Ask a Naturalist

Understand the world around you We've got answers

Ever wondered who left that footprint? What kind of berries are those? Or why is that White-tailed Deer white all over? Look no further than your local naturalists, the people at your Geauga Park District whose job it is to help you understand the natural world around you.


Use the form below to submit your question – ideally with a photo (if available), description of sighting (including size) and location of sighting (somewhere in Northeast Ohio) – and you’ll receive an email when a naturalist responds.

Please note that while this form does collect your name and contact information, those items will not be posted with your question, only used in case we need to contact you for additional details.

What have other people been asking lately? Scroll below the form and enjoy some other naturalist Q&As on us!

Ask a Naturalist

Step 1 of 2 - Sighting Details

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  • Is this ginseng?

    Question

    Can you tell me if this is ginseng?

    Naturalist's Response

    This is a picture of the seed pods of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant. Click here for more information about this plant. Because it is toxic, no part of it should be ingested; it contains calcium oxalate and can also be irritating to the skin.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Sounds in the distance

    Question

    For about the last week I have been hearing this unusual animal call near our house (about a mile north of Chardon Village) in the morning just before dawn. It is unfamiliar to me and my research based on my hunches has not turned up anything. At first I thought it was some kind of deer bugle, or a weird rooster crow. We frequently hear Barred Owls, and I know they have many different vocalizations, but it does not seem like that. We also have turkey in the area.

    The sounds in this recording occur at :03 and :28. You have to turn up the volume, and it helps to use earbuds. Apologies for the poor quality. Thanks!

    https://youtu.be/MzmmLjdg5xA

    Naturalist's Response

    We have had several naturalists listen to the recording, but none of us have ear buds and no one was able to detect anything other than the insects. One person thought they heard something squeaking, but it was to faint to tell. Sorry that we can’t be more helpful with this particular recording.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Fuzziness on an oak leaf?

    Question

    What are these fuzzy things on this oak leaf?

    Naturalist's Response

    This a gall made by a gall wasp. Galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues caused by various parasites, from fungi and bacteria to insects and mites. Click here and here for more information.

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • On bears at Headwaters Park

    Question

    How many bear have been around and near the east branch reservoir? I want to walk the paths over there but I am a little afraid.

    Naturalist's Response

    I have questioned the Naturalist Department staff and no one has heard of any bear activity this year at Headwaters Park, although there was a mama bear and her cub reported several years back, hence the signage at the park. As with most wild animals, bears will usually flee rather than encounter people. They are not normally aggressive unless you are near their young cubs, which would not be going on at this time of year. They can also be attracted to food left outside by people.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • On bluebird boxes and bandings

    Question

    Who is monitoring bluebird houses at Eldon Russell? Is someone banding the babies? I'm banding nearby on a big bluebird trail at Fieldstone Farms TRC in Bainbridge. Who can I contact about Eldon Russell bluebird houses?

    Naturalist's Response

    All of the park’s bluebird boxes are closely monitored by a group of volunteers that I head up. I am a licensed bird bander of 30 years and handle all the banding in Geauga Park District. But thank you for your offer.

    -Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • Spreading the word about garlic mustard

    Question

    Good morning, I want to know how to alert homeowners in Bainbridge about the garlic mustard plant invasion. It is growing like crazy around my home on Geauga Lake Road. Could you advise, can we put flyers in people's mailboxes maybe? Thank you.

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for your concern about garlic mustard. It truly is one of the most invasive and persistent of non-native plants. I have asked our administrative department if they could place something on Facebook and perhaps contact the local papers to run an informative article about garlic mustard. In the meantime, you can help by passing the word to friends and neighbors about this plant. People need to know how to identify it and then what to do with it, which is pull it and bag it. Do not put it in compost piles, as it can still spread that way. There is a lot more information that can be shared about this plant, and perhaps an article in the local paper would be the best way to proceed.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Who to contact about tree diseases?

    Question

    We've had this Chinese chestnut in our back yard for about 20 years, but this is the first time we've seen this, whatever it is, on this tree. It's also affecting two other chestnuts planted within the last few years. Wonder if you can tell us what it is/what can we do about it?

    Naturalist's Response

    Thank you for your question. For questions about tree diseases, please contact the Geauga County Master Gardeners at 440-834-4656 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Here is a link to their website.

    You can also contact the ODNR forester for our area, Alan Siewert, at 440-564-5883 Ext. 1 or alan.siewert@dnr.state.oh.us.

    I hope this information is helpful to you.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • On finding Lost Lake

    Question

    Good afternoon. I was hoping to get information on how to paddle our way to "Lost Lake." I saw an article in the Geauga County Maple Leaf from 2016 featuring John Kolar. Any information is greatly appreciated!

    Naturalist's Response

    Lost Lake is located off the Upper Cuyahoga River a couple miles north of route 87. We park in the gravel lot on the south side of route 87 just east of Burton Village. It is best to go when the water level is high in the spring or after a substantial rain. I rarely attempt the float in summer because the water is typically too low.

    As for how to specifically find the lake, it is very difficult to give directions because there is no easy way to find it. I learned by going with someone who new the way the first time. If you’d like to talk directly to me about it I’d be happy to talk to you. My direct number is 440-279-0887. Thanks for asking!

    -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

  • The birds in my mailbox

    Question

    There are two tiny swallow-like winged people who moved into the newspaper slot beneath my mailbox. They have white bellies and deep iridescent bluish heads. Lots of feathers and nesting materials far back in the narrow wooden box. They are confident little people, yet are tolerant of me picking up my mail without dive-bombing my head. Can you tell me something about them like who they might be? Might there be babies? Do you think they might like French fries or pizza?

    Naturalist's Response

    What you have are Tree Swallows nesting in your box. They are cavity nesting birds that will use bird boxes, holes in trees and, apparently, your newspaper box. They line their nests with feathers and will lay 4-6 white eggs. The female will incubate the eggs for about two weeks, and she is not deterred by people and will stay on the nest. After hatching, the young will take 18-21 days to develop and be able to fledge from the nest. Their diet consists of insects. These birds are beautiful acrobatic flyers and wonderful to observe – enjoy!

  • What is this plant at Headwaters Park?

    Question

    Went on the 7-mile hike around Headwaters Park June 2 and saw this plant. What is it? It's very large and there was only one.

    Naturalist's Response

    This plant is Great Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea). Its main characteristics are the large loose flower heads called an umbel and its purplish stem which is hollow. Another plant very similar that is blooming now is the cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum), but it has a flat-topped flower head. These plants are fairly common and can grow in a wide variety of conditions but do prefer moist soil.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe