Ilex opaca (American Holly)
Leathery evergreen leaves, 2-4 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, with a sharp-pointed tip and spiny-toothed margins (occasionally smooth). Growing up to 50 ft tall, this slow growing, shade tolerant tree has thin, gray, warty bark. Branches forming a pyramidal crown. Light green/greenish white flowers. If both the male and female trees are present, the flowers will produce the bright red berries that adorn so many living rooms this time of year.
American Holly is native to the eastern/south eastern US. There are many different varieties of holly (ie winterberry, possumhaw, even Yerba mate - Ilex paraguariensis) as well as different cultivars of each species. The very similar looking English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) has become a noxious species along the West Coast of the US but doesn't seem to be able to grow well in the Eastern States.
The wood has been used for many, many, different things throughout history: inlays in cabinetwork, carvings, rulers, handles.
The berries were used by the Native Americans for buttons and to barter.
Holly is toxic to humans but birds and woodland mammals enjoy the bitter berries.
Holly is rich with symbolism
Romans would send boughs of holly and gifts to their friends during Saturnalia*.
In Britain, people decorated their homes with holly in the winter to invite sylvan spirits to shelter there.
Christian legend says that holly sprang from the footsteps of Jesus, its thorns and red berries representing his suffering and blood.
Symbolism in heraldry, holly represents truth.
NeoPagan lore, the Holly King rules the dark half of the year (from the autumn to spring equinox) being strongest at midwinter, his counterpart and adversary the Oak King is the inverse.
The Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life, thought to have magical powers. Cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck but hanging the plant in homes was believed to bring good luck and protection.
Holly is also believed to protect homes against lightning strikes.
*Saturnalia: Ancient Roman holiday to celebrate the God Saturn, held December 17-23rd. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn and a public banquet, followed by gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival-like atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, social status was equal, gag gifts or small figurines were given.
The poet Catullus called it "the best of days".
I don’t know about you, but this autumn, though it has been one of beautiful and long lasting foliage, one tree has stood out among all the others…
The American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua L) goes by many names: Sweetgum, redgum, sapgum, star leaf-gum, bilsted.
As it is found in the Eastern United States from Connecticut south to Central America, it’s likely you’ve encountered this tree before and probably remember it’s unique seed pods - round and woody with spiney tips and scattered all over.
The leaves are palmately lobed with five to seven points resembling a star.
In the autumn the leaves turn a brilliant range of color from pale yellow through bright orange all the way to a deep burgundy or purple. The leaves are very sensitive to frost so if it frosts before changing, they turn directly brown.
Native Americans used parts of this tree, especially the gum, bark, and root, for antidiarrheal uses, dermatological aid, gynecological aid, sedative, and as a fever reducer.
A balsamic oleo-resin is formed when the inner bark of the tree becomes wounded or gashed, called American styrax. This historically has been chewed as a sweet, natural gum, but has found other uses in soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, adhesives, lacquers, and incense.
The wood is used for lumber, veneer, and plywood and is often used for cabinets, furniture, barrels, baskets, and interior woodwork.
Seeds are a food source for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks .
As the leaves change and fall, the fog rises in the mornings, and the air turns crisp and sweet, we know fall is here.
Although the weather has yet to make up its mind as to if it's still summer or not, these cooler mornings have me feeling the fall. This is one of my favorite times to think about how the summer's growth has changed me for the better and to let that which does not serve me any longer fall away (see what I did there?).
Today is a great day to consider how you've changed this year, how you want to grow in the future, and what you want/need to let go of to make that happen. Sipping a warm apple cider while doing so is advisable!
Observations: A heavy rain flooded parts of the boardwalk, but let up just long enough for me to take this photo. The fungi and slugs were having a great time soaking up all the much needed rain. I made it to the bend at the end of this image before the rain started in a heavy downpour that didn't let up for about 30 minutes. By that time I turned around and made it back to the car, wading in murky brown rushing water all the way.
