Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cold Trend Continues

Today marks the 16th day in a row that temperatures have failed to reach the freezing mark in eastern Ohio.  Though temperatures have been below average for much of the month, snowfall has been on the light side with the greatest twenty-four hour accumulation being less than 2 inches.  A warm-up is forecast for later this week that should break the freezing streak.  Those wishing for big snowstorms should not give up hope as most heavy snows on record in Belmont County historically have occurred January through March with the exception being the thanksgiving storm of 1950.  Posted below are some interesting pictures of ice crystals taken after last February's heavy snow event.

Ice needles collect on top of a frozen vernal pool.

Rime ice attached to tree branches.  Rime ice forms
when super cooled water droplets (usually from fog)
collect on frozen surfaces.  The resulting crystals
take on a jagged appearance. 

A closer view of the rime ice crystals.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Surviving the Freeze

Extended stretches of subfreezing temperatures can be challenging for animals who live in temperate climate zones.  For some animals avoiding this problem is simple - migrate to a warmer location (birds), burrow beneath the freeze line (some snakes, mole salamanders), take up residence in a deep body of water that won't freeze completely (fish, turtles, some salamanders) or hibernate in a secluded den like a rock cavern or hollow log (bear, small mammals, terrestrial arthopods).  What about animals in which none of the above choices are possible?  Are they cruelly left to fend for themselves in the icy depths of winter with nowhere to go?  Well, yes.

Certain species of frogs and caterpillars have a unique way of dealing with winter's frigid conditions - they simply freeze, or so it may seem.  Gray treefrogs, wood frogs and chorus frogs have highly elevated levels of glucose in their bloodstreams that acts as a cryoprotectant in subfreezing temperatures.  These frogs will take up residence under loose pieces of bark, rocks and leaf litter where they remain the entire winter - sometimes frozen solid.   Higher concentrations of blood glucose enables them to survive by limiting ice formation in their tissues, as long as the duration and severity of cold conditions are not too extensive.  Amazingly these organisms are able to respire anaerobically in a frozen state allowing them to make limited amounts of energy in the absence of bodily function. To see a picture of a frozen wood frog and gray treefrog click here

Cryoprotectants not only allow these frogs to survive winter conditions, but also give them an advantage when it comes to breeding strategy.  It's not surprising that the first frogs to breed in late winter and early spring are those with highest amounts of cryoprotectant in their bodies - wood frogs followed by spring peepers followed by the rest of the chorus frogs.  Depending on the weather, wood frogs will breed in vernal pools with ice still on their edge at a time where few predators are prowling about.  By being able to tolerate colder temperatures, wood frogs and chorus frogs have the advantage of arriving at vernal pools in large numbers without having to worry about mass predation from snakes and other warm-weather pool inhabitants. 

*Side Note:  Though we just passed the winter solstice and are in the midst of a multi-week cold snap, amphibian breeding season is not far away.  I've seen wood frogs in pools as early as February 22nd in one of the warm winters of the early 1990's.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

Backyard Birding

Ok so maybe resurrecting the embattled American Chestnut isn't your thing.  Here's another way you can become involved with nature through your own backyard.  The Ornithology Lab at Cornell University sponsors a backyard bird monitoring program designed to track migratory numbers of bird species across North America.  Anyone can participate and contribute data to their records.  Click on the link below to read more.

Project Feeder Watch 

Cornell also has an amazingly detailed online bird ID website as well.

All About Birds

I spent some time trying to decide if this Bluejay was
serving as a feast for a Cooper's hawk (Accipiter cooperi)
or sharp shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).  Based on this
 perspective I'm going with Cooper's.  If anyone feels I'm in
error, feel free to comment and correct me.  Thanks to Len
Smith for the photo.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The American Chestnut

Until the 1920's the Amercian Chestnut (Castanea dentata) was a dominant tree species of southern Appalachian forests preferring well-drained upland slope habitat with acidic soils.  It was commonly found growing among a variety of oak species and tulip poplar that preferred the same soil conditions and occupied up to 25% of climax forest canopies.  In 1904 a fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica) introduced at the Bronx Zoo in New York City from an infected blight-resistant Chinese Chestnut tree began a domino effect of destruction that would reduce one of the most important hardwood trees of the Appalacian forests to a cherished memory in alomst the blink of an eye.  In a matter of a couple of decades an estimated 3.5 billion chestnut trees were destroyed in the forests of southern Appalachia changing the forest ecosystem in a way never before seen. 

