Monday, November 25, 2013

Hocking Hills Trip

So Friday night (November 22, 2013), the Ohio University TravelCats headed out on their first ever trip. The trip was simple enough; rent a cabin in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio for Friday and Saturday night, and hike Saturday and some Sunday in the Hocking Hills State Park. Who are the "TravelCats?" Well, the TravelCats is a club that was just started this year with the idea to bring together people at Ohio University who love to travel so we can talk to each other and learn traveling tips, and hopefully even plan trips to take with other members. Here is the TravelCats blog if anyone is interested.

My main goal was photography on this trip, so pardon the lack of creatures and so on like my posts normally have. Be warned, this is sort of a "mega-post."

The first stop Saturday was Old Man's Cave, which is one of the multiple "mini parks" of the large Hocking Hills State Park. Old Man's Cave is definitely the most popular part of the park, and visitors are greeted with a three tiered parking lot that can completely fill some days. It's one of the most popular hiking destinations in Ohio, and for good reason. The area is beautiful. The central feature to Old Man's Cave is a carved out gorge with waterfalls, rock formations, and more. This is one of the main features: The Devil's Bathtub. The stream cascades down into a deep pool that is a few feet deep, before flowing back out into the normal stream.

As we hiked from The Devil's Bathtub up the gorge, we came to the beginning of the gorge, marked by the Upper Falls. The recent heavy rains had swollen the stream, and the waterfalls were really flowing. Back when I visited in August, this waterfall was only a trickle. Above the waterfall, just out of frame, is a stone bridge that gives visitors a view of the falls and the pool from above.

We turned around and began heading back past The Devil's Bathtub and on to the area of the Middle Falls. These cascades begin the Middle Falls area, as they continue off frame and over a small waterfall. These cascades are always beautiful, but the lighting is normally harsh and as a result I've always struggled to take a decent photo. Finally, with the sky overcast, I was able to get a photo of this exact area I liked...after 4 years of trying. Go persistence!

And of course, if there's an Upper and Middle Falls, there's got to be a Lower Falls too, right? And that's what this photo is of. The Lower Falls flows over the rock and into the air before falling into a really expansive pool of water.

Next we headed on over to Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve. While nestled in the mid section of the Hocking Hills State Park, this is a separate Nature Preserve and notice that because of that, there are different laws. One I see people constantly breaking (even though there is a decent sized sign right at the very beginning of the trail) is the "No Pets Allowed." All State Nature Preserves have this law, and people constantly bring their dogs to Conkles Hollow. Please don't. But anyway, we decided to opt out of the Gorge Trail due to time constraints, and focus solely on the 2.5 mile Rim Trail.

The gorge in Conkles Hollow is one of, if not the deepest in Ohio. The 200 foot cliffs are some of the highest in Ohio. The Rim Trail is absolutely spectacular, but definitely not for one who fears heights or small children. I want to stress that. For much of the trail, you are literally about 1-2 feet from a sheer 200 foot cliff. People die here on a regular basis, and, to be blunt, it's essentially all from acting stupidly around these dangerous cliffs. Otherwise, this trail is incredibly beautiful with amazing vistas. If you are a hiker, I strongly suggest doing this trail.

While halfway through the trail, much to our delight, it began snowing. Flurries at first, but then it started up in earnest and immediately stuck to the ground. The sight was amazing; looking into the gorge revealed swirling snowflakes as they traveled to the ground and snow-covered hemlocks. It was truly beautiful, and we had no idea snow was even a chance that day.

Sunday we headed out to do a quick hike at Cedar Falls. It was freezing that day; I had put my tripod in the water to take one photo, and the water made the legs freeze up within two-four minutes after that. Cedar Falls has the highest average output of water of the waterfalls in the Hocking Hills, and it was definitely a sight, and a sound, from the recent rains; you could hear it from the parking lot! Anyway, here is a shot of the falls, along with one of the founders of TravelCats in there as a size reference for the falls (she's on the lower left side).