Although damp and rather uncomfortable, there's just something beautiful about being in the woods in the rain.
Sunday, 8am | Overcast and rainy | ~67* | it's perfect
The best kind of day is the day you wake up early, full of energy, nothing on the calendar, and in good health. Today was that morning.
Rainy walks in the forest have a way of revealing more than you might otherwise notice. The sounds - rain or maybe footsteps. The foliage - how many different shades of green are there? I don't know but you can find hundreds as you walk along. Mosses glow. A heavy warm musty fragrance blankets everything.
Click through the slideshow to see what I found from the prairie, down the switchback hill, across the run, and along the Spangler trail.
Not quite as catchy a title as Delia Owen's wildly popular book but I'd still read it.
A fair amount of my youth was spent playing in creeks and 'discovering' all the fascinating creatures that lived there. It was always a real treat to come across a crawdad/crayfish/mud bug (all different common names for Cambaridae) and watch it dart from stone to stone in the shallow waters. 30 years later I 'discover' them again but this time on land!
From a whisper to a roar the forest, refreshed after a long winter, wakes up.
Nine months has passed. Below follow how the September sun moves out of frame in October. October, she's the line, the change, the balance (the Libra if you're into astrology), she moves the season along with vigor leaving November to greet us with crisp leaves, crisp breeze, and an appreciation for the scale of the trees in the forest. December, January, February, each bring their subtle changes but also remind us to be still and calm, stop looking (for flowers, plants, animals) they won't be found, be still. March hints at warmth, the sun moves back into view, the first blades of the spring beauties emerge from under the leaf litter. April from afar looks much the same, this is a trick, look closer, closer, much closer, oh yes, the earliest of the spring wildflowers have started to emerge; blooms of coltsfoot, spring beauty, leaves of wood anemone and the 'shark fins' of the trout lily are now found all over. April, 6 months after October's big show, will not be out competed, the wildflowers start and grow and multiply until the beauty of the forest floor is a blanket of new growth so stunning it will bring you to tears (maybe that's just me). Now we are at May, the early spring ephemerals have mostly all bloomed and faded and now the leaves come out, diffusing the light, dappling everything. Now we grow into a new world, new but one we know well.
It only takes one day.
The rain and winds yesterday whipped and stirred and woke up the entire forest.
Just like that, we now have early blooming wildflowers.
Flip through to see what's growing, what's in bloom, and what's yet to come!
Marsh Marigold (above) - vs - Lesser Celandine (below)
Lesser Celandine can be found in open woods, waste areas, meadows, and floodplains preferring sandy soil. It closely resembles the Marsh Marigold and is often misidentified as such.
To tell the difference between the two it's important to know the native Marsh Marigold has only 5-9 petals where as the Lesser Celandine has 8-12, and the leaves of the Marsh Marigold are round sometimes kidney shaped where as the Lesser Celandine which has more of a heart shape.
Marsh Marigolds tend to stay in small bunches and do not have the same sort of underground tuber system that the Lesser Celandine have.
If left to go it will completely blanket the area displacing many native plant species, especially those with the similar spring-flowering life cycle. Some examples of native spring ephemerals which become choked out by the Lesser Celandine include bloodroot, wild ginger, spring beauty, harbinger-of-spring, twinleaf, squirrel-corn, trout lily, trilliums, Virginia bluebells, and many, many others. These plants provide critical nectar and pollen for native pollinators, and fruits and seeds for other native insects and wildlife species. Because Lesser Celandine emerges well in advance of the native species, it has a developmental advantage which allows it to establish and overtake areas rapidly.
But have you ever really sat with mosses?
Especially this time of year with their bright rich greens and yellows, the sporophytes rising high.
If you look close, there are even some hornworts ribboning through the moss!
Consider this your invitation to slow down and look closer this weekend.
Tomorrow is the first day of spring, the Spring Equinox.
The change of each season is a great time to take a moment to reflect over the past season.
