Eastern Painted Turtle

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While visiting the East Coast, I had my first-ever encounter with this turtle in the wild. Walking along a quiet waterway in Virginia revealed a few examples of this reptile catching the sun’s early rays.

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The first one that I came across was sharing a log with a tiny Coastal Plain Cooter. While they occur in in ponds, lakes, ditches, swamps, rivers, creeks and marshes, this turtle’s preferred habitat has a combination of aquatic vegetation, soft substrate and basking sites.

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The Eastern Painted Turtle, along with its relatives the Western Painted Turtle, the Midland Painted Turtle and Southern Painted Turtle, is the most widespread species of turtle in North America.

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Like their painted relatives, Easterns eat aquatic vegetation, algae and small water creatures including insects, tadpoles, mollusks, crustaceans and fish.

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Although they superficially look similar to the Midland Painted Turtle in my home state of Ohio, Eastern Painted Turtles are the only turtles in the United States with their scutes (large scales on the shell) arranged straight rows across their backs, rather than alternating.

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Northern Flicker

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On a recent visit to Canalway Center, I saw a pair of these cool birds. They are large, brown woodpeckers with handsome black-spotted plumage. Males have a black “mustache.”

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Unlike Ohio’s other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers spend a lot of time on the ground hunting for ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. Northern Flickers probably eat ants more frequently than any other North American bird.

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These birds generally nest in holes in trees like other woodpeckers. And like most woodpeckers, they drum on objects as a form of communication and territory defense.

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The Northern Flicker’s habitat is open forests, woodlots, groves, towns and farmlands. It has a wide range, from Alaska to Nicaragua, and can be found in almost any habitat with trees; though it tends to avoid dense unbroken forests, because it requires open ground for foraging.

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When ants are not available, this bird consumes a variety of fruits and berries, especially in Fall and Winter – it also eats seeds and nuts at times.

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Northern Flickers migrate the farthest of all woodpeckers. They often fly to the northernmost parts of Mexico or to the southern parts of the United States. However, depending on the individual, some prefer to stay in the northern regions of the United States.

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White Sucker

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This fish is commonly known as a “sucker” due to its fleshy lips that suck up organic matter from the bottoms of rivers and streams. When full grown, it can reach lengths between 12 to 20 inches.

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The White Sucker is native to my home state of Ohio and can be found in every county in the state. They are the most common species of sucker found in The Buckeye State.

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Often described as being “torpedo shaped,” it has a broad, rounded head with a prominent downward-pointing, sucker-like mouth. It’s body is cylindrical and is covered with large, prominent scales.

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This fish shows little preference for a particular habitat and can be found in nearly every lake, reservoir, river and stream in Ohio. It is very tolerant of pollution, murky water and low oxygen levels.

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The White Sucker feeds on a variety of bottom-dwelling organisms, such as aquatic insect larvae, small mollusks, crustaceans, plant material and worms.

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While not the most glamorous of fish, it fulfills an important ecological role.

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Great White Trillium

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Trillium is also a much-loved native wildflower in the United States. Its presence above ground is just for a short time each year – after the snow melts, but before the woodland trees leaf out and completely shade the forest floor.


The name “trillium” derives from the plant’s repetitions of three. Each plant produces a whorl of three broad leaves with a three-petaled blossom on a single stem.


Like many other Spring wildflowers, the seeds of the trillium are dispersed by ants. The plant’s seeds contain a food that is attractive to ants. The ants carry the seeds to their nests to feed their larvae, then discard the undamaged seeds. This allows the trillium to produce new plants in nearby locations.


This plant has a lifespan approaching that of a human – it requires some 17 years to reach maturity and may reach 70 years of age.


In 1986, Great White Trillium took its place alongside the Ohio state flower, Red Carnation, as the state’s official wildflower. Ohio’s General Assembly chose this plant because it grows in each of the state’s 88 counties.

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