Except for a handfull of blight resistant indivuduals, most American Chestnut trees now exist as small shoots protruding from ancient rotting stumps.  Most of the shoots will only grow a few feet before succumbing to the fungus, but a few exceptions sometimes make it to reporductive age and produce nuts before expiring.  The fungus enters the tissue of the tree through cracks that occur in the bark forming lesions that begin expanding until they disrupt the flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves.  Interestingly, the fungus can only survive above ground which is why stumps of old trees remain active years after the trunks and canopies perish. 

A little over a century after the blight's introduction scientists' hopes of resurrecting a genetically pure, blight resistant American Chestnut are becoming more of a reality.  Using the resistance of the Chinese Chestnut's genome, botanists  graft scions (green twigs) from chinese trees with those of native trees which gives the natives resistance.  If the grafted tree lives to reproductive age, nuts can be collected and germinated in the hopes that the resistance will be inherited in some with all of the American genomic characteristics.  It's a slow and tedious  process but you can help provided you have the time and space to grow your own chestnut seedlings.  Virgina Tech's Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science is sponsoring a program to reintroduce genetically pure American Chestnuts into the wild through the American Chestnut Cooperator's Foundation. 

Click on the link below to view VaTech's site and guidelines for ordering chestnut seeds.  There is alot of great information:

Virginia Tech American Chestnut Reintroduction Program  

*Sidenote - Chestnuts traditionally prefer well-drained acidic soils.  Since much of the Captina watershed area is composed of alkaline Pennsylvanian limestone bedrock, traditional chestnut habitat may have been restricted to higher, ridgetops with sandstone outcrops.  Pre-blight chestnut coverage in the watershed is not known but I have yet to see a remnant stump with young shoots which leads me to believe that maybe their distrubution here was not as widespread as in southern Ohio and West Virginia.  Slopes containing pure stands of oak or tulip poplar may be good places to look for these stumps.   

Anyone with records of Chestnut growth or knowledge of native American Chestnut trees growing in the Captina watershed should contact the Belmont Soil and Water Conservation office at (740) 526-0027.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Settles In

As winter solstice approaches, forests within the Captina watershed are in the midst of a deep slumber.  Reptile and amphibian activity is minimal, neotropical migrant birds are gone for the season, wildflowers and grasses have withered and insects are no longer a part of the background noise.  Dismal as things sound this time of year, there are some forest inhabitants that remain active and rought it out in the cold snowy conditions.

The only green spots left in the eastern deciduous forest are mats
of mosses blanketing rocks and spotty patches of lichens attached
to tree bark. 

A gray squirrel takes advantage of sunflower
seeds intended for overwintering birds.  Gray
squirrels are master acrobats and are also pretty
good at pillaging winter bird feeders.   One of the
most common mammals in Ohio.  Thanks to Len Smith
for the photo.

A red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) feasting
on the same bounty of sunflower seeds.  Red squirrels
are smaller than gray squirrels and are unmistakeable
in the field.

Club mosses (Lycopodium sp.) surrounded by leaf litter.  One of the
few evergreens of the deciduous forest, these seedless plants
are related to ferns and grow in dense mats on the forest floor.
The Lycophytes were the dominant plants of the coal swamps of the
Pennsylvanian Period growing to medium-tree size.  Today's
lycopodiums are much smaller ground dwellers.  This particular species
prefers rich well drained upland soils.  I frequently see them
growing under stands of tulip poplar.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NOAA Climate Prediction Forecasts for Winter

The recent touch of winter weather may have you wondering what's in store for the upcoming season in eastern Ohio.  Lucky for you NOAA's seasonal outlook for the US was recently released.  Climatologists have observed persistent La Nina conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean so far this year.  What does that mean for us? Click on this link to find out.

For those of you who prefer a visual of the precipitation and temperature forecasts click here.

Click this link for NOAA predictions further into the 2011 growing season.  Remember, these are just generalized long-term forecasts that may change with time. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flooding Update

Yesterday officials from the National Weather Service were concerned that the Ohio river may exceed flood stage at Powhatan Point (37') due to excessive rainfall.  Early this morning the river flood warning was cancelled as officials revised their forecast and predicted the river to crest at 36' at Powhatan Point Thursday afternoon (advanced hydrologic prediction center).  The official crest won't be known until later today.  Check out the five record river crests for Powhatan Point.  This event may threaten fifth place but is nowhere near the top four floods of all time.

