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If you are anything like Joe and me, we are big supporters of our county park systems. County parks provide us with beautiful natural places to hike, bike, canoe, picnic, sled ride, fish, bird watch and much more. They also help to preserve habitats for plants, animals and other living things. As a result, the air we breathe and the water we drink is cleaner.

Growing Up In Nature

We should all be thankful for having wonderful parks in Northeast Ohio. Parks have been a major part of my life and my family’s lives. My daughter was born while we lived in Chardon and Geauga’s Best Park was a wonderful location to put her in a stroller and watch loons dive and fish. The steep ravines and stately hemlocks of Big Creek Park remain one of our favorite places to visit. My son was born while we lived in Leroy, in Lake County. Indian Point (the bumpy road to get to the park may have induced labor!) provides stunning views and clean water to search for salamanders and crawdads. Nearby Girdled Road Park was the rendezvous for my family to meet me after work with a picnic basket and change of clothes more appropriate for hiking. Now teenagers, my kids still want to visit these parks, play in the creeks and hike the trails. On a side note, my son was born the year of the periodical cicadas emergence (1999). He is now 14. In three more years, we will be revisiting some of these parks so that he can observe for himself the emergence of these long-lived and harmless insects.

We have lived in Hiram now for 13 years and enjoy bike rides and walks along the Headwaters Trail from Mantua to Garrettsville (often rewarding ourselves with an ice cream cone for Dairy Queen) and on the Portage Bike and Hike Trail from Ravenna to Kent.

The mission of the Portage Park District is to conserve Portage County’s natural and cultural heritage. This is accomplished by conserving unique and critical natural areas for wildlife habitat and water quality protection, creating parks and trails for healthy recreation, providing nature education programs, and working to efficiently manage the parks. Currently, Portage Park District manages 14 miles of hike and bike trails and 1,300 acres of parkland. All of this is under the direction of Christine Craycroft. Under her outstanding leadership, Portage Parks has grown and expanded and touched the lives of many people in the area. She has single-handedly (or nearly so, at least) brought millions of dollars of grant funds into the county to purchase and preserve unique natural areas, to link communities with trails and to educate people about the environment and the natural and cultural history of our region.

How do the parks in Portage County compare to Geauga, Lake, Summit, Cleveland Metroparks and other nearby counties? They don’t. There is no comparison. What’s the difference? Support. Residents of these other counties support and value their parks. Portage County has not yet supported the Park District. Sure, there are lots of park users and supporters. But, we have a struggling park system because the funds don’t exist to make it even better.

An Urgent Need

Unlike other area park districts, which have been in existence for 50 or more years and have taxpayer support, Portage Park District doesn’t have any tax levy support. As a result, our parks don’t compare. More than half of Portage Park District property (800 acres) is not open to the public because funds don’t exist to build trails, offer programs and maintain the property. Additionally, lack of funding has hampered the ability to receive additional grant funds to purchase and develop new land for parks.

Our neighbors to the north and west enjoy wonderful parks, thanks in no small part to levy support. Summit County Parks receives $17 million per year (about $32 per person countywide). Geauga County Parks receives $9 million per year (about $96 per person countywide). What about Portage Park District? Our county operates its parks on less than $100,000, costing each person in the county about 61 cents per year. In fact, nearly half of the annual budget for the parks comes from donations. Portage Park District has never had a levy but with dwindling financial support from the state and county, the Park District is in serious need of long-term funding support.

A Small Request…A Great Value

On May 6, county residents will vote on a proposed ½ mill, 10-year operating levy. This levy will cost the average homeowner in Portage County about 2 large pizzas…A YEAR!

What will we get in return? More beautiful miles to canoe or kayak downstream. More miles to hike and bike throughout the county. More bird and butterfly and dragonfly watching. More places to spread out a blanket and enjoy a picnic under the shade of a tree. More fun nature programs for the family. In other words, more of everything that we already love about the outdoors.

Additionally, our parks and trails will be better maintained. More land will be opened across the county and more critical habitat and water quality protection can be protected. Some of the properties to be developed and open to the public with levy funds include:

•  Chagrin Headwaters Preserve (95 acres, Mantua Township)

• Breakneck Creek Preserve (63 acres, Ravenna Township)

• Morgan Preserve (504 acres, Shalersville Township)

 

Additionally, new parks and trails will be sought with matching grants to:

•  Extend the PORTAGE Hike and Bike Trail to West Branch State Park

• Link the Franklin Connector Trail with the rest of the PORTAGE Hike and Bike Trail

• Extend the Headwaters Trail to Aurora

• Accept the donation of property to create the Shaw Woods Equestrian Park/Buckeye Trail Link

 

Please support the Portage Park District by voting “Parks YES!” on May 6. Learn more about Portage Parks at www.portageparkdistrict.org.

 

The opinions presented in this article are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Weekly Villager and its staff.

 

 

More Nearby Nature 

Thinking about summer? Think about Nature Camps at Hiram College and enjoy exploring nature and discovering its many wonders. For more information, visit www.hiram.edu/summerathiram or call 330.569.6003.

•  BioBuddies (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 3 & 4

•  Half-Day Hikers (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 5-7

•   Nature Explorers (July 14-18 or August 4-8) – Ages 8-10

•  Adventure Naturalists (July 7-11) – Ages 11-14

•  Adventure Expeditions (July 18-20) – Camping trip for high school students to the Grand Canyon of the East

 

Wow what a winter! It is like the children’s fairy tale “The Never Ending Story” instead we should call it “The Never Ending Winter.” To date, 93% of the Great Lakes are frozen and some say it is the coldest since the winter of 1977-78. Believe it or not, spring IS on its way. Hopefully this is the last week of below average temperatures. Since we at Nearby Nature are eternal optimists, we thought there was no better way to think about spring than to talk about Morels.  

Have you noticed? It’s getting lighter closer to breakfast and is still light out after supper! The temperatures have warmed (albeit very slowly) but you know spring is around-the-corner now that the sap buckets are hung and local breakfasts are serving hotcakes and maple syrup.

