Round Goby

01 Round Gobi_4298

While fishing in the Ohio & Erie Canal, I caught something that I’ve never seen before. This fish is native to Eurasia where it is often found in brackish water. It was unintentionally introduced into Lake Superior from the Black Sea via freighter ballast.

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Since that time, it has spread to all of the Great Lakes, where it is undergoing a dramatic population explosion (densities of several dozen per square meter of lakebed have been reported).

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Round Gobies are small, soft-bodied fish characterized by a distinctive black spot on the first dorsal fin (which this example is seems to be missing). Their eyes are large and protrude slightly from the top of their head and, like most gobies, the pelvic fins are fused to form a single disc (shaped like a suction cup) on the belly.

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These fish feed both nocturnally and diurnally and are believed to detect prey only while stationary. Their primary diet includes mollusks, crustaceans, worms, fish eggs, zebra mussels, small fish, insect larvae and other small invertebrates living on the bottom of lakes and streams.

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The consequences of its accidental introduction are quite complex, as this fish both competes with native species and provides an abundant source of food for them, while consuming other invasive species (particularly Zebra Mussels).

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The Round Goby’s robust ability to survive in degraded environmental conditions has helped to increase its competitive advantage over other fish. Although it is a controversial invasive species, it was neat to come across this unexpected find while fishing.

Third Eye Herp

Maximilian Sunflower

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While visiting “The Wilds” in south-central Ohio, it was hard not to notice this eye-catching plant.

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This North American species of sunflower is named for Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, who encountered it on his travels in North America.

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Though native to the Great Plains in central North America, is has naturalized in the eastern and western parts of the continent. It is now found from British Columbia to Maine, south to the Carolinas, Chihuahua and California.

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Maximilian Sunflower was one of several plant species used in research to evaluate native perennial wildflower plantings for supporting wild bees and improving crop pollination on farmlands.

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This plant grows in a variety of environments throughout its range including meadows, tallgrass prairies, plains, roadsides, ditches and disturbed sites. It prefers full sun and tolerates a range of soil types.

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Its numerous bright yellow 3-inch flowers are found on the upper half of its unbranched stems. Maximilian Sunflower’s leaves are 4 to 8 inches in length and taper at both ends.

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Its flowers attract a variety of pollinators and the abundant supply of seeds that it produces are hard to resist for many species of birds.

Third Eye Herp

Virgin Tiger Moth

01 Virgin Tiger Moth_4173

While looking under pieces of plywood on an open field in search of snakes, I came upon the pupa of a moth. I took it home and set it up in a little terrarium. A few months later the moth emerged.

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The Virgin Tiger Moth is a member of a large group of sometimes dramatically patterned moths who whose fuzzy offspring are called “wooly bears” or “wooly worms.”

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Tiger Moths are unusual among moths because they have tymbal organs, which can be used to produce ultrasonic sound. These ultrasonic emanations are thought to startle bats, warn bats to stay away, or to “jam” their bat radar.

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The Virgin Tiger Moth is found in woodland and wetland edges, clearings and fields east of the Rocky Mountains, though it’s uncommon in the far South.


Its caterpillars eat bedstraw, clover, lettuce, plantains and other low-growing herbaceous plants. They are often seen in the Fall crossing roads as they look for sheltered areas to overwinter.

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In the Spring the caterpillars become active again and begin feeding. After a few weeks they form a pupa and in late Spring or early Summer they will emerge as adults.

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The striking stained glass-looking forewings along with the bright underwings, used to scare off predators, make encountering one of these fine insects a memorable experience.

Third Eye Herp

Chipping Sparrow

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For me sparrows are hard to identify, because they all pretty much look like little brown birds.

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But if you look closely, the Chipping Sparrow has a distinctive bright rusty crown, black eyeline and unstreaked grayish belly.

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I was lucky enough to come across a Chipping Sparrow nest on a hillside across the street from me this Summer.

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The nest is made of woven grass and some hair. The pale blue-green eggs had markings of brown and purple; they took 10 to 12 days to hatch.

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These birds favor areas with open lawns and seems to benefit from urban sprawl. They are very common in suburbs, city parks, orchards, pastures, other altered habitats.

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Although they are highly migratory, very few spend the Winter in Ohio – these often appear at feeders. (Baby sparrows at 11 days after hatching.)

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Chipping Sparrows migrate by night and their flight calls are a characteristic sound of the night sky in spring and fall in the United States. In the warmer months Chipping Sparrows mostly eat insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles and leafhoppers. In the colder months, they mostly eats seeds.

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This bird gets its common name from males, which sing a long, dry trill of evenly spaced, almost mechanical-sounding “chips.” It’s one of the most common sounds of open woods in Spring . (Baby sparrows at 14 days after hatching.)

Third Eye Herp