Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Who's watching you?

There is something to be said for being at the right place at the right time.  If there is anyone around here that IS at the right place, it's usually Rich McCarty.  While turning the truck around in a driveway in the middle of the preserve, Rich noticed something unusual.  This particular driveway has 2 squirrel boxes on top of the posts holding up a gate.

A quick cell phone picture before exiting the truck.
As he pulled in, one squirrel box hole was black as usual, the other was not.  After doing a double-take, he realized something was stuffed in the hole, blending in with the old barn wood front.  It was just before dark, and this little critter must have been sticking its head out to see if the coast was clear to come out for the night.

Almost looks like this Eastern screech owl ate too many jumping mice last night and can't get out of the opening!
What are the chances of pulling up to this gate and seeing an Eastern screech owl staring at you as if it wanted to ask a question??? Well, pretty good, as one week later he drove by again in the evening and it was peering out of the hole once more.

It must have assumed it's camouflage was enough to escape detection, or was waiting to pass on some wisdom! 
Eastern screech owls are cavity nesters, and will reside in bird/squirrel houses if the hole is big enough, abandoned buildings and holes in trees.  It will be interesting to go back in late April, early May to see if this owl used it for egg laying and the fledglings are hanging around.

A good reminder to keep an eye on those holes out in nature, because you never know who or what's keeping an eye on you!!

Posted by: Mark Zloba via Rich McCarty

Friday, February 2, 2018

What's eating that deer?

A bald eagle was spotted flying from the forest floor along Waggoner Riffle Rd. near the Edge of Appalachia Preserve headquarters.  Rich McCarty was the spotter, and after further investigation he found a white-tailed deer carcass, which he assumed the eagle had been feeding upon.  Rich showed me the deer and we wondered if the eagle really was feeding on it and what other animals would visit for a feast.  So I decided to put a game camera near the deer which, triggered by motion, will take photos and video of anything moving in front of it.  After leaving the camera out for 2 nights, it was fun to go through the hundreds of videos to see what appeared.  Enjoy this short video of the culprits (you might want to finish eating first).

Five animals were large enough to trigger the camera in that 2 day period.  They were:  American crow, Red-tailed hawk, Coyote, red-shouldered hawk and a juvenile bald eagle.  Doing what many animals do, they start feeding on the rear end of a carcass first.  This must be where the best meat is... the rump.  Here are some photos from the feeding event in the case your device won't play the above video.
Juvenile bald eagle showing its size and power tearing into the deer.

Red-shouldered hawk flying in for a taste.
Notice the size difference in the red-shouldered hawk on the deer and the bald eagle above.
A red-tailed hawk joined in for a few videos one morning.
Both days and nights a coyote (probably different individuals) made multiple appearances.
Coyotes did the majority of tearing on the deer's rump.
American crows also made numerous stops to have a meal.
Although unfortunate for the deer, a dead animal is an important part any ecosystem.  Especially in winter when some predators may have more difficulties hunting food.  An incredible amount of organisms will benefit from this one dead animal.  A game camera will not display the myriad of insects, worms, fungus and even plants that will benefit from the decaying of this deer.  But there are many.  If you have a game camera, hold your nose and use it in this way to explore what is utilizing carcasses in your territory.

Posted by: Mark Zloba

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Buzzardroost Rock Mural

Artist Suzanne Chouteau in front of completed mural.
West Union, Ohio is home to a new mural depicting the preserve's iconic Buzzardroost Rock thanks to the Adams County Arts Council who received a grant from the Ohio Arts Council for painting murals in Adams County. The mural was based on a reduction woodcut by Xavier University Art Professor, Suzanne Chouteau who oversaw all the artistic aspects of the mural and was one of three people to paint the colossal 19 x 62 foot image.  

The mural is dedicated to renowned ecologist E. Lucy Braun who was instrumental in having Buzzardroost protected.
(E.Lucy Braun photo courtesy of University of Cincinnati Archives)

The three artists at the start: Suzanne Chouteau, son Eli Bedel and husband Chris Bedel.
Chris Bedel, Preserve Director for Cincinnati Museum Center at The Edge of Appalachia Preserve (and husband to the artist) painted and oversaw the technical aspects of the production like how to enlarge a 6 x 19 inch woodcut to building size and then how to get it on the wall. Eli Bedel, Xavier University DIFT major, and son to Suzanne and Chris, also braved shaky scaffolding and dizzying heights on the lift to assist with painting. ArtWorks of Cincinnati generously offered their advice on paint and other technical aspects.
Eli Bedel with mural background colors and terribly scary scaffolding used to paint parts of the mural.
The under painting necessary to provide background colors to the final over lay of paint had the West Union town folks worried as to what exactly they were going to have to live with for the next 20 years or so! One person guessed it was a piano. 