Here's a side view of Cedar Falls. As I said previously, you could hear the roar of the falls from the parking lot, and this show gives you a good idea of why. You can also see some of the icicles that were everywhere around that area of the park.

Last photo! Here's the members of the TravelCats that went on this trip. The co-presidents are the two in the middle, and your blogger is on the right end. Future trips currently in the planning stages for TravelCats include a possible Seattle trip, with a visit to Olympic National Park (which is at the top of my bucket list).

Anyway, hope you enjoyed! And one final plug. I recently made a Facebook page for my photography. If you like my work, check it out! You can see other photos not posted on here, and even buy prints if you're interested. Click on this link to visit "Kyle Brooks Photography!" Thanks again, and keep tuned; there are more posts in the works!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Some Really Strange Midge Behavior

While on a trip to The Ridges, in Athens County, a few weeks ago, I came across a very strange phenomenon in a deep ravine. I had no idea what I was looking at, so I went to Reddit and posted my photo on the very helpful "subreddit" called What's This Bug to get some help on finding out what the heck I was looking at. 

Here is the phenomenon in question. Hanging from the exposed rock outcrops were these "strands" of midges. And there wasn't just one; there were multiple strands all along these rocks. The midges were all still alive, but appeared to be holding on to something like a single strand of spider silk. The people on /r/whatsthisbug quickly pointed me to a BugGuide page on the phenomenon. Here is what that page had to say: "The Porricondylinae and the Cecidomyiinae together are monophyletic. They differ from the Lestremiinae in the loss of ocelli and the shortened first tarsomere. This modification may have arisen as an adaptation for roosting on spider webs, where Porricondylinae and Cecidomyiinae are often found. Lestremiinae are never found on spider webs." -- Raymond Gagné
BugGuide also noted that "Cecidomyiidae found on spider webs are likely to be the longer-lived fungus feeding species hanging around waiting for mates to appear; gall-forming species tend to live a day or less." To me, this behavior was incredibly interesting; I had simply never observed anything like it. This is just another reason why you should keep your eyes peeled for the smaller organisms around you, because you never know what you might come across.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Golden-Crowned Kinglet

This past Saturday, (November 2, 2013) some members from the Ohio University Wildlife Club traveled to the Earl H. Barnhart Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve (what a name!) outside of Chillicothe in Ross County. The goal was simple, visit the Northern Saw-Whet banding station there that was run by Dr. Kelly Williams in hopes of seeing some of these adorable little owls.

Well, long story short, we netted no owls in over four hours of waiting. It was a disappointment, but the rest of the trip was great. For those of you interested in the Saw-Whet aspect (which is incredibly interesting), please check out these posts on Jim McCormac's blog: Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3.

We arrived a few hours before sundown to participate in some passerine (songbird) banding, just in case we didn't get in owls (so thankfully we got to see some birds!) They banded a Downy Woodpecker, a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, and a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. The kinglet is the star of this post.

This tiny guy is a male Golden-Crowned Kinglet. I wanted to include this photo to give you guys a scale of just how small this species is. Now, they might be small, but they are definitely a packet of energy. In Ohio, Golden-Crowned Kinglet migration peaks in April and October, but some stick around all winter. They breed in Canada and western montane ecosystems of the US.

Here's a close up that shows the namesake golden-crown. In the breeding season, this tiny songbird actively forages for insects high-up in the canopy of coniferous forests; however, in winter this species can be found in a variety of deciduous and coniferous forests.

Dr. Williams, while holding this kinglet in the "photographer's grip," soon discovered that by slowly petting his back, he would raise his crest. Normally, they only raise their crest for intimidation and the likes, so I'm not sure if this one was raising it out of anger or fear, or if he was raising it because he simply liked the petting. He wasn't putting up a fight really, so who knows why he raised his crest exactly. Regardless, it was really awesome to see because one normally doesn't get to witness this in the wild.

That's all for this post! Keep tuned; there's a lot of posts I have backed up that will hopefully be published soon!