Date                                Crest (feet)

March 19th, 1936               53.30

September 19th, 2004        45.60

January 21st, 1996             44.70

January 7th, 2005               42.65

January 6th, 2004               36.80

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More on Hunter Prairie

Yesterday I posted photos from one of Captina's most unique habitats - the Hunter cedar glade or limestone prairie.  Here are some additional photos from Monday's trip.

Sections of the ground were matted with birds nest lichens
(Cladonia sp.) also known as reindeer lichens.  They
are small fruiticoselichens that grow in clumps on poor
soils and are easily overlooked. 

Several stalks of greenbrier were observed with this being the

A stand of small eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis)with seedpods
still attached.  These will have brilliant red flower in the spring and
are indicator species of limestone-based soils.

Shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) growing amidst the cedars.
The only oak in eastern Ohio without a lobed leaf.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) is similar to the more
common staghorn sumac but lacks velvet fuzziness on
the seed clusters and twigs.

Weather Update

After receiving nearly 1.5 inches of rain Thanksgiving day, southern Belmont County was doused with an additional 1.5-2 inches of rain yesterday saturating the ground and recharging groundwater tables depleted from abnormally dry conditions over the summer and first half of fall.  Check out the river gauge and hydrologic prediction links in the righthand column.  Although no flooding was reported in the watershed area streams are bankfull (see below).  The recent rains will also help the creek continue to recover from October's slurry spill. 

Looking upstream at the CR 5 bridge.

A look downstream from the same location.

Additionally, cold air sweeping into the area early this morning caused the rain to switch to snow leading to the first light acculmulation of the season.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hunter Prairie

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit a unique habitat in the Captina watershed with biologist Ron Preston.  Hunter prairie is one of only two documented limestone prairies or "cedar glades" that occur in eastern Ohio.  Other limestone prairies exist in Ohio but most are in the Edge of Appalachia region of Adams county, far to the southwest of Captina Creek.  Limestone prairies develop on south facing slopes where limestone bedrock is exposed at the surface making soils shallow, well-drained and alkaline.  These poor soil conditions allow for the growth of herbaceous and woody plant species not normally found in the eastern deciduous forest habitat.

Hunter prairie.  Note the grassland merged with evergreen growth.
Eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana), located in the foreground, are
one of the dominant woody plants of this community hence the name
cedar glade.  A few white pines (Pinus strobus) have also taken
residence on this slope.  Note also the dominance of the grass Little
Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) which is similar to Broomsage but has
a thinner, darker stalk and does not grow in clumps.  **See last week's post
on broomsage for a pictorial comparison of the two grasses.

Further up the ridge the grasses become more sparse and
deciduous trees mix with the evergreens.  More on the diversity of
deciduous trees found here later.

A rocky limestone outcrop.  This limestone is Pennsylvanian in age
and is part of the Conemaugh formation.  Note the lack of deep top-
soil and herbaceous growth.

A white pine sapling rooted in limestone gravel substrate.  Again,
the lack of any topsoil is rare for the watershed area.

A medium-sized eastern red cedar about 25 feet
in height.  Pleasantly aromatic in the autumn breeze.

An understory growth of Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium)
with distinctive purple berries.  These shrubs were numerous
throughout the prairie.

More to come on Hunter Prairie tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Watershed Geology

Captina Creek cuts through a section of the state known as the Little Switzerland plateau.  The plateau is part of the larger Western Allegheny plateau and occupies the extreme eastern end of the state, particularly Jefferson, Belmont and Monroe counties.  The upland ridgetops of these counties have horizontally deposited bedrock layers composed of lower Permian Period (~290 myo) sandstones, mudstones and siltstones.  The deeper valleys are composed of limestone rock layers that are slightly older from the upper Pennsylvanian Period (~310 myo).  When bedrock is exposed at the surface it can play a role in determining what types of vegetation become established on a land parcel.

