Rough Osmoderma

Osmoderma scabra 026

While at an outdoor summertime party, the event was “crashed” with the arrival of this distinctive insect. I had never seen one previously and decided to investigate its life cycle and habits.

Osmoderma scabra 058

These bulky beetles grow to an inch-plus in length. According to a paper published in 1939, the adults “conceal themselves during the day in the crevices and hollows of trees, where they feed upon the sap that flows from the bark.”

Osmoderma scabra 032

It belongs to the genus Osmoderma (from the Greek osme—smell, and derma—skin). When captured, the beetles emit a very strong, but not unpleasant odor. Some say the scent is beetles smell “peach-like” or “plum-like.”

Osmoderma scabra 061

The scent is a pheromone that attracts females to the tree hollows where the males hang out and where eggs will be laid. The larvae reside in decaying wood, often in apple or cherry trees. They take three years to reach maturity, and are freeze resistant in the Winter.

Osmoderma scabra 054

They are one of the scarab beetles, with the typical scarab’s short antennae with a set of finger-like appendages at the end. This beetle was an unexpected guest that certainly added to the festivities.

Third Eye Herp

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch_2166

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.

Yellow Perch_2299

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.

Yellow Perch_2304

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.

Yellow Perch_2307

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.

Yellow Perch_2311

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.

Yellow Perch_2308

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

01 Brown-headed Cowbird_6887

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.

02 Brown-headed Cowbird__7199

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.

03 Brown-headed Cowbird_6914

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.

04 Brown-headed Cowbird_7184

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.

05 Brown-headed Cowbird_6920

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.

06 Brown-headed Cowbird_7200

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

01 Eastern Cottonwood_3679

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.

02 Eastern Cottonwood_7620

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.

03 Cottonwood_6279

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.

04 Eastern Cottonwood_2529

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.

05 Eastern Cottonwood_7618

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.

06 Eastern Cottonwood_8331

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

07 Cottonwood_6277

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

Third Eye Herp

Tan Jumping Spider

01 Tan Jumping Spider_1984

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.

02 tan jumping spider_0368

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.

03 jumping spider 053

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.

04 Tan Jumping Spider Platycryptus undatus_5705

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.

05 tan jumping spider_7502a

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.

06 tan jumping spider_0381

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.

jumping spider 052

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

Third Eye Herp

Black Crappie

01 Black Crappie_2166

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.

02 Black Crappie_2174

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.

03 Black Crappie_2172

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

04 Black Crappie_2164

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.

05 Black Crappie_2170

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.

Third Eye Herp

Dutchman’s Breeches

01 Dutchmans Breeches_5546

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.

02 Dutchman's Breeches_2170

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.

03 Dutchman's Breeches_2183

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.

04 Dutchman's Breeches_2180

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.

05 Dutchman's Breeches_2176

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.

06 Dutchman's Breeches_2189

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.

07 Dutchman's Breeches_2191

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.

Third Eye Herp

Blue Racer

01 Blue Racer_1830

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.

02 Blue Racer_1878

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.

03 Blue Racer_1823

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.

04 Blue Racer_1875

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.

05 Blue Racer_1871

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.

06 Blue Racer_1825

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.

07 Blue Racer_7463

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.

Third Eye Herp

Green Ground Beetle

01 green ground beetle_4958

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.

02 green ground beetle_6883

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.

03 green ground beetle 011 (1)

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.

04 green ground beetle 010

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.

05 green ground beetle 013

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.

Third Eye Herp

Ganoderma sessile

Ganoderma sessile_0974

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.

Ganoderma sessile_0975

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.

Ganoderma sessile_0973

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.

Ganoderma sessile_0979

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

Third Eye Herp