It has been a strange winter - extreme in both temperature and precipitation, not a peaceful calm winter of gentle snows and quiet moments. While I longed for the respite that comes with a calm season, sometimes we need the difficult times to appreciate the good and to learn to maneuver and grow.
At this point I could insert any number of cliches but really, life is hard, growth is hard, some days are so difficult to get through, but life is also beautiful, hope can be found around every corner, joy will return when you least expect it.
There's a balance to it all, a yin and yang dance to various degrees.
But enough waxing philosophical, what signs of spring have you been noticing?
Over the past month we've been watch the migratory waterfowl move back in to the area. Pintails, mergansers, and ringneck ducks speckling the wetlands.
In the woods, the tiniest early spring wildflowers begin to bloom. Here we found a Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) at Crall Woods in Ashland.
Many trees have started blooming already, the robins are growing abundant, and the days are growing longer.
Although it's snowing today, tomorrow brings spring and all the hope of a new season.
Let me know in the comments what signs of spring you're seeing.
The common Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) goes by various other names, coughwort, hallfoot, horsehoof, foalswort, fieldhove, bullsfoot, donnhove, and in France Pas d'âne.
One of the earliest flowers to bloom, coltsfoot's flowers superficially resemble the dandelion, upon further inspection you will clearly be able to tell the difference by size (flowers are much smaller) the stem (much thicker, scaly, and taller) and the leaves are either nonexistent when blooming or the full round leaves (resembling a colt's foot) where as the dandelion have oblong sharp lobed leaves.
Flowers can be found blooming February - June.
Originally from Europe, settlers introduced the coltsfoot to America for medicinal purposes. As a medicinal herb, coltsfoot has been used for many purposes: cough dispeller, in treating asthma, bronchitis, and other respirator ills.
In the past in Paris, the coltsfoot flowers would be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecaries shop.
An extract of fresh leaves can be used for making cough drops or hard candy, and its dried leaves can be steeped for a tea.
(pregnant, young, and elderly should take caution using this herb)
In many years, this day is still held in silence, often under a blanket of snow. The long winter drawing to a close, the daylight growing stronger with each passing day but the cold wind still cutting through.
Right on schedule the skunks are awake and looking for a mate - a good way to remember this is to imagine skunks look for a valentine (mid Feb love is in the air and it's the smell of skunks). Squirrels have been changing their chattering and can be found gathering nest materials, yep, squirrels are mating too.
The redwing blackbirds have started singing and chasing competitors away from their perch and the migratory waterfowl have been making their way through the area.
A walk in the woods in early spring shows a quiet hidden world, for at first glance everything is bare and brown. The trees are empty, the ground still covered in leaves, mud covers everything else.
Then you sit. A fallen tree as a bench. You close your eyes and you start to listen. At first you hear the wind in the trees, sandhill cranes call as they fly overhead, then the small trickle as the water seeps through the soil, sounds of small insects moving just under the leaf litter.
Eyes open you can now see the tiny red velvet mite walking over leaves (no they won't hurt you). Those leaves are just barely covering the emerging green leaves of the spring beauty. Next to that you notice a stalk sticking out of the ground, scaly it looks almost like an asparagus -it's not- it is one of the earliest wildflowers - the Coltsfoot! As you watch the Coltsfoot, looking around for more, you spot a snake sunning on a branch nearby -an eastern racer? Knowing there are very few venomous snakes in Ohio you sit and observe it slowly warming in the morning sun. Respectfully you give it space and head back to your car.
Sometimes when I say take a walk, what I mean is go outside but be still. Walk slow, quiet your mind, breathe and observe.
All this happened within 20 feet from the parking area.
Once every couple of years we get the opportunity to explore frozen waterfalls.
Bundle up, walk with caution, and do take the opportunity!
I woke up early this frozen morning of Feb 4th, temperature read a crisp -7* as I was walking out the door.
This is a sight I've been wanting to see for years, but the weather or time or just thinking about the cold temperatures has kept me from doing it.
