Sunday, April 19, 2015

In Memorium

It is with deep sadden that we at Wahkeena Nature Preserve acknowledge the passing of a truly GREAT naturalist and FRIEND, Dennis Profant. Dennis was an instructor at Hocking College in the School of Natural Resources.

1956 - 2015

I echo the sentiments that Jim McCormac so eloquently posted in his blog. Not only was Dennis the consummate teacher, but also a life long learner. There was always something that Dennis wanted to learn more about. And although his knowledge was vast, he understood that there was always more to the mysteries of the natural world around us. Dennis had a great sense of humor as well and we would often share a pun or two or three whenever we met. He was one of the people I always made a point to see on my visits to the college. I knew I would glean some new morsel of natural history with each visit. Over the years, Dennis made multiple visits to Wahkeena to learn more about ferns, photograph a new orchid and especially to observe and collect moths. Some of my most treasured memories with Dennis were when we would take a break from the moth sheets and enjoy some hand- crafted wine on the back porch. Simple put, Dennis was a really great guy. Fortunately he will live on in the form of all the students he has mentored over the last 25+ years, including many Wahkeena interns.  And for me, he will live on in the Tulip Tree silkmoth, the Rosy Maple moth, his beloved slug moths and everyone of those dag gone little brown ones, to which he would always say, " Oh that's such and such."

Be at peace my friend. And thanks for sharing the journey. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part16

Well, here we are at the end of the third week is April and things are really stating to happen now. The first tree has leaved out. Pictured above, the Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus octandra) is the first of our native trees to reveal their leaves. The flower will come a little later.

Below the first native tree to flower is Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), now in bloom near the nature center and a common understory tree on the sandstone ridge tops.

The Redbud and Flowering Dogwood are both getting close to being in full bloom. But it is the spring wildflowers that are really growing rapidly. (A list of blooming flowers can be found at the top of this page.) Below is one of the early bloomer- Bloodroot (Sanquinaria canadensis)
This delicate flower does not last very long and the petal are easily displaced. The common name came from the orange-red fluid in the root and stem of the place.

Typical Bloodroot
A not so typical double flowered Bloodroot is shown below. The genealogy of this particular plant is as follows. The original plant was growing in the garden of Jane Klein in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Jane was a long time, active member of the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs (OAGC). Carmen H. Warner, founder of Wahkeena, was also an active OAGC member. A number of years ago, Jane brought a start of the Bloodroot in a small container to an OACG Board meeting. It was raffled off for $1 a chance as a fund-raiser. Recent OAGC Part President, Mary Lee Minor won the raffle and the little start has grown and lived happily on the north side of her house in Bucyrus, Ohio. A couple of year ago, when Mary Lee was President, she gifted Wahkeena with a start of the same double Bloodroot. And I am glad to say that it too lives happily on the north side of the nature center and is thriving along with Trilliums, Bellwort, Soloman's Seals and Wild Geraniums.

It really is quite an attention grabbing plant.

Double Bloodroot Flower Closeup

This Sunday marks the start of our spring wildflower walks. A schedule of all programs can be found on this site as well as posted regularly on Facebook. The warblers are also appearing in increasing numbers each day. On Thursday we saw a good number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets just outside of the nature center. And on Wednesday we watched a Wild turkey fly about 100 yards from tree to tree. Yes, wild turkeys can fly.

Everyday bring new sights to behold, so get out there and become one with nature.

Posted by Tom

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Day in the Life....Part 15

And so the skies split open and the rains poured from the heavens and not even the dams of the beaver could contain them. And back in the woods along the trail, the small stream was flowing rapidly, zigzagging its way over the sandstone bed.

Rushing its way towards Moose Head Falls...

so named by a visiting garden club who thought the decaying stump nearby resembled a moose's head.....can you see it??

The rains have made for a soggy landscape. But water is a good thing, especially when it highlights a bowl and doily spider's web as in the photo below.

I took a walk back in the woods to check the progress of spring and the trail conditions. The Devil's Urn fungus, pictured in the last blog, has now split open and caught the rain water. Once the water evaporates the fungus will be able to release its spores from the inter-surface of the cup.

