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.



  1. Lived most of my 80 years in Ohio but unaware of Captina Creek. My obsession is a creek in eastern KY, Kinniconick.

  2. I always see the common club mosses during deer gun season! I have always wondered what they were, and as a one-time plant biology student, I should have known. Thanks.