Horizontal layering of shales, mudstones and siltstones.  The
underlying shale layer is much less resistant to weathering and
erodes quicker than the overlying layers of siltstone and mudstone.
The result is a rocky outcrop or overhang that adds diversity to an
ecosystem.  Rock formations like this can support unique plant
communities and provides habitat for reptiles, small mammals and
a diversity of invertebrates.  Siltstones and mudstones are similar
to sandstone but have a smaller grain size making them more brittle
and easier to fracture in some cases.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Correction - Broomsage (Bunchgrass)

Broomsage (Lepidospartum sp.) is a native perennial monocot that grows in aggregate clumps within hayfields and pastures of the watershed.  Although it first appears in summer months as tiny bluish or purplish sprouts, it doesn't become noticeable until mid-autumn as brilliant golden-red stalks.  The grassy clumps range from 2 to 3 feet in height and disperse white, feathery seeds in early autumn.  Little Bluestem seems to be less prevalent in overgrown or secondary growth fields and prefers full sun.

Update - Intially I posted a misidentification of this grass as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). Little bluestem is similar to broomsage in appearance but is not as bright golden, as tall and does not grow in aggregate clumps. Also, little bluestem prefers poor limestone soils whereas broomsage prefers open pasture and farm fields. For comparison with little bluestem look at the photos in the Hunter Prairie post.  Bear with me while I learn my grasses!!

Broomsage grows in dense clumps of 50-100 individual stalks.

Large populations are easily recognizable in open hilltop pastures. 
This is one of the few grasses that whitetail deer seem to not bother.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Late Fall Sunsets

The sun is now setting before 5:30 in eastern Ohio with approximately 1 minute of daylight being lost per day unitl the winter solstice.  Winter is a great time of year for sunset pictures due to colder temperatures in the atmosphere that cause tiny ice crystals to form.  These crystals refract sunlight making the sky picturesque under the right conditions.  In other cases, cold dry polar air can clear the sky of haze and clouds allowing for crisp landscape shots and crystalline skies.

Lichen Diversity - British Soldiers

Hi all.  Sorry for the lack of posting this week but we are entering one of the slowest, least active times of the year for the eastern deciduous forest.  Not to say there is no activity in the forest - I've seen plenty of whitetail deer and the normal over-wintering backyard birds, but the majority of forests' notable residents from the spring and summer have either migrated, entered hibernation or torpor, or gone dormant for the year.  One type of organism that doesn't seemed bothered by the colder temperatures and decreased photoperiod is the lichen.

Easily overlooked because of their small size, lichens are among the most fascinating of forest inhabitants and are often used as examples of symbiotic relationships in nature.  The lichen is actually two organisms in one - a fungal body that houses an algal resident giving the organism a greenish coloration.  The fungus provides the algae a home while the algae photosynthesizes energy using sunlight to nourish the fungus.  Lichens commonly occur in three vartieties - crustose (flat, encrusting), foliose (leafy) and fruticose (club-like).  Look for them attached to tree bark or rocks in damp forested areas.  Lichens are good indicators of air pollution and are extremely drought tolerant with some species able to lose up to 90% of water content and still survive!

British soldiers (Cladonia cristatella) cover an old fence post.  Named
after British soldiers of the Revolutionary war (red caps), these lichens
grow on rotting wood. The red cap is actually a spore producing
reproductive structure (about 1/4" in height) that grows out of the leafy body
that anchors the organism to the wood.  British soldiers don't seem to mind
the cold of winter and will reproduce year-round.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Witch Hazel

One of the more interesting shrubs of the Captina watershed is witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana).  The name witch hazel is somewhat of a misnomer because the plant is not a hazel, nor is it associated with witches in folklore.  Its fruit and leaves are very similar to the American hazelnut in appearance and the "witch" is derived from an old English word for pliable branches.  In colonial times dowsers would use witch hazel branches to search out hidden sources of water, hence their nickname "water witch".  There are several chemical extracts in the bark having medicinal qualities leading to its widespread use among native Americans and European colonists to treat ailments such as diarrhea, inflammation and bleeding. Witch hazel is noted as the only shrub in the watershed that blooms in late autumn after the growing season has ended for most plants. 

Witch hazels are understory resdients of the tree
canopy growing to heights of 20 feet or less.  This
shrub has taken root under a large red oak canopy.
The most common place to find witch hazel is under-
neath large dark oak tree stands in upland wooded
ravines with rich soils.  Note the tiny yellow flowers
on the banches. 

The bark of the witch hazel trunk, about 4 inches in diameter.

