This is a wildflower that I noticed not because of its blossom, but rather due to its fruit, which resembles a green acorn. I came across it last Summer and went back in April of this year to see its flowers.
Twinleaf’s large, conspicuous blooms feature eight snowy-white petals which drop within a day or so. This plant is a perennial and often forms small colonies.
This wildflower features long-stemmed, blue-green leaves up to 6 inches long, which are deeply divided into two lobes that give the appearance of being two separate leaves, hence the common name.
Its unusual seed pods are on stalks that have hinged lids that open to drop shiny, brown seeds for ants to scatter.
This showy wildflower’s scientific name, Jeffersonia diphylla, commemorates our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who was a great naturalist and once president of the American Philosophical Society, which by the late 1700’s was the country’s leading scientific organization.
Unlike many of Ohio’s Spring wildflowers, Twinleaf is not a true spring ephemeral, as its leaves remain green and actively produce chlorophyll throughout summer. It tends to grow in the rich, damp soils of deciduous forests.
This neat plant is also known as Helmet Pod, Ground Squirrel Pea and is enjoyable to encounter on my northeast Ohio hikes.
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This is a bird that we’ve been seeing with increasing frequency in our neighborhood. On trash day they are often waiting to tear open trash bags left by the street in search of food.
This is a sign of the bird’s intelligence. Neighborhoods provide a food source now only from garbage, but roadkills and lawns with worms and grubs are also food sources for this omnivorous bird.
They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers.
The American Crow’s flight style is unique – a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides. These birds congregate in large numbers (of a few hundred up to two million) in Winter to sleep in communal roosts.
Found throughout the United States, this is probably our most easily recognized bird. From beak to tail, an American crow measures 16–20 inches, almost half of which is tail.
Crows have been noted for their brain power. Researchers have found that crows are not only playful and mischievous, but also smart. They use tools to solve complex problems and have the same brain-weight-to-body ratio as humans.
Flocks of crows are called “murders.” They typically make a loud “caw-caw” noise, particularly when disturbed or alarmed, but they are skilled mimics and can make vocalizations that sound like laughing, crying or a dog whining.
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While exploring a creek and looking for cool creatures, I managed to capture a couple examples of this fine fish.
As far as game fishing goes, Smallmouth Bass are sometimes overshadowed by their Largemouth counterparts, but they are still easily one of the most popular sportfish species in North America.
Smallmouth Bass have a slender, but muscular body, making them very powerful swimmers. They are found in clearer water than the Largemouth Bass, especially in streams, rivers and the rocky areas and stumps and also sandy bottoms of lakes and reservoirs.
This fish typically ranges in length from 12 to 15 inches and weight from 1 to 2 pounds. However, it can reach 24 inches and 10 pounds. Female Smallmouth Bass are usually larger than males.
The Smallmouth Bass primarily eats crayfish and other large aquatic invertebrates, but it will also feed on a small fish and flying insects that fall on the water’s surface. They often hang out near underwater structures, such as fallen trees, waiting for food to come by.
In terms of fish identification, the main difference between Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass is just that, their mouths. The mouth of the Smallmouth Bass is large, but only extends to approximately the middle of the eye. The mouth of the Largemouth Bass extends easily past the eye.
This was my first time ever catching this neat species and it made for an awesome time while out and about.
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I saw this cool creature while hiking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is noted for the striking upside-down cross pattern on its forewings. Because of this design, some people refer to it as the “Crusader Moth.”
This is a member of the Tiger Moth family (as is the Woolly Bear/Isabella Tiger Moth). Typically it inhabits deciduous forests and the fields adjacent to them where their black, bristly larvae feed on a wide variety of plants.
It may be fitting that the Clymene Moth looks like a Star Trek badge, because it boldly goes everywhere, day and night. Unlike the nocturnal habits of most moths, it does not shy away from sunshine. But like other moths, it is attracted to lights at night.
The two smooth black antennae allow them to sense and smell the species in their area. Like like other moths, they communicate through pheromones and chemical smells. With a wingspan of 1-1/2 to 2 inches, this is not an especially large moth.
The Clymene Moth is native to eastern North America. Adults seem to prefer moist areas like wetlands, where they visit flowers and use their long proboscises (tongues) to drink nectar. I most often find it in wooded areas adjacent to creeks.
This is always a neat insect to encounter during the summer months, when it is most active.
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This non-native species is hard to ignore. It has even established itself on our backyard. Dame’s Rocket, also known as Dame’s Violet and Mother-of-the-evening, was introduced as an ornamental around the time of European settlement.
Dame’s Rocket bears loose clusters of attractive, fragrant, pinkish-purple to white four-petaled flowers on two-to-four foot stems. Its leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and are slightly hairy and lance-shaped with toothed margins.
This plant’s habitat includes open woodlands, prairies, roadsides, ditches and other disturbed areas. The plant’s three-month-long blooming period and ability to set abundant seed have contributed to its spread. A single plant produces up to 20,000 seeds.
Dame’s Rocket is often confused with Garden Phlox, because the flower colors, clustered blooms and bloom time are similar. However, Garden Phlox has flowers with five petals (Dame’s Rocket has four).
Although problematic because is displaces native plants and it considered an invasive species (five states have placed legal restrictions on it), this member of the Mustard Family is a food source for caterpillars as well as a nectar source for bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.
