This Saturday I’ll be leaving the park office around noon heading out to Whipple State Nature Preserve’s Twin Leaf Trail. It’s a great early wildflower display with lots of beautiful dolomite rocks, sink holes and great views of the Ohio River. To find out more about Whipple visit this site http://www.ohiodnr.com/location/whipple/tabid/913/Default.aspx
This year marked the 4th annual Shawnee Litter Clean up. 187 hard-working volunteers put in 517 hours and picked up 3,660 pounds of litter. This event happens every year the last week of March and includes many sponsors who help make it possible. There’s alway a big rewards picnic on Saturday for all those who pitched in. Some people come year after year with their children and make a spring vacation out of it. A big thanks goes out from the Shawnee Crew to everyone who gets involved.
If you’re thinking of visiting Shawnee, you can’t go wrong. Spring is unfolding right before our eyes down here on the Ohio. Some of the mole salamanders have already migrated to their vernal pools and laid eggs.
This year marks Audubon’s 111th annual Christmas Bird Count. If you’ve never participated in a bird count, I suggest you find one happening in your neighborhood this holiday season and join in on the fun. This morning in Shawnee, we set out to take part in the count in freezing temperatures with at least 5 inches of snow blanketing the earth. This may not sound like loads of fun to many, but what beautiful sights we saw as Martin drove us along in his big 4X4 truck on snow covered forest roads crossing over bridges with beautiful trickling streams beneath and looking out over the vastness of Shawnee’s ridgetop majesty. We even climbed Ohio’s oldest firetower, built in the 1920′s, talk about a bird’s eye view, the 60′ firetower sits on top of a hill about 1,200′ asl. In a mere 9 miles and 2.5 hours we managed to find 21 species of birds foraging on Poison Ivy berries and working their way up and down tree trunks in search of little grubs. It was a great day for Woodpeckers, we got good looks at Pileateds, Downys, Hairys, Northern Flickers, Red-Bellieds and even a beautiful Red-Headed. The only thing we were lacking as far as woodpeckers went was the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker. We stopped every time we saw or heard a bird, because in the winter birds usually hang out in groups. The food sources are fewer and farther between, so wherever there is hard or soft mast the birds are there dining together. Christmas Bird Counts are a wonderful way to spend the day with family and friends. Have a happy holiday season everyone!
Don’t bee alarmed if you discover a swarm of fuzzy little bees hovering over holes in the yard while you’re out planting your garden or playing with the kids. Because solitary bees don’t have a big army backing them up like social bees, they are way less likely to sting. Also known as mining bees for their digging behavior, these gentle creatures excavate holes in the earth where they sleep for the winter and lay their eggs in the spring. Busy females are out collecting pollen and nectar to bring back to their burrows to feed their young while males are waiting outside hoping to find a mate. The mining bees are a largest group of bees with over 200 species.
Instead of killing these important little pollinators take a moment to enjoy observing their busy behavior. See what you can learn about them. Enjoy knowing that nature’s biodiversity is in your own backyard. You are a part of a much bigger world picture by providing habitat for an animal that pollinates flowers which provide the world with fruits and vegetables. But, if you just can’t tolerate the bees in your yard, change the habitat by adding native flowers and mulch where they are nesting. Mining bees like bare well drained soil. They will find a better home and you will bee happier.