They are both native to Europe and Asia Minor and have been brought over to the United States where they have been naturalized. Some of the true natives that you should be seeing now or shortly include the Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa). Snow Trilliums (Trillium nivale) have been seen poking out of the ground, but not quite blooming yet. Spring, even though the windchill is around 0°, is really not far off!!!!!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Sap Is A Flowin'

It is the time of year when the days are starting to warm up and the nights are still chilly. Everyone is experiencing some sense of cabin fever and they want to get out and start moving again. It is the same for Maple trees. After their long cold winter, they need to get their "juices" flowing again and when that happens, everyone knows it is maple syrup time! It is actually not very difficult to do, just a little time consuming, but in my opinion, it is well worth it. However let me warn you it can be very addicting. A couple of friends of mine who started tapping trees this year are already planning on having a bigger operation next year!

For more information on how to tap the trees, collect the sap, and make the syrup, I would suggest contacting your local county Ohio State University extension office or reading


Saturday, February 21, 2009

A New Perspective?????

As I sit here and reflect on the work that I (and others) have done over the past few weeks as a result of the ice and snow and wind storms that have hit Adams County. Anticipation comes to mind. An anticipation of what might happen as a result of these series of storms. Let me explain.

As I am writing this I am looking at a series of brush piles that I have cut and placed along the edge of my drive. Will the tangle of branches and sticks provide enough cover for the rabbit to hide and possibly nest this coming spring? Or will the tangles help keep the wrens, sparrows, and towhees away from the eyes of the neighborhood Great Horned Owl and the various hawks that fly overhead.

What about the old oak whose top was blown over in the storms. Would the snag one day be home to the Eastern Gray and Fox squirrels that I spot performing their tightrope routines in the limbs up above? Or is it big enough for an owl or maybe a raccoon to use as a daybed or even nest in? Would these storms spell the beginning of the demise of that tree? Would I see insects start to make their home there, burrowing deep in the exposed weathered wood? And would the woodpeckers soon follow endlessly pounding to find that needed nourishment? If that all happens, I know it won’t be long before other cavity nesters start moving in: the Flying Squirrels, the Eastern Screech Owl, the Opossum, and the Little Brown Bats. Would Wood Ducks, Carolina Chickadees or White-footed Mice nest in these new cavities? Is it possible that one day a Prothonotary Warbler find the cavities and sing it’s sweet song at the edge of the nearby creek?

What about the trees that were uprooted by these storms. Now they just lie like random matchsticks thrown in the air and strewn across the forest floor. How long would it be before the massive roots are invaded by a skunk trying to dig a den to have it’s kits? Maybe it will be the Red Fox whose tracks I see disappearing on the trail ahead. Would a Ruffed Grouse use a log to drum and attract it’s mate? Or would an Wild Turkey hen scratch it’s nest along a log using it’s cover to hide it familiar silhouette from the wandering Coyotes. How long would it be before the trunk is covered in mosses and fungi attracting numerous other insects and the predators that follow them? Would the salamanders and skinks that I spot scurrying along the ground and up the tree trunks hide beneath the bark which is covered by mosses and lichens?

What about the trees that fell into the pond and the lakes? Would the branches that are underwater protect the sunfish and bass fry that will hide in there? Will the numerous snapping and painted turtles pull themselves out of the water and sun themselves on the trunk on the first warm days of Spring? Would these same trunks be a fishing spot for the Great Blue and Green herons that frequent the shoreline? Would the eagles and osprey that migrate through in the Spring and Fall one day use the branches reaching out of the water as a resting place while scanning the waters for the ripple which could be their next meal? Would the Wood Ducks and Teal utilize the cover of the branches as a shield from the watchful eye of the Gray Foxes that run through here frequently? Would the Canada Geese place their nest along the root ball or the muskrat use the trunk to hide the entry to it’s den buried deep within the bank?

And then there are the open spots on the forest floor from the falling of the trees. Are these clearings now big enough for the Woodcock to perform his aerial display in the waning light of dusk and dawn? Would the seeds that have lie dormant for many years now feel the warmth of the sun and the nourishment of the rain suddenly spring forth from the leaf litter? Would trillium and hepatica suddenly appear where I have never noticed them before? Would Morel Mushrooms shoot up next to the Beech tree over there after all of these years of fruitlessly searching for them? What kind of jewels that have been hidden by these trees will now be exposed? What kind of flora will I now need help identifying because i have never seen it before?
I will admit that when I first saw the aftermath of the storms that came through the area, I was heartbroken at the destruction. But now that I look at it and really think about it, maybe these storms were a blessing in disguise. I guess it is just a matter of time and perspective!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is Spring on it's Way??????

While working on my place over the past weekend, I noticed a few signs of spring. Although the calender says the 2ND week of February, Mother Nature is broadcasting other signs. Red-Winged Blackbirds have started showing up. There have been reports of Woodcocks beginning their Spring Display Ritual around the state. Driving around the county i saw several groups of Wild Turkeys were males were strutting and displaying for the females in the group. Canada Geese are starting to pair up and stake their claim on the lakes around the area.
Around the flower front, I have seen Daffodils and Snowdrops pushing their green spears through the semi-frozen ground. Within a couple of weeks they will be blooming unless another hard cold spell delays them a little longer. The shrubs and the trees are starting to get buds and the grasses are starting to show just a touch of green at the base.
According to notes from previous years all of this seems a little earlier than normal. Only time will tell. But I am guessing Mother Nature knows what is best!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Check your Feeders

With the recent string of ice and snow that has come upon our area, it is a great time to watch your feeders for some of the more interesting migrants that might appear. Some of the commonly seen migrants include Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. As mentioned in some of the earlier blogs, there have been numerous reports around the state of White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, and even Snowy Owls. There are even some birds that normally migrate south that have been seen around the area. Just last week on Wheat Ridge Road, at one feeder along with the usual visitors there was a Common Redpoll and a Lincoln's Sparrow. As Jessica wrote in her blog a couple of weeks ago, just keep the feeders cleaned and filled and see what shows up and start a yard bird list. You might be surprised at the results!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cute Redheads

Two Redhead ducks, Aythya americana, spent the day diving near our dock in Wrightsville today.  They were joined for a time by six Ring-necked duck, Aythya collaris.  A goose, either a Greater White-fronted or a domestic Greylag goose, has been hanging out near the dock for two days as well.   A Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, landed in a tree long enough to have these pictures taken.

Monday, February 2, 2009

River Ramblers

Icy weather, power outages, and phone disconnections caused many of us to hunker down last week.  The upshot was that we were able to bird-watch from our living room (we live near the Ohio River).  Here are some pictures of the highlights.