Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

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At this time of the year it’s not unusual for me to encounter this half-inch-long, metallic green insect with conspicuous sickle-shaped jaws and large, bulging eyes on the sides of its head. I usually see them on dirt paths near waterways during warm weather.

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Adult beetles are fast runners and fliers. When they fly, they usually stay within three feet of the ground. They are very active during the day, moving rapidly in short bursts, often landing several feet in front of you only to take off again when you catch up to them.

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They are predators of other insects and can catch prey on the ground and in the air. These shiny beetles are among the fastest runners in the insect world. The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle pounces on its prey, capturing it with its powerful jaws.

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Because tiger beetles have excellent vision, you might have trouble getting close to one. For best results, sneak up on one very slowly to observe magnificent insect close up.

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The Six-spotted Tiger Beetle’s eye-catching brilliance and fascinating predatory behavior have made it a longtime favorite with naturalists.

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Multiflora Rose

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This is an unavoidable invasive species that I encounter on my northeast Ohio hikes. It is native to eastern Asia, and naturally found in China, Japan and Korea.

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In the 1950′s, it was common to plant Multiflora Rose as a “living fence,” which was more permanent and economical than a wire fence. These days it is common in uncultivated fields, fencerows and open woods.

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This is a perennial shrub with arching, thorny stems that climbs over other plants, reaching up to 15 feet tall and forming dense thickets. It’s flowers are often in clusters and may be pink or white; they tend to bloom here in Summer.

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Typically, they have seven leaflets per leaf, but can they can also have between five and eleven leaflets. The two-inch long leaflets are oval and sharply toothed.

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Their small, bright red fruit, referred to as “rose hips,” develop in the Summer and remain on the shrub through the winter.

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Multiflora Rose spreads aggressively, both by rooting canes (the ends of branches that root when coming in contact with the ground) and by seeds dispersed by birds and wildlife.

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This is a very difficult plant to control. A plant may produce a million seeds per year, and the sseds can remain viable for 20 years.

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This plant is also known as Baby Rose, Japanese Rose, Many-flowered Rose, Seven-sisters Rose, Eijitsu Rose and Rambler Rose.

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Omnivorous Leafroller Moth

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Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find cool things in nature. This creature was on the side of my house, just a few feet from the door. This moth is easily identified by its strongly bell-shaped outline. Its golden brown to dark brown and wing color can vary greatly. It is found in most of eastern North America.

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Its larvae’s favorite food is the leaves, flowers and developing berries of grapes. They may also consume goldenrod, various berries, willow, cherry and other deciduous trees. The caterpillars form feeding shelters by spinning silk webs around young leaves and rolling them together. Single leaves may also be rolled into tight cylinders.

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This species is rather large for a moth in its particular family (Tortricidae), but rather small compared to other moths. It measures less than an inch long.

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It remarkable camouflage and cool shape made encountering this insect a neat experience.

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Henslow’s Sparrow

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Hiking in Bath Nature Preserve in Akron Ohio, I encountered a bird I’d never seen before. Though to me several species of sparrow look remarkably similar, the Henslow’s Sparrow can be identified by its combination of chestnut brown wings, intricately patterned olive-green head and back of neck, black and brown streaked back, and flat-headed, short-tailed profile.

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A grassland species, this bird historically bred in the tallgrass prairies. It now nests mostly in neglected grassy fields, where it dines on insects and seeds. This is a is a remarkably inconspicuous bird that very few people get a good look at. In addition, Henslow’s Sparrow populations have declined, and this species has been identified as the highest priority for grassland bird conservation in eastern and midwestern North America.

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Unlike the tuneful Song Sparrow, which it closely resembles, the Henslow’s Sparrow’s dry, thin, insectlike song is often described as a “feeble hiccup.” When it sings, it sharply throws its head skyward and then utters its quiet song.

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Though its call is unimpressive, it was a cool experience to observe this secretive grassland bird.

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Dark Fishing Spider

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Fishing Spiders are similar to the larger Wolf Spiders in size, shape, and coloration. They get their common name because most live near water and have been reported to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface.

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I tend to find them in and around my shed, which is close to a creek that runs through my backyard. This creature is frequently associated with wooded areas and I’ve seen them in the local Metroparks, especially in damp areas.

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This is a fairly large spider, with females being twice as large as males. When outstretched legs, one can measure over 3” long. Both sexes are brownish-gray in color with black and lighter brown markings. The legs have dark rings and long spines.

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Ohio hosts five species of fishing spiders, all members of the nursery web spider family. These arachnids don’t spin conventional webs, instead they ambush and pounce on prey.

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Young spiderlings may be found from July through September. The young are guarded by the female in a nursery web and may number 1,000 or more.

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As horrifying as fishing spiders might appear, they are utterly harmless to people and are quite shy. They also play a pivotal role in controlling insects, which would otherwise surge out of control.

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Brown Russula

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While hiking in Hinckley Reservation, it was hard not to notice this large-capped mushroom that in some cases seemed to be turning itself inside-out.

