An introduced planarian in Ohio

In late May 2018, I came across this planarian among the leaves on the forest floor in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Planarians are part of the group of animals known as Platyhelmintes. Although planarians look a bit like earthworms, they are only distantly related to earthworms and other members of the Annelida. Interestingly, there are many planarians that hunt and eat earthworms.

Although, I knew it was a planarian, I did not know that they could be found in Ohio. Some investigation on my own, and helpful information from contributors on iNaturalist indicated that this was probably a Wandering Broadhead Planarian (Bipalium adventitium). These are an introduced species here in Ohio. If you come across them in Ohio or other parts of the midwest, I would be interested in hearing about it and seeing photos. Please feel free to contact me at mfbenard (at) gmail.com

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A buck jogs past me in my neighborhood.

A male whitetail deer jogged right by me while I was standing in my driveway in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Apparently, two does ran by just a minute or two earlier, but I didn’t see them. This buck was in hot pursuit. He came close enough that I could have touched him, but he was obviously focused on following the does. The video was taken in mid-November, 2017.

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Fuzzy white Beech Blight Aphids doing their waggling dance

Beech Blight Aphids (Grylloprociphilus imbricator) will gather in large groups to feed on the sap of beech trees. They have a distinctive “dance” to deter predators. When disturbed, they wave their abdomens and waxy white filaments. These photos and videos were taken in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Beech Blight Aphids

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Sea Otters in Monterey Bay: Surfing at Sunrise

In the last blog post, I mentioned watching sea otters catching and eating their prey at dawn. On one morning, I watch some surfers sharing the waves with the sea otters. The otters were already in the water when the surfers arrived. From my vantage point on the cliff, I could see that the path of the surfers and otters would cross. What would happen? The otters did not seem to change their behavior around the surfers at all. They just kept floating and eating, diving, floating and eating ….

On the other hand, the surfers appeared quite excited when the otters came past them. Happily the surfers were respectful of the otters and didn’t attempt to bother them. At some points, the surfers and otters were sharing the same wave.

Surfer pointing at Sea Otter:

Surfer with Sea Otter

Sea Otter and surfer catching a wave:

Surfer with Sea Otter

Sea Otter and surfer on the top of a wave:

Surfer with Sea Otter

If you like these photos, you can click on them to purchase a print or to buy a digital version to use.

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Sea Otters in Monterey Bay: Seafood Breakfast at Dawn

Over several early mornings from late December 2017 and early January 2018, I watched sea otters going about their business in Monterey Bay. One of the fascinating things to see was the Sea Otters catching and eating their prey. The otters would dive under the water, often out of site for several minutes. Then they would pop back to the surface carrying their breakfast. From my perch on the cliffs, I was only able to make out a few of the prey the otters were eating.

Here a sea otters floats on its back eating a crab. You can see another crab held on the otter’s belly, with its legs and claws up in the air. The fluffy ball near the otter’s feet is another otter that was swimming with it.

Sea Otter eating a crab

In this photo, the same sea otters appears to be eating a starfish:

Sea Otter eating a starfish

With relatively easy-to-chew prey like crabs and starfish, the sea otters didn’t need any extra tools. However, that was not always the case. But some of the otters would come up with some hard prey item like a shellfish, and would smash it against a rock on their belly. My wife speculated that the otters might use the same rock over and over. A little research on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website revealed that sea otters do indeed use the same rock. The sea otters actually have pouches of skin that they use to hang onto rocks and prey while diving.

Sea Otter floating with a rock on its belly.

In this video of a sea otters smacking prey against a rock on its belly, you can actually hear the sound of the smacking above the sound of the surf! The otters must be delivering some powerful blows to break open the prey.

I added these observations to inaturalist as a record of otters eating crabs and otters eating hard prey item like clams

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