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Although they are considered harbingers of Spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. Because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time on the ground, you’re much less likely to see them.
One of our most easily identified birds, this member of the Thrush Family is a large, sturdy songbird with long legs, a light yellowish bill and a long tail. It has an unstreaked, rusty-orange breast and a dark gray-brown back.
They are a common sight in our yard, especially after cutting the lawn, when I often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. They eat different types of food depending on the time of day: more earthworms in the morning and more fruit later in the day.
The American Robin’s rich caroling is among the earliest bird songs heard at dawn in Spring and Summer, often beginning just before first light. This bird lives across North America and in parts of Central America. They can be found in open grassy areas, gardens and woodlands.
This bird’s nest is a deep, sturdy cup of twigs, grasses and mud – usually positioned in the crotch of a tree or a branch fork. We had a nest in the shrubs in our front yard. The female typically lays four pale blue eggs and incubates them alone. Both parents feed the young.
The American Robin is the state bird of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin.
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I found this creature in my backyard and was able to scrape it gently into a jar to examine and photograph this newly found “long-horned” beetle.
This insect is about three-quarters of an inch long. It is brownish-yellow and mottled with dark spots. Like most long-horned beetles it has antenna longer than its body. It also has spiny projections on its antenna and on its femoral leg segments, accounting for its common name.
Calling this little insect’s antennae “long” is an understatement; each extended, tapering antenna was twice as long as its body. Long-horned, for sure!
There are more species of beetles than any other insect order – some sources claim a quarter of all named animal species are beetles. In the Long-horn Family there are nearly 300 genera and 1,200 species – and that’s just in North America.
Spined Oak Borers occur from New York to Michigan and south to Florida. Adult have massive pinching mandibles that apparently are used to chew on dead branches of various hardwood trees, including oaks.
This species lays its eggs under bark scales on dead tree limbs, after which the larvae spend their first year feeding just under the bark; during the second year, the larva migrate deeper into the dead wood, pupate, and eventually emerge as adults.
This was a super cool find that I didn’t have to go far to encounter.
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While looking for cool creatures in a creek in Columbiana County, Ohio, I managed to catch a couple of these large minnows.
The River Chub is robust, olive in color above and dusky yellow below. It has orange-red fins and large scales. During the breeding season, mature males develop pinkish-purple coloration and swollen heads with tubercles between the eyes and snout tip – they are sometimes called “Hornyheads.”
This fish is found in clear, medium-to-large creeks and rivers with moderate-to-swift current over rock and gravel substrate. Its range extends primarily through most of the Great Lakes and Appalachian regions.
The River Chub’s presence in a stream is a good indicator of water quality. It is intolerant of pollution, turbidity and siltation and requires a minimum pH 6.0. This fish lives up to 5 years in age and can grow to be a foot long,
It spawns in April and May. The males select sites with gravel substrate in riffles often adjacent to or just behind a large boulder. At these sites, males build a mound by stacking up a pile of pebbles with their mouths. They spawn above the pile of pebbles and continue to add to the mound between spawning events.
As spawning continues, this activity creates a round pile of pebbles that can be 2-3 feet across and 8-12 inches high. Many other smaller species of fish will sneak in and spawn in the nest of the River Chub, taking advantage of the way the male aggressively defends the nest, which insures their eggs are protected as well.
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Although I have found the Eastern Ribbon Snake and Western Ribbon Snake in Illinois, it was not until this year that I found this species that lives in my home state of Ohio.
The Northern Ribbon Snake is found along the edges of lakes, ponds, bogs, streams and marshes – especially where low vegetation occurs. It tends to prefer sites that get a fair amount of sunlight.
This snake eats frogs, tadpoles, salamanders and small fish. Though it superficially looks like a garter snake with three yellow stripes on a dark background, it is thinner in build and more aquatic in its habitat preferences.
Northern Ribbon Snakes give birth to 3 to 26 live young in late summer. The baby snakes are 7 to 9 inches long and are colored and patterned the same as the adults.
This is an active fast-moving snake that when approached, will typically flee for shelter or into the water, relying on its speed and agility to avoid capture.
It was an excellent experience to come across a few of these sharply marked serpents for the first time while herping in the Buckeye State.
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While hiking along a woodland creek, I noticed this California species of spring-flowering perennial plant. It is found in the Pacific Coast Ranges and in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.
Giant Wakerobin’s large, showy, solitary, three-parted flowers rise directly out of the leaves; its flower color is variable, but is most often dark red to white. Its leaves, which are up to 6 inches long and 5 inches wide, are in whorls of three and often mottled with dark blotches.
It prefers a shady habitat and is clump-forming, growing to 12 to 18 inches tall. The plant often seen in wooded or streamside situations (or both). It is a classic Spring wildflower, in that it blooms from Spring until early Summer, when there are very few leaves on trees, allowing it to get the light that it needs.
Trilliums use a strategy called myrmecochory for seed dispersal. A white, fleshy appendage on the seed tip is a nutrient-rich food packet that attracts ants. Ants carry seeds to their colony up to one mile away, feed the packet to their larvae, and discard the seeds, effectively planting them.
Not only is it an interesting plant, Giant Wakerobin is an incredible beauty and a welcome sign of Spring.
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