Monday, October 24, 2011

Public Meeting Announcement


Captina Creek Watershed will be hosting a public meeting Oct. 27th, 2011 at the OOYO Powhatan store located at 162 First St, Powhatan Point, Ohio from 6:00 - 8:00 pm. The agenda will focus on the future conservation needs for Captina Creek Watershed, public concerns, issues and ideas for the future of Captina Creek Watershed and stakeholder and public involvement in the writing and project implementation side to the watershed management plan.
It is a potluck so bring some goodies ! Hope to see you there !!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anderson Run

Anderson Run is located in the central portion of Captina Watershed and is 5.4 miles in length. This beautiful little tributary is ephemeral meaning in drier years it has pools of water and in many cases completely dries up. Problems exist with heavy ATV traffic yet the tributary remains very beautiful with a complete forest canopy which is important to reduce large fluctuations of temperature in the stream.
Aquatic insects found in the tributary include stoneflies, mayflies and many other important aquatic insects. Just pick up a rock in the stream, turn it over and look for these wonderful critters !!
Look for the next tributary Bend Fork in a couple of weeks !!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Getting to Know Your Watershed

Hello to all faithful followers of the gem of the state....Captina Creek Watershed.

The blog is back and ready to inform the masses with Stephen Ferrante and his boy steering the Captina ship.

Stephen Ferrante : Watershed Coordinator
Ruari Ferrante : Co - Captain

A few things...

Captina Creek is the hidden gem in the state of Ohio. A few reasons why :
1. Highest IBI in the state 55.1 out of 60
2. Several tributaries are designated cold water habitats due to the salamander and aquatic insects  found in the creek

Every two weeks I will present a different tributary of Captina Creek. There are 27 named tributaries so get ready to learn, explore and enjoy one of the last remnant stream systems in Ohio.

The week of October 3rd I will post factual info and pics of Anderson Creek  tributary # 1 !

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


A common wildflower oddity of the eastern deciduous forest, the jack-in-the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) grows in a variety of wooded habitats provided that some topsoil is present.  Best growth occurs along rich, moist lowland slopes although smaller individuals frequent drier upland slopes.  The "pulpit" part of the plant is called the spathe and houses a stalk of tiny flowers called a spadix ("jack").  Most jacks have one to two leaves with up to three leaflets each.  Average height is between 12-15" although in favorable growing conditions it is not uncommon to see an individual approach 30".  Once fertilized, the flowers on the spadix will develop into a bright red cluster of seeds by late summer. 


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring Flowers Part IV

Spring wildflowers are beginning to peak in eastern Ohio and will gradually wane over the next couple of weeks as average daily temperatures conitnue to increase and the amount of light available on the forest floor continues to decrease.  Usually a lull in flowering plants occurs between late May and mid-June signifying a transition between spring and summer flowering foliage.

Blue-Eyed Marys.  These colorful wildflowers are usually
widespread across moist wooded floodplains and gently
sloping, north facing upland wooded slopes.  Colonies
can be several hundred square feet in coverage on the
forest floor.

Fire Pink.  Occurs mainly on dry upland south-facing wooded
slopes commonly under stands of oak and hickory.  Bright
red flowers with notches on the ends of the petals make
this plant easily identifiable in the field. 

Golden Ragwort.  A generalist in terms of habitat, golden
ragwort can be found from roadsides to deep within wooded
areas.  The plant somewhat resembles hawkweed, but has
a purplish stalk and larger flowers.  Commonly encountered.

Cut-Leaf Toothwort.  Though not as small as the spring beauty,
cut-leaf toothwort could be easily overlooked if it weren't
for its tendency to be widespread across the forest floor.
Is somewhat of a generalist in terms of habitat.   It seems to
grow well as long as there is tree cover with not too much
moisture in the soil.  A plant of folklore, early settlers believed
it to be useful for curing toothaches.