This has been a good winter for those of us who love cold and snow. It has also been a good winter to observe birds at the feeder. Winter birds are some of my favorite and I enjoy watching them steal seeds from the feeder and hang upside-down from the suet block. Tufted titmouse. Northern cardinal. Downy and Hairy woodpeckers. Nuthatch. Blue jay. During the cold snap (one of the cold snaps, anyway), a Red tailed hawk visited our feeder. Of course, it wasn’t interested in the seeds and suet. Turns out it was very interested in one of our chickens. It was reluctant to give up an easy meal, but the hawk flew off angrily with an empty stomach. The chicken survived and our breakfasts have remained tasty!

As we reflect on this past Thanksgiving holiday and get ready for the coming Christmas season, we want to begin this week’s segment with some reflections of our own; we are truly thankful for the opportunity to write Nearby Nature and the Weekly Villager for printing our articles. It is hard to believe that this is article #56. We are thankful for the opportunity to enlighten our readers, share hiking experiences, meet new friends, and most of all the ability to enjoy our natural world up close and personal. Finally we are thankful to our respective families, who at times think we are a bit “loony.” 

As I write, the full Beaver Moon is dancing brightly behind passing clouds on a blustery Sunday (November 17) evening. Known as the Beaver Moon because this is the best time to set traps prior to the marshes freezing and because beavers are actively making preparations for winter. To celebrate the November full moon, let’s learn a little about this interesting creature that has been remarkably important in our history. In fact, the Beaver has been so important to the development of Canada through fur trade, that the animal was designated the “national animal” in 1975. It also holds noble places on Canadian coins, stamps and was even the official Olympic mascot for the 1976 Summer Olympics held in Montreal.

With school now well underway, this will be the last of our articles in our series of getting out and experiencing Nearby Nature. As Matt indicated in the last article when he took us north to Pictured Rocks, I will take us west to Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Yes, we know they are both a little more than one tank trips, but in our estimation they are more than worthy places to visit and enjoy nature. For some they might be worthy of going on the bucket list, for others just an opportunity to go and relax. 

In the last installment of Nearby Nature we discussed the Portage Park District and the idea of one tank trips where you can go out and discover and explore some of the plants, birds, or trees we have highlighted in the past year and a half. A few months ago, we also talked about “special places” and the memories and experiences at these places. In this edition, we will highlight four “special places”, at least to this writer: Holden Arboretum, Penitentiary Glen, Hell’s Hollow, and Cooks Forest State Park. Three of the four are in the Lake County and the fourth is in western Pennsylvania. All are well within the one tank limit and are more than worthy of spending the day hiking, picnicking, and enjoying Nearby Nature.

We all remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where the bears come home to find “someone has been sleeping in my bed.” Well, during the months of June and July in Northeast Ohio, some night you might come home to find a bear sleeping in your bed! At a recent ODNR presentation, it was noted that Portage County has the highest number of confirmed sightings of all counties in northeast Ohio. According to ODNR, in 2011 statewide, there were 152 confirmed sighting representing 89 individual bears.

High school classrooms tend to follow a similar pattern: students arrive to class, sit in rows, listen to the teacher and take notes, memorize the information, and take the test. All of this is usually accomplished in periods lasting about 45 minutes. At the end of the period, the bell rings and students move en mass to the next class. State and national learning standards guide the teaching of nearly all classes and subject areas and the goal is to prepare students for success on chapter and unit tests, and the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT). The OGT is one of the measures of successful schools and a requirement to receive a high school diploma. 

As we make the transition from spring into summer, the wildflowers are fading, flowering trees and shrubs are ablaze in color, and the mosquitoes, deer flies, and other insects are making their presence known in one way or the other. We are all too familiar with the biting and blood sucking insects that cause us so much irritation, but there is another insect that can almost drive people to insanity due to its constant-saw like droning; the cicadae. There are 170 species of cicadas in North America, 2000 in the world, and they inhabit every continent except Antarctica. There are three types of cicadas, the periodical, photo-periodical, and the annual or commonly known as dog day cicadas.

What makes a person care for and be good steward of the land? Connections with special places are a result of frequent visits over a long period of time. Whether it is a farm, woodlot, backyard, or fishing hole, you really have to know and understand the land. This doesn’t happen after one visit. Often times it takes years, or even a lifetime, to fully understand the land around you. Familiarity with the land is the best way to develop stewardship.

By this time of year the seed catalogs, fruit tree catalogs, and various outdoor planting publications are all dog eared, paper clipped, or marked in some fashion. You have been working on re-doing your landscape, making sketches, imagining what this would like here, and that there. Is this shrub or tree going to have the desired effect? The sun is shining, the snow is gone, the days are getting longer, and maybe, just maybe, you can go out and work in the yard. But have you made the correct decisions? Are you being a good steward? You want to attract birds and create natural areas on your property. Are you planting an invasive species? Just because you buy it from a catalog or a nursery doesn’t mean it is going to be right. If you have Autumn/Russian olive, Privet, Honeysuckle varieties, Buckthorn, Asian Bittersweet, Burning Bush, Barberry, Norway Maple, Callery Pear cultivars, Ribbon Grass, Periwinkle, Myrtle or Purple Loosestrife in your plans you have made the wrong decision! 

Last article, we learned that those squishy, pink earthworms that we adore in our gardens are invasive and capable of dramatic changes in our natural habitats. We also learned what can be done to help the situation. This started a series of upcoming articles designed to inform our readers about opportunities to be good stewards of the environment.

Since the inception of Nearby Nature, we have discussed many subjects relating to natural history, geology, plant and animal identification, places to experience nature, and many others. Like huge puzzle pieces so to speak, we have tried to create an awareness of how everything “fits together” and works in harmony creating sights and experiences we enjoy every day. Beginning with the last article we will focus on becoming good stewards of nature. What we can do as mere mortals to combat invasive species, make others more aware of destructive pest and environmental practices, educate ourselves regarding environmental issues and become citizen scientists? By no means are we advocating getting on a soap box in the middle of town square or becoming an eco-terrorist. But what can we do to help the environment in our little corner of the world? That being said, let’s turn our attention to a subject that few people would imagine as being one of the biggest threats to the forests of Ohio and surrounding Great Lakes Region including all of the New England States: Earthworms.