Suzanne Chouteau doing over painting that brings the mural to life.
In complete disclosure, the author was a bit worried as to how it would turn out until the over painting revealed that the mural was going to be a stunning painting worthy of representing Buzzardroost Rock as it has never been seen before. As well, the mural has many moods depending on the time of day and light. The light before sunset makes the mural glow and the vivid colors become radiant, at times taking the author's breath away.

The other scary apparatus used to paint, a hydraulic lift generously donated for the painters' use by local contractor Doug Ruehl.
While the picture makes the lift look harmless and safe enough, it took time getting used to being off the ground. As well, its occasional malfunction got the painters' attention and put hair on end when 25 feet in the air. It also provided a perch from which to see the hills of the preserve to the east and the many insects that frequented the wall's bright colors, like butterflies, flies and grasshoppers. Soaring vultures were also constant companions as if they wondered whether the three painted vultures on the mural were real.

Letters were hand stenciled using tape and free hand cut masks to block out letters for painting. Suzanne shown peeling tape off to expose finished letters. 
If someone would have told the author that painting murals was very difficult, he would have said "How hard can it be?" Let us count the ways: the solar radiation reflecting off a white wall in summer is beyond blinding. Not to mention feeling like walking "fried chicken" with temps at the wall 10-15 degrees hotter than the surrounding air. Thankfully some of the painting took place at night, late at night, there were countless nights where painting took place until 3 and 4AM! Did I mention the wind?

The mural half done showing the background colors that were painted first then the final detail overlaid in purple.

Chris Bedel at the microphone for the dedication ceremony.
All in all the mural was a great success. The building's owner, attorney and judge, Alan Foster is very pleased with the results as well as the town folks who came up on many occasions to express their gratitude. An unexpected result were the many hikers who had just come from hiking the trail to Buzzardroost Rock to stop for a picture with the mural. Maybe a new craze will ensue that will drive increased tourism? The mural is located across the street from the eastern side of the courthouse so stop and pay it a visit on your next visit to The Edge of Appalachia Preserve! 

Proudly posted by: Chris Bedel, Preserve Director

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Adams County Christmas Bird Count

With the coming of winter in Adams County, there are a few annual events you can rely on.  Piercing cold temps, slick roads, wet boots, sore throats, taxes and my favorite, the Adams County Christmas Bird Count (CBC) 
Cold day in Adams County, Ohio
This is not an event where we count Christmas birds (there is no such thing).  Instead, groups of participants gather in territories to count all birds seen or heard, like cedar waxwings, gold-crowned kinglets and Wilson's snipe (there is such a thing).  Much of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve (EOA) is within the "circle" or countable area which is a 15 mile radius centering at the courthouse in West Union, Ohio.

Typical view when driving around EOA searching for wintering birds
Many of the birds utilizing Ohio in the winter are not the same birds you might see in the summer.  Many of our resident birds leave, following food sources to the south, and birds you see in the winter may have come from the north for the same reasons.  The Audubon Society wanted to keep track of the numbers of wintering birds species and individuals in every state in the winter. So they chose the count to take place in the weeks leading up to, or just past Christmas.

Purple finch, a winter visiting species eating sunflower seeds from a very nice guy's feeder!
As compiler, I take all the numbers of individual birds and species each group counts in their pre-determined territories, and combine them for the Audubon Society who has been keeping this data for 118 years.  Adams County has been a part of the Christmas Bird Count for at least 40 years.
CBC teams count all birds encountered, even if large flocks fly by like these Canada geese
This year, on December 16, 2017, the groups in all 11 territories found a total of 79 species and 9734 individuals.  Not bad for the small number of 23 folks that came out to count that day.

The territory around the preserve (which is a small portion of the entire circle) usually finds close to 50 species of birds and close to 900 individuals on average that count day.  This year, the preserve territory produced 53 species and 702 individuals.  With a lot of forest in this territory, we feel obligated to find difficult wintering forest species like hermit thrush, red-breasted nuthatch, yellow-bellied sapsucker, brown creeper and ruffed grouse.  Only the latter was not found this year, and interestingly has not been counted on our CBC for at least 6 years.  A trend that CBC data can capture in its records.
CBC is a nice way to get out and enjoy some of our more common resident birds like this Downy Woodpecker.

Fox sparrow, another winter visitor is sometimes hard to find on the day of the count. 4 were found this year.

Dark-eyed Junco, another winter visitor will frequent feeders if you have them
Here is the tally for all birds found on December 16, 2017.

