Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Visit Ohio's natural treasures...and win a car!

The Nature Conservancy of Ohio and Honda of America Mfg., Inc. have teamed up for a summer challenge and sweepstakes called the NATURAL TREASURES of OHIO. The Nature Conservancy and Honda developed the challenge to showcase 30 of Ohio's most beautiful and wild natural areas. Every time you visit one of the sites on the map below and take a photo of yourself with the designated landmark, you can enter to win a Honda Insight Hybrid (or one of five $500.00 REI gift cards)...

The Nature Conservancy's Natural Treasures of Ohio Sweepstakes takes place from May 22 - August 8, 2012. 
Visit just one of these sites to enter to win the car...or visit all 30 sites for 30 chances to win!
From the map, you can see there are several sites located close to Cincinnati. Mt. Airy Forest and Ault Park are actually in Cincinnati, so they are minutes away...and a great place to start! Just 45 minutes northeast of the city is Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs. It is gorgeous and offers wonderful hiking through limestone and dolomite gorges. If you drive west for about an hour, you'll find the Edge of Appalachia Preserve in West Union. Edge of Appalachia consists of 16,000 acres of forests, prairies, streams, and waterfalls, and is considered one of the most biologically diverse areas in the midwest. These are great day trips and give you a glimpse of the natural treasures of Ohio!

Since 1958 The Nature Conservancy has helped protect more than 55,000 acres of the most vital freshwater and forest habitats in Ohio. Josh Knights, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio, wants to protect more and said the following...
"Natural Treasures of Ohio highlights the diversity of the Buckeye State's extraordinary natural areas, showing families that experiencing nature is closer and easier than you think. We believe that if Ohioans discover and come to know these areas, they'll be inspired to help us protect them."
Check out The Nature Conservancy's summer challenge, and then head out to the trails. You can learn about Ohio's natural history, see beautiful birds and gorgeous scenery, and have fun...and maybe win a car! Click here to learn how to enter and upload a photo of yourself with the designated landmark. Last day to enter is August 8, 2012. You must be an Ohio resident to participate.

I'm already making plans to visit several of the sites. I'll visit all the parks close to Cincinnati, but I also want to head over to Clear Creek Metro Park, Ash Cave at Hocking Hills State Park, and Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve. I visited all three parks three years ago and was amazed at the the gorgeous scenery and the wonderful birds. I've never been to Darby Creek, and I think I'd like to see it too... Wherever you go, you'll see beautiful birds and other wildlife. Here's a tiny sampler...

Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)
I photographed this warbler up at Magee Marsh on Lake Erie, but you can find them all over Ohio. I see them regularly on the Little Miami River in the spring and summer, but the place I've seen the most in one day is the Clear Creek Metropark. I saw 14 in two hours--this cute little Black and White Warbler is part of the reason I want to head back to Clear Creek this summer.

Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
If you live in Cincinnati, you're not likely to see this type of turtle any time soon (if ever--I've never seen one around our town). 
Blanding's Turtles stick to the northern counties along Lake Erie, so if you head up to Magee Marsh on Lake Erie, your chances of seeing one skyrocket! I saw this turtle on the same log every day I walked the boardwalk at Magee Marsh this spring. His bright yellow neck stood out like a beacon.  

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
You'll find these little dynamos in Ohio wherever you find large trees. They chatter and scold almost nonstop along the Little Miami Trail in spring and summer, and I love hearing and watching them. When autumn starts creeping, they head back south to the tropics for the winter, and I always miss hearing their whiny complaints. These birds are fun. If you make squeaky sounds by "pishing," they will come in for a closer look. If you look closely at this fellow, you can see he has spider silk in his bill. Males help build the nest. Blue Gray Gnatcatchers use spider silk to adhere lichens to their nests...like little shingles! I watched a couple building a nest two years ago in Ault Park.

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)
Around Cincinnati, I hear these birds along the Little Miami River a lot during spring migration, and I see them every now and then at the Cincinnati Nature Center in winter, but in the heat of summer, most are on their nesting grounds far north, so why do I have a photo of a Hermit Thrush in summer in Ohio? Because you can find them in the deep, cool, hemlock gorges in Hocking Hills and Clear Creek Metropark. Three years ago, one flew right in front of me at Ash Cave in Hocking Hills and started to sing! I was amazed I actually got to see one of the few nesting Hermit Thrushes in our state (and up close too). I also heard them at Clear Creek in July when it was about 92 degrees...another reason to return...it's cool in the hemlock gorges!


Elaine said...

Looks like the Nature Conservancy is doing some good work, and the sweepstakes looks like a great way to get people out and enjoying nature. I hope you take lots of photos when you visit the parks since that's as close as I'll get....

Marco Alpha said...

Hello Kelly,
Wonderful shots of these birds. Beautiful how you've get them between the leaves. It gives a nice color effect to the whole.

Many greetings,

Arija said...

What a nice way of making people more aware of the wonders around them. Great shots of the birds.

TexWisGirl said...

i love all of your shots. the b&w warbler and the hermit thrush are precious little things! and the gnatcatcher, too! wonderfully done!

(irony - hike to win a car?) i love honda, but come on! :)

Janice K said...

I enjoyed seeing your map. Now I can see where some of the places you have talked about are located. Of course, I always love how up close and personal your pictures seem to be. Beautiful!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, Every state probably has as many wonderful hiking areas as your state, don't you think???? Love the way your Nature Conservancy is promoting their hiking areas. That is GREAT!!!!! Wish more states did that.

One place we love to hike in Ohio is the Hocking Hills area.. Absolutely fabulous!!!!

Have a great Wednesday.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

A lovely variety of photos I really enjoyed the post.


Tammie Lee said...

maybe some day i will visit some of these places... they sound wonderful and your images are sweet as can be!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone. If you visit one of these sites, let me know!! I'd love to hear what you saw. I hope to get to at least 5 sites this summer.