Remember Fred Flintstone, he was always blaming poor Wilma for all the stupid situations he and Barney had gotten themselves into. Well, unfortunately Fred can’t blame the Ice Age on Wilma this time.  As we discussed in Part One of the geology of Ohio, the concept of geologic time was explained as well as the “Periods” that led to the formation of what we call Ohio today. However, there is one more critical event, which like a sculptor chiseling away at a marble block to create a beautiful statue, reshaped the Ohio landscape for eternity…or for now, anyway. 

In many of our articles we hope to give our readers a new set of eyes so as they can discover “nature” as they have never seen it before.  Most of our readers have been to Nelson Ledges State Park and are struck be amazing rock formations, but who would have thought that if you stand in the parking lot you could straddle the divide between the Lake Erie and Ohio River watershed? But you can. As you straddle the divide facing east, water on your left side would travel toward Lake Erie down to Lake Ontario; go over Niagara Falls and down the St. Lawrence River to the North Atlantic. Water on your right side would make its way to Eagle Creek, the Mahoning and Ohio Rivers, flow into the Mississippi and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is an example of having “new” eyes, seeing things from a different perspective.

Since mushrooms have been in the news of late, we thought we would try to enlighten our readers about one of the most unusual and extremely important organisms in nature. Ominous sounding names like Destroying Angel, Deadly Galerina, and Poision Pie, are obviously poisonous; but Sulfer Tuft,  Jack O’Lantern, and Fly Agaric are equally as dangerous. However Morels, Meadow Mushrooms, and White Matsutake are a culinary delight. 

I can still vividly remember the first time I saw a coyote; it was at the gravel pit where I worked during the summer behind the Red Fox housing development in Shalersville. The game protector informed the plant manager that a coyote had been killing young calves on a neighbors beef farm. He gave us permission to kill the animal if we saw it roaming through the area. Later in the day, the animal was laying across the tailgate of a truck.  It was the size of a very large German Sheppard. That was 35 years ago!  Recently Aurora, Hudson and Frohring Meadows in the Geauga Metro Parks have had “coyote experiences”.  On many nights I can hear the eerie howling as they communicate with each other in the woods where I live.  This highly adaptable canine has expanded its range to most of North America and into Mexico and Panama. This is due in large part because the other predators such as mountain lions, bears, lynx, wolverines and bobcats who normally keep coyote populations in check have been pushed out by urban sprawl, upsetting the delicate balance of nature.  Coyotes are found in all 88 counties of Ohio. Coyote populations often increase as the turkey population’s increase in an area. Seldom do they attack a healthy deer, mainly feeding on the weak or sickly. 

Has this fall been more vibrant than others? The leaves have been changing colors since the last week of September and for the past three weeks have created the backdrop for truly breathtaking views of our surrounding landscape. We are blessed to live in Northeast Ohio this time of year and have our climate and biome to thank for the fall spectacle. Leaves are putting on their annual fall show throughout the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. Ohio is just part of the Temperate Deciduous Forest biome that blankets this section of North America with green each summer and reds, oranges and yellows each fall. Temperate means that this biome experiences 4 distinct seasons. Deciduous describes trees that lose their leaves in the fall. The Temperature Deciduous Forest biome extends essentially from the Mississippi River eastward and from parts of southern states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) into Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

We all know there are no such things as vampires. However, bloodsuckers exist and you should be alert to their presence. They can be very sneaky. Mosquitoes, three-corner flies, horse flies and many other insects want to make a meal out of you. One of the creepiest and most repulsive bloodsuckers isn’t even an insect! Instead, this organism has eight legs and can’t even fly. Ticks! They have been very abundant this summer and it helps to know something about these parasites.

Source: firefly.org

Close your eyes and think back to a warm summer night, the smell of a camp fire, roasting marshmallows or eating s’mores; when all of a sudden, a young voice yells out, “There one is” and all the kids run to the blinking lights slowly rising into the moonlit sky. We all can remember the endless summer nights as kids, chasing lighting bugs or fireflies after a long day of picnics, swimming, and family gatherings. Even as parents and grandparents, watching kids run to catch their first lighting bug is magical. My granddaughter named the first one she caught Gloria, kept it in a container with grass only to have it mysteriously escape sometime during the night. So what are these blinking summer beacons of joy?

Since the inception of the Nearby Nature column, we have strived to enlighten our readers with what is going on in the natural world around us.– trying to point out why certain events happen, what to watch for during the various seasons, how to identify what you see with useful references or field guides, and interesting bits of trivia or facts that might surprise most people.  Hopefully we have done our job as educators and you can now venture out on your own. Similar to a birds fledgling flight…we are going to push you out of the nest and this summer we are encouraging you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature. With this thought in mind, the next several articles will be focused on what we are calling “one tank trips.” Our center is the Weekly Villager office and we drew a circle with a 150 mile radius figuring most cars get at least 300 miles to one tank of gas. Many of these destinations we have been to and we recommend them highly. Each has its own unique geologic features, plants, animals, or unbelievable scenic views. Remember to take plenty of water, a light snack, map of the area, and compass. Don’t rely on your Smartphone for GPS heading; some areas do not have service. Most areas feature hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing or power boating. Most of the descriptions are taken from the individual web sites and we have added caveats from personal experiences.  We hope you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature! 

“May the trees continue to thrive and flourish on this earth, filling our hearts with joy and inspiration.” — Stephanie Kaza

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”– Chinese proverb

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.” — Thomas Fuller

To many, sitting in a forest surrounded by the glory and majesty of the forest is almost a spiritual event, especially in the redwoods; the wind rustling through the tree tops, the sunshine filtering through the canopy, the birds chirping. Besides water, trees are one of the most important components of the earth’s ecosystem. The amount of oxygen trees produce and the consumption of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis is second only to algae. In addition, trees play a critical role in providing habitat for many insects, animals, and birds. Without trees, we would have a hard time building a house, we would have very few paper products, we could not heat our homes, and many other parts of our lives we commonly take for granted would be changed dramatically. 

