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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  • What’s that springtime sound?

    Question

    What are night sounds near Auburn Marsh? It began a week or two ago and it starts at dusk and goes on until the morning. Are these birds, crickets, or something else?

    Naturalist's Response

    I’m pretty sure the sounds you are hearing in the marsh are the voices of the Spring Peepers. These diminutive amphibians make piercing peep-calls – so much so that the resulting sound from lots of them can make your ears hurt! This is the rite of spring for frogs and salamanders, and the males are singing (or dancing, if you’re a salamander) to attract the ladies. Click here for a link to the Spring Peeper song, and I hope you enjoy the spring amphibian concert!

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

    P.S. Here are a couple pictures of a Spring Peeper.

  • What is this fuzzy plant?

    Question

    When walking the Maple Highlands Trail Wednesday, there’s a lot of these fuzzy leafed plants growing among the fence. My friends and I are wondering what they are. Photo taken between Taylor Wells & Claridon Troy roads.

    Naturalist's Response

    This is common mullein, found along roadsides and disturbed places. Click here for an the Ohio State University listing of this plant.

    Some consider it a weed, but it is very pretty with its fuzzy leaves and yellow flowers on tall spikes.

    It’s a biennial, so it will not flower the first year that the plant seed germinates. In your photo I see what looks like remnants of old leaves, so this plant might bloom this year.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

  • Praying mantis species and hummingbirds?

    Question

    Good morning! I have recently learned about the three species of praying mantis in Ohio. I am hoping to find out the differences between their egg cases. Is it true that the European and Chinese egg cases should be destroyed as those mantids are too destructive to the ecosystem and hummingbirds, in particular?

    Naturalist's Response

    I’ve compiled a picture of the egg cases of the mantis species in our area. The Carolina Mantis is our native species, and that’s the one that should be encouraged. The other two are the non-natives (the European and Chinese). I consulted an entomologist friend at OSU, and she is not opposed to destroying the Chinese or European mantis cases. She didn’t find much definitive research regarding whether or not the non-native species are out-competing our native one. While all three species are predators of plant pests, they are generalists as well and probably do prey on some beneficial insects and maybe the occasional hummingbird. The Chinese Mantis egg case is very recognizable due to its distinct shape. It might be difficult to differentiate between the other two however.

    Click here for an excellent article on hummers and mantises.

    -Naturalist Linda Gilbert

  • Parks and protected wetlands?

    Question

    How big is the Geauga park system? I see there are 22 parks total. How many acres is that? How much of the parks are wetlands?

    Naturalist's Response

    As of this year, Geauga Park District now consists of 25 parks and 10,682 acres, and 30% to 40% of those are protected wetlands.

    -Park Biologist Paul Pira

  • Origin of Headwaters’ hemlock trees?

    Question

    Are the Eastern Hemlock trees at Headwaters Park natural there, or were they planted by someone?

    Naturalist's Response

    The Eastern hemlock tree is native to our area, and those at Headwaters Park are naturally occurring and not planted by people.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe

     

  • Whose scat is that?

    Question

    How are you with scat identification?

    Naturalist's Response

    Sorry for the delay in response! It is hard to say with 100% certainty but my thought is that this is raccoon scat. The only other possibility could be Black Bear, although they are a state endangered species and not common in Ohio. Typically we do see a few young wandering male Black Bears in our county during the summer months, so it is possible that this is bear scat.

    If you are able to recall the size of the scat, that could also help with identification. Both raccoons and Black Bears feast on berries during the summer, and it’s obvious that this scat is full of blueberries.

    If you have any additional photos or information about this, I’d be happy to look into this further.

    -Chief Naturalist John Kolar

  • Where can I walk in the water?

    Question

    Is there someplace in the Geauga parks were you can go on a river or creek walk?

    Naturalist's Response

    A stream or creek walk is possible in almost all of Geauga County. Especially inviting for such outings are many Geauga Park District locations. Small, headwaters streams, the origin of four Ohio river systems (Chagrin, Cuyahoga, Grand and Mahoning), have crayfish, salamanders, small fish and invertebrates living in their rocky waters and are easy to explore because they are shallow. They flow into deeper and wider creeks such as Big Creek, Swine Creek and Silver Creek (The West Woods), with deeper pools that may be knee deep on a creek walk. River access is best done by canoe or kayak in the Cuyahoga from Eldon Russell Park. Please also watch our program listings for naturalist-led stream hikes and paddles on the Cuyahoga during the warmer months of spring and summer!

    -Naturalist Dottie Drockton

  • A Great Blue Heron seen in wintertime

    Question

    Why would I see a Blue Heron in Geauga County in the last 2 weeks? I have never seen them this time of year.

    Naturalist's Response

    As long as the winter here in Northeast Ohio continues to have periods of mild weather, the chance of seeing a Great Blue Heron is pretty good. Herons only migrate as far south as they need to in order to find open water in which to fish. During very cold, wintery periods, they will fly south, then travel north again as things here warm and thaw.

    -Naturalist Tami Gingrich

  • What is this vulture doing?

    Question

    What is this, the Angel of Death? What is this vulture doing?

    Naturalist's Response

    Indeed, this makes for a curious sight. Turkey vultures can be seen striking this pose in the morning sun. This is called the “horaltic pose.” While they may appear to be doing their pre-flight stretching exercises, they are actually warming themselves up for a day on the wing. Dark colors absorb sunlight and generate heat. Touch a dark-colored vehicle on a sunny day to feel for yourself. By spreading their dark-colored wings with backs to the sun, vultures increase their heating surface and thus warm themselves faster.

    Thanks to Ed Tornberg for his photograph of a turkey vulture “horalticking” atop a bluebird box.

    -Naturalist Dan Best

  • Light pollution from where?

    Question

    (Submitted to Geauga Park District and Lake Metroparks) February 9, 2019, was mostly clear and I was able to take some star shots at Lake Metroparks' Lake Erie Bluffs. Here's one around 10:14 PM looking west. Sunset was hours earlier and left of this position. Question: is what appears to be a sunset the glow of Detroit? Do birds see this and not the darkling dullness we see? The pink to the left is from Painesville; the pale glow to the right of that is from the setting crescent moon behind the trees.

    Naturalist's Response

    Checked with our naturalists and they agreed it does look like a sunset, but due to the time of day, it is most likely the light given off by either Mentor or Cleveland.

    -John Venen, Promotions & Advertising Manager, Lake Metroparks