Green Heron

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The Green Heron is stocky, dark colored and small for a heron. This crow-sized bird is solitary and secretive.


It inhabits small, freshwater wetlands, ponds, and stream-sides with thick vegetation along the edges. I have seen a far number of them on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath.

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The Green Heron is one of the few birds known to use tools. It will attract prey with “bait” (feathers, small sticks, live insects or berries) that it drops into the water. This hunting technique has earned them the distinction of being placed among the world’s smartest birds. This one is using a blade of grass.

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I once saw one of these birds seemly cooperating with a Common Snapping Turtle, herding fish into an area where they could be easily caught.


This bird tends to forage from a perch, where it stands with its body lowered and stretched out horizontally, ready to thrust its bill at unsuspecting prey. Fish are its main source of food, though it is opportunistic feeder, also eating frogs, crayfish and large insects.

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The Green Heron lays three to six eggs in a nest made of sticks. Both the female and male make the nest. The male gathers the materials and the female constructs the nest.


A group of herons has many collective nouns, including a “battery,” “hedge,” “pose,” “rookery” and “scattering” of herons.

Third Eye Herp

Foxglove Beardtongue


I’ve been seeing a whole lot of this native wildflower lately. This early blooming perennial gets its common name from the flower’s resemblance to the foxglove, or digitalis plant.

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The genus name (Penstemon) refers to the presence of a fifth stamen that is tipped with a little beard made up of a tuft of hairs.

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Foxglove Beardtongue is characterized by spikes of white tubular flowers that bloom on 2 to 4 foot stems. Purple lines or stripes within the throat of the flower attract bees and other pollinators.

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Butterflies and hummingbirds visit the flowers for nectar, and songbirds eat ripe seeds from the flower stems in fall and winter.


This year I even found this wildflower growing in my backyard. How cool is that?

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Eastern Garter Snake


The Eastern Garter Snake is one of our most common and wide-ranging snakes. Adults are typically 2-3 feet long. Most individuals can be identified by the presence of three yellow stripes down a dark body. Some, however, exhibit a checkered body pattern with light stripes and a grayish or reddish body color.

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These snakes derive their name from the resemblance of their dark stripes to old-fashioned sock garters. They tend to prefer moist, grassy environments and are often found near water, such as at the edges of ponds, marshes, streams, wet meadows, weed patches, farms and forests.


Garter snakes are very active, and can be found day or night, though they’re most active during the day. They are usually seen among vegetation. They are often discovered basking on wood piles, stone walls, hedges and rocks.

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Part of the recipe for this reptile’s success is the large variety of foods it eats including: frogs, toads, salamanders, earthworms, fish, tadpoles, mice, slugs, crayfish, leeches and insects.

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Eastern Garter Snakes mate from late March to early May. Sometimes when several males find a female at the same time, they form a “breeding ball.” A breeding ball is when snakes wrap themselves around each other, trying to mate.

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In April I observed these two males courting a female. Adult females are typically much larger than adult males. Eastern Garter Snakes give live birth to offspring, rather than laying eggs.


They are the first snakes to become active in Spring and have even been seen crawling over snow. If attacked, a garter snake will release a bad-smelling odor called musk. This deters some of their predators.

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In Northwest Ohio we have a population of all-black Eastern Garter Snakes, a morph which adds to their impressive array of colors and patterns. Here’s one that I found a couple of weeks ago.


Though common, the variability in their colors and patterns makes each encounter with one of these snakes a pleasant one.

Third Eye Herp



Bluegill are an important and abundant sport fish in the United States. They are also one of the most common species in Ohio and can be found in almost every body of water throughout the state.


They are most abundant in clear lakes and ponds that have some rooted aquatic vegetation. They usually hide around and inside old tree stumps and other underwater structures.

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They can grow up to 12 inches long, though they are usually about half this size. They can have beautiful coloring, with deep blue and purple on the face and gill flap, dark olive-colored bands down their sides, and a fiery orange to yellow belly. It is the most common member of the Sunfish Family has a distinctive black spot behind the gills.


Like other sunfish, Bluegill have very deep and highly compressed bodies. The name “bluegill” comes from the iridescent blue and purple region on their cheeks and gill covers.


Bluegill eat just about any little animal that will fit into their small mouths, especially aquatic insects and land insects that fall into the water. They are important aquatic predators in the streams and ponds they occupy. In turn they provide food for larger fish.


Not only does it play a critical role in the freshwater environment it inhabits, this common creature also is an example of the beauty in nature that is all around us, yet very often overlooked.

Third Eye Herp

Red Flat Bark Beetle

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“Flat bark beetles,” are a family of distinctively flat insects found nearly worldwide under the bark of dead trees. Both larvae and adults live under bark; other than that, little is known of their habits.

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The Red Flat Bark Beetle has two “claims to fame.” The first should be obvious – this barely 3/8 of an inch long creature has extraordinary coloration.

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The second thing this insect is known for is the ability to survive extreme cold. Red Flat Bark Beetles can survive temperatures as low as -238°F (–150°C). They manage this by producing a type of antifreeze protein. Being able to withstand “unearthly” temperatures has allowed this beetle to reside in parts of the Arctic.

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Their flattened bodies enable them to travel under loose bark with little effort. These beetles are considered beneficial to man because they eat harmful wood boring beetles that can damage timber. Their larvae are thought to be predatory as well.

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The diversity of insect life is astonishing, and the Red Flat Bark Beetle is just another example of six-legged awesomeness.

Third Eye Herp