We thought we would begin this article with a few of  questions….What bird has breeding grounds in the Arctic and flies to its non-breeding grounds in Antarctica and then returns to the Arctic to nest again year after year?  How high is the highest altitude a bird can fly? Do birds use the stars to navigate? Do birds use compasses to help them find true north?  (Answer in the “Did You Know” Section)

Global climate change on your mind lately? Several days in the 80’s in March might cause you to consider its validity. Well, it shouldn’t because the unseasonable warmth we have experienced throughout March (actually all winter) is just variation in our weather. The saying goes ‘if you don’t like NE Ohio weather, wait a day and it will change’. This is probably more true in spring than any other time of the year. Notice though, that it is not called ‘global weather change’. The word climate is inserted because it means something different. Let’s review a couple of important terms. Weather describes the current or recent conditions, for example rainy and cool, or sunny, hot and dry. Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term average of weather. Some climate data is a compilation of over 100 years of weather data. Thirty years or more weather data goes in to describe climate. For the most part, our climate in northern Portage County is temperate, which means we have cold winters, hot summers and mild spring and fall seasons. Our climate also indicates we will amass 39 inches of precipitation each year. Most people would guess that April is the rainiest month of the year. It actually ranks 4th with slightly less than 3 ½ inches of rain. May, June and July are actually the rainiest months in Hiram, Ohio. Wondering about our average high temperature in March, particularly after the 70 and 80oF days we have experienced? 45oF! March 2012 will certainly go down as one of the warmest in history, but it will do little to change the climate records from the past 100 years (58oF is the average high temperature for April). So if summer temperatures in March don’t change your mind about climate change, what might? Phenology, of course! What is Phenology? “Many of the events of the annual cycle recur year after year in a regular order. A year-to-year record of this order is a record of the rates at which solar energy flows to and through living things. They are the arteries of the land. By tracing their response to the sun, phenology may eventually shed some light on that ultimate enigma, the land’s inner workings.” –Aldo Leopold, A Phenological Record for Sauk and Dane Counties, Wisconsin, 1935-1945 Naturalist Aldo Leopold began recording season observations at his shack in Wisconsin in 1935. For the next 11 years, his observations recorded the arrival of spring birds, melting ice on the nearby rivers and ponds, the familiar wedge of Canda Geese flying south and much more. Simple, careful observations that provided the basis for his famous work, A Sand County Almanac, still a must read for anyone interested in ecology, natural history, conservation or just a good story. The story that A Sand County Almanac tells is about phenology, the study of plant and animal life cycles changes due to climate and seasonal changes in the environment. Phenology is derived from the Greek word phaino meaning ‘to show or appear’, and is therefore used to describe the science concerned with the dates of first occurrence of natural events in their annual cycle. Animal migrations, plants budding and blooming, insect emergence, frost and ice-over and ice-out dates, and other data are important to understanding changes to climate. These observations are often referred to as “greening-up” (observing spring buds and flowers) and “browning down” (observing fall colors and leaf fall). Farmers are excellent sources of phenological data. They often keep careful records of last and first frost dates, rainfall, soil temperature, planting and harvest dates and much more. Each piece of data is useful for the next year and helps to maximize crop production. Actually, many of us keep track of such information, even if we don’t record our observations carefully. We know that daffodils usually bloom in April and even teach our children that “April showers bring May flowers”. Nature lovers know that the last week in April and first week in May is often the best time to observe trilliums and other spring wildflowers. Birders know that Mother’s Day weekend is often the best for viewing spring migrants. Fortunately, there are people and organizations that have been recording phenology data for many decades. These long-term observations have been essential to understanding climate change. More and more information from phenology studies demonstrates long term trends and shifts in climate. Record warmth in March or even a warm winter does not indicate a trend. Decades of data are necessary. Plants are budding and blooming earlier than 30 or 40 years ago and some are growing in areas that have been too cold. Migrating birds are returning days and sometimes weeks earlier to summer breeding grounds than they have in the past. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals, and landscapes. This organization of scientists, resource managers and volunteers (aka, citizen scientists) learn how to make observations and submit data as a means to understand environmental change. Visit http://www.usanpn.org/about. Project Budburst (http://neoninc.org/budburst/phenology.php) and Journey North (http://journeynorth.org/) are two other resources to learn more about phenology and to get involved in viewing interactive maps and participating in making observations. The Ohio State University has been promoting Phenology Gardens to record dates of blooms and ultimately assist with identifying insect activity. The list of plants for the gardens has been carefully selected because of their close relationships with pollinating insects. Gardens can be planted at schools, businesses and backyards. For more information, visit (http://phenology.osu.edu/default.asp). Did You Know… The famous Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival happens during the first two weeks in April. Over the past two or three decades, the cherry trees have bloomed earlier and the closing parade often happens after the blossoms have lost their luster. The festival may be blossom-less altogether this year as the cherries were already blooming in mid-March. More Nearby Nature Burton Wetlands: Saturday, April 7 (9:00am-Noon) Explore trails and pathways of the Burton Wetlands, the largest and one of the most important wetlands of the Lake Erie watershed. The area provides habitat for bald eagles, river otters, sandhill cranes, and a host of other wildlife. Glacial lakes, bogs, swamp forests, marshland and the old and new Cuyahoga River are all part of this fascinating complex. Sponsored by the Friends of the Hiram College Field Station (hiking fee: $5 for members, $8 for non-members). To register, call 330.569.6003 or email sorrickmw@hiram.edu. Directions provided upon registration. Audubon Bird Walks: April 15, 22, 29; May 6, 13, 20 (7:30-9:00am) Experienced and beginning birders are invited for these walks as we set out early Sunday mornings to learn and record the sights and sounds, indicating the return of our feathered friends from distant lands. Bring your binoculars and meet at the JH Barrow Field Station on Wheeler Rd. (between SR 305 and SR 82) near Garrettsville. It is a great way to learn birding from experts. No registration is necessary. For questions, call 330.569.6003.

