Red-eared Slider

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As its common name implies, the Red-eared Slider’s most distinguishing characteristic is the bright, red-orange patch behind each eye. The “slider” part of their name comes from their ability to slide off rocks and logs and into the water quickly.

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In central Ohio, it is thought that we have a population separate from its typical native North American range in the Mississippi River system, but now, you can see them in many lakes and rivers across the state.

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This turtle lives in ponds, lakes, marshes, and in slow-moving rivers that have soft, muddy bottoms. Older makes sometimes lose most of their color and turn almost completely black. Here are a few I saw while visiting southern Illinois.

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Red-eared Sliders are common in the pet trade and now live all around the globe. They are now considered among the word’s 100 most invasive species because as pets they are a lot of work to maintain, so owners release them into the wild.

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Like many other aquatic turtles, the Red-eared Slider starts out life largely carnivorous, feeding on insects, tadpoles and other aquatic creatures. As it matures, it becomes largely herbivorous, feeding primarily on aquatic plants.

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Red-eared Sliders can reach lengths of up to 12 inches, although 7 to 9 inches is more common; the females are typically a bit larger than the males. Males, kike this one, use their long fore-claws to tickle female’s head during courtship.

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These reptiles may produce 3 to 4 clutches of eggs in a single year. Females will dig a nest three to ten inches wide and about four inches deep. The eggs are deposited in the excavation and carefully covered with soil.

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The young turtles hatch 60 to 75 days later. As is the case with many other turtles, the hatchlings’ gender depends on the temperature within the nest; if the temperature in the nest is relatively warm, mostly males will be hatched; if it is relatively cool, mostly females will hatch.

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Scarlet Tanager

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Male Scarlet Tanagers are among the most beautiful birds in the eastern U.S. forest in Summer, with blood-red bodies set off by jet-black wings and tail. They’re also one of the most frustratingly hard to find, as they stay high in the forest canopy singing their rich songs.

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The yellowish-green, dark-winged females can be even harder to spot until you key in on this bird’s call note. In Fall, males trade red feathers for yellow-green and the birds take off for South America.

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Insects are the primary food of the Scarlet Tanager. Most often the Scarlet Tanager moves slowly through tree tops searching for beetles and caterpillars; however they do feed on other insects as well – like bees, wasps and butterflies.

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Breeding Scarlet Tanagers prefer large, mature forest tracts with large trees. They can easily be overlooked because of their unobtrusive behavior and preference for residing in the forest canopy. I’ve only seen a this bird once before and it was several years ago in West Virginia. I was pretty stoked to come across a pair of them this year in Brecksville Reservation.

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Spiderwort

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Spiderworts are very distinctive Summer prairie wildflowers. Growing knee-high, their (usually) blue flowers stand out among the green of the new grass.

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If you break the tip off a spiderwort leaf and wait for a drop of sap to appear, then touch it with your fingertip, you can stretch the thread of sap.

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This resemblance to a spider’s silk may explain where its name came from. The gooey quality of the sap definitely explains its familiar nickname of “cow slobber.”

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The stems, leaves and flowers of Spiderworts are edible. Spiderworts also are one of the native wildflowers that have made their way into the nursery trade. They may also be easily propagated from stem cuttings or seeds.

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This plant’s genus, Tradescantia, is named for John Tradescant, who was gardener for King Charles I of England. He grew them from seeds brought back from America; Spiderwort is still popular in English gardens today.

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Stonecat Madtom

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The Stonecat Madtom is the largest species in the group of catfishes known as madtoms. They are the most common of six species of madtoms found in Ohio.

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They are primarily a species found in medium to large rivers in areas with moderately fast current and large boulders and slabs. The Stonecat received its name because of its tendency to hide beneath flat rocks.

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They spend the day hidden and come out at night to feed. At night, stonecats emerge to feed on the many aquatic insects and crayfishes that also occupy these habitats.

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Their flattened body allows them to wriggle beneath large, flat rocks to hide or to seek out food. Stonecats, like the other members of the catfish family, have barbels (whiskers) that are used to help them locate food.

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Stonecat Madtoms serve as indicators of water quality. They are not present in highly polluted areas or areas with a large amount of siltation. Therefore they are a very valuable “indicator” species to humans.

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For some unknown reason, these fish are also good indicators of Smallmouth Bass populations. It seems if there is a good population of Stonecat Madtoms in the area, there will also be a good number of Smallmouth Bass, which was definitely the case on this outing.

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Bold Jumper

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Jumping spiders are one the most charismatic arachnids around and during the warmer months I often seen them on my house and on the deck. They tend to be inquisitive and seemingly without fear. When photographing this one, it would typically turn to follow my movements.

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While most of their coloration is black and white, Bold Jumpers also have beautiful emerald green fang bases. They also have a face which looks like a monkey’s.

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Rather than building webs, these spiders hunt prey visually (their large, forward-facing eyes, give them very good stereoscopic vision), stalking their insect victims. Watching one hunt down its food is not unlike watching a cat zero in on its prey. They can move quite quickly and are capable of amazing leaps. Bold Jumpers have been known to jump from 10 to 50 times their body length.

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Although these active hunters not build webs to catch food, they do use webbing to wrap their eggs in or to construct a hideout. They also use their spider silk as a “lifeline” when jumping after prey. If a Bold Jumper comes up short of its target, the line catches the spider and it quickly retreats back to its original hunting spot.

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Jumping spiders tend to be small, usually 1/2-3/4 of an inch. Male Bold Jumpers have “eyebrows,” or tufts of hairs over their eyes. This species has some of the best vision of all spiders. They have eight eyes. Four big eyes are located on the spider’s face. The other four are on top of the head. This fine arachnid is also known as the Daring Jumping Spider.

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Rosebay Rhododendron

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This “woody plant” is an evergreen, with a short, crooked trunk and branches.  It grows in woods, often in dense shade, so when in bloom its flowers really stand out.

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The rhododendron’s always-green, thick, leathery leaves set it apart from any other plant native to Ohio.

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In late June and into early July, the flower buds open to reveal giant clusters of white blossoms edged with pink.

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Though common in the Great Smoky Mountains and the state flower of West Virginia, in Ohio it is rather rare and occurs in localized, scattered populations growing naturally in the wilderness.

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The popularity of rhododendrons for use in landscaping has made them and easy to attain at nurseries. This 8-12 foot shrub and its relatives grace the yards of many who appreciate its many attributes.

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And they also contribute their elegance to Brecksville Reservation, where I saw and photographed these examples of this fine plant.

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