Friday, June 28, 2013

Glen Helen Nature Preserve

Monday, June 17, my grandpa and I traveled to a few different parks. We first hit Batelle Darby Metropark and then Prairie Oaks Metropark near Columbus. Both parks were great, but this post is on another park.

Around lunch we decided to head down to Yellow Springs, outside of Dayton. Our goal was Glen Helen Nature Preserve. After a nice lunch at Peach's Bar and Grill, we headed, quite literally, right across the street to "The Glen."

Glen Helen Nature Preserve is an area owned by the Antioch College in Yellow Springs. Glen Helen is about 1000 acres and was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1965.

My intent with this visit was more photography based versus nature based, fair warning.

So why is the town of Yellow Springs called Yellow Springs? Well, it's this thing right here. This spring within Glen Helen is the namesake of the town. As you can see, in person it's more of an orange than a yellow from the high iron content. From what I've read, this place was well known to the Shawnees. They believed the spring water held healing properties, a notion carried on by the early white settlers. It is said that even Tecumseh frequented the spring.

Another shot of the spring. This spring is located off a Native American path known as the Bullskin Trace, an ancient pathway that led from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. This path was created by migrating bison and other animals before being used by the Native Americans. It was then used by explorers such as Daniel Boone and then the following pioneers, but it soon became a part of the Underground Railroad (of which the Antioch College of Yellow Springs, with its abolitionist president Horace Mann, was a major stop). Other Native American chiefs are said to have visited the spring for its "powers," including Blue Jacket, Blackhoof, Blackfish, and Little Turtle.

The spring water slides down the hill, cascading over a rocky area making a small waterfall, and finally into Yellow Springs Creek. However, this waterfall right here is located along a tributary to that Yellow Springs Creek. This creek has always interested me. Before this waterfall, the creek has a rock bottom. Hundreds and hundreds of years of erosion has sculpted the rock into many interesting features. As the water goes from that part to this waterfall, a whole new interesting geography takes place. This waterfall starts "the cascades" which is a series of falls and pools that is incredibly beautiful. I don't have any photos of the lower cascades because there were people swimming and I didn't want to come off as "creepy," but let me say you are not allowed to swim in this creek. The rules say so, so please follow them to protect the Glen.

We came across this guy enjoying some sunlight. This is a Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis. A tip on IDing these subtly beautiful guys can be found on the tips of their antenna. Their white tips help eliminate many other butterflies and point to Hackberry or Tawny Emperors in the Eastern region of America. They are an active butterfly often times with erratic flying. Many times they are curious and will fly over to intrusions, which include humans hiking through the forest. They are attracted to white objects, including white shirts, and may land on you if you so happen to be wearing one when a Hackberry Emperor sees you!

And last, but not least, Glen Helen Nature Preserve is the site of the Raptor Center. The Raptor Center is an education center, but first and foremost its duty is to rehabilitate injured raptors, which include hawks, eagles, owls, and so on. The lighting was bad, but I was able to take this photo of a sleepy Barred Owl as he woke only enough to see what the intrusion was. The Raptor Center is definitely worth checking out if you like birds; it allows amazing views of amazing birds of prey, a complete win win situation.

Glen Helen Nature Preserve is definitely worth the visit. Easy access, many miles of hiking trails, and beautiful natural features make this park a great gem in Western Ohio.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Some Wildflowers from Adams County

Part II of the Adams County trip, except this post is dedicated to the wildflowers I found. Part I can be found here.

Adams County is wonderful for wildflowers, and when it comes to rarities for Ohio, it's chocked full of them. Adams County has special ecological characteristics when it comes to Ohio. As my previous post pointed out, Adams County is part of the Bluegrass Region, has cedar barrens resulting in pocket prairies, and more. Many species of southern plants are found here and are at the northern edge of their range as well, leading to an interesting mix of North meets South.

This was the star (no pun intended) of the trip: Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia. I made a trip to Lynx Prairie specifically with seeing this species in mind. You can see why it is called Shooting Star. Shooting Star has been recorded in 24 of the 88 Ohio counties with its population being mainly centered in the South and Southwest parts of the state. At Lynx, these were found in the pocket prairies; in fact, the first pocket prairie had hundreds of these flowering.

Next up was this flower that was found right next to the Shooting Stars. This is Scarlet Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea. Scarlet Indian Paintbrush has been recorded in 23 Ohio counties, and here in the prairies of Adams County you can encounter it in decent numbers. This is Ohio's only Indian Paintbrush species, with most of the species being out west.

This yellow flower and the surrounding clover-like leaves belong to Great Yellow Wood Sorrel, Oxalis grandis. It is our largest native wood sorrel and is found in 47 Ohio counties, generally in the Southern and Eastern portions of the state. This specimen was found at Davis Memorial SNP.

Some times we expect flowers to be large, flashy plants; however, many wildflowers are not that flashy, nor are they always large. That does not mean most wildflowers don't have a subtle beauty. This flower, Houstonia caerulea, might be very tiny, but it does have its own subtle features. The slight blue tint, the tiny yellow center, the simple symmetry made by four petals; all of this is grand in its own sense, if you take the time to actually look at it. This was found at Davis Memorial SNP where they were all along the trail. It's known more commonly as Azure Bluet or Quaker Lady. Found in most Eastern and Southern Ohio counties, this flower thrives in moist, acidic soil in shady areas.

This flower is Downy Wood Mint, Blephilia ciliata. This was found at Lynx Prairie; in fact, they were in every prairie opening almost and added a nice purple to the sea of green. This species is found in about half of the counties in Ohio and doesn't fall into any specific region.

This is one of the more uncommon flowers I came across on this trip. This is Smooth Phlox, Phlox glaberrima. Smooth Phlox has been recorded in only 7 counties in Ohio! The Ohio population is definitely centered in the south, with Adams County and the Shawnee Forest region making up most of the records. This particular specimen was found at Davis Memorial SNP.

All in all, this was a good trip for wildflowers. I found a few more but I don't want to overload this post and have it be incredibly long, so I'm going to stop it here. The next post will be coming soon as well and will be about some of the insects and arachnids I came across. Stay tuned!