Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shallenberger State Nature Preserve

I just graduated from high school on Sunday, which means the next two months for me are opened up for nature-related escapades!

Today, May 28th, 2013, I stopped at Shallenberger State Nature Preserve in Fairfield County with my girlfriend Olivia. Now, I live 20 minutes away from Shallenberger SNP in Pickaway County yet no one around here has seemed to have heard of it. It's a shame though; Shallenberger offers a little slice of the Allegheny Plateau of Ohio without being a long ride if you live in Pickaway or Franklin County.

This vista along the trail shows one of the two main features of Shallenberger SNP. The hill in the background is Ruble Knob. This photo was taken on top of the larger Allen Knob. Both knobs make up the make main features of the park. The trail takes you up both knobs if you feel like climbing, and otherwise just circles the bases if you're not the climbing type. The climbs are by no means demanding however.

Upon nearing Allen Knob, we came upon this monster. This is a Tuliptree, Liriodendron tulipifera, with Olivia as a comparison for size (she's 5'4"). It's hard to tell from the photo, but this tree has three main trunks. I'm no botanist so I'm not exactly sure on this, but I think this is one tree, but I could be wrong and it could be 2 or 3 Tuliptrees morphed together. (If someone can tell me one way or another, please leave a comment!) If this is indeed one tree, then this is the largest tree I've ever stumbled upon. In fact, this whole SNP is filled with old-growth monsters.

Here's another interesting tree that was along the trail. There was a hole in the bottom, as you can see, and right outside the frame the trunk splits back into two as it goes into the canopy.

I almost stepped on this guy when walking along the trail. This is a little Eastern American Toad. American Toads, Bufo americanus, are split into three subspecies. In Ohio, we only have one, the Eastern subspecies. Most likely, you've probably come across one while hiking in the spring and summer as they hop off the trail to avoid being squished. They come in a variety of colors, but this is one that I've never seen before. Normally they seem brown, but this one is a more light and reddish brown than what I've seen.

Okay, this is not the best photo, but this is a Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia. Mountain Laurels are not that common in Ohio, but here at Shallenberger SNP they were covering a lot of the top areas of Allen Knob.

And they were flowering! Here's a closeup of some of the flowers, really beautiful flowers at that. Mountain Laurel is an evergreen shrub that is found in the rocky and mountainous areas of the Appalachian Mountains. Here in Ohio, they're restricted to the eastern portion of the state in the Allegheny Plateau. 

Here is a pair of mating Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles, Cicindela sexguttata. I was lucky to get this photo. Olivia pointed this pair out, who were busy and did not flee immediately like tiger beetles tend to do. As a result, I was able to creep up with my 55mm-not-made-for-flighty-insects-lens (which was a funny sight to the onlooker) and shoot this photo. Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles are common in Ohio, especially if you look at sunny areas along dry forest trails in Southern Ohio. They look ferocious, especially with those large mandibles, but they will not bite humans unless handled and prefer to scurry and fly away from any person sauntering down a trail. Their brilliant flash of green will certainly grab your attention though as it catches the sunlight. 

Another attention-grabbing insect on this trip was this large fly right here, a female Golden-Backed Snipe Fly. You can tell it's a female by the larger abdomen along with the non-touching, smaller eyes. The males have large, touching eyes. Found in deciduous forests in the spring and summer, not much is known about this fly; people aren't even sure if the adults eat or not! Regardless, it's an interesting fly. A few people I've talked to said they've seen good numbers around Ohio so far this year, so keep an eye out!

This was a successful trip and kicked off the summer season for me. Since I'm finally done with AP classes and the massive amounts of homework they entail, my time is open for hiking! I'll be moving down to Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, halfway through August to attend college, so this blog will begin featuring things from that area more!


  1. What a great write-up, Kyle! Thanks for bringing attention to this little-known preserve.

  2. Great blog and post.. I'm pretty sure your first photo is of Becks Knob which is not part of Shallenberger State Nature Preserve though that's not really important. Great photo of a knob..