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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  • Question #7824

    Question

    The question is about the nesting boxes. The one at Big Creek. The eggs have been there a few weeks now. Shouldn't they have hatched by now? What are the types of birds in each box? Thanks

    Naturalist's Response

    This must be the same pair of birds that attempted to nest in that box last year. Apparently one of them is infertile. 🙁 The eggs did not hatch last year either.

  • What are these giant trees at Headwaters?

    Question

    I never saw trees in Ohio with such a large diameter of a tree trunk in as I saw at Headwaters Park recently. Could you please tell me what they may be?

    Naturalist's Response

    That is an American Beech tree. They do get very large!

    Check out the Facebook page Big Trees Ohio to see many, many big trees in our state.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • What is this bald red bird?

    Question

    This bald red bird came to my feeder this afternoon. Can you identify this one?

    Naturalist's Response

    After cardinals nest and raise their young, they undergo molting when they shed their feathers and grow new ones. Usually they lose just part of their feathers at any one time, but sometimes all the feathers on their head will molt at the same time, making the bird look sick.

    Although it is unusual, it is still considered normal and the bird will soon grow new feathers.

    Thanks for your inquiry!

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Snake ID?

    Question

    Hello, would like to ID this snake I saw in my backyard.

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for sending a picture of a Common Garter Snake. It’s nice to have one to control garden pests and small mammals. They are beneficial critters and harmless to humans. Enjoy having him/her patrolling your property. -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Pawpaws in Geauga County?

    Question

    Do we have pawpaw trees in Geauga County?

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for inquiring about Pawpaw trees.  Yes, indeed we do have them in Geauga County. If you hike the Pawpaw Trail at Big Creek Park, you will see them. In fact, you may feel like you are in a tropical forest.

    Pawpaws belong to the custard-apple family. From a botanical perspective, pawpaws are really special because they are the only member of their family adapted to growing outside of the tropics and able to survive our temperate climate. They get an edible, globular-shaped fruit that has a unique flavor and texture. Pawpaws are also the host plant for the beautiful Zebra Swallowtail butterfly. Naturalist Trevor Wearstler is our local pawpaw guru; perhaps he may have something to add to this post.

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Beetle ID?

    Question

    What type of beetle is this?

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for sending a picture of this cool beetle! I ran your picture through iNaturalist.org, which suggested an ID in the genus Onthophagus.

    You may be pleased to know – or not – that it is a dung beetle. It could be the Green-bronze Dung Beetle, but I don’t see any records for it in iNaturalist.org for Ohio. If you make an iNaturalist account and upload your picture to the site, it might be the first record in the database for our state! You can also click here for a bugguide.net link with some info and pictures.

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Is a mink a problem?

    Question

    We spotted a mink living under our neighbor’s barn. Should we be concerned?

    Naturalist's Response

    Wow, you got a picture of a mink during the day! That doesn’t happen very often, since they are usually nocturnal. There is no need to be concerned about its presence. You have a unique opportunity to observe this creature, so enjoy! You might also click here for an article from Cleveland Metroparks that features the mink with some nice information on the species.

    Thanks for inquiring! -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Mushroom ID?

    Question

    Hello! I wanted to see if there is perhaps anyone with a knowledge of mycology and could assist me in identifying whether the attached picture is an oyster mushroom. It was found in a shelf formation attached to the side of a tree stump. Thank you so much for your help!

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for sending a picture of the mushroom in question. Mushroom ID is difficult, and the picture is small that I can’t see a lot of details. But here is a link to members of the Ohio Mushroom Society that may be helpful. These folks have more expertise and could probably ID your mushroom. Local author of Mushrooms of the Northeast Field Guide Walt Sturgeon has been helpful with IDs. Also, the field guide is excellent! -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • What kind of frog?

    Question

    Type of frog?

    Naturalist's Response

    This is a Gray Treefrog. They can change their color from gray to brown to green to match the color of their surroundings. They have tiny suction cups on the end of each toe to enable them to climb, and spend much of their time in trees and shrubs. You can hear their loud musical trill frequently following spring and summer rains.

    – Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • What size owl nest box to get?

    Question

    My husband and I live in a slightly wooded area in Munson township.
    We have heard owls in our trees and would love to add an owl nesting box. Any ideas on what type we should get?
    We are between the smaller house for screech owls and the larger for barn owls.
    Thank you!

    Naturalist's Response

    I would definitely recommend the smaller box for Screech Owls, since we no longer have Barn Owls in Geauga. We have a healthy population of Screech Owls, and they readily take to boxes both for nesting in the spring and roosting in the winter.

    – Naturalist Tami Gingrich