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Ask A Naturalist



Have you ever had a question about a bird in your back yard? Are you curious about that bug in your house? Have you ever wanted to know the name of a flower you saw on the trail and just didn't know who to ask? Well, here is your opportunity! Send us your bug, bird, plant or other nature-related mysteries and we will share the answer from our expert Outdoor Experiences or Natural Resources staff. Photographs are encouraged, but not required.
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SPRING RECAP: Loons, wolves, and cicadas oh my…

Posted: 7/22/2016
Posted By: Naturalist

The Ask a Naturalist Blog is a tool that Cleveland Metroparks provides for your nature questions. Naturalists quickly respond to inquiries privately, while some responses are chosen to be highlighted publicly on the homepage of the blog. This spring brought in 75 inquiries ranging from algae to a... View More >
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Can you please tell me what this plant is?

Posted: 3/10/2016
Posted By: Naturalist

Location of Discovery  Moist Woods  Question Can you please tell me what this plant is? It's not ringing a bell. I found it in a small patch of moist woods recently. It is a short (about 12-16 inches tall) plant with brown seeds remaining during winter. No leaves present. Thank you! Bil... View More >
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Robins in the Winter?

Posted: 2/19/2016
Posted By: Naturalist

Location of Discovery Shaker Heights, OH Question Recently I noticed a flock of robins (I counted about 30) near the Rapid Station at Shaker Square. My friend also noticed them on No Moreland Blvd. Jacqueline Gerber (WCLV 104.9 FM) also spotted them about 6am and commented on this on her radio pr... View More >
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When do the bats come out of the Bat House at Strongsville Wildlife Area?

Posted: 12/12/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

"When do the bats come out of the Bat House at Strongsville Wildlife Area in Mill Stream Run Reservation?"   VIDEO – Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) roosting underneath an eave at Rocky River Nature Center on a hot summer day this past August. Becky, The little brown myotis ( Myotis lucifu... View More >
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Did we find a water moccasin?

Posted: 10/6/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

"We encountered a snake that everyone is telling us it looks like a water moccasin. We have pictures and wondered if it could have been. Thanks" Location: South Mastick Picnic Area, Rocky River Reservation City of Fairview Park, OH   Elizabeth, Good find, BUT you do not have a water moccasin... View More >
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What has happened to all the bugs?

Posted: 8/22/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

“What has happened to all the bugs? No bees, wasps, yellow jackets. No bugs at the lights at night. No dead bugs on the windshields of the cars.” Ken, Allow me to placate your worries. There exists many "bugs" outdoors right now of the Arthropodian realm, both in species richness and sheer quanti... View More >
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Could you please help identify this snake?

Posted: 7/8/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

Could you please help identify this snake? It is about 2 feet long and lives under the concrete deck of Mill Creek's pool - next to the Mill Creek trail, between Garfield Park Reservation and the falls. Thank you for any help you may have. View More >
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Do you know what kind of bug this is?

Posted: 6/27/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

Do you know what kind of bug this is? Doesn't seem to fly. Have many in grass/weeds in yard. Melanie, Right off the bat, I do not know exactly what kind of “bug” this is, or species. I'm going to place your unknown creature into scientific categories from broad to more narrow (taxonomy). We'll se... View More >
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Is this a native snapping turtle?

Posted: 5/27/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

Is this a native snapping turtle? He/she just crossed the street and was heading to a pond. It was 12-18 inches nose to tail, probably 2 ft. View More >
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Could this have been done by a beaver?

Posted: 4/21/2015
Posted By: Naturalist

"We saw this small tree felled and stripped under the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. Could this have been done by a beaver? Have they been known to venture this far down the river?" View More >
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I'm trying to identify this bird....

Posted: 8/19/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

I'm trying to identify this bird, which I saw while out walking this morning. I had only my phone with me, so the pictures are not great. It was about the size of a small duck, and had a "comb" that popped up on its head that made me think it was some kind of Kingfisher. Long legs, long bill, mos... View More >
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We were walking our dogs tonight Sunset Pond and spotted a huge bird. It swooped down, caught a fish and returned to treetop.