No this is not a B rated movie review from the 50’s, but a way to alert our readers that spring is well on its way! Turkey vultures, crocus, red-wing blackbirds are a clue; however, a sure sign of spring that we are all familiar with is the sound of spring peepers and wood frogs. As the temperatures rise, so does the crescendo, reaching a fever pitch in early to mid April. In our last article, “Vernal pools: Murky Puddles of Fascinating Life”, we discussed what a vernal pool is and the importance they play in nature. Since both of us are educators, the rationale for writing this column is twofold, first to educate our readership on the fascinating natural world in which we live and, second, to get people out to enjoy that same natural world…..hence the title, “nearby nature”. We are blessed with a plethora of parks and opportunities to get out and enjoy the wonders of nature. The Geauga Metro parks, Hiram College Field Station, Nelson Ledges State Park, Eagle Creek Nature Preserve, Mosquito Lake State Park, not to mention your own back yard or the woods nearby. We can’t think of a better way to spend a bright sunny day! In the next series of articles we will try to help point out what is occurring, try to identify some common plants, wildflowers, or birds to look for as you venture out. (In our best classroom voice) Boys and girls let’s start today’s lesson…… In the last article we talked about vernal pools, let’s review how we determine what makes up a vernal pool. It is small and shallow, isolated from other bodies of water or other wetlands, fills seasonally and occasionally dries out, is situated in woodland or old field, has obligate species and lacks fish. In this article we will focus on the “obligate species” or “indicator species”. It is important to be able to identify what you are looking at when you go out into the woods this weekend. The following will help you distinguish between a spring peeper, a wood frog, and/or a toad. What the egg masses of each species looks like in the pool. What are the differences between frog egg masses and salamander egg masses. Help identify some of the common salamanders that you may see migrating into the pools. And finally…. creatures from the deep you might see. (You must talk like Boris Karloff when you say that) Eastern Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) 1 ½ -2 ¾ inch long The wood frog is the most terrestrial frog in the woods. For most of its life it prefers moist woodlands to ponds. However in March even before the ice melts, it finds its way into vernal pools. During courtship the males produce a series of five or six loud clucking notes. Eggs are laid in large gelatinous masses with spherical-shaped black eggs. Egg masses are attached to submerged vegetation. Northern Spring Peeper (Hyla Crucifer) ¾ -1 ¼ inch long The peeper can be easily be identified by the prominent dark X marking on its back and rounded tree-frog toe pads. This small tree frog lives in moist woodlands and swamps. Small in stature, size of a quarter, this familiar call is a short high-pitched, one-syllable whistles. A full chorus of peepers can be deafening. Egg masses are similar to wood frog egg masses Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma Maculatum) 6 -7 ¾ inches long These large salamanders are found throughout Ohio in low-lying moist woodlands adjacent to ponds and wetlands. They are reclusive by nature, burrow underground and are rarely seen except in early spring. They migrate in large numbers during the night to the same pools they were born in year after year, imprinted like mammals and birds. Salamander egg masses can be distinguished from frogs egg masses in that they are a solid fist or softball-size gelatinous mass that is attached to a small stick or other ridged structure. Unlike frogs with thousands of eggs, salamander egg masses only contain around one hundred or so eggs. Northern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) 4 ¼ – 6 inches long This salamander inhabits the eastern parts of the state and can be found under logs, moss and rocks. It also has a distinctive yellow iris and stout body. In addition to the wood frog, spring peeper, and salamanders; invertebrates such as giant water bugs, water scorpions, leeches, crawling water beetle, caddisfly larvae, whirligig beetles and dragonflies and many others are indicators of a vernal pool. Other amphibian species such as the American toad, tree frogs, green frogs, various types of turtles, and snakes can inhabit a vernal pool. Wood ducks also make use of vernal pools to raise their young. Now class, take out your pencils it’s time for a pop quiz!! Did You Know? e Wood frogs can freeze solid and thaw out without any serious injury. e The American Toads lay their eggs in long viscous strands that loop around and through the vegetation at the edge of the pool or pond. e The largest salamander in Ohio is the Eastern Tiger Salamander measuring up to 8 ¼ inches long. UPDATE on the maple syrup article: Mark Apple reports that he will make around 500 gallons of syrup this year. “It was a strange year with lots of sap; however the sugar content was low.” GET OUTSIDE AND COME JOIN THE FUN. GET OUT AND ENJOY NEARBY NATURE…… Vernal Poolooza! March 23 – Join the vernal pool party and see first-hand how these unique habitats team with fascinating life in early spring. This will be our first vernal pool monitoring of the spring. If we are lucky, we will hear the “quacks” of wood frogs. Registration is a must (call 330.569.6003 or email sorrickmw@hiram.edu) as below-freezing temperatures will postpone the party. Dress warm, wear waterproof boots and pack a flashlight as we hike to some vernal pools to begin our spring monitoring and observe some of the first signs of life in the ponds. The party begins at 5:30pm. Meet at the James H. Barrow Field Station in Hiram Township, located between Hiram and Garrettsville on Wheeler Rd. (between SR 305 and SR 82). The Field Station is managed by Hiram College as a nature preserve for research and education.