The Spicebush is now in full bloom and the under story of the forest has a yellow haze about it.

Closeup of Spicebush flower

Every plant is coated with the tears of the clouds and maybe some human tears too! The foliage below is garlic mustard, a highly invasive plant that can crowd out native vegetation.

When I bent down to pull it, I discovered something lurking beneath the lush green garlic mustard leaves. In the photo below, the arrow is pointing to a young Mayapple that was completely covered by the alien plant.

A little father up the trail, Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thacictroides) is up and blooming. Just a week ago it was still tightly folded and a dark purplish color.

Close up of Blue Cohosh flower with of course water droplets.

So as the water soaks into the woodland soil and the temperature continue to raise, the parade of wildflowers will quickly explode, capturing the sun's energy, to bloom and set seeds before the forest canopy emerges and blots out the light. The every changing world of Wahkeena is at full throttle.

Posted by Tom
With "arrow" assistance by Nora

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A day in the Life...Part 14

 As the saying goes....April showers, bring May flowers....but first they bring April flowers, like the ones below.

The Daffodils, also appropriately known as Easter Lilies, are  beginning to bloom and will be reaching peak blooming over the next couple of weeks.

Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae) a cultivated bulb like the Snowdrops, are early bloomers that sometimes also have to deal with late snow falls.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is another flower that was introduced from Europe and Eurasia and blooming now, well before the leaves emerge.

Above Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are one of our native wildflowers that has been widely cultivated because of its beauty. The leaves are now rapidly emerging from the ground and some blue flower buds can be seen peeking through the curled leaves left of center in the photo above.

Back in the woods along the Casa Burro Trail, Rue Anemone (Anemonelle thalictroides) is just beginning to bloom and the toothwort will not be far behind.

The leaves above are Ramps or Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum). The flower will not appear until later when the leaves have withered away.

Above is a bud of the Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) also known as Shadbush or Juneberry. The  flowers should appear any day now.

The yellow buds above are of Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). A walk in the woods revealed that this will be a good year for Spicebush flowers. And like the Serviceberry they should be in full bloom within days.

A subtle reddish hue can be seen on the forested hillsides as one drives to and from the preserve. The color comes from the flowers of the Red Maple trees that are a common component of the woodlands in this area. 

And it is always exciting to see the fungus above known as Devil's Urn. Here it is in its early stage and has not fully opened yet. When it does split open it resembles a black urn or cauldron. (More on this one in a later post.)

And the Pileated Woodpeckers have been really taking it out on this poor Cherry tree on the Shelter Trail. No doubt the dying tree is harboring many tasty insects.

The insects are gearing up as well. The Bee fly (Family Bombyliidae) above was seen sunny on the oak leaves along the trail. This fly is an example of mimicry - trying to look like a bee to perhaps avoid being eaten.

The those April showers also bring salamanders! The warm temperature and rain finally teamed up to provide the prefect conditions for the Stopped Salamanders to complete their mass migration to suitable breeding ponds. This past Thursday night, hundreds of salamanders were everywhere. And the next night when the temperature dipped dramatically only 14 were seen. 

The bluish gray egg masses of the Spotted Salamanders can be seen above. Note the dark embryos at the center of the mass. In the background are older greenish masses from salamanders and wood frogs.

So spring has finally sprung and will soon be busting out all over the woodlands and meadows.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Day in the Life... Part13

What the !*#?% is going on! Wednesday saw day time temperatures in the high 60's and today the high was 35 degrees ... and some snow flurries. What another crazy week in the life of Wahkeena.

Early in the week, I got a notice from good friend and nature enthusiast Roger Grossenbacher that the Hazelnuts were in bloom. So I went out to take a look and sure enough there they were.

American Hazelnut
The flowers of the Hazelnut (Corylus americana) the extremely tiny and one cannot be blamed for overlooking them. But these ruby gems are a real treat and a surprising dash of color in an otherwise drab woodland. These flowers are so tiny that you may be wondering what type of creature pollinates them. The answer is none! They are wind pollinated.