Posted: 8/19/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Denise, This is an Osprey.   This one has been hanging around Sunset Pond for a couple of days and enjoying the hunting opportunities. Thanks for the question and photo.   Tim View More >
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This bird apparently flew into our window at work and died, can you tell me what it is?

Posted: 6/4/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Susanne, This is a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  Not a very common bird and it is a shame that it flew into the window.  They are caterpillar eaters and have a strange migration pattern.  They do not return to the same area every year and you never know where they will show up. Window ... View More >
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Discovered a strange mushroom-I think it is a orange-fly-agaric-mushroom? Are they usually found here?

Posted: 6/4/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Candy, Yes, this is the mushroom "fly agaric" ( Amanita muscaria ).  They are found in the area and are usually located under or near evergreen trees as they have a fugal association with them.  The “bite” out of the mushroom might have been from a small rodent or... View More >
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Can you help identify this bird? It was in our backyard last evening, flitting around and feeding off the ground under our bird feeder.

Posted: 5/14/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Chris,   The bird is an Eastern Towhee or often referred to as a Rufus-sided Towhee in older field guides.  They are common during spring and fall migration and do nest sporadically within the region.  They belong to the sparrow family and are seed eaters.  That is why it w... View More >
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What kind of trees are these?

Posted: 4/15/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Stephen, These trees are Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris), also called Scots pine, an introduced species in North America from Europe. It was planted throughout the region for pulp and erosion control and today are primarily planted for the Christmas tree industry. Their orange bark is a go... View More >
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Can you tell me what this plant is?

Posted: 4/15/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Susanne,   The photo is the flowers of a willow (Salix sp.) often called "pussy willow".  They bloom early spring and are often found in wet environments like the forests around North Chagrin Nature Center.   Thanks for the question!   Tim View More >
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What is the best way to catch crayfish and what month will they be in the river?

Posted: 4/3/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

  Jim, You can legally catch crayfish within Cleveland Metroparks as stated in the Ohio Fishing License guidelines.  One of the best methods is placing a net downstream of a large rock.  By turning over the rock the current will carry the crayfish into the net.  The best ... View More >
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Is this plant a meadow marsh or the invasive lesser celandine?

Posted: 4/1/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi John,     The photo is the plant Lesser celandine ( Ranunculus ficaria ).  It is a very invasive plant that is often found in floodplain forests. In the northern section of the Rocky River Valley this invasive is very abundant.  One of the problems ... View More >
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I found these in April 2010 and have not been able to find out what this is.

Posted: 3/26/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Judie,   This is a flowering plant often called Squaw Root or American Cancer Root ( Conopholis americana ).  This is a non-photosynthesizing plant that received it's nutrients from roots of trees, typicaly Oaks in our area, and is referred to as a parasitic plant.&nbs... View More >
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How are the bats doing this year? I know last year they had that nose fungus. Is there anything we can do to help them? Would a bat house help?

Posted: 3/26/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Natalie,   The bats are still not doing very well.  Last winter we saw about a 50% drop in the hibernating bats population's.  This year we expect the total decline to be about 80-90%.  We will not know for sure until about mid May when they have all retuned from hibernatio... View More >
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What are these? They are short lived and turn black.

Posted: 3/26/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

Hi Natalie,   These are a flowering plant called Indian Pipe ( Monotropa uniflora) . This is a non-photosynthesizing plant that receives its nutrition from roots of trees with a fugal associate and is called  Myco-heterotrophy.  You can see them in moist forests usually after ... View More >
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Noticed 4 deer today with scrapes or injuries on back of hind legs near knee area. Is this caiused by jumping over fences ?

Posted: 3/9/2014
Posted By: Naturalist

What you are noticing is a gland on their hind legs called a tarsal gland.  Deer rely on their nose for much of their communication and this gland is important during the breeding season in the fall.   Tim Krynak Cleveland Metroparks Watershed Stewardship Center 440-253-2... View More >
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What is "Ask a Naturalist" all about?

Posted: 9/29/2013
Posted By: Naturalist

Send us your identification or behavior questions about plants and animals observed in Cleveland Metroparks, your back yard or anywhere in Ohio. A Cleveland Metroparks expert staff member from our Outdoor Experiences or Natural Resource Departments will provide you an answer. Photographs work bes... View More >