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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  • Why so low at East Branch Reservoir?

    Question

    Why does the water sometimes get so low at Headwaters Park's East Branch Reservoir during the summer months? The boat launch couldn't even be used in early September this year.

    Naturalist's Response

    Although this happens every year, it is still poorly understood among many folks. According to the City of Akron, which uses this body of water for its water supply, it seems to be all about keeping the water moving to prevent stagnation and nutrient loading that leads to algal blooms. Read on for a more detailed explanation circa 2013.

    -Dan Best, Naturalist

    East Branch is shallow, and nutrient-rich because of the neighboring communities around it. But that makes the regular draining of the reservoir really noticeable at certain times of year. Because it’s so shallow and the shoreline is such a shallow grade, losing an inch of water looks like a foot of water.

    We drain East Branch relatively low because we need to keep the water flowing; if we let the lake stay stagnant, the water blooms green. We also need to keep the river flowing, and even just a little bit of release does that.

    We do algal testing at least once a month, and in the summer two to three times a month or weekly, depending on the numbers. We grab samples and count them, then send them to a lab to have toxins detected. Those results definitely affect how much water we decide needs to come out of the reservoir. The lower the algal counts, the less water; the higher the algal counts, the more water to keep the water moving.

    We also do what we can to keep the water from being too old, and do water quality monitoring. We almost always have something coming out of East Branch because we don’t want to impair the river downstream.

    So ultimately we release between 5 and 20 million gallons a day, and I’d say normally 15 million gallons a day. On average we release about 10 million gallons in the fall, and when it’s dryer, just because we don’t want to empty the lake but we’ve got to keep the water moving. So there’s always a seasonal dip in the fall.

    When we get that first melt, the first really big snow melt surge, or during crazy rain events, we have it open more to try to move that water before it’s flooding. The dam is old, so we don’t want to have a ton of water behind the dam.

    We don’t really use it so much for water supply, but more for storage and supplemental water. Water takes two days to get to Akron.

    -Jessica Glowczewski, City of Akron Watershed Superintendent

  • Who’s perched over there?

    Question

    what bird is this?

    Naturalist's Response

    Could be a hawk. But at such a distance, I can’t rule out crow or vulture. Best I can do with photo provided.

    -Dan Best, Naturalist

  • Is this poison hemlock?

    Question

    Hello, I found what I believe to be 2 poison hemlock plants by the creek in our yard in Russell. Could you help confirm the identification and provide any tips for removal? I read that this plant is highly toxic. One of them stands about 6 feet tall, they have clusters of white flowers at the top, and they are purple where the branches grow from the main stem. Thank you.

    Naturalist's Response

    This plant is Great Angelica, Angelica atropurpurea. Here is a link to Illinois wildflowers that has the best description and pictures. Angelica is common here and found in wet woodlands  and other moist areas.

    If you do a web search for the scientific name, you can find many more listings of this plant.

    -Denise Wolfe, Naturalist

  • About the BioBlitz at Veterans Legacy Woods

    Question

    Just read an article about the bioblitz at veterans legacy woods park, how can I learn more about what species/habitats were identified?

    Naturalist's Response

    Specialists in different fields will submit their lists to the Naturalist Resource Management Department and, once all of the lists are received, they will compile a comprehensive list.

    This can take several weeks or more, as the specialists will review their lists before sending them to us.

    If you check back in a few more weeks, we can have that information for you!

    -Denise Wolfe, Naturalist

  • A Western Bluebird in Ohio?

    Question

    I spotted this bird at Observatory Park and think it is a western bluebird. If it is why is it in Ohio?

    Naturalist's Response

    This is a very curious juvenile Eastern Bluebird. You can tell that it is a juvenile because of the speckling  all over its breast, sides and back. This is a common characteristic of all birds in the thrush family, of which the eastern bluebird is a member. The speckles will fade as the bluebird matures. The speckles may initially cause some uncertainty in identification. It is very interesting that this bird is looking into a hole in what appears to be concrete or mortar. Eastern bluebirds  are cavity nesters so I am wondering if this hole he’s looking into is a nest cavity. Very interesting.

    -Denise Wolfe, Naturalist

  • What was this caterpillar on the bike path?

    Question

    I came across this caterpillar on the bike path. It was about 4 inches long.

    Naturalist's Response

    Awesome find! That is the caterpillar of a Pandorus Sphinx moth – one of the most striking moths you will ever see! The caterpillar is full grown and has left its host plant and is searching for a place to burrow into the soil. It will overwinter underground as a pupae and emerge as an adult moth late next spring or early summer. Thanks for submitting!

    -Tami Gingrich, Naturalist

  • What kind of spider is this?

    Question

    Can you please provide an ID on this spider, taken outside of its apparent burrow? Do you think that the burrow was spider-excavated, or a hole not of its own making? Thanks.

    Naturalist's Response

    This is an awesome picture of a Field Wolf Spider (Tigrosa helluo). It is pretty common, and often found in buildings including houses. These are important predators. Here is some interesting information on these cool creatures from the Ohio Division of Natural Resources Common Spiders of Ohio Field Guide:

    • Because of their large size, field wolf spiders inspire considerable fear when discovered indoors. This fear is not justified, as they rarely bite, and only if provoked. Their bite is not considered dangerous.
    • The very narrow pale yellow line up the center of the dark brown carapace, continuing between the eyes, is distinctive of the field wolf spider.
    • Field wolf spiders may retreat into cracks in the soil or build shallow burrows.
    • More information on this and other spiders found in Ohio can be found here.

     

    -Nora Sindelar, Naturalist

  • A question about the lights

    Question

    More of a design q, but here it goes! Why do the shelters that keep lights on into the night not use red lights to help bats and other night active creatures like migrating birds? Seems like an easy switch over! (Photo is of new shelter at Frohring Meadows shelter with lights on after 8 p.m., taken with a cell phone.)

    Just curious!

    Naturalist's Response

    This according to our Planning Department: The lights at Frohring Meadows are full cut-off lights and under a roof. Their purpose is to allow rangers to see if people are up around the shelters after hours or in the morning (more for safety and security). Thank you for asking!

    -Sandy Ward, Marketing Coordinator

  • How many acres?

    Question

    How many acres are included in all Geauga Parks?

    Naturalist's Response

    Good question, and the answer is: Geauga Park District manages more than 10,500 acres in 25 open parks and preserves.

    -Sandy Ward, Marketing Coordinator

  • Help with a spider ID?

    Question

    I have a question. We recently moved into an apartment building in June, no sign of spiders at all. Now that is not to say I didn't bring one to our new home. However, I had noticed two of the same kind of spiders coming out from my built in dishwasher. They are brown/amber in color and they look like they have amber see through legs. I found another one by our garbage can in the kitchen and just found another one as I was sitting here this morning. I will try to capture one or at least photograph it. I also have a newborn and a 3 year old and I don't want them getting bit. Do you or can you identify this spider. I want to deter them not kill them to keep my family safe. I also am looking into natural eo but have to make sure they are safe for newborns and children to be around. I do have a trusted certified aroma therapist.

    Naturalist's Response

    A photo would be the best way for us to identify any spider that you have.

    The Ohio Division of Wildlife also has a publication of common spiders from Ohio which can be found here. You can look for the spider in there, but I would also encourage you to send us a picture so we can help you with the identification.

    -Naturalist Denise Wolfe