Catkin of Hazelnut

The catkins or male flowers of the Hazelnut are a golden yellow in contrast to the ruby red female flowers. When they open fully, little clouds of pollen can be seen exiting the catkins.  If successfully pollinated the female flower will produce a nut in the fall. Hazelnuts are also known as filberts. And they are the stuff that Nutella is made from!

On Wednesday night we had an amphibian program and although the rains exited earlier in the day and we did not see a mass migration of Spotted salamanders, we did have a good night.

Six species of amphibians were seen by 30 visitors to Wahkeena. There were some Spotted Salamanders and we also saw quite a few Red-spotted Newts and larval Long-tailed Salamanders. The Wood Frogs were very noisy, as were the Peepers. We caught several pairs of Spring Peepers in amplexus. Amplexus is when the male frog grabs the female and rides "piggy back" so he can fertilize the eggs as the female releases them.  We also saw two of the beavers swimming in the pond and heard and saw a Barred owl fly over our heads. So it was a good night,

 By contrast, today was deathly quiet because of the return of cold temperatures. Except for the honking of Canada geese of course!

And when we are not building bridges to unite humans with nature, we are actually building bridges. As in foot bridges like the one below. 

Today I was able to replace two bridges on the Shelter Trail and also spend some time with visitors all the way from Spain! The Black Rat Snake very much enjoyed the warmth the visitors transferred to the snake as Mom and Dad and the two boys took turns holding him.

Adios amigos !

Posted by Tomas

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Amphibian Alert

Just in case anyone is out there listening.....we believe that tomorrow (Wednesday March 25) will be the big night for Spotted Salamanders to mass migrate to the breeding pools. Wahkeena will reopen at 7:30 PM until 11 PM for anyone who would like to join us. Bring a flashlight and rain gear.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Day in the Life....Part 12

Wahkeena is now singing with the sounds of spring. The Spring Peepers are peeping, the Wood Frogs are clucking, and the Eastern Phoebes have announced their return, reciting their name: "fee-be", "fee-be". The Barred Owls are unusually noisy now. The lone owl who has been courting our captive owl has now been joined by other wild owls. And the "who cooks for you" calls are coming from all directions and can be heard throughout the daylight hours as well as all night. The Red-shouldered Hawks are likewise screaming their call. And a male has been visiting our captive Red-shouldered's enclosure. Love is definitely in the air... on the land and also in the water!

Wood Frog Egg Mass

Here is a picture of an egg mass deposited by one Wood Frog. Notice how the eggs are clustered together like a bunch of grapes. Wood Frogs like to lay their egg masses in vernal pools and other shallow water areas that are devoid of large predators like fish.

Spotted Salamanders also seek out the same type of breeding areas as the Wood Frogs. But you won't hear salamanders as they make no mating call. Some "early birds" have already mated and laid eggs, but it looks like this Wednesday night is likely to be the major migration event when the bulk of the Spotted Salamander population will be moving to the breeding pools.

Spotted Salamander Egg Mass

 Noticed that the salamander egg mass above has a smoother envelope encasing the embryos as opposed to the bubbly nature of the Wood Frog egg mass. Note too that the salamander embryos are larger.

In contrast, not much has happened with the plants. The catkins (male flowers) on the alders are slowly opening and some of the large trees are showing hints of flower color high in their tops. But no new wildflowers yet. We did see numerous rosettes of Garlic Mustard leaves on our hike yesterday, but that is one wildflower that we would rather NOT see!

Common Alder Catkins

Wood Ducks and Mallards have returned and there was also a pair of Blue-winged Teals on the pond yesterday. And Great Blue Heron today.

Beautiful warm day yesterday...beautiful cold day today...ah Spring!

P.S. Finally! I found a new blooming wildflower today. It was tightly closed this morning, but is now open all over the lawn in front of the nature center.

This tiny flower is aptly named Small-flowered Bitter Cress

Posted by Tom
With special thanks to semi-professional hand model, Nora Steele.

Please Note: We do have a new feature on the blog, at the top of the page you will notice a 'Bird Sightings' and 'Wildflower Bloom List.' We will update these throughout the season as more species return to the preserve!