Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Summer in the Woods: Part 2

Although Zaleski, Tar Hollow, and Vinton Furnace State Forests are fragmented from each other, they still make up 55,270 acres of combined woodland area - only 8,500 acres short of Ohio's largest state forest, Shawnee, or "the little smokies." As state forests, they are open to forestry practices that - if done sustainably - promote a healthy mosaic of different plant communities undergoing varying levels of ecological succession. This, in combination with natural disturbances and other factors, increases the level of landscape heterogeneity - a phenomenon that is important for increasing habitat suitability for more species. Through the improvement of forestry best practices over time, this triad of forest systems in Southeastern, Ohio has effectively helped conserve biodiversity in these areas and, as a result, the resilience of these social-ecological forest systems has also increased. As a testament to Ohio's improving forests, I would like to take a moment to reminisce of my time with The Ohio State University this summer as a Field Researcher by sharing some of my biological findings along the way. 

Bird Nests

Ground Nesters
From left to right, A) I was lucky enough to encounter a wild turkey nest at the base of a tree (14 eggs); B) I also found multiple black-and-white warbler nests (each with a clutch size of 3 eggs), each interwoven with deer fur and forming a small nest in various woodland habitats ranging from oak-hickory communities to pine plantations - the nest pictured above was parasitized by a brown-headed cowbird pair; C) Eastern towhee nests (each with two or more eggs), intricately laced with either twigs/tendrills or straw, were common as well. D) Interesting enough, I found more ovenbird nests than any other (each with 4 or more eggs), characterized by their cryptic oven-like construction.

Tree Nesters
From left to right, A) this was the only wood thrush nest I found (4 fledglings) located seven feet off the ground. B) My most exciting find was a yellow-billed cuckoo nest (3 rather large eggs) characterized by loose twigs; C) I also found numerous hooded warbler nests (2 fledglings pictured here) in various habitats - mostly early successional Rubus spp. thickets, and D) one least flycatcher nest (one egg and one fledgling pictured above), characterized by location on the very edge of a maple branch - they can do this as they often nest in protected under-stories of heavily forested ares.


From left to right, some of the plants I encountered range from A)fire pink, B) wild yam, C)American ginseng, D) pink lady's slipper, E) alternate-leaved dogwood, F) swamp milkweed, G) spotted pipsissewa, H) arrowwood viburnum, I) puttyroot orchid, J) mountain laural, K) woodland sunflower, and L) four-leaf milkweed.


Neonate black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus) and a male box turtle (Terrapene carolina)


From left to right: A) Amanita muscaria, B) Hydenellum pineteicola, C) Artomyces pyxidatus,  D) Thelephora terrestris, E) Craterellus cornucopioides, F) Amanita abrupta, F) Russula spp., F1) Austroboletus betula, F2) Strobilomyces floccopus

Insects and other Wildlife

From left to right, A) chocolate-brown fishing spider, B) barred owl pellet, C) red-spotted purple, D) fritillary butterfly E) unidentified caterpillar, F) Polyphemus and luna moths, G) whippoorwill H) hardwood stump borer beetle, I) oak apple gall, J) unidentified buckeye fungus, K) American toad, L) Red maple spot. 

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