River Chub

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While looking for cool creatures in a creek in Columbiana County, Ohio, I managed to catch a couple of these large minnows.

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The River Chub is robust, olive in color above and dusky yellow below. It has orange-red fins and large scales. During the breeding season, mature males develop pinkish-purple coloration and swollen heads with tubercles between the eyes and snout tip – they are sometimes called “Hornyheads.”

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This fish is found in clear, medium-to-large creeks and rivers with moderate-to-swift current over rock and gravel substrate. Its range extends primarily through most of the Great Lakes and Appalachian regions.

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The River Chub’s presence in a stream is a good indicator of water quality. It is intolerant of pollution, turbidity and siltation and requires a minimum pH 6.0. This fish lives up to 5 years in age and can grow to be a foot long,

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It spawns in April and May. The males select sites with gravel substrate in riffles often adjacent to or just behind a large boulder. At these sites, males build a mound by stacking up a pile of pebbles with their mouths. They spawn above the pile of pebbles and continue to add to the mound between spawning events.

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As spawning continues, this activity creates a round pile of pebbles that can be 2-3 feet across and 8-12 inches high. Many other smaller species of fish will sneak in and spawn in the nest of the River Chub, taking advantage of the way the male aggressively defends the nest, which insures their eggs are protected as well.

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Northern Ribbon Snake

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Although I have found the Eastern Ribbon Snake and Western Ribbon Snake in Illinois, it was not until this year that I found this species that lives in my home state of Ohio.

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The Northern Ribbon Snake is found along the edges of lakes, ponds, bogs, streams and marshes – especially where low vegetation occurs. It tends to prefer sites that get a fair amount of sunlight.

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This snake eats frogs, tadpoles, salamanders and small fish. Though it superficially looks like a garter snake with three yellow stripes on a dark background, it is thinner in build and more aquatic in its habitat preferences.

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Northern Ribbon Snakes give birth to 3 to 26 live young in late summer. The baby snakes are 7 to 9 inches long and are colored and patterned the same as the adults.

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This is an active fast-moving snake that when approached, will typically flee for shelter or into the water, relying on its speed and agility to avoid capture.

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It was an excellent experience to come across a few of these sharply marked serpents for the first time while herping in the Buckeye State.

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Giant Wakerobin

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While hiking along a woodland creek, I noticed this California species of spring-flowering perennial plant. It is found in the Pacific Coast Ranges and in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

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Giant Wakerobin’s large, showy, solitary, three-parted flowers rise directly out of the leaves; its flower color is variable, but is most often dark red to white. Its leaves, which are up to 6 inches long and 5 inches wide, are in whorls of three and often mottled with dark blotches.

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It prefers a shady habitat and is clump-forming, growing to 12 to 18 inches tall. The plant often seen in wooded or streamside situations (or both). It is a classic Spring wildflower, in that it blooms from Spring until early Summer, when there are very few leaves on trees, allowing it to get the light that it needs.

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Trilliums use a strategy called myrmecochory for seed dispersal. A white, fleshy appendage on the seed tip is a nutrient-rich food packet that attracts ants. Ants carry seeds to their colony up to one mile away, feed the packet to their larvae, and discard the seeds, effectively planting them.

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Not only is it an interesting plant, Giant Wakerobin is an incredible beauty and a welcome sign of Spring.

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California Common Scorpion

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This was a fun find on my recent trip to the Golden State, as I had never come across one previously. This species is adapted to a variety of habitats – existing comfortably in the desert scrub as well as in the sandy coastline.

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California Common Scorpions are nocturnal predators that forage at night. They feed upon a variety of insects, centipedes and spiders. Scorpions use their pinchers to grab their prey as the stinger on their long tail punctures it. After their paralyzing venom is injected, the prey is eaten.

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In human encounters, the venom is known to cause pain, but it is not dangerous. This creature has a total length of about three inches as an adult and typically hides under objects during the daytime. I have mainly found them under logs.

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Scorpions mature slowly, molting their exoskeleton as they outgrow it. They can have a lifespan upwards of 10 years. It was a great experience to come across a few examples of this neat arachnid in the wild.

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