Snow Goose 1 
Canada Goose 837 
Wood Duck 9 
Gadwall 9   record high number 
American Black Duck 66 
Mallard 616   record high number 
Green-winged Teal 3
Ring-necked Duck 3 
Lesser Scaup 285   record high number 
Bufflehead 12 
Hooded Merganser 46 
Wild Turkey 18 
Pied-billed Grebe 1 
Great Blue Heron 8
Black Vulture 173 
Turkey Vulture 15 
Northern Harrier 5 
Sharp-shinned Hawk 3 
Cooper's Hawk 5
Bald Eagle 6 
Red-shouldered Hawk 6 
Red-tailed Hawk 47 
American Coot 1 
Sandhill Crane 3 Second time found during Adams Co. CBC
Killdeer 5 
Ring-billed Gull 2 
Rock Pigeon 274
Mourning Dove 405 
Eastern Screech-Owl 10 
Great Horned Owl 5 
Barred Owl 5 
Belted Kingfisher 7
Red-headed Woodpecker 7 
Red-bellied Woodpecker 50 
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 3 
Downy Woodpecker 47 
Hairy Woodpecker 17 
Northern Flicker 19
Pileated Woodpecker 16 
American Kestrel 65 
Eastern Phoebe 3 
Blue Jay 214
American Crow 395
Horned Lark 49
Carolina Chickadee 95 
Tufted Titmouse 105 
Red-breasted Nuthatch 3 
White-breasted Nuthatch 87 
Brown Creeper 4 
Winter Wren 3
Carolina Wren 41 
Golden-crowned Kinglet 18 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 224 
Hermit Thrush 1 
American Robin 976 
Brown Thrasher 3 
Northern Mockingbird 16 
European Starling 2998 
Cedar Waxwing 52
Yellow-rumped Warbler 85
American Tree Sparrow 36 
Field Sparrow 51 
Fox Sparrow 4 
Dark-eyed Junco (Slatecolored) 171
White-crowned Sparrow 35 
White-throated Sparrow 92 
Song Sparrow 99 
Swamp Sparrow 5
Eastern Towhee 9 
Northern Cardinal 248 
Red-winged Blackbird 20 
Eastern Meadowlark 39 
Common Grackle 49 
Brown-headed Cowbird 55 
House Finch 48
Purple Finch 15 
American Goldfinch 136 
House Sparrow 134 
Total Individuals 9734
Total Species Reported 79
Yellow-bellied sapsucker is the woodpecker that leaves lines of holes on trees. Photo by Robyn Wright-Strauss
White-breasted nuthatch, a resident bird commonly hears in the forest sounding like a nasally Long Islander saying "Hank, Hank, Hank'. Photo by Robyn Wright-Strauss.
Some notable species found this year were Sandhill cranes, which have only been counted 1 other time on count day,  a snow goose which has only been found 3 years, a ruby-crowned kinglet was found for the 10th time and 3 Eastern phoebe’s were counted which can be difficult here in the winter.

 Bald eagles seem to be getting more and more frequent as we tied the record high with 6.  Along with brown thrashers which also had a tie with the record high of 3.  The only record high numbers of individuals this year were Mallards at 616, Gadwall at 9 and 285 Lesser Scaup.
A very far away shot of a bald eagle. 6 were found on count day.
Many thanks to all who participate, and if you are looking for a fun adventure next winter, join your local CBC next year.  Info can be found at

Posted by: Mark Zloba

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018 Advanced Naturalist Workshops

Registration will open on Feb. 1, 2018 for the 14th series of the Edge of Appalachia's Advanced Naturalist Workshops. There is a fantastic line-up of topics and experts this year! More information can be found here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Allegheny Woodrat Project 2017

This fall, Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are assisting the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) in an effort to conserve and protect the Allegheny woodrat, Neotoma magister. 
Sub-adult male Allegheny woodrat caught in southern portion of Edge of Appalachia Preserve  Photo by: Rich McCarty
Last year, a blog post was written here, introducing our efforts to search for new woodrat sites on the Edge of Appalachia Preserve and neighboring properties. We mapped all new sites, recorded fresh Allegheny woodrat activity and collected raccoon scat.  The raccoon is known to be a carrier of a roundworm that, if ingested by woodrats, can wipe out entire populations.  These "packrats" collect many things, including raccoon scat, to store in their middens, and if so, could contaminate not only themselves, but any other rat in the area.  The removal of said scat could prove paramount in protecting this species from extirpation.  This entire project is headed by biologists Al LeCount and Cheryl Mollohan. 
Ideal habitat or Allegheny woodrat.  Peebles dolostone cliffs jetting out of hillside with many cracks and tunnels.  Photo by: Robyn Wright Strauss
This year, CMC and TNC staff along with assistants Laura Hughes and Emily Garnich, have teamed up with these mammal biologists to capture as many Allegheny woodrats as possible in all known active sites in southern Adams County.  Once captured, small tissue samples are collected from the animal's ear, minor processing occurs, and the animal is released.  These curious and I’d have to say adorable rodents are lured into live traps with apples, rodent nutrition blocks and bedding. 
Live traps set in "cave" of Peebles dolostone cliffs
The curiosity of these "packrats" make them pretty easy to catch.  Photo by Mark Zloba