I arrived at the first fall about an hour after sunrise. The path to the creek was covered with enough snow to add traction but attempting to descend the hill following the normal path down to the falls was nothing but a thick sheet of ice. I slid on my bum about 1/4 of the way down before resigning that that was a terrible idea. Back at the top of the hill I noticed a set of footprints following the hill path, so I followed them over and down to a (sort of) safer way down the slope.
(I feel I should note here, wear lots of layers, proper shoes, and a sturdy hiking pole - all these things make the biggest difference!)
This first fall was pretty solid when I arrived, a light trickling sound behind the ice. After a few loud booms which I assumed were passing trucks, I realized it was the ice crashing down warmed just enough by the morning sun!
The cold began to sting my cheeks (though totally covered) so I went back to the car and warmed up on my way to the second waterfall.
By the time I reached the second fall the sun was gone again and the wind cut across the field sharply. This path was much less icy, even leading to the magical realm that is behind the falls. The water was moving much faster here creating interesting ice sculptures and sounds - check out the video here.
After a couple of hours exploring the frozen falls it was time to warm up and make my way home.
To see a familiar sight in a new light is always a great treat. I'm glad I braved the cold to experience this.
I hope you push yourselves out of your comfort zones and explore somewhere familiar but in a new light.
Beginning in late winter, the skunk cabbage is the first life to emerge from the cold snow covered ground. Through rapid growth, its cellular respiration actually melts the snow around it reaching up to 60 degrees Fahrenheit! The skunk cabbage gets its name from the smell emitted from the spathe (reddish brown thing) generally after disruption or bruising. This smell is important as it attracts the flies that will then pollinate the spadix (round yellow ball that sits inside the spathe: not shown). By late spring, a tight roll of bright green leaves emerge from next to the spathe, slowly unraveling into huge green cabbage-like leaves that will blanket the wet and wooded area in which it lies.
January: Named from the Roman god Janus, who is represented with two faces looking in opposite directions - as retrospective to the past and prospective to the future.
A new year, let it start slow - although this year is warmer than most, soon the cold, muted snow will come, then bit by bit will begin unfolding new traits, the rains come, a flower opens, the skunk emerges from its slumber.
While it's easy to get caught up thinking about the future, don't forget to pause and enjoy this ever so brief moment of stillness.
Let yourself stand out in the elements today, breathe in the cool stillness, only now, right now, on this day (whenever you're reading this) this breath is just for you and only you and will never be exactly like this, these scents, these sensations, ever again. How full yet fleeting a mindful moment can be.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2023.
We are fast approaching the darkest day of the year.
Have you sat quietly with nature and listened?
There's a message out there for you:
"Slow down, rest"
Now is not the time for doing.
Now is the time for quiet reflection and gratitude.
Now is not sowing, growing, or even reaping.
Now is rest.
As we end one cycle, the Solstice arrives and as that brief moment passes a new time of growth begins.
Take these next few days to slowly walk or sit peacefully in reflection and find a gratitude for this past growing season.
While out in the woods this autumn I was overwhelmed with sadness, all the trees I knew lay in mangled messes. The sights once so familiar were alien. So I sat with them and began to look around. The newly opened understory was full of teeny tiny oaks, finally with enough light to stretch up and grow.
I will never know those oak saplings as the old majestic beings that their mother trees were, but they will grow and generations from now they will be known.
A quiet settles over the forest
Only the sound of wind in the trees
shaking and rattling
the gentle creak of trees resting together
Around the bend squirrels rustle through the leaves
looking for the last fallen acorns
A squeak brings the eyes up
where stealthily a nuthatch climbs
to hide food in the heavy bark
of the old oak tree
The leaves have all fallen,
the sun sets early now,
winter will soon be upon us.
As the sky sheds it's first flakes of snow, your first instinct may be to lock yourself inside with a warm cup of tea and put away your hiking boots until spring. Do not do this! (except maybe the tea, yum!)
Hiking in the winter can be just as enjoyable as any other time as long as you are properly dressed and prepared for any and all the elements.