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Not only is it interesting looking, this organism has a waxy, benzaldehyde odor, kind of like a maraschino cherry.

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These, like many fungi, are mycorrhizal, meaning they have are a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with plants. The mushroom has fibers that surround a tree rootlets.

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The mushroom fiber’s helps the tree absorb water and nutrients while the tree provides sugars and amino acids to the mushroom. It is estimated that about 85% of plants depend on mycorrhizal relationships with fungi.

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Brown Russula’s 4-inch cap becomes broadly convex or flat, and sometimes even gets a shallow central depression (in this case holding water).

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This was a fun fungi find on a summertime walk through the woods.

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Black Locust

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This tree is native to the eastern United States, but the exact natural range is not accurately known, since it has been cultivated and is currently found across the nation, in each of the 48 continental United States.

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Black Locust Trees feature many oval, bluish-green compound leaves with a contrasting lighter undersides to give this tree a beautiful appearance in the wind and contribute to its grace. The tips of each leaflet may be slightly notched, rounded, or pointed.

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Its sweetly fragrant, pendulous, creamy white flowers in hang clusters. Each cluster can be up to 8 inches long. Here in northeast Ohio, its flowers are produced in late May through June.

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The Black Locust’s fruit is a flat, smooth pea-like pod 2–4 inches long and about a half an inch wide. It usually contains 4-8 seeds.

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The wood is extremely hard, being one of the hardest woods in Northern America. It is very resistant to rot, and durable, making it prized for furniture, flooring, paneling, fence posts, and small watercraft.

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Black Locust can quickly grow to 50 feet tall by 25 feet wide, when found in the open. They are not tolerant of shade. As a grade-schooler we planted these and is was astonishing how fast they grew.

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This is a member of the Bean Family and is related to Redbud, Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree, and Wisteria, as well as other Locust Tree species. Its many interesting characteristics make it a great tree to study.

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Largemouth Bass

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This is an olive-green fish marked by a series of dark, sometimes black, blotches forming a jagged horizontal stripe along each side. Largemouth Bass are the most popular game fish in North America.

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It’s mouth size is legendary and allows it to consume smaller fish, snails, crayfish, frogs, snakes, salamanders, bats, birds, mammals and baby alligators.

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As adults they are tend to be solitary fish and are often the apex predator in their habitat. Largemouth Bass hide in water vegetation or under roots and limbs of sunken trees, and striking out at their prey from the shadows.

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This is an adaptable fish that can live in swamps, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, creeks and large rivers. Their average length is about 18 inches and their lifespan can be more than 10 years.

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This fish is known by a variety of regional names, such as the Widemouth Bass, Bigmouth Bass, Black Bass, Bucketmouth, Largies, Potter’s Fish, Green Bass, Green Trout, Gilsdorf Bass, Oswego Bass and LMB.

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What ever you call them, they are a lot of fun to catch!

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Northern Walkingstick

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While walking on the Buckeye Trail, I came across this very cool insect. Adults are 3 to 3-1/2 inches long and remarkably well camouflaged. They are slender, elongated and resemble a twig.

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Northern Walkingsticks have a wide range, extending down the Atlantic Coast from Alberta, Canada to Northern Florida.

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These creatures feed mainly on the leaves of trees. They are leaf skeletonizers, eating the tissues between the leaf veins before moving on to new leaves.

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There favored habitat is deciduous woodland edges and forests where their preferred food sources (Oak and Hazelnut) are in good supply.

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Northern Walkingsticks have the extraordinary ability to regenerate legs that are lost by attacks from predators. When predators are present, they remain motionless with their legs close to their bodies, thus resembling a stick.

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They tend to lay their eggs in September; they do so, usually from great heights, dropping them down to the leaf litter where they are left to overwinter. The eggs falling from the trees sound like of droplets of rain.

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We often think of strange, exotic-looking insects as creatures inhabiting tropical rainforests, but the Northern Walkingstick graces us with its presence right here in Ohio.

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Bald Eagle

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Ohio’s largest breeding raptor feeds largely on fish. A pair has been nesting near the Cuyahoga River in Cuyahoga Valley National Park for a few years now.

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The Bald Eagle was negatively affected by the use of the pesticide DDT and the numbers of our national symbol dropped severely in the 1950s and 1960s.

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By 1979 Ohio Bald Eagles declined to just four breeding pairs.The elimination of harmful pesticides has caused a dramatic comeback.

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At one time, the word “bald” meant “white,” not hairless. The Bald Eagle is the only eagle unique to North America. Its distinctive brown body and white head and tail make it easy to identify even from a distance.

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During breeding season, the male and female work together to build a nest of sticks, usually located at the top of a tree. The nests can weigh up to a ton and measure up to 8 feet across.

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Once paired, bald eagles remain with each other until one mate dies, then the surviving bird will find another mate.

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Immature birds have mostly dark heads and tails; their brown wings and bodies are mottled with white in varying amounts. Young birds attain adult plumage in about five years.

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The Bald Eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for native people for far longer than that. For me it’s always a thrill to see one of these majestic birds when hiking the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath.

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