Ohio University is located in Athens, Ohio, a charming "college" town in the southeast corner of the state. Compared to other areas of Ohio, the area is geographically rugged, with a dynamic topography. Many people refer to the area as being part of the Appalachian foothills. Technically speaking, Athens lies deep in Ohio's unglaciated plateau. This term is used to describe the area of the state that was never covered by the advance of enormous glaciers during times of cooling in the last 10,000-20,000 years. Since Athens avoided the glaciers, it retained its interesting and variable topography, as opposed to other flat areas such as western Ohio. Furthermore, the Athens area is highly forested when compared to other areas of Ohio. A few factors probably contributed to the current amount of forest cover in the area. For one, the rugged geography is not conducive to farming. Also, the federal government funded a few programs during the great depression to establish national forest areas. These programs employed impoverished youth to actively reforested many areas that had lost woody cover. Because of these initiatives in the 1930s, we now enjoy many beautiful forests in SE Ohio, such as the Wayne National Forest system, Zaleski State Forest, Hocking State Forest, etc. These forests are excellent for outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers, herpers, and birders.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to do any herping of late (insert laundry list of excuses), but I did participate in another Ornithology class field trip on the morning of September 25. Our group met at Irvine Hall, the Ohio University biology building, at 7:00 AM (yuck) on September 25. We quickly hopped in vans and headed out to the Lake Hope State Park / Zaleski State Forest area. It was a gorgeous, cool morning (60 degrees F, clear skies). We first scoped out the Lake Hope Furnace. At this spot, a small river is flanked by a forest on one side and a clearing on the other. The visibility is excellent, and we were fortunate to observe a ton of bird activity. In the clearing, we spotted or heard evidence of the following species:
-American Crows (calling)
-Red-shouldered Hawk (lifer)
-Carolina Wren (calling)
-Orange-crowned Warbler (lifer)
Of these birds, I found the Grey Catbird particularly interesting. It has a distinctive call, much alike the "meowww!" of a cat. Also, the Orange-crowned Warbler was a neat find. I believe this is a migratory species that can only be found in Ohio when it is passing through. We also saw:
-Downy Woodpecker (calling)
-Black-throated Green Warbler (lifer)
-Magnolia Warbler (lifer)
-White-eyed Vireo (lifer)
At around 8:45 AM, we followed the stream down toward where it flows into Lake Hope. Here we found a few species that are more strongly associated with water:
-Great Blue Heron
-10+ Wood Ducks
Unfortunately, at around 9:30 AM, I had to leave the group early and return to Athens for a club soccer game. We ended up tying the University of Dayton team 1-1 in a tough match. My parents came down for the game, which was pretty chill, so I got to hang out with them for the day. My Dad, a birder, was excited to see my list from the morning. Word, dude!