Friday, May 31, 2013

Adams County Trip

I went on an Adams County trip on Thursday, May 30, 2013. This is sort of a tradition; I go every year at least once, hike, go down to Maysville, Kentucky, to eat at Margie's, and come back to Pickaway County. Honestly, Adams County is my favorite Ohio county. I love the ecosystems down there.

Adams County is a strange place when it comes to Ohio; it's got many unique characteristics when it comes to ecosystems and other ecological aspects. It's part of the Bluegrass Region, a region that's mostly in Kentucky. It has pocket prairies, it has cedar barrens, and so on. All of this results in a lot of rare and uncommon plants.

There's many, many places to go to in Adams county, but today we first stopped at my favorite nature preserve, Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve. Located near Peebles, this preserve is off the beaten path. First you go off the highway onto a country road, then turn onto a smaller country road, then continue on this road for a few miles, wait for it to turn into a gravel road and then go farther, then wait for it to turn back into a paved road, then go a little bit farther, and THEN you arrive. You are in the middle of nowhere it seems like, but it's so worth it. Here you can see a dolomite cliff. Dolomite is a type of sedimentary rock and Davis Memorial has two types, Peebles Dolomite and Greenfield Dolomite.

On these dolomite cliffs and outcrops grow a rare plant called Sullivantia, Sullivantia sullivantii. Sullivantia has only been recorded in 9 counties in Ohio. It requires exposed rock to grow on, mainly certain types of cool, moist, and porous cliff sides. I've personally seen this species in two places, here and in the Hocking Hills. At Davis Memorial this plant seems to cover the dolomite cliffs.

Another interesting geological aspect of Davis Memorial is this: Cedar Fork Cave. This is a proper cave, although it isn't a large one like you might want it to be. It's only a few hundred feet long, like most of the caves in Ohio. The largest Ohio cave is only a few miles away from Davis Memorial, but even that is only half a mile long. These caves form when rainwater picks up CO2 from the atmosphere and decayed ground matter and becomes acidic. This acidic water becomes a weak carbonic acid and eats away at sedimentary rock, like dolomite, which eventually leads to cracks. These cracks widen and some go on to form sinkholes while others form caves, like this one. This type of sinkhole and cave-ridden landscape is called "karst." In Cedar Fork Cave resides two rare aquatic cave invertebrates and as a result is closed off from the public. You need a written permit to explore, and please respect this to avoid damage to a very delicate cave-ecosystem. Other interesting geological features of this park include a large fault that is visible in Cedar Fork Creek.

Next stop: Lynx Prairie. Lynx Prairie is part of the greater Edge of Appalachia Preserve complex, owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy. Lynx Prairie is one of few remaining examples of pocket prairies in Ohio. This park is a complex of pocket prairies which are actually cedar barrens. The dolomite here is close to the surface which makes it hard for trees to take root. As a result, only prairie species take root, along with the occasional hardy Eastern Red Cedar (hence the name cedar barren). However, as the bedrock level fluctuates, these cedar barrens become surrounded by woods, which in turn makes these cedar barrens pockets, and, ahah! We now see where the name "pocket prairie" comes from. These pocket prairies hold many rare plants, and Lynx Prairie is no exception. There is going to be another post soon strictly on some of the wildflowers I came across on this visit, so stay tuned you flower-lovers!

We found this baby lobster massive crayfish while at Lynx Prairie (at least, it was so large it might as well have been a baby lobster!). This was the largest crayfish I have ever saw. I added my hand as a comparison.

Isn't he cute? Well, he wasn't a fan of getting his photo taken and he tried intimidating me as a result, yet as you can see it wasn't very successful. Crayfish, also known as crawfish and crawdad, are a type of freshwater crustacean. Twenty species of crayfish have been recorded in Ohio. As to what species this guy is... I'm not exactly sure. I'm thinking it might possibly be a Spiny Stream Crayfish, or Orconectes cristavarius, but as I said, I'm not sure.

Here's one last shot of Lynx Prairie, this time showing the forest aspects of the pocket prairies. As you can see, even the forested parts are sparse. Adams County has so very much to offer if you visit, and I strongly suggest you visit some time!

Since there's so much to offer, there's going to be more posts to come on some of the things I found. This post is sort of an overview. The next one will be on some of the wildflowers and will come out either this weekend or some time next week. The last one will be over some of the insects and arachnids I came across. Stay tuned in!

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!