Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chasing Trees

Recently asked if I had any hobbies or unusual interests, it came to me: I like to chase big trees. Most folks understand if you want to chase rare birds, or keep a list of plants or animals in your yard, county or state.  Although big trees don't present a challenge by moving around, the Old Growth trees are harder to find than one might imagine.

Since most of our American trees have been cut over once or twice by now, any area with 200 year old-plus trees is a stand-out worth protecting for future generations.

In Ohio, Johnson Woods near Orville is one of our better examples of an Old Growth Forest. The Clear Fork State Nature Preserve in Mohican Forest also has some very old White Pine and Eastern Hemlock which are protected from timbering.  Old Growth Forests are the rarest wooded habitat left in Ohio, with only a handful of places qualifying. Any grove of ancient trees is worth protecting for posterity.

Monterey Cypress at Carmel-on-the-Sea, California
Whenever I travel, I actively search for old trees.  One stunning example was this Monterey Cypress,  Cupressus macrocarpa in Caramel. These ocean-side giants have a silent beauty all of their own.  I recently read of an even more famous Monterey Cypress at Pebble Beach near the golf course.  You can bet I will seek it out on my next trip to California.

Click here to read the L.A. Times' story.

Redwood at Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park in Big Sur, California
 The Coastal Redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park near Big Sur are not the largest or most impressive Redwoods to be found.  However, they are the only Redwoods within my travel zone, and I was thrilled to commune with them.  Saying these giant trees are not "the largest" is much like complaining your line-backer is only 250 lbs.  That is still plenty big.

The only worthy complaint about trees this size is the difficulty they present in getting a meaningful photo.  One can either shoot the top or the trunk, but rarely can an amateur photographer make an actual reflection of their enormous size. 

Water Tupelo,  Nyssa aquatica at Congaree.

If seeking out big trees appeals to you, the Congaree National Park near Columbia, South Carolinia could be your Nirvana.  The giant Water Tupelo, Nyssa aquatica are one of the smaller "big trees" but the erratically shaped tops remind us of our much smaller  Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica which we know in Ohio.  Like many aquatic trees, the buttressed base of this Tupelo is enlarged and appears swollen.


A past State Champion Loblolly Pine in Congaree.

Once thought to be the largest Loblolly Pine, Pinus taeda in South Carolina, this grand tree stands at over 150 feet tall and is the former State Champion.  It is easily found, adjacent to the raised boardwalk at Congaree, where the new Grand Champ is off the beaten path.  A personal photo of mine shows that large knot to be slightly below my shoulder level. Figure that knot at five foot tall and the trunk at least 15 foot around.

       Muir Cypress, Corkscrew Swamp, Florida 
There are plenty of Bald Cypress, Taxoduim distichum to be found in Congaree, but my current favorite is located in Corkscrew Swamp, near Naples, Florida.  It is named after conservationist John Muir. Their are numerous Cypress marked along the boardwalk, each grander than the next.  This preserve is operated as an Audubon refuge, but I was too distracted by the trees to do much birding. Good thing I had Greg Miller along on this trip to keep me on track!

Eastern Cottonwood, Lakeside Ohio
Just this week I noted a grand dame in Lakeside, Ohio.  This Eastern Cottonwood, Populus deltoides is not our state champion, but it certainly attracted my admiration.  Again, it is so large one can scarcely take in the whole thing. One might guess this tree was on the shore of Lakeside long ago when the first Methodists came to town.  It is a worthy piece of natural history in this Historic Landmark and Chautauqua. 

Weedpicker as a Tree-hugger

Just for a size comparison I wrapped my arms around the curves of one half of this mighty giant.  It wouldn't qualify as a champion tree with the duel trunks. However, it is no less impressive to me.   It would take four or five people to successfully link hands around this tree. Cottonwoods are a relatively fast growing tree, so this is probably much younger than the smaller, but still impressive oaks and hickories found throughout Lakeside.

If trees could talk, we might gain a better perspective of all that the aged carbon-based life forms have witnessed.  Some were here when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Others were present for the French and Indian Wars, and during O. H. Perry's Battle for Lake Erie.

If we could listen to their experiences,  we might gain a little wisdom from these giant, living, breathing wonders.  I am humbled in their presence and always looking forward to meeting another big tree. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Rains



Rain dancing down forest leaves,
 to splatter soft on moss and rock.

Armed only with umbrella,
we risk the elements -with glee.

All grown up and still,
not enough sense to stay in.

Hiking suits me best during
Spring rains.

4/3/15  CBH


Saturday, March 28, 2015

April 2015 programs

The Weedpicker has been on the road, but I have returned home and I am currently catching up on projects and programs coming up this Spring.  This coming week I will be discussing Monarchs and their Flight for Life at  the Garden Club Ohio State Convention.  I am looking forward to seeing many of of my gardening friends at Deer Creek State Park Lodge on Tuesday. 

Monarchs at Whiskey Island - Cleveland, Ohio
photo by Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr.

The plight of the migratory Monarch is a topic that has been foremost on my mind since last fall's Cleveland Museum Of Natural History Conservation Symposium. We need to pay close attention to Monarchs, "Canaries in the Cornfield" as Dr. Lincoln Brower describes them.  They might be trying to tell us about the cost of easy agricultural fixes with herbicides and pesticides.  There could be substantial hidden costs, and that bill looks as though it is coming due.

April 6th, Lowe Volke Park  near Galion, Ohio we will have an open-to-the-public program on Native Plants Add Drama sponsored by the Earth, Wind & Flowers Garden Club. We will be  meeting at 7:00 p.m.  We hope you will come out and join the group for a friendly evening !


