Central Stoneroller

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After spending a bit of time exploring this creek, a caught a cool fish. The common name for this fish, “central stoneroller,” comes from the behavior of the male excavating a nest by moving gravel with its nose.

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These are moderately stout, brownish colored minnows with small eyes and short, rounded fins. The snout is bluntly rounded and projects beyond their nearly horizontal mouth. Their mouth is white.

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The Central Stoneroller is found throughout Ohio in moderate to high gradient streams with sand to gravel bottoms. They prefer riffle areas where riffles and pools alternate in rapid succession. Adults range in length from 3 to 5 inches, but they can reach 7 inches and males are generally larger than females.

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They feed by scraping algae and and other organic matter from rocks and logs with the spade-like extension of their lower jaw. It is classified as a grazing minnow in its feeding behavior, and large schools of these fish often feed together.

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The Central Stoneroller belongs to the Minnow and Carp family of fish. It goes by several other names: Dough Belly, Racehorse Chub, Rotgut Minnow, Steel-backed Chub, Stone Luger, Stoneroller, and Tallow-mouth Minnow.

Third Eye Herp

Red Squirrel

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The Red Squirrel is a small squirrel (compared to the Gray Squirrel and Fox Squirrel) with reddish to reddish-gray fur on top and a white underside. It has white around its eyes. Its tail is not as long or bushy as the tail of other tree squirrels. In the Summer, the red squirrel may have a black stripe on its sides.

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Its curved front claws and powerful hind legs make it a very good climber and jumper. The Red Squirrel can reside in pine, deciduous (trees with leaves) and mixed pine-deciduous forests.

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This mammal eats a wide variety of foods including insects, seeds, bark, nuts, fruits, mushrooms and pine cones. In the Autumn it will remove green pine cones from trees and store them in the ground. It also stores nuts and seeds in piles or under logs, at the base of trees and underground.

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It doesn’t always find or eat all of the seeds and nuts it has stored. Because of this, the Red Squirrel plays an important role in spreading seeds throughout the forest. This animal also drinks tree sap from maple trees. It bites a tree until the sap flows out and returns to drink it after the water in the sap has evaporated.

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The Red Squirrel is very vocal and chatters, growls and screeches. You can usually hear more of these forest creatures than you can see. Its bright eyes, perky disposition and chattering, rattling call add to the “personality” of the forest.

Third Eye Herp

Northern Map Turtle

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Walking along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath this Summer I encountered a turtle that I had never seen in the wild before. Its Latin species name is geographica and both this and its common name “map turtle,” refer to the markings on the skin and shell.

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Part of the difficulty in finding this turtle is that it prefers to live in large rivers and is very wary, diving into the water at the slightest disturbance. It prefers large bodies of water and areas with fallen trees and other debris for basking. These turtles are more often found in rivers than in lakes or ponds.

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Northern Map Turtles are more carnivorous than most other water turtles. Adult females have wide heads and broad, flat crushing surfaces in their mouths which they use to feed on molluscs, their primary prey, as well as insects and crayfish.

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It is not unusual to see these turtles walking around under the ice, for they are among the very last turtles to go into hibernation – if they go at all – and among the earliest to reappear in spring.

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The female of this species attains a shell length of about 10 inches, while the male’s seldom exceeds five inches. These reptiles are found throughout the eastern half of the USA and northward into southern Canada. In addition to being called Map Turtles, they are also known as Sawback Turtles. Whatever you call it, it was awesome to see this reptile in the wild!

Third Eye Herp

Bald-faced Hornet

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It may be December, but a walk through the woods can still yield insect life, if you are willing to turn a few logs. Earlier in the week I found this hardy creature.

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This insect gets the first part of its name from the ivory-white markings on the face. Despite the second part of its name, the Bald-faced Hornet is not a “true” hornet, rather it is a a type of yellowjacket.

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Fertilized queens like this one overwinter in protected places such as in hollow trees, rock piles, under bark and in the walls and attics of buildings.

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In springtime, she collects cellulose from rotting wood by chewing it. She then adds her saliva and creates a paste to make a papery material with which to construct a football shaped, grey paper-like nest.

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The queen creates a few brood cells within the nest and deposits eggs in them and feeds the larvae when they hatch. This Bald-faced Hornet built her nest on my deck in the summer.

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Though they don’t have much of a “fan base,” Bald-faced Hornets are considered a beneficial insect because they reduce populations of unwanted insects (including other yellowjackets) and pollinate flowers when they are searching for nectar…and I think they are a cool creature to come across on a December hike.

Third Eye Herp