The word vernal is Latin from “vernus,” meaning “belonging to spring.” Vernal pools refer to any wetland that fills annually from snow melt, spring rains and rising groundwater. They usually do not have an outlet stream and therefore most years dry out during the hot summer months or early fall. But don’t let these vanishing pools fool you.
Vernal pools are typically small, perhaps even a ‘vernal puddle’, but ecologically extremely important as they erupt with unique creatures in early spring when ice and snow melt and warm spring rains fall. They can be discovered in forests and fields, and even old tractor ruts. Vernal pools are valuable wildlife habitats because of the great variety of species that call them home. Being an aquatic organism and living in a habitat that normally dries up in a few months can be tricky. The organisms that live in vernal pools have adapted amazing survival strategies. Most important  is rapid growth from egg to larva to adult. This development can be accelerated by warm water temperatures and even shrinking water levels. Some of the adults fly, hop or crawl away, while others remain dormant and wait out dry conditions. Some species may survive dormancy as adults, larvae or eggs for several years until the pond becomes flooded again. Low oxygen levels and regular drying prevents the establishment of fish and large frog species from surviving and preying on eggs and larva in vernal pools, thus providing some refuge for those species that call these ponds home.
Indicator species (sometimes called obligate species), such as wood frogs, spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp distinguish vernal pools. These organisms depend solely on vernal pools for their survival. Facultative species, on the other hand, can be found in vernal pools but are capable of inhabiting a variety of wetland habitats for their various life activities. Facultative species include red-spotted newts, spring peepers, gray treefrogs, toads, predaceous diving beetles, fingernail clams, amphibious snails, caddisfly larvae, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs and many more.
The foundation of food webs in a vernal pool is dead leaves and plant material that fall into the water. Bacteria and fungi decompose this plant matter and are in turn consumed by zooplankton such as daphnia, copepods and rotifers, or insect larvae such as caddisflies. Frog tadpoles feed on leaves and other plant matter, as well as algae. Salamander larvae are carnivorous and feed on zooplankton until they are large enough to eat aquatic worms, insects, frog tadpoles and even other salamander eggs and larvae. The food web expands to the surrounding ecosystem as turtles, snakes, raccoons, owls, shrews and other organisms visit the pond for a meal or prey on organisms as they emerge from the pond to inhabit the surrounding land.
Vernal pools are important habitats not only for the life cycle of many species, but also to provide water for wildlife and temporary stopping points for traveling amphibians and reptiles. For organisms that depend solely on vernal pools, they may be the only suitable habitat for that organism and perhaps even the whole population of organisms in the area to survive. These organisms are so closely adapted to vernal pool habitats that they return to the same pool year after year to lay eggs. Salamanders and other amphibians return to the same pond from which they hatched to lay their own eggs when they are adults. Destruction of vernal pools by filling in, draining or polluting can seriously impact local populations of these little-known organisms.

Did You Know…
Want to learn more? Join the party! Vernal Poolooza! – March 9 & 23 (5:30-7:30pm)
Join the vernal pool party and see first-hand how these unique habitats team with fascinating life in early spring. This will be our first vernal pool monitoring of the spring. If we are lucky, we will hear the “quacks” of wood frogs. Registration is a must (call 330.569.6003 or email sorrickmw@hiram.edu) as below-freezing temperatures will postpone the party. Dress warm, wear waterproof boots and pack a flashlight as we hike to some vernal pools to begin our spring monitoring and observe some of the first signs of life in the ponds. Meet at the James H. Barrow Field Station in Hiram Township, located between Hiram and Garrettsville on Wheeler Rd. (between SR 305 and SR 82). The Field Station is managed by Hiram College as a nature preserve for research and education.

An unusual and fascinating vernal pool invertebrate is called the water scorpion. This “stick-bug-like” insect can grow to be about 3 inches in length. It has long narrow legs and a slender body. Despite its name, it does not sting. However, it is predaceous and has a nasty piercing mouthpart to suck the body fluids of tadpoles, salamander larvae or other hapless prey.

The Ohio Environmental Council has established a vernal pool monitoring program to develop a database of information about vernal pools across the state. If you are interested in learning more about the Ohio Environmental Council and their vernal pool monitoring program, visit http://www.theoec.org/WaterVernalPools.htm.

More Nearby Nature
The following Nearby Nature programs are sponsored by the Friends of the Hiram College Field Station. Hiking fee: $6 for non-members or $3 for members. Call 330.569.6003 or email sorrickmw@hiram.edu to register. Early registration is necessary as space for both hikes is limited.

Liberty Park Lowlands – Sunday, March 4 (11:00am-1:00pm) An extensive landscape mosaic of over 3200 acres is preserved just west of Aurora. Liberty Park, part of the MetroParks Serving Summit County, is a major component of the preserve complex that includes forest, wetlands, lakes, and a large area of impressive sandstone bluffs. The landscape is rich in wildlife and there is evidence that a black bear ranges throughout the complex. The trails will be wet and muddy. Meet at the Liberty Park lowlands parking lot at 3973 East Aurora Rd. Twinsburg (Ohio Rt. 82) between Aurora and Twinsburg.

Liberty Park: Uplands – Sunday, March 11 (11:00am-1:00pm) Explore the brand new Summit County MetroPark trail that winds through part of the extensive sandstone bluffs on the east side of Twinsburg. This surprising natural area is one of the wildest parts of the Akron-Cleveland area. The trail leads to a wetland complex at the base of the bluffs and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species. Meet at the new parking lot at 9999 Liberty Road in Twinsburg.

Finally some snow! How does the old song go “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go”….well something like that. Since we discussed the Christmas tree in our last article, we thought it would be fitting to discuss two other traditional botanical icons of the season, the poinsettia and holly. Sorry mistletoe…maybe next year.

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Did you Know!

 

•  Seventy-four percent of Americans still prefer red poinsettias; 8 percent prefer white and 6 percent pink.

• Contrary to popular belief Poinsettias are not poisonous.

•  A fresh poinsettia is one on which little or no yellow pollen is showing on the flower clusters in the center of the bracts. Plants that have shed their pollen will soon drop their colorful bracts.

•   “Decking the halls with holly” is an ancient custom several thousand years old. The ancient Romans, Greeks, and Druids all decorated their homes with this plant.

•  Birds and animals depend on the holly berries for food during the winter months. Like the poinsettia, holly berries are not poisonous to humans but taste really bad.

[/pulledquote]The poinsettia has been associated with Christmas since the 1600’s in Mexico and most recently, due to the marketing and research by the Ecke family of southern California, since the early 1900’s in America. The botanical name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, was assigned to the poinsettia by a German botanist in the 1700’s meaning “very beautiful.” It is a small perennial shrub and can grow up to ten feet tall. It is actually native to Mexico. The milky substance that oozes from the stem and leaves when broken was used by the Aztecs during the 14th century for various medicinal purposes. The brilliant red colors of the bracts were a symbol of purity and were used in making red dye. The first time the poinsettia was grown in America was due to the efforts of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico. Poinsett was an avid botanist and during his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species. In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. Subsequently in honor of Mr. Poinsett and the commercial success of Euphorbia pulcherrima (advertisers could not use the Aztec name Cuetlaxochitl), William Prescott, a historian and horticulturist coined the name poinsettia. Also to commemorate the death of Mr. Poinsett, on December 12, Congress in 2002 declared the day, national poinsettia day. There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available for growers to sell. Approximately $220 million dollars of poinsettias are sold during the holiday season. Ninety per cent of all the flowering poinsettias in the world got their start at the Paul Ecke Ranch. Growers start cuttings around the first of September to obtain a saleable plant in early December. It takes approximately 80-90 days to grow a finished plant. Temperature, growth regulators, fungicide, and timely fertilization are extremely important in producing a saleable plant. A shortened day length is extremely important in the development of the bracts (modified leaves) or what most people think of as the flowers. Growers have to take into consideration “moonlight days” as the brightness of the full moon effects the development of the poinsettia, which sometimes requires the plants be completely covered with black cloth.