Wood Poppy.  This colorful flower is one of the larger species
in terms of petal diameter in the watershed measuring up to
2 inches.  An easily recognizable plant when flowering
as no other large yellow flowers occur in early spring in this area.
The relatively large fleshy leaves are sometimes highlighted with
a silvery mottling.  Prefers moist low-land wooded slopes with
rich deep soils, but will occasionally be found on upland slopes
provided soils aren't too dry.  Occurs in large colonies covering
several dozen square feet where growing conditions are favorable.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Good Year for Morels

One of the most identifiable organisms of the eastern deciduous forest, the morel is reaching its peak season in eastern Ohio.  This has apparently been a good growing season for morels as I have encountered more than in year past.  White morels are commonly found under dead elm and apple trees where their mycelium take up residence in decaying roots. I have found them under decaying tulip poplar and maple as well.  This individual was approximately 4-5 inches in height and about 1.5 inches in width.  In a week or so the ascus (dimpled cap) will begin to darken and wither releasing spores.  One way morels differ from the traditional "toad stool" mushroom is by lack of a protective cap called a basidium which protects spores and allows for a more aerodynamic release. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jack Hanna Visits Captina Creek

Last night a crowd of between five and seven hundred people gathered at Ohio University Eastern to show support for the Captina Creek watershed.  Attendees enjoyed a 45 minute presentation by "Jungle" Jack Hanna which included video segments and several unique animals from around the globe.  Thirty exhibitors from various state and local entities were also on hand to provide educational information from different watersheds statewide.  The event was intended to raise awareness about Captina Creek's unique ecosystems and exceptional water quality which is comparable to the best streams in the state.  Here are some photos from last night:

EJ and Kim from OUE make last minute adjustments to the audio.

Monday Creek's booth attended by Nathan Schlater.

Raccoon Creek Partnership's booth attended by Amy Mackey.

Maggie Corder, watershed coordinator for Yellow Creek in
Jefferson County.

Oglebay Good Zoo's Vicki Markey-Tekely (holding lizard).

Impressive aerial map of the Captina Creek watershed
constructed by students from Olney Friends School.

Jack Hanna addressing the importance of Captina Creek.

One of Jack's animal friends from Africa.

A crowd favorite, especially with the kids.

Jack mingles with fans following the program.

Following the program, Jack was invited to speak to a group
of land owners from the Captina Creek watershed at a dinner
organized by the Captina Conservancy.  The Conservancy
used the dinner as a formal launching for their organization
which promotes the establishment of a private land trust
for residents of the watershed.  Approximately 50 people
attended the meeting which was organized by Kraig McPeek
of USFWS (standing behind Jack). 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Flowers Part III

Continuing with Part III of common spring wildflowers inhabiting the Captina Creek watershed.  Cool damp conditions are slowing progression of herbaceous plants on the forest floor.  The overstory canopy is beginning to fill in, but is being slowed as well by the weather conditions.

Blue phlox favors roadsides cutting through forests and
exposed sunny banks.  Color ranges from deep purple
to bluish white.  Often found growing with trilliums,
wild geraniums and larkspur.

Dutchmens breeches.  Favors deep rich soils on shady
wooded hillsides.  Can sometimes carpet an entire slope
if conditions are favorable.

A mix of wild geraniums (light purple) and larkspur (dark purple).
Unlike dutchmens breeches, these wildflowers prefer sunny
south-facing wooded slopes with sometimes shallow soils.
Of the two, wild geraniums seem to be more prevalent
around the watershed - possibly a testament to their

Wild mint prior to flowering.  Prefers shady wooded slopes
with rich moist soils.  Leaves have a very aromatic scent.
Flowers are small and white and clustered near the base of

Virginia bluebells, another inhabitant of rich moist wooded
slopes.  Tends to grow in clusters of several dozen plants
per patch.  Also, has large fleshy leaves for an early spring
flower with smooth margins

Common wood sorrel.  A small flowering plant that is easily
overlooked.  Grows on wooded banks above streams and in
other moist areas.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Flowers Part II

The second installment of common spring wildflowers currently flowering in eastern Ohio.  It's been a cool damp spring so far which has delayed the development of certain species.

Bloodroot, named for bright red pigments stored in
underground rhizomes which nourish the plant as it flowers.  The
flower of bloodroot precedes leaf development which
can be seen at the base of the stalk.  Energy made in the
leaf throughout the growing season will be stored in the
rhizome and used to fuel next year's flowering. 