Allegheny woodrats kept satisfied with apple slices, nutrition block and bedding.  Photo by Mark Zloba

Allegheny woodrats are handled gently in soft cones for processing age, weight, sex etc.  Photo by Rich McCarty
Once all captures from all known sites are processed, the collected samples will be sent to CMC curator of zoology, Heather Farrington, for DNA analysis.  Our goal is to learn population size and health of this disappearing mammal. 

Captured woodrats are released in same location they were caught.
It may be the rarest mammal in Ohio, but more importantly, this species is imperiled throughout its range of the Appalachian region of Eastern North America.  ODOW recognizes this species as endangered and understands the possibility of the Allegheny woodrat becoming non-existent in Ohio.  So, they have joined the effort to help protect and study Allegheny woodrats.  Along with supporting this genetic project, ODOW has started distributing harmless medicinal baits that will de-worm any animal that eats it.  The theory is,  raccoons will find the bait, eat it, and the roundworm will die before woodrats collect any scat and bring it back to their middens.

Once released, these personable rats will sometimes pose for a few pictures.  Photo by Robyn Wright Strauss
Then they scurry off to hide, sometimes in a poor hiding spot.  Photo by Mark Zloba
More information to come on this large conservation project.  Many woodrats have been captured to date, and hopefully many more will be captured this fall to obtain the best genetic data possible.  The Edge of Appalachia Preserve and surrounding properties are the last stronghold of this animal in Ohio and we would like to thank ODOW, their biologists, assistants on this endeavor to better understand the Allegheny woodrat and hopefully save it from extirpation.

Enjoy these short videos of the releasing of the woodrats.  If you turn up the volume on the first video, you might hear the thumping sound this female woodrat is making with her feet to scare us away.  If you watch carefully, she continuously and quickly thumps her feet.

Posted by Mark Zloba

Monday, August 28, 2017

Alien invasion?

This is the week of the 2017 solar eclipse, and I have been staring up into the sky, a lot. With all the celestial commentating the past week, I have been thinking more about life in outer space, and the possibilities of that life reaching earth.  What does this have to do with the preserve??  Well, we find many things on the preserve that remind me of, and I cannot say 100% did not come from outer space.  ManySci-fi movies eerily portray alien creatures that look very similar to things we find creeping around the preserve.  Here are a few videos from our lab (turning up your volume might make this theory more convincible)  that star creatures that could possibly be from another world......I'm just saying.

"They" say this is a mantidfly, Climaciella brunnea, a paper wasp mimic that has an alien head and preying mantis arms.  It mimics paper wasps because they lay their eggs on wasp larva in the nests.  I'm pretty sure I've seen this creature in a black and white sci-fi movie when I was 10.

Maybe the comedians of SNL weren't joking when they portrayed aliens as coneheads.  There are coneheads (katydids) out right now at night buzzing in fields.  This Neoconocephalus retusus is Awfully alien-like I'd say.

This video of a hairy slitmouth snail, Stenotrema hirsutum, looks like a creature emerging from a rock on the dark side of the moon.

Are these clam shrimps (Cyzicus sp.?) found in a tire rut, or what alien eggs look like?  I'm not sure.  The eggs of clam shrimps can lay dormant withstanding drought, freeze and pressure for several years.  Sounds astronomical to me.

Very tribble-like (if you watched Star Trek from the 1960's), this moth caterpillar seems to have a protective fuzzy covering.  A stellar coincidence that Hollywood would know this??

On earth we call these black fly larva, Simuliidae, but to me this video looks like some sort of transedental communication occurrence.

This extraterrestrial looking caterpillar is known as the monkey slug, Phoebtron pithecium.  Its slug-like movement and stinging hairs remind me of a creature that would have chased astronauts in the old show Space Patrol.  Discalimer:  Unlike the television shows from the 1950's,  this video may contain language unsuitable for younger viewers.  Not meant to offend, but intended to illustrate the supernatural affect these creatures have on folks!

To me, the similarities are uncanny.  But when I was younger my mother always said I should be an astronaut, or astronomer..... or maybe she just said I was taking up space.....I can't remember.  Either way, this unknown, ethereal world we live in already contains sci-fi creatures waiting to be explored.

Posted by Mark Zloba