Witch hazel branches.  Note the crooked forks - similar
to spicebush but a much larger shrub and more flexible branches. 

The witch hazel flower.  Only measuring an inch or so across these
flowers are the only ones in this forest tract meaning they will get the
full attention of pollenating insects.  Two honeybees were visiting
nearby flowers when this photo was taken.

The witch hazel fruit.  Tiny black seeds are contained inside a
a brownish capsule.  These seeds have matured from last year's
flowers.  Witch hazel is the only shrub that has both seeds and
flowers intact at the same time.  The seeds are dispersed mech-
anically.  When the capsule dries it bursts open with a
popping sound propelling them several feet in the air. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Captina Coal Slurry Spill Update - 11/9/10

Nearly five weeks have passed since a pressurized transfer pipe containing coal slurry burst in a hayfield next to Captina Creek in extreme eastern Wayne Township spilling the waste into the mainstem of the creek.  Although the intensive cleanup process ceased over two weeks ago, remnants of the spill can still be observed as far as a mile downstream of the burst.  The last earthen dike has been removed from the spill zone allowing water to freely move downstream.  Hindering the natural cleanup of the spill is the slurry sediment itself.  It is relatively dense and sticky in texture making it difficult to remove from substrate in the creekbed.   As mentioned previously several more heavy precipitation events are needed to dilute the slurry in this section of streambed. 

The slurry's texture makes it difficult to remove from sediment in
the creekbed.  This location is approximately 3/4 of a mile down-
stream from the burst pipe.

Since the spill there has only been one precipitation event totaling
over 1/2 inch in the watershed.  Though the rocks aren't
black from the slurry anymore, they still retain a grayish

A haybale dam occupied this space a couple of weeks ago.  The
water itself is clear but slurry remains on the rocks. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Invasive Species Bulletin - Part 1

Hi all.  This week I'm debuting a new series that focuses on invasive species and their impacts on the Captina Creek watershed.  An invasive species is one that has been transplanted to a non-native habitat from other areas of the world usually unintentionally.  One of the most famous invasive species in the eastern US is the lake Erie zebra mussel transplanted from Eurasia by ballast water in shipping vessels.  If the transplanted species is able to survive and reproduce in its new habitat it will begin to occupy space and compete with native species for resources often with few limiting factors (predators, disease, etc.).  Invasives can take on a variety of forms ranging from fungal, to plant, to animal with one commonality - they are extremely disruptive and crippling to the balance of native ecosystems.  To date, the majority of the invasives identified in the watershed have been plant variants but animal invasives do exist.

Part 1 of this series features an invasive in Captina that has become more widespread over the last five years and poses a threat to trees and shrubs - especially those in forest margins and edge areas.  Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus Thunb.) is a perennial species of vine that has invaded the eastern US from the far east (China, Japan, Korea).  It was introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1860's and easily escaped from gardens and old home sites into the surrounding landscape.  Once established at the base of a tree or shrub the vine will quickly overtake the native vegetation by encircling and climbing into the canopies.  In some cases, the vine wraps so tightly around the tree it ends up girdling the tree leading to death.  The vines can be heavy as well weighing down and collapsing branches, and can cover over tree leaves outcompeting the native vegetation for sunlight. 

What makes oriental bittersweet so threatening is its ability to aggressively reproduce and spread via seeds and a shallow underground network of roots called rhizomes.  Simply cutting the vine at its base stimulates the production of plant growth hormones that trigger the rhizomes to send up new stolons (shoots) by the dozen!  Having this reproductive capacity enables the vine to dominate forest margins along fields and utility right-of-ways in short time.  Currently there are no known consumers of oriental bittersweet in the eastern US making it that much more of a threat.  Eradicating the vine is time consuming and often involves repeated application of woody herbicides to the stolons.

Oriental bittersweet leaves are some of the last foliage
to fall making the vines easy to identify across a
landscape.  The leaves are serrated on their edges and
are arranged alternately on the vine.

Green leaves turn a bright yellow in autumn making for
easy identification.  The red circles higlight the girdling
effect of the vine on this tree.  If left unaltered the vine
will essentially strangle the tree.  This vine didn't exist two
years ago.

