Readers’ wildlife photos

November 13, 2021 • 8:00 am

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Today we have a fall-themed post with photos by Jim McCormac, who has a blog and a “massive photo website“. Jim’s captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Here are some recent images from SE Ohio’s amazing Hocking Hills.

October 29 dawned a wet, cool, and misty day, so I took advantage and headed to southeastern Ohio and the beautiful Hocking Hills region. The main destination was Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve, a picturesque sandstone box canyon thick with Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and many other tree species. The following photo was made along the Rim Trail, a path that traces the upper edges of the cliffs that define the gorge. Rolling waves of fog moved through the valley, and it was often necessary to wait until the mist cleared enough for photos.

Tenacious Eastern Hemlock trees cling to the cliffs on the sides of the gorge, interspersed with more colorful birch, maple, sourwood, tuliptree and others. The presence of a disjunct stand of hemlock – it becomes common far to the north of here – means a little slice of the boreal forest in southern Ohio. Northern species of breeding birds such as Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)) and other northerners nest here, attracted by the dense hemlock stands.

A steep forested slope rises from a river bottom, anchored by towering Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with their ghostly white trunks. While the oaks remain largely green, splashes of color are provided by Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), Red and Sugar Maples (Acer rubrum and A. saccharum), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and others.

All of the precipitation flushed local streams with plenty of water, and the numerous waterfalls in this region were picturesque. This one is known as Robinson Falls, formerly called “Corkscrew Falls”. It is now protected as part of a state nature preserve, and a permit is required to visit.

A small stream, its rocky banks littered with fallen leaves. One can practically smell autumn in this photo, and in real life the wonderful admixture of scents – overly ripe marcescent foliage, decaying leafy detritus, damp humus – epitomized the scent of fall.

A dashing vine by any standard, at least in fall, a vigorous stand of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) blankets a sandstone cliff face. This native member of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae) is a heavy-hitter in woodland ecology. Its copious berry production fuels birds galore in fall and winter. Everything from massive Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) to comparatively elfin Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) feast on the fruit. Indeed, Poison Ivy berries are one of the main reasons that the latter species can winter far to the north, unlike most warblers.

Finally, one more vista of the gorge at Conkles Hollow and its massive sandstone cliffs, some of which rise to 200 feet. One of the great pleasures of living in the midst of the great Eastern Deciduous Forest region that cloaks (or used to) much of the eastern U.S. is witnessing the change of seasons. All of them have their own allure, but fall is hard to beat for sheer showiness.

20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Continuing the botanical theme here, the Missouri Botanical Press web site is offering a 20% discount on “educational titles”, but I believe it ends tomorrow. I’m not sure what the full list of educational titles is but I ordered what looks to be a pretty nifty book,”Preparing Plant Tissues for Light Microscopic Study”.

    Nice photos, of course. I’ve never spent any time in Ohio. Ecologically speaking, it’s a blank in my mind and the word only conjures up images of dirty cities and shuttered, rusting factories. It’s embarrassing that many foreign-born people I know have explored more of the country than I. Thanks for giving me a peak nto what I’m missing!

  2. Beautiful pics of beautiful terrain, Jim. I agree with JBlilie that overcast days are often most beautiful. My favorite backpacking days in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park were like what your pictures show: a bit overcast, some wisps of fog and mist extending up from the valley, and a peak of Fall colors. And cascades running loud and full. Thanks for jogging my memory of those days.

  3. Another one of our favorite places. Alice and I discovered the Hocking Hills and Conkle’s Hollow back in 2008, when we were first dating and have been back several times since then. The rim trail is truly an adventure and the fall color can be as good as it gets. However, if you are thinking about an overnight stay, you will need to book lodgings more than a year in advance.

  4. Another great photo essay, Jim! Believe I have learned more from knowing you and your work more than anybody else on the planet. Thanks!

  5. I spent a weekend in Hocking Hills once. Remarkable place. And in descending into it from the flat boredom of OH is somewhat reminiscent of descending down to the Anasazi Ruins from the flat scrub wasteland of NM.

    But how is it that the accursed Hemlock Wooly Adelgid has not found its way there?

    1. The adelgid is there, and has popped up in a number of locales. They’ve done a pretty good job at stepping on it, though, although the long-term fate of our hemlocks remains to be seen.

  6. Sitting on a plane, waiting for takeoff. These were a great way to pass the time before wi-fi disappears in the sky.

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