Holly or Ilex aquifolium has been part of the holiday season for centuries. With its shiny, prickly leaves and blood-red berries, holly plays an important part in the history of the Celtic peoples of Northern Europe as well as Norse, Roman, and Gaelic traditions. Holly boughs used as symbolic winter decorations were believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter. The boughs were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. The Celts associated the prickly holly leaves with the crown of thorns from the crucifixion and the red berries with the blood of Christ. The early Christian Church retained many of the Celtic and Roman traditions to help celebrate the birth of Christ. Holly is steeped in the folklore of several cultures. Northern Europeans believed that holly sprouted from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth. The Romans believed holly was a symbol of good will and protected them from lightening and witchcraft.  In Celtic lore, the Holly King was said to rule over the half of the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule for the time until the summer solstice again. The felling of holly trees was believed to bring bad luck. In Britain, the legend of the Green Knight and his challenge to Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table, during the Yuletide season is a favorite among many.  In pre-Victorian times “Christmas trees” meant holly bushes.  In China, holly is used as decoration in their temples during the New Year’s celebration in February.  There are over 400 different species of holly, but most people are familiar with the English holly or the variegated holly. Hollies are dioecious, referring to a plant population having separate male and female plants. Both male and female plants produce flowers; it is only the female plant that produces the red berries. Hollies are native to every continent except Australia. Most hollies are evergreen; however, there are a few species that are deciduous. Depending on the species, holly can grow to heights of 50 feet. There is little or no grain in the wood and it is extremely hard.

The first frost of the fall occurred on October 27 at my house. This was considerably later than in past years. Since then, we have had several more heavy frosts but the recent warm and sunny days of “Indian Summer” may have pushed the thought of winter from your mind (technically, Indian Summer is a warm and dry period following the first frost). However, the days are getting shorter and the nights longer and colder. No doubt winter is on its way. You probably have been preparing for winter by raking leaves, cleaning the lawnmower, hauling wood, storing the lawn chairs and unpacking the warm coats, hats and gloves.

We have all heard or told childhood nursery rhymes, but what are we really looking at? Suffice it to say the sky has played a major role in civilizations from the beginning of time. From the ancient Aztec, Mayan and Incan cultures whose daily lives revolved around celestial events to the time of the great philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Ptleomy who developed the first theories relating too many of the celestial objects. Ptleomy identified 48 of the 88 constellations in the sky today. From Copernicus who was excommunicated from the holy Catholic Church for proving the earth revolved around the sun to Kepler and Galileo who improved the telescope and developed what we now call modern astronomy. Without the human desire to make sense of the unknown universe, Neil Armstrong would never have uttered his immortal quote “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”, the breathtaking pictures from the Hubble telescope would have never been seen, and the eventual trip to Mars would never happen. Who could live without WD 40, Velcro, Teflon, Tupperware, and of course Tang all products developed by NASA for use in the space program to quench mans fascination with reaching the stars. 

Recently my son was photographing nature by our pond; he photographed several different types of dragonflies. This got us wondering just how many different types there were. So the search began. When you see a dragonfly, the images of a large fierce flying insect quickly flitting from place to place come to mind. Though dragonflies/damselflies are excellent predators and have a ferocious appearance, they are harmless to people. They do not sting, but they are serious predators of flying insects such as mosquitoes, gnats and midges. So dragonflies/damselflies are great to have around. During this time of year you might see large swarms of dragonflies congregating in one area. There are several explanations for this phenomenon. Some species of dragonflies congregate just before they migrate south for the winter and/or there is a large swarm of tasty insects that they are dining on. Whatever the reason a flock of these fast flying insects are sure to catch your eye.

As we prepare for the upcoming holiday seasons much of what we enjoy in Nearby Nature has either migrated, gone dormant, burrowed into the mud, or found a warm place to overwinter. So we thought we would get into the holiday spirit with topics relating to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Sorry,  Aunt Bee,  no stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, or even green bean casserole……

Thanks to the mass marketing machines of Ocean Spray Cranberries, Green Giant, and other agri-business of the food industry what we commonly think of as Thanksgiving dinner is not even close to what the first Thanksgiving dinner had to offer. What struck me as I was researching various internet sites and historical accountings of the first Thanksgiving in writing this article was the incredible amount of food that was available to the pilgrims naturally. There were no supermarkets, turkey farms, or mega fruit and vegetable farms.  In addition, if it were not for the Wampanoag Indians understanding of their natural world and sharing it with the Pilgrims, they would have been a minor foot note in history.

The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three whole days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. In November, 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited their newfound  friends, the Wampanoag. There are only two historical accounts detailing what the fare was at the first Thanksgiving table. Edward Winslow and William Bradford talked of killing five deer, fish (cod, bass, eel, mussels, lobster), fowl and Indian corn. Through other historical accounts it is assumed that vegetables such as squash, pumpkin, beetroot, and beans were eaten. Fruits such as currants, grapes, and red plums were common and on the table as well. Cranberries didn’t come along for quite a while.  Due to the diminishing supply of flour there was no bread of any kind, so no stuffing. Sugar stocks were almost non-existent and used primarily to sweeten the corn mush and boiled pumpkin. This, coupled with the fact that they had no ovens for baking, meant that there was no pumpkin or pecan pie.  Potatoes weren’t part of the feast, either. Neither the sweet potato nor the white potato was yet available to the Pilgrims. The term turkey covered any type of fowl that the pilgrims hunted such as ducks, geese, pheasant, grouse and of course the wild turkey.

 

Did you Know!