A closeup of the vine's seeds which are readily
consumed and distributed by birds making control
that much more difficult.  A single vine can produce
hundreds of seeds per growing season. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Habitat Restoration

Earlier this week I was able to observe a habitat restoration project implementation on a property in west-central Goshen Township.  The project was sponsored by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and centered on two goals for improving the existing forest and wetland ecosystem on the property.  First, a field and small plot of forest were selectively cleared to remove invasive vegetative growth, particulary autumn olive and multiflora rose.  Second, several vernal pool habitats were created in a moist field bottom below the woodland area with the goal of increasing amphibian and reptile population diversity in the habitat.

A restored field habitat.  Invasive growth was mechanically removed
leaving native hardwood saplings (a mix of oak species with white ash,
black gum and tulip poplar).  This makes great habitat for certain
neo-tropical migrant birds like the yellow breasted chat and common
yellow throat warblers. 

A view from the top of the same field.  Spring seeps in the field
were identified and left undisturbed (note the cattail growth in the

The property owner informaed me that many years ago this was
a thriving small pond that filled in with sediment over time.
The habitat was excavated with hopes that it will fill over the winter. 

A smaller vernal pool was constructed behind the pond above.
The shallower habitat will support different species than the
deeper pond shown above.

In the lower portion of the field a second pool was constructed
that was a bit shallower than the reconstructed pond at the edge of
the woods.  The hope is to attract migrant amphibians like spotted
and jeffersons salamanders as well as numerous frog and toad

The skid-steer attachment used to clear invasive brush from the
field.  Repeated clearings will have to be implemented over the next
few years to be effective in allowing native foliage to take back the

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bobcats in Eastern Ohio

Good morning.  I want to focus today on a species that is becoming more prevalent throughout the watershed but is still listed as state endangered.  You're probably assuming I am venturing into a piece about the eastern hellbender - but not this time.  I am referring to the bobcat (Felis rufus) which is also state endangered.  Traditionally bobcats occupied the forested hills of the Western Allegheny Plateau in the eastern part of Ohio but were driven to near extinction in the late 1800's by trappers and farmers who removed their habitat.  Throughout the 1900's the bobcat population quietly rebounded as habitat in eastern Ohio converted from farmland back to forest.  According to ODNR, bobcat population densities in Ohio have been highest over the last few decades in Noble County which is located immediately west of the headwaters of Captina Creek.  Over the last decade bobcat sightings in Belmont and Monroe Counties have steadily increased with isolated roadkill reports in the watershed and sightings by hunters using trail cameras.  The bobcat is a shy, stealthy animal that prefers forested habitat near secondary growth fields where birds and small mammals thrive.  It is not likely to be encountered in broad daylight which is why this picture is unique.  Thanks to Laura Hughes for the photo!  Any viewers with bobcat photos from eastern Ohio are encouraged to send them to me in either digital or hard copy.

A bobcat was observed feeding on a deer carcass next to a rural road
in Lee Township, Monroe County.  This is about twenty miles south
of the Captina watershed.  Note the short, stubby tail and tufts of fur
on the sides of the face.  The bobcat is perfectly camouflaged for its
habitat - nearly cryptic with the leaf litter on the forest floor which may
make spotting them in daylight difficult. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

HHEI Sampling from Captina - Salamanders

As a followup to last Friday's post, here are some additional pics from HHEI sampling in Captina.  I'm going to focus on salamanders this time because of their importance as a barometer species for stream quality.  Salamander skin is permeable to an extent giving them the ability to absorb substances from water directly into their bodies.  Finding numerous salamanders in a stream is a good indication of the quality of water although other supporting tests need to be conducted for confimation.  Here is a sampling of some of the native salamanders of the Captina headwaters.

A closeup of a larval southern two-line salamander (Eurycea cirrigera).
Note the external gills still present behind the head.  Two-lines
are probably the most commonly encountered salamander in the
cold headwater stream habitats of Belmont and Monroe Counties.

An adult ravine salamander (Plethodon electromorphus).  Another
commonly encountered resident of the Captina watershed.  Ravine's
are more commonly found under rocks and debris upwards on hillsides
surrounding headwater streams as opposed to actually in the stream.
Note the long tail and slender body.

A juvenile ravine found under a rock next to the stream. 
Approximately one inch in length.  The smallest one I've ever seen.

The second of two adult spring salamanders (Gyrinophilus
porphyriticus) found in this stream.  Measuring about
5 inches in length this individual was under a stream
side rock.