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

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  • “Optimal conditions” for Bird in the Hand?

    Question

    What are "optimal conditions" for visiting the Bird in the Hand Feeding Station at The West Woods?

    Naturalist's Response

    Unfortunately it’s hard to predict when the Bird in the Hand feeder will be active. In the fall and winter, birds travel a territory in a mixed flock (chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers etc.). When a flock comes to a feeding station, a person might notice heavy activity for a period of time followed by a lull in activity after the birds depart, and that lull lasts until another feeding flock comes through the area. Folks who regularly observe their bird feeders may notice definitive times of the day when these periods of activity occur.

    I wish we could give definite times for our feeder, but none of us are able to observe the area consistently. So here’s the best we can do:

    1. Cold days, especially in the morning, would be a good time to check out the feeder. Birds have to start feeding soon after they wake up to put on fat and have energy to survive the cold weather. (At my home feeders, I notice a period of heavy activity 8:45 to 9:30-ish.)

    2. Late afternoon (3 to 4:30?) could also be another good time, since the birds need to stock up on food before roosting somewhere for the night.

    3. Snowy weather is usually good for feeder activity, but rainy weather – not so much.

    We hope you go and try your luck!

    -Naturalists Linda Gilbert & Dottie Drockton

  • Where are the pheasants?

    Question

    Where are the pheasants? We always saw them when we moved to Montville 20 years ago?

    Naturalist's Response

    Pheasants aren’t native to Ohio. They are brought in and released for hunting purposes. Most likely no one has released any in your area for a long time and that is why you aren’t seeing them like you used to.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Log fungus ID?

    Question

    Several weeks ago, I found this log along the Affelder Link Trail. What is the fungus growing here?

    Naturalist's Response

    In keeping with the Thanksgiving season, you have found a fungus aptly called turkey tail. There is a look-alike fungus called false turkey tail, but I believe your picture is of the turkey tail.

    Here is a link about the turkey tail mushroom. Unless you are an expert, never eat mushrooms you find in Nature. There are just too many look-alikes that could confuse you.

    The naturalists here use the book “Mushrooms of the Northeast” by Teresa Marrone and Walt Sturgeon. It is a very good resource.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

     

  • Which owls are here?

    Question

    What owls are there in Chardon, Ohio?

    Naturalist's Response

    There are several species of owls that can be found in Chardon that are year-round residents. These include Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls and Screech Owls. All three of these species are local nesters. During spring and fall migration, there are also several other species that can be seen in different areas of Geauga County where the habitat is attractive to them as they pass through; these include Long-eared Owls, Short-eared Owls and Saw-whet Owls.

    – Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • Stream vs. creek vs. river

    Question

    What's the difference between a stream, creek and river?

    Naturalist's Response

    So, we enter into the somewhat nebulus topic of stream classification.

    Consulting a few sources, the common term for all downhill flowing ribbons of water is stream.  They’re all streams. Streams are classified, not by width, depth or length, but by a system known as stream ordering.  The common terms are quite subjective depending on region and local history.

    • First order streams: the smallest streams that have no tributaries. We could call these brooks or rivulets.  Little streams that you can hop across and not get wet. (GPD example: Pebble Brook in The West Woods)
    • Second order streams: result from the merging of two first order streams. Often designated as creeks, these small streams require a bridge, stepping stones or wading to cross. (GPD examples: Big Creek, Swine Creek, Silver Creek)
    • Third order streams: larger streams formed from the merger of two second order streams or creeks if you will. Streams that would have to be bridged, waded or even swam across. Referred to as branches in the headwater regions of watersheds. (Geauga examples:  East Branch and Aurora Branches of the Chagrin River, East and West Branches of the Cuyahoga River)
    • Fourth order: streams formed by the merging of two third order streams. These streams would qualify as rivers, requiring big bridges, boats or swimming to cross.

    There you go.

    -Naturalist Dan Best

    Please also check this website from the USGS. Some people classify them by their width and depth; from smallest to largest would be creek, stream and river.

    -Naturalist Program Coordinator Denise Wolfe

  • New tree growth?

    Question

    Just discovered this growth on a maple near our house near The Rookery... it has the consistency of Jello and must have appeared very quickly since I don’t recall seeing it even 3-4 days ago... Can you identify it..?... the colors in the photo are accurate... Mushroom or something else..?.. The tree is living but not thriving

    Naturalist's Response

    What you have there is a bearded tooth fungus, also known as lion’s mane fungus, hedgehog fungus and pom-pom fungus.  It’s a common fungus in our local forests that grows as a parasite on beech, oak and other hardwood trees.  Click here and here for a couple of other references to check out online. -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Green infrastructure?

    Question

    How much green infrastructure is installed in the Geauga Park District?

    Naturalist's Response

    We have green infrastructure at Claridon Woodlands, Orchard Hills, The West Woods and Observatory Park’s main campus and Nassau Astronomical Station. The new Holbrook Hollows, opening in 2019, will also incorporate green infrastructure.

    -Matt McCue, Planning Department

  • Where is a buckeye tree?

    Question

    Where in the county can I find a buckeye tree?

    Naturalist's Response

    Buckeye trees are trees of forested flood plains. Geauga County is a headwaters area, so we don’t have these lower flood plain habitats. Consequently, we do not have buckeye trees in our county. You may find them along bridle trails of South Chagrin Reservation or along broad flood plain areas in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

    -Naturalist Program Coordinator Denise Wolfe

  • A hands-on turkey dad?

    Question

    Through the summer we saw a male turkey raising 3 turkey chicks. Is this common?

    Naturalist's Response

    From all that I have read and learned, male wild turkeys are polygamous and take no part in incubation or rearing of young wild turkeys. From my experience, however, I have learned that there are always exceptions in Nature, so anything is possible. I would say that a male turkey raising young would not be the norm and, in fact, would be very unusual!

    -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

  • What is this song?

    Question

    Hello there. I went up to the bird feeder place in Chardon and they didn't even know, so I'm wondering if you can help me out with this mystery bird. I heard it early summer at dawn and dusk, high up in the trees, but could never see it since our woods are so thick. We live in a beech/maple forest if that helps. I've lived here for 30+ years and have never heard this bird, though we just moved into this house last fall. Anxious to hear your response! Turn speakers up: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNE_ZxG6qd4

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks so much for your question.

    This is the beautiful song to the Wood Thrush. They live in mature forests and are related to both American Robin and Eastern Bluebird.

    Click here for a link to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds page on them.

    -Naturalist Program Coordinator Denise Wolfe