Honestly, until the past few years I dreaded winter, I hated not being outside, I felt my body deteriorating due to lack of physical activity (sure I could go to the gym but ugh), the lack of natural light would stoke the flames of winter depression, but most of all I could not stand being cold.
All of these problems I was able to fix in one easy step.... dressing properly for the outdoors!
Once I made this one little change, winter was no longer a daunting task; being outside, getting my muscles moving, enjoying the sharp winter sun, all helped alleviate the seasonal depression. Before I knew it I was enjoying winter hiking just as much as summer. Winter posed a challenge to me, all the trails I could fly through in the warm months were once again challenging, I had to push myself physically and mentally through drifts of snow, up icy hills, down steep slopes.
Tips for safely enjoying winter hiking.
And just like that we arrived in the heart of autumn.
Observations: Sunny, mid 60s
Trees are mostly bare - only the beech and the upper canopy of the oaks are still holding leaves.
All around the sound of crunchy leaves falling on crunchy leaves. I had to turn around numerous times to see if someone was walking behind me (crunch crunch) but it was always just the sounds of the leaves falling.
This is the time of year when you can use your nose to determine what type of forest you're in - how different the oak dominated woods smell from the maple dominated from the beech dominated. Follow your nose down the path.
Looking around, all that remains green are the evergreen forbs - the cat brier, the avens, the Christmas ferns.
Nuthatches and squirrels join the chorus of falling leaves - a seasonal soundtrack
Best bird sighting happened right at the hickory tree in the photo. A brown creeper darted up and around the trunk!
A beautiful autumn day, clouds mixing with sun, the leaves turning bright yellow, red, and orange, a lovely day for a drive to Amish country.
Tucked away in the south-west corner of Wayne County, Kidron is an unincorporated village, home to the Sonnenberg Heritage Center (Swiss Mennonite), Lehman's Hardware, and an auction barn. The newest attraction that I've been hearing about is their community park.
I hate to admit I was skeptical... a community park with baseball fields, playgrounds, rec. center is rarely where you go for hiking (although Freedlander Park in Wooster does have a nice trail).
Upon arrival I drove around for a while, two driveways with two lanes make it easy to navigate, and if you miss a turn, you can likely find another loop to take you back. In the front are playgrounds, facilities (restrooms) are housed in a building not far, beyond that is the baseball diamond, follow the lane back and you'll come across the community center and the recreation center, and there, all the way in the back, across the lane from the centers is a sign "Covered Bridge and Hiking Trails"
Good enough! I park in a paved parking spot, but the gravel lane leads to hiking closer to the covered bridge. Short trails lead to a rustic walking path, parallel to a horse path. This leads down a slight decline to the covered bridge. On left and on right are picnic areas and maintained bird feeders.
From here it gets interesting. Blazes on trees lead you through the woods, winding along an almost labyrinth-like pathway. It's easy to let the mind rest while listening to the wind in the leaves. At one point it leads next to a cornfield letting beautiful autumn light through.
The leaves were absolutely gorgeous. As it goes with this time of year, most of the understory plants have faded back, but it looks like it might be a nice place to view wildflowers in the spring.
The only downside has been the trails are not mapped and many lead in different directions. There are single blazes (usually saying "this is the trail") and double blazes (usually saying "the trail splits here") and once I noticed a triple blaze. Without a map this was confusing, but lucky for me I had most of the day to explore.
I plan on going back and gps my walk next time so I have an idea as to how it actually goes.
All in all a really nice rustic trail, I recommend checking it out if you're in the area and have some time to spend.
The address is 4434 Kidron Road, Kidron, OH
From September to October
So far the biggest change is the position of the sun.
Although further down the trail the maples are turning bright red and a pair of deer foraged next to the trail.
Be mindful of October, blink and all the leaves will turn!
Get out and enjoy!
Let's enjoy Johnson's Woods and watch how it changes in the span of a year.