A species of saxifrage.  No more than two inches tall these tiny
plants favor soils around shale and siltstone outcrops on
steep wooded hillsides.

A cluster of trout lillies.  Note the shiny, mottled  appearance
of the leaves.

The flower of twinleaf somewhat resembles that of bloodroot
but there are distinct differences in the leaves.  Twinleaf
leaves have two adjacent lobes per stalk with smooth margins.
Also I have found that twinleaf seams to prefer cooler shady
wooded slopes while bloodroot prefers sunny well exposed

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vernal Pool Restoration Update

You may recall that last November, four vernal pools were restored and a field choked with invasive autumn olive and multiflora rosebush was cleared on a section of private property in Goshen Township.  This morning I had a chance to check on the progress of the reclaimed site and have to say things are looking good.

Vernal pool 4 in November 2010.

The same pool now viewed from the opposite end.  Of all the
restored pools this one most closely resembles a permanent
pond and is two to three feet in depth.

Pool 1 before.

Pool one now.  It will be interesting to see how much water is
retained once the heavy rainfall of late decreases.   There is
a strong current moving through all of the pools right now.

To everyone's surprise  clusters of what appear to be spotted
salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) eggs appearing already.
These eggs were probably deposited in late March.

Pool 3 - Perfect amphibian habitat, this pool is only a foot
deep at most and very broad with good access to afternoon

Evidence of recent heavy rainfall.  The dam head of this pool
has been washed out.  I think this is an improvement because
the pool was too deep to begin with.  If a pool becomes too deep
the water will have trouble heating thus slowing growth
of amphibian and macroinvertebrate larvae.  A silt bar formed from
erosion behind the main dam head now retains the pool at a
shallower depth.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Flowers Part I

Recent rains have brought the forest floor to life in the Captina Creek watershed bolstering plant growth which has blanketed the ground in a carpet of green.  Early herbaceous plants are trying to quickly cycle before the forest canopy closes later in May blocking the majority of sunlight from reaching the ground.  Below is Part I of a who's who list of the early spring bloomers I have witnessed so far.  The nice thing about these species is that they are widely occuring so anyone with access to a small woodlot can enjoy, but act fast because these plants don't flower for long.

Small but colorful, bluets occur in clusters of 10-20 stems per
bunch.  Prefers open pastures and meadows.

Rue anemone poking out of the leaf litter.  Stalks are
usually 4-5" in height.

The tiny but common spring beauty.  Flowers range from white
to shades of pink and purple.  The root or corm of the plant
is edible but given its tiny size, probably not worth the time
to collect and process. 

Another common inhabitant - the trout lily.  Favors wooded
slopes with rich soils and has a mottled green leaf with a shiny
smooth appearance.  Leaves tend to lay close to the ground
with only the flowering stalk raising above the forest floor. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pickerel Frogs

Pickerel frogs (Rana palustris) are early season inhabitants of cool bottomland ponds, long-cycle vernal pools and quiet pools along slow moving streams often emerging after wood frog activity ceases in late March.  Though their ranges overlap in eastern Ohio competition rarely occurs due to preference for differing habitat, with wood frogs favoring warmer upland mid-cycle vernal pools.  One of the more colorful anurans in eastern Ohio, pickerel frogs sport a copper base with chocolate parallel squares dorsally and a bright yellow wash on the underside of each leg.  Male vocalizations are likened to rubbing a wet hand over a balloon and have little carrying power.  Pickerel frogs are known for their tendency to stray large distances from water in the summer months often appearing in backyards, upland wooded slopes and damp fields. 

Adult pickerel frog.  In some cases the dorsal chocolate blotches
blend together appearing as parallel lines.  Northern leopard
frogs (Rana pipiens) somewhat resemble pickerel frogs except
they have less dorsal blotching that is more circular than
rectangular and more green integrated into the base color.  
Leopard frgs are rarely encountered in the watershed area.

