Yellow Perch

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Recently I caught one of these fine fish in Geauga Lake in northeast Ohio. It has a yellow and brass-colored body and distinct pattern, consisting of five to nine olive-green, vertical bars, triangular in shape, on each side.

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Yellow Perch are only found in North America and reside in ponds, lakes, the pools of creeks and slow flowing rivers. They are most often encountered in clear water near vegetation and tend to school near the shore during the Spring. They can also be found in brackish water.

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Adults are typically 6 to 10 inches long and dine primarily on immature insects, larger invertebrates (like crayfish) and the eggs and young of other fish, which they take both from open water and from the bottom.

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The young of this species often mixes with other small fish in schools. Adults often occur in schools of 50 to 200 or more fish, staying closer together in the Summer than in the Winter.

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The Yellow Perch has two dorsal fines, the first of which has prominent spines. This fish reaches maturity at an age of one to two years; its average life span is seven to eight years.

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This fish is also known as Lake Perch, Ringed Perch, American Perch, American Perch, Raccoon Perch and Ring-tailed Perch.

Third Eye Herp

Brown-headed Cowbird

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I often see these birds while hiking in northeast Ohio. Males are easy to identify, due to their glossy black feathers and chocolate brown heads. Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are plain brown birds. They are stocky blackbirds with a fascinating approach to raising their offspring.

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Centuries ago this bird probably followed Bison herds across prairies, feeding on insects flushed from the grass by the grazers. The bird’s population expanded with the clearing of forested areas and the introduction of new grazing animals by settlers across North America. Today it follows cattle and is widespread across the United States.

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Females do not build nests, but instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes laying more than three dozen in the Summer. They deposit their eggs in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents.

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Some birds, such as the Yellow Warbler, recognize eggs that are not there own, though these birds are too small to remove the eggs out of their nests. Instead, they build a new nest over the top of the old one and hope cowbirds don’t come back.

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Other larger bird species puncture or grab the cowbird’s eggs and throw them out of the nest, but the majority of hosts don’t recognize cowbird eggs at all. The Brown-headed Cowbird’s parasitic reproduction strategy is unique among the world’s blackbird species.

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Brown-headed Cowbirds can be found in open woods, farmland and stockyards. They forage by walking on the ground, looking for insects and seeds. In the Winter, Brown-headed Cowbirds may join huge roosts with several blackbird species. One such mixed roost in Kentucky contained more than five million birds.

Third Eye Herp

Eastern Cottonwood

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This is a large, fast-growing tree found growing along streams, rivers and lowland areas. It is what is known as a “classic floodplains tree.” I have one growing next to the creek in my backyard.

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The genus of its Latin name, Populus deltoides indicates that it is a type of Poplar Tree. The species, deltoides, refers to its triangle-shaped leaves.

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Eastern Cottonwood is almost as massive as a Sycamore in regard to its trunk and broad-spreading canopy. It commonly reaches 80 feet tall by 60 feet wide, but can be much larger.

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The flat leaf stems cause its leaves flutter in the slightest breeze, often looking like a hand waving back and forth, as do the leaves of most Poplars.

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In late Spring and early Summer, I get “snow in June” when the fruit capsules open to release their small seeds attached to many cotton-like strands. It is the continuous release of these fluffy seeds for 2-3 weeks that results in the tree’s common name.

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These trees develop very deep fissures in their bark. Mature Eastern Cottonwood bark is among the thickest of all trees in North America.

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Eastern Cottonwoods have many unique characteristics that make them worth checking out.

Third Eye Herp

Tan Jumping Spider

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Recently I found one of these creatures in my house. This cryptically-colored spider is common on all sorts of vertical surfaces like tree trunks, fence posts, and the outer walls of buildings. Many will overwinter under loose tree bark, which may explain how this one got indoors; it was looking for shelter from Winter.

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Jumping Spiders hunt by sight and have very good vision. Like some other types of Jumping Spiders, this species appears to exhibit a curiosity towards humans who come into its sightline.

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These furry arachnids have enormous front-facing eyes which make them seem almost mammal-like in appearance. The rest of their eight eyes wrap around their heads, giving them almost 360-degree vision.

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Tan Jumping Spiders are most active in the Summer and I commonly see them on the outside of my house as well as on deck rails. Despite their “tan” common name, they are often varying shades of gray or brown.

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Though small (less than half an inch), they are accomplished hunters. They approach prey slowly and when a short distance away, make a sudden leap onto an unfortunate insect. They are good jumpers and can leap many times their own body length.

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Scientifically known as Platycryptus undatus, Tan Jumping Spiders usually have a wavy color pattern on the upper part of their abdomen. This undulating pattern is why they received the “undatus” part of their scientific name.

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Their large eyes and curious dispositions help make jumping spiders one of the most appealing groups of spiders.

Third Eye Herp