Still warmth in the air
The forest floor plants are dying back
The progression from summer to fall has begun
Soon the bareness of the forest floor will make its way to the tips of the trees
But not just yet
From the tops of the trees comes the sound of rain
The sound of rain on a clear sunny day can only mean one thing
The caterpillars are crunching munching the leaves up above
The sound is post digestion
When looking up, try not to gape with your mouth wide open
The sun began to set
Chipmunks with so much to say made off to their dens(?)
A distant ‘whoo cooks for you’ echos through the trees
The majestic ancient trees
The old growth forest that remains
And will grow and change, grow and change
How many generations of barred owls have hatched, fledged, and nested in these trees
I’ve met two
Where the canopy has cracked open
And the branches have rested
The mosses, fungi, lichen, and beetles reclaiming them in the name of the earth
Late summer plants are making their final stand
Jewelweed and nettle, smartweed and beechdrops, knotweed and turtlehead
Soon enough they’ll join the spring beauties and the violets, the trillium and the trout lily
Where they rest
as fallen seeds
as hidden tubers
as corms and bulbs
Until March when the calls of the thrush
For now though, let’s walk through September
One step, one day
And appreciate the changes happening right before our eyes
Just on the outskirts of the little village in Ohio called Killbuck is a vast network of marshes, swamps, and forests, all part of the Killbuck Watershed.
Through grants and incredibly generous donors, 152 acres have been preserved in what is now called the Killbuck Swamp.
August 27th we had the great opportunity to explore this area by taking part in the Arc of Appalachia's Tree People program. Randy Carmel, President of the Killbuck Watershed Land Trust led the way.
We started from the village of Killbuck a little after 10am. Eight of us gathered together, packed lunches, water, and bug spray in tow ready to learn about trees as well as explore this new preserve. As we walked across the bridge we could look down at the Killbuck Creek; from around this point heading north, the Creek has been dredged and straightened leading to many ecological and geographical problems, not only does the water move too fast to provide the habitat needed for many aquatic animals, the speed also causes erosion and frequent flooding. On the south side, where the Creek has been allowed to bend and curve, hosting proper floodplains, an incredible community of plants and animals thrive including (discovered in 1990) the only reproducing population of the rarest freshwater mussels, the cat's paw pearly mussel (Episblasma obliquata obliquata).
The purple cat's paw pearlymussel is one of our rarest freshwater mussels and it was truly on the brink of extinction when listed in 1990. At the time of listing, a few live adults could be found but they were too old to reproduce. We thought that the species was functionally extinct. In 1994, surveyors found a reproducing population in Killbuck Creek, Ohio. Since that time, successful captive propagation efforts have lead to multiple reintroductions of the species into streams where it historically occurred. (Source USFWS)
Beyond the creek we learned the keys to identifying different trees - how the leaves are arranged, opposite, whorled, alternate, as well as singular or compound, and leaf margins.
This led us down an old oil well road (well is now capped) the first part of the Killbuck Swamp Preserve. All around, the squeaky splash of leopard frogs jumping out of the way greeted us. As ever my passion, the wildflowers had me intrigued, was this cup plant really growing in the wild?!! Indeed it was.
This path led to an open floodplain which at one point had been drained and farmed.
Tiles removed, the marsh makes a quick rebound recreating an area rich in biodiversity.
Through the trees you can see the spadderdock down below, leading out to a swamp. In the far distance the hill leads to the old quarry.
Randy Carmel explains how the glaciers formed this area and the braided streams (sometimes known as oxbow swamps).
Back on the road we have a great view of the wetlands as we make our way to the big hill and journey up to the quarry.
Crossing the road, we come across a dilapidated shack (soon to become a parking area, you can help by volunteering here), finding the path, we weave our way up the steep hill, past boulders, ferns, mosses.
Always remembering to take your time, stop to look at things.
Eventually we made our way to the quarry road.
Learning about hop horn -vs- ironwood, the smaller trees, as well as admiring the much larger beech and tulip trees. One of the most incredible finds was an actual living American Chestnut!!! We learned how to identify the blight (bright orange inside the bark grooves) which it had, but somehow this species was growing pretty strong!
