Henslow’s Sparrow


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.

Henslows Sparrow_6160

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.


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.

Henslows Sparrow_6165

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

Third Eye Herp

Dark Fishing Spider

Dark Fishing Spider 036

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.

Dark Fishing Spider_7451

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.

Dark Fishing Spider_0312

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.

Dark Fishing Spider_1463

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.

Dark Fishing Spider_2527

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.

Dark Fishing Spider_7458

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.

Third Eye Herp

Brown Russula

Brown Russula_6858

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.

Brown Russula_2992

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

Brown Russula_2988

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.

Brown Russula_7107

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.

Brown Russula_2983

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

Brown Russula_2986

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

Third Eye Herp

Black Locust

black locust_5550

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.

black locust_6608

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.

black locust_5535

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.

black locust_6606

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.

black locust_5556

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.

black locust_5545

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.

black locust_5536

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.

Third Eye Herp