W.H. Chip Gross

Ruffed Grouse

Disappearing act

Several successive Ohio winters in the late 1970s were brutal, with temperatures often dipping below zero and heavy snow lasting for months on end. It also happened to be the time when I was attempting to become a ruffed grouse hunter.

Ruffed grouse were plentiful in Ohio during the second half of the 20th century, but no more. Human hunters are not to blame, as their seasonal take of the birds has always been negligible. Rather, it is the bird’s own habitat that is gradually turning against it, and according to the national Ruffed Grouse Society, that change is taking place across much of the ruffed grouse range — some 18 states — from the upper Midwest to New England, the Mid-Atlantic region, and Appalachia.    

The Signing of the Treaty of Green Ville

Ohio's American Indian History: Writ large

Of the many paintings hanging in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, the largest by far measures 22 feet long by 16 feet high and is titled The Signing of the Treaty of Green Ville.

Setting the scene

At the end of the Revolutionary War, England ceded to the fledgling USA ownership of the Northwest Territory — an immense area north and west of the Ohio River that would one day become five states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as part of Minnesota. 

The major problem with the agreement was that it completely ignored tens of thousands of indigenous people who were already living on that land — from dozens of major tribes — who were not about to give up their claims on the land without a fight.

Gray Treefrog 2

Nature’s rainmaker

Even if you didn’t quite recognize it, you’ve likely heard the sound. Just before or after a summer rain shower, a loud, short trill — just 1 to 3 seconds long — emanates from a nearby tree. Was it a bird?

Some gray treefrogs also call outside of the breeding season — generally April through June in Ohio — but why they do so is a mystery. “It isn’t uncommon to hear a male calling from high in the trees in late summer or early fall,” Lipps says.

Measuring no more than 2 inches long, the gray treefrog is the largest treefrog in the northern United States; it’s found throughout Ohio. Mainly arboreal, the frogs come down out of the trees during breeding season, congregating in vernal pools. 

Grampus ship

Something fishy

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) turned 150 years old, and to celebrate its sesquicentennial, it has released a new book of its many finny accomplishments titled America’s Bountiful Waters

Henshall (1836–1925) is known as the father of bass fishing in the U.S. He was born in Maryland and moved to Cincinnati after graduating high school. He finished medical studies in 1859, just in time for the Civil War, and promptly joined the Union Army medical corps. One of his most memorable adventures was a run-in with Morgan’s Raiders, a Confederate cavalry unit that crossed the Ohio River and was eventually captured near West Point, in Columbiana County.

Osprey in flight

The fish hawk with fish hooks for hands

The first time you see an osprey dive on a fish is one of those memorable birding moments that last a lifetime. With a wingspan of up to 6 feet, ospreys are not small birds of prey.

As it flies, the osprey will also shake itself, much like a dog, removing water from its feathers. The fish feast is then flown to a large, bulky stick nest and shared with its mate/young, or possibly, the fish is simply taken to a stout tree limb where the osprey alights and enjoys a solo meal of the world’s freshest sushi.

Guy Denny with pigeon

Life with pigeons

Most men, believing ourselves invincible at one time or another in our lives, can think back to boyhood and remember doing at least one thing so incredibly dangerous that we were lucky to survive. Consolidated Cooperative member Guy Denny is no exception.

After dark one night, he and a young buddy climbed out on the massive, metal I-beams that support the bridge. There, beneath the bridge, with cars whizzing past just a few feet overheard, his buddy shined a flashlight beam into the eyes of the mesmerized pigeons while Denny grabbed them one by one and shoved the birds into a burlap bag. The boys’ poke was nearly full when Denny reached for one last bird — a beautiful, nearly pure-white pigeon — and promptly lost his footing on the bridge.

Box turtle

Life in the slow lane

Looking like a miniature army helmet with legs, box turtles are unique in that they are the most terrestrial of Ohio’s nearly one dozen turtle species.

Alan Walter of Carrollton has extensively studied the box turtles living on his property in eastern Ohio. Walter owns a 150-acre tree farm in Harrison County that he manages for timber and wildlife, so he has spent countless hours in the woods over the past 30 years. 

Adult wood duck pair

From boom to bust and back again

Young wood ducks have a tough start in life. Hatched in a tree cavity 50 feet or more from the ground, they have less than a day to rest and dry their downy feathers after fighting their way out of the eggshell before their mother decides it’s time to leave the nest.

When the hen is sure that all her offspring have gathered, she leads them quickly to the nearest stream, pond, swamp, or marsh. Though the ducklings are now safer than they were on land, they’re not yet totally out of danger. From below, a snapping turtle or largemouth bass would like nothing better than to make a meal of an unsuspecting duckling. From above, a great blue heron or other avian predator could easily take one as well.

Logan Oak

Logan’s trees

Logan’s Lament is well known in Ohio history. Chief Logan of the Mingo tribe of Native Americans uttered the short speech in October 1774 from beneath a huge, spreading elm tree in his camp, located a few miles south of what is today Circleville, Ohio. 

In April 1774, Logan was away hunting when members of his family and some friends ran afoul of a settler named Daniel Greathouse and his band of border thugs, all of whom hated Indians. The Greathouse party first feigned friendship, then once they had gained the Indians’ confidence, murdered them in cold blood. Among those killed were Logan’s wife, brother, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, as well as a fetus — a future nephew — that was slashed from his sister’s pregnant womb. 

Bob Jenkins and Sam Gross

First Flight

Josh Maihle of Columbus still remembers the first airplane ride he ever took. “I remember I was just 6 years old and riding in the backseat of a small, yellow private plane,” says Maihle.

Bob and his wife, Jill — members of Consolidated Cooperative in north-central Ohio — own two small, vintage aircraft. “We own a 1947 Cessna 120 and a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub,” says Bob. “I also co-own a 1972 Cessna 172 with my son, Shawn.”

Jenkins has been flying for more than 50 years, ever since his father taught him to fly. He made his first solo flight at age 16 and earned his private pilot’s license in his early 20s.