A pickerel frog egg mass.  The mass structure closely resembles
that of the wood frog however I have noted individual cells in
wood frog masses appear overall larger in diameter than pickerel
frog.  Another characterstic to consider is habitat when
distinguishing between the two as discusssed above. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American Toads

There may not be a more familiar amphibian by sight than the homely American toad (Bufo americanus).  Easily identified by its stout body, warty skin with large parotoid glands on the rear of the head and speckled underside the American toad is a staple of vernal and ephemeral pools statewide.  So adaptable is this amphibian that extensive surveying would probably reveal specimens from the majority of sections of each township in the watershed area. 

The American toad has an advantage over other amphibians in its ability to adapt to a variety of environmental conditions such as increased pollution, development and agriculture.  Adults often wander into suburbia and may breed in backyard birdbaths and ornamental watergardens as long as vehicle traffic (a major threat to migrating adults) is not too extensive.  Adults usually emerge with the first 70+ degree weather of early April and chorus into mid-May.   Male vocalizations are in the form of a high-pitched trill lasting 10-20 seconds and a shorter territorial chirping emitted between competing individuals in a pool.  Large evening choruses are one of the most pleasant signs of spring in eastern Ohio.  Eighty degree temperatures this past Sunday followed by a mild rainy Monday night brought out toads in large numbers.  Look for chorusing males or strings of eggs in local vernal pools and roadside ditches.  American toads seem to prefer (but are not limited to) similar habitat to mountain chorus frogs and wood frogs.

American toads in amplexus.  Fertilization of eggs occurs
externally.  Males are generally smaller in size than females
and have enlarged thumbs on their forelimbs during the spring
for easier grasping.  Eggs are deposited by females in long
strings and can number in the thousands in larger pools. 

Males will aggressively compete for anything that resembles a
female in a pool, even a piece of carpet!  The forelimb grip of
a male is surpisingly strong considering their size.  As in wood
frogs coloration varies widely ranging from tan to olive to maroon. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scarlet Elf Caps

Scarlet elf caps (Sarcoscypha coccinea) are mushrooms associated with the division Ascomycota collectively known as the cup fungi.  Members of this division are characterized by the presence of an ascus or cup-shaped reproductive structure that produces spores which can be spread by wind.  They are brightly colored ranging from orange to yellow to red and have short, stout bodies.  Elf caps reproduce in early spring and can be found growing in leaf litter on rich wooded hillsides soils. This individual has a reddish-orange ascus and is the diameter of a quarter.  It was growing on a hillside under sugar maple, american elm and basswood trees and appears to be an older specimen. 


Friday, March 25, 2011

Spotted Salamanders

Unlike the majority of salamander species native to the Captina Creek watershed the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) does not reside in stream habitat, but instead prefers upland vernal pools. Spotted salamanders are members of the mole salamander family along with Jefferson salamanders (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) and the marbled salamanders (Ambystoma opacum) which also occur in eastern Ohio.  Few people ever see mole salamander adults due to their fossorial lifestyles.  Adult spotted salamanders may spend 50 weeks out of a year in an underground burrow emerging breifly only to migrate to pools to breed.  More commonly encountered are the eggs and larvae inhabiting wooded vernal pools located on undisturbed hillsides. Adults emerge with the first warm rains of early spring an migrate en masse to home pools where they will stay for 2-3 weeks.  After breeding the adults will exit pools and return underground in mammal burrows or under large rocks and logs.  Though the spotted salamander probably resides throughout the entire watershed region populations seem most prevelant in western areas.  More sampling needs to be done in eastern tributaries to try to fill in the void.

A cluster of spotted salamander eggs recently deposited in a
small pond in Wayne township.  Females will attach the masses
to underwater vegetation often in large "rafts" similar to those
of the wood frog.

A spotted salamander adult.  Adults range from 6-9" in length
A characteristic shared by the mole salamanders is a thick,
stocky body with pronounced costal grooves on each side. 

A closeup view of a spotted egg mass.  The mass consists of
individual eggs clustered inside of a gelatinous protective
covering.  The mass is spherical in shape as well.

Not the greatest picture due to glare but the white clumps on
the pool bottom may be spermatophores deposited by males
which are then picked up by females using their cloacas.  Once
fertilized internally the eggs are deposited by females on
submerged vegetation.