EARTH DAY!  What better day to talk about land preservation and nature preservation?  Come out ad join us in North West Ohio at the W.W. Knight Preserve.  all the detail are on the flier above.


And if you are in Northern/Mid-Ohio come see the Rocky River Watershed Council's event.
What's the buzz?  (Tell me what's happening?)

This will be a sneak preview of my program for the Mid-West Native Plant Conference in Dayton this July.

There are so many good organizations working throughout Ohio to promote natural areas and people connecting with nature.  Come out and join us for an educational evening!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mohican Thaw

A hemlock gently hangs above a thaw-swollen river.  Rivulets of snow-melt are coursing down the sandstone embankments of the Mohican Gorge, filling our river to over-flow.

Eastern Hemlock, place holder for the Mohican's Clear Fork river bank.
Riparian trees are place holders, against the currents of time and water.  They are soil stabilizers and embankment safe-guards, leading the fight against erosion and siltation of our state listed Scenic River.
Jim Davidson studies lichens along the trail.
My friend Jim Davidson and I took a spring-thaw hike along the Hemlock Gorge trail.  We didn't get far,  for the melt water soon made the path impassable.  But we studied both the lichens and trees along the way.
Smokey-eye Boulder Lichen
This four inch lichen, commonly found on rocks had discrete spots he called apothecia, which are gray-blue in this species.  This particular lichen often grows in conjunction with mosses. Jim believed this to be Smokey-eye Boulder Lichen, which is one of the lichen featured in ODNR's excellent new booklet: Common Lichens of Ohio.  I recommend that you call 1-800-WILDLIFE to order your own free copy.  They will mail it right to your door!

Clear Fork State Nature Preserve
Next we ventured to the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve.  This piece of Mohican is most heavily protected from timbering, and it has some old growth trees. Jason Larson will be leading one of our Flora-Quest trips into this very special preserve. His trip will also feature Hog-Hollow, a lovely hike that follows a stream down the hillside to the river.

Joe and Jim stand next to a massive White Pine.
White pine was native to this area and many excellent examples remain along the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve trail. Breath deeply.  This place is good for both body and soul.  It is rather mind-expanding to be in the presence of these giant trees.  It is also pretty awesome to spend a day with giants the likes of Joe and Jim, too!


An over-the-shoulder look as we leave the preserve.  It is almost remarkable how the Hemlocks condition the air in this woods.  It generally feels a good ten degrees cooler than the surrounding woods and reminds us of a hike in Canada.  This is where you will experience the importance of our evergreen Hemlock, a key-stone species.

Turkey Vultures
Oh yeah, these locals said they can't wait to meet you, too!  In the summer, both Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures hang out by the Pleasant Hill Dam and enjoy drafting-off the upward air currents created by the rock formations and the dam.

Feel free to stop-by and have lunch with them, but it is B.Y.O.C.  Bring your own carrion!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Adams County Birding- Amish style.

Adams County Ohio is known for quaint country roads, patch-work quilt barns and unique flora.

It is as far south as you can get without plunking into the Ohio River. It lies between Portsmouth and Dayton.  Generally it is about a month ahead -weather wise- from the rest of the state.  Some might say it is a decade or two behind, in other ways.


 Country roads are likely to wind along creek bottoms and gullies, until crossed by a bridge.  Likely as not, it may be a covered bridge. This scenic crossing is in Harshaville.

The Murphin Inn

 There is a country Inn on Murphin Ridge Road where hospitality is not a lost art form.  The food is excellent and the comfy rooms are well appointed.


Adams County also hosts a great birding event each year.  Folk art abounds and several vendors display their goods, from bird feeders to paintings and they offer a variety of  authors and educational exhibits.

Emcee- Jim McCormac and speaker- Cheryl Harner
Jim McCormac, well-known speaker, author and bird expert was our emcee for the Amish Birding Symposium.  He gave one of these beautiful hand-painted plaques to each of the speakers.  I was the first up, presenting a program on Birding by Habitat and Habitats for Birds.  We got a little conservation message in as well. 

The Nature Conservancy's Dave Mehlman
 Dave Mehlman gave a wonderful program on bird conservation with an emphasis on birds and migration.  Birds need protection on their breeding habitats and on their wintering grounds.


Amish Birding Symposium packs the house with about 300 folks each year.  It is a high tech event, run on a generator and a prayer. Folks don't seem to mind and are content to enjoy the rustic atmosphere.

Katie Fallon speaks on Cerulean Warblers.
 Katie Fallon joined us from West Virgina to speak on the topic of her book, Cerulean Blues.  She follows one of America's most beloved and declining warblers.  It is no secret mountain top removal coal mining has destroyed many of the mountains where Ceruleans were known to breed.

Dave FitzSimmons also gave an engaging program on photography and offered several books for sale.  My apologies to him for not getting my own shot during his program. I must have been too wrapped up in the program to think about it!

Thanks to the committee who works so hard to host this event, especially against the odds of this years difficult weather. The snow piled up, but it was not too big of a challenge for the men and women who shoveled snow, prepared the meals and set up endless chairs and tables for the crowd.

Killdeer in the snow covered fields.
There were plenty of jokes about not being able to bird at Adams Lake due to the iced over conditions.  No one seemed to be in a hurry to birdwatch in the cold, anyways.  The ten to twelve inches of snow which fell just days before the event had evenly coated the county in a magical blanket of white.

But spring is coming, as foretold by the Killdeer  working the fields as we pulled out of town on Sunday morning.  

It cannot be far away now that the rains have come to mid-Ohio and as much as I like the snow, it is time for it to be gone. After all, spring always follows the Amish Birding Symposium.