On top of the ridge we stopped for lunch before continuing on to the quarry.
The quarry, now reclaimed by nature, hosts an incredible array of plants, mosses, and lichen (and so much more I'm sure).
At the far end of the quarry, we see where the work stopped. This was due to the variegation in the stone which (though I find it beautiful) was thought to be of inferior quality.
We made our way back down another old quarry drive we stop and admire a massive tulip tree. Winding through the understory we make our way back to the dilapidated shack (soon to be a parking area) and journey back to our cars.
A white turtlehead plant (Chelone glabra) grows roadside. I'm so in awe of the native wildflowers that still grow wild in this area.
Once we all gathered back at the vehicles, we decided to make a quick caravan trip to another natural area, part of the Preserve, just a few miles away. From Killbuck, you take 60 south until you see a parking area on the right at a curve in the road (yes, I know, those are not the clearest directions) see screenshots. Pull off and park, then follow the path (south is currently clear, north will be easier to see once the leaves are down) it was recommended to wait until mosquito season is over, but this path is open to the public and is great for birdwatching as it travels along an ecotone (this area is between the marsh and swamp, and open prairie and sometimes wooded area) - if I remember correctly this area is to be called Crane Pond due to the nesting sandhill cranes (I could be mistaken, please let me know in the comments).
I am so looking forward to going back to explore this area in the different seasons. Although it is located in Holmes County, it's a quick 36 minute drive from Wooster and well worth the trip.
I want to thank the Arc of Appalachia for hosting the Tree People event - "Thirty tree instructors teaching tree ecology and tree ID led field trips at 30 locations, attended by 300 students! " Learn more about the areas they preserve, events they host, and all they do at the link HERE.
A HUGE thank you to Randy Carmel for leading our hike and the Killbuck Watershed Land Trust for preserving this incredible area and making it available to the public.
You can learn all about what KWLT does HERE
Volunteers are needed - sign up HERE
Donations are also needed to secure lands like these - donate HERE
We are in a unique position where on one side we have large open fields (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc) and the other side a decent into a valley of rich wetlands.
This has made birdwatching incredibly interesting.
A few weeks ago, right on schedule, the honking began. The next day it was nearly a roar. That's right, the Canada geese are back!
Our unique position has put us directly along their flight path; in the morning they rise from the valley with the fog, in the evening they return from eating in the fields.
I've been especially fascinated by their whiffling behavior.
Watch the video below to see what I mean - they tumble comically out of the sky, briefly.
About whiffling in general, this is what Wikipedia has to say:
"Whiffling is a term used in ornithology to describe the behavior whereby a bird rapidly descends with a zig-zagging, side-slipping motion. Sometimes to whiffle, a bird flies briefly with its body turned upside down but with its neck and head twisted 180 degrees around in a normal position. The aerodynamics which usually give a bird lift during flying are thereby inverted and the bird briefly plummets toward the ground before this is quickly reversed and the bird adopts a normal flying orientation. This erratic motion resembles a falling leaf, and is used to avoid avian predators or may be used by geese (family Anatidae) to avoid a long, slow descent over an area where wildfowling is practised."
While watching these geese last year and more closely this year, a pattern is beginning to emerge.
In the first few days, the geese make their way to the wetlands in the evening (roughly between 8 and 8:30pm), some in small groups, many in large. As they reach the tree line, where the view opens and the wetlands (down the hill in the valley) become visible, the whiffling begins until the speeds have been adjusted and a proper land can be made.
As the days go by, the whiffling mostly subsides; they've learned the landmarks and where the water is and when to slow down.
Some unchecked and untested theories of mine:
Are the ones who whiffle a lot yearlings just learning the area?
Do geese get distracted then say "oh there's the water!" and roll down the valley?
Is it just fun and the geese re converging with their old friends are playing?
I have no way to know, but it's fun to think about.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.