Thursday, April 8, 2010

10 - OCVN Week 6

Ahhhh - finally some danger and excitement! Chris Bauer from the Greater Cincinnati Herpetological Society spoke to us at the Caesar Creek State Park day lodge on snakes and reptiles. But Chris did more than just tell - he showed - bringing several of his friends with him.
We petted a black rat snake and had to guess which frog was the bullfrog and which was the green frog (both looked green).
Turns out the green frog has a ridge line across the side of his body. We even got to meet some bad boys - the garter snakes. Yes, according to Chris they can bite when handled or spray their musky oil on a handler's body. Chris was hoping to get sprayed so we could smell the musk, but these two garter snakes were friendly, neither biting nor spraying.

According to Chris there are NO COTTONMOUTHS (water mocassins) in Ohio,unless someone brings them into the state as an exotic pet. We do have copperheads and Chris brought a small female out of a sytrofoam box using a pole that had a hook on the end. The copperhead was very well behaved, barely moving, just hanging coiled up from the hook. We didn't pet this one. We learned that all the poisonous snakes in Ohio are pit vipers. If biten, go to the hospital, don't attempt first aid, because it is ineffective against their bites (timber rattlesnake and masssasauga).

After the talk and live show we went outside and walked down the steep muddy trail behind the lodge to Caesar Creek lake.
Logs were overturned and rocks lifted, looking for frogs and salamanders. Not many were found. Then we had lunch and drove to the Caesar Creek nature center for our afternoon program.

Erin and Aaron, the two naturalists who work at the center, taught us about aquatic habitats - rivers, lakes, ponds, wetlands and ditches - while we sat on picnic tables outside. Conveniently, a pond sits adjacent to the picnic area. We actually re-enacted the pond program that the naturalists present to grade school kids. We were given sheets with pictures of macro invertebrates that live in a pond. Each person took a butterfly type net and several people had jugs filled with water. We dipped our nets into the pond and then dumped the more interesting contents into the jugs.

After pulling up twigs and nothing but water at one location, I moved to the other side of the pond. I saw Julia, my presentation partner, had some tadpoles in her jug. She told me to stir my net around the leaves and mud on the edge of the water. I did this and WOW - I caught a frog! How lucky that I was standing next to a frog expert. She said I had an American toad. He was brown with warts all over his back. His tadpoles looked like small, thin, black pieces of paper an eighth of an inch wide and a quarter inch long. I eventually put my toad back in the water. While I was standing on that side of the pond a classmate pointed out the sound of a spring peeper in the woods - it sounded just like a little bird going "Peep, Peep, Peep." But a peeper is a tiny frog.

Everyone took their jugs or the contents of their nets back to a table with four pans of water. We dumped our pond findings in the pans. Then we identified what we had - snails, water spiders, tadpoles, mayfly nymphs, stone fly nymphs, water penny larvae and dragonfly. Based on the aquatic life living in the pond, we determined this pond was fairly clean. However, you could see an invasive plant growing on both ends of the pond - the nasty yellow flag iris. Once this plant takes over, the pond will be starved for oxygen and the pollution lever will rise.

After our pond exercise, we took a tour of the nature center. I petted a corn snake, which I learned are very docile and make excellent pets. A chocolate rabbit and some mice live at the center. There were plants growing, a nice rock collection, and a stuffed deer, owl and several other animals. We ended the day playing a game outside.

All in all, our best day yet, in my opinion!

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you're learning all kinds of interesting stuff. I didn't know garter snakes sprayed. I'm seeing a book in your future....