The agriculture term Three Sisters comes from a common practice followed by Native Americans  planting maize, squash and climbing beans together in a mound. The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants utilize, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight helping prevent establishment of weeds. This was one of the most important agriculture practices passed from the Indians to the Pilgrims.

The difference between the wild turkey you see in the woods today and the farm-raised Bronze breasted turkey is striking. Not only is there a greater percentage of white meat on the farm raised turkey, they are unable to fly, cannot mate naturally (must be artificially inseminated) and have a faster weight gain, getting to market weight in four to five months.

As  you  enjoy  this   Thanksgiving season full of fellowship and feasting, it is only appropriate that we stop for a second and appreciate our natural surroundings and give thanks for the glory and splendor Mother Nature has to offer. From our families to yours… Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy Nearby Nature!

 Interested in more Nearby Nature?

Tracing the Trolleys (December 4, 1:00-5:00pm): Discover the artifacts of a bygone era when the towns and villages of northeast Ohio were linked by a web of electric rail lines. A trolley system connected Garrettsville, Middlefield, and Chardon to Cleveland but not each other. Each of the three rail lines left clues scattered across the landscape of Portage and Geauga that will help us understand this bygone era. Transportation will be by college van, so space is limited. Pre-registration is required (330.569.6003 or sorrickmw@hiram.edu). Sponsored by Friends of the Hiram College Field Station (fee: $7 for members, $10 for non-members)

Send your questions or comments to: nearbynature@weeklyvillager.com

Matt Sorrick is Director of The Center for Science Education at Hiram College.   Joe Malmisur is an executive member of the Northeast Ohio Forestry Association and amateur naturalist.

Since mushrooms have been in the news of late, we thought we would try to enlighten our readers about one of the most unusual and extremely important organisms in nature. Ominous sounding names like Destroying Angel, Deadly Galerina, and Poision Pie, are obviously poisonous; but Sulfer Tuft,  Jack O’Lantern, and Fly Agaric are equally as dangerous. However Morels, Meadow Mushrooms, and White Matsutake are a culinary delight.
Dead organisms provide food for other living things to survive. The most important decomposers are FBI’s … fungus, bacteria and insects. Although they live  underground and out-of-site for most of the year, Autumn is a wonderful time to observe fungi as they reveal their colorful reproductive structures in the form of mushrooms, puffballs and brackets.

Fungi form  one of the kingdoms of living things. This kingdom includes many fungus that have become closely involved with our lives, such as yeast for brewing and baking, Penicillium for the production of important antibiotics, and many more for eating on pizza, salads and other delicious foods. Fungi lack chlorophyll, so are unable to make their own food through photosynthesis, unless you’re a lichen. They must consume organic matter just as animals do. Food for fungus usually comes in the form of dead leaves, needles, roots, logs, dead animals, and feces, but may include some living plant and animal matter (that constant itching between your toes is caused by Athlete’s Foot fungus). Fungi grow on or into their food sources, penetrating the organic matter with thin strands called hyphae. Hyphae secrete digestive enzymes and dissolve the food. This energy is transported through a dense underground network of hyphae, called mycelium. For the most part, hyphae and mycelia are microscopic. Lifting a thick layer of leaf litter or rolling over a nicely rotting log may reveal white web-like strands of larger mycelia. The mycelia is the main body of a fungus and can survive for hundreds of years, constantly growing and replacing broken or dead hyphae. Only when the mycelia generate their reproductive structures do most people observe the fungus. Reproductive structures come in three main forms: mushrooms, puffballs and brackets. Other variations on the theme include cup, coral, and jelly fungi, as well as stinkhorns and chanterelles. Despite the wide variety of shapes, these reproductive structures serve one purpose, to produce millions of tiny, dust-like spores which are spread by wind, rain or animals. If a spore is fortunate enough to land in an ideal location that is dark, moist and provides a food source, it may begin to grow new mycelia.

Fungi play three major roles in nature: as decomposers recycling matter into soil, as parasites, and through symbiotic relationships. Symbiosis is when two or more organisms live in close contact and help each other survive. Lichens fall into this category where a fungus and algae coexist to form some interesting structures.   In other situations, the hyphae grow in very close contact with rootlets of trees and other plants. The fungus provides the tree with valuable nitrogen and phosphorus to grow, while the tree provides carbon to the fungus for food. This mutual relationship benefits both the fungus and the tree, and is essential to forest health.

August through October is an ideal time to observe a wide variety of fungal fruiting bodies especially in years where there has been above average rainfall. Although fungi can be found throughout the late spring and entire summer, the display in fall is most spectacular. Keep in mind, these decomposers can be delicious, but also very dangerous. There are no simple guidelines that can be used to distinguish edible from poisonous mushrooms. This task should be left to experts since in depth knowledge is necessary to correctly identify similar-looking species. Each year, people get sick and even die from unknowingly eating poisonous mushrooms.
A good, local source to learn more about mushrooms and other fungus is the Ohio Mushroom Society (visit www.ohiomushroom.org). The recent wet weather, followed by last week’s warm, sunny days should provide for a splendid display of mushrooms and other fungi. Find some fabulous fungi in nearby nature yourself.

Interested in more nearby nature activities? Hike the lost trails & treasures of Camp Asbury on October 22 (9:00am). The diverse landscape of the Asbury Valley ranges from historical mill ponds and millraces to upland bog ponds, springs and hidden rock ledges with shelter caves and waterfalls. Eagle Creek and the surrounding wetlands are the home for a variety of birds and other wildlife including river otters, mink and beavers. Register at 330.569.6003 or sorrickmw@hiram.edu. Sponsored by Friends of the Hiram College Field Station.

For the bird enthusiasts, the Lake Erie birding trail is an hour’s drive north. Fall is a great time to see many different species migrating south for the winter. If interested go to www.lakeerieohiobirding.info/
Did you Know!
The largest puffball mushroom in the world measured almost 67inches around. The heaviest fungus in the world is a bracket fungus called “chicken of the woods”. It tipped the scales at an even 100 pounds.

Send your questions or comments to: nearbynature@weeklyvillager.com

Matt Sorrick is Director of The Center for Science Education at Hiram College.   Joe Malmisur is an executive member of the Northeast Ohio Forestry Association and amateur naturalist.