Black Crappie

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This neat freshwater fish is found in lakes, ponds and sloughs. It prefers cover, usually in the form of vegetation, fallen trees or rocks and water that is clear with a sand or mud bottom.

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This creature is silvery and has a pattern of mainly irregularly arranged speckles and blotches. It is a deep-bodied and slab-sided with a large mouth.

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Young Black Crappie begin life by feeding primarily on zooplankton. Adults mainly feed on small fish, but also consume insects and crustaceans.

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Like other members of the sunfish family, Black Crappie are nest builders. Males construct a nest by fanning out small underwater depressions in and around brush, rocks or vegetation at a depth of between one and five feet deep. Females then lay eggs in the nest.

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Populations of this fish can be found in each of the 48 contiguous United States. It is a popular game fish and prized as a food source, so its original range has been artificially expanded by stocking lakes, ponds and rivers across the United States.

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Dutchman’s Breeches

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I recently saw this wildflower while hiking the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in northeast Ohio. This native plant is common throughout the eastern United States and also occurs in the Pacific Northwest, though it is less common there.

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Dutchman’s Breeches blooms in the early Spring from March to April. Its flowers are white to pink and resemble a pair of pantaloons hanging upside down. It has one or more finely compound leaves that make the plant appear fern-like.

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The flowers are pollinated by early bumblebees, which have tongues that are long enough to tap the nectar. Unlike the closely related Squirrel Corn, its flowers lack fragrance.

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This plant’s seeds are kidney-shaped, with a faint net-like pattern. Each one has a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. Dutchman’s Breeches is just one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory.

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The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes and then put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate.

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Dutchman’s Breechess can be found in deciduous forests, especially along gentle slopes, ravines or ledges along streams. This species most often occurs in original woodland that has never been plowed under or bulldozed over. It’s abundance in such places can be highly variable.

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It has several common names, depending on which part of the country you find it in. “Bleeding Heart” is one, due to its sometimes pink flowers. Another common name is “Little Blue Staggers,” derived from its ability to induce drunken staggering if cattle graze on it, due to the narcotic and toxic substances it contains.

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Blue Racer

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In my home state of Ohio as well as while visiting the sandhill prairies of Kankakee, Illinois, I came across a few examples of this speedy serpent. Adults tend to range in length between 36 to 60 inches.

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These snakes prefer open and semi-open habitat, though it is likely that a mix of habitats is required to fulfill their ecological needs. They can often be seen where the edge of a field meets a wooded area.

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Baby and juvenile racers have dark-bordered, brown, red, or grey blotches on their backs and dark spots on their sides. As they grow, the background darkens to produce a basically unicolored reptile.

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Adult Blue Racers can be varying shades of blue and gun-metal gray, with white belly scales, black masks, relatively large eyes and often brownish-orange snouts.

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Their eyes are larger compared to that of many other species of snakes, due to the fact that they are day-active hunters that mainly use sight to locate their prey.

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Adult Blue Racers feed on rodents, lizards, other snakes and frogs, while juveniles eat invertebrates such as spiders and crickets. As their “racer” name implies, they are swift in chasing down prey as well as fleeing from predators.

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There aren’t very many blue-colored snakes out there in the world. This is always a fun snake for me to encounter, whether it be in my home state of Ohio, or while doing some out-of-state herping.

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Green Ground Beetle

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I don’t come across these colorful creatures all that often, but they are a sight to behold. They are found throughout the United States and adjacent Canada and Mexico.

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These insects are just over half an inch in length. Their entire dorsal surface usually metallic green, though they sometimes appears bronze and also can appear bluish. Their legs and antennae are long and slender.

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Green Ground Beetles inhabit a variety of moist habitats and can be found from Spring through Fall. They usually occur close to the borders of standing or running water. I tend to find them under debris along the Cuyahoga River.

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They are primarily nocturnal and in the daytime hide under rocks, logs and loose bark. This beetle feeds on other insects and probably consumes a far amount of insect carrion, as it doesn’t seem prone to attack smaller invertebrates that are alive.

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This fine creature is known to use the hair on its legs to clean its antennae; the antennae acts as the insects “nose” and is used to sense the smells as well as tastes of the world around it.

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Ganoderma sessile

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This cool looking bowl-shaped mushroom growing in my sister’s front yard is kind of neat. It sprouted out of a buried, decaying tree stump and has been coming up every year.

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Although I can’t say I’ve ever seen an example of this mushroom previously, it is reportedly common and found in practically every state East of the Rocky Mountains. Its mature fruiting bodies are shiny and reddish-brown.

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Ganoderma sessile has a bright, white, outer edge while growing. This organism is a polypores – part of a group of fungi that form fruiting bodies with pores or tubes on their underside.

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This genus of mushroom has long been used in traditional medicine and practitioners of Chinese medicine refer to it as the “king of herbs.”

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