Saturday, April 29, 2017

Road Trip 2017 - Part 3

After staying the night in Paducah, Kentucky we set out early back over the Ohio River and to the Heron Pond Preserve near Belknap, Illinois.  This spot is known as an area where many northern species meet their southern extent and vice-versa.  I was told to check this spot out for a variety of herpetofauna, but as with Snake Road the day's all good...plants, birds, you name it.

A few Red-headed Woodpeckers darted throughout the treetops during our hike of about 5 hours.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seemed abundant here as well.
Heron Pond is known for having one of the most northerly Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) swamps.  Here an unidentified snake suns itself in a root referred to as a 'knee'.

The banks of the watercourse were prime basking habitat for turtles including these Spiny Softshells; there were 8 in the original un-cropped photo.

Marbled Salamander was a target species and a lifer for the trip.  This adult was about 10cm in length and covered in Sycamore seeds.

Another lifer, a Gemmed Satyr butterfly.
Exploring an area of rail line ditch I stumbled across this fresh clump of Green Dragon, an uncommon relative of Jack-in-the-pulpit (uncommon in Ontario that is)..

A sign of the Trillium diversity to come once we reached the Smoky Mountains, this is Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum), or, as it's also known 'Bloody Butcher'...yikes.

Jacob's Ladder, otherwise known as Greek Valerian
As best I can tell, this is Southern Adder's Tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum), an interesting fern species I found growing alongside Green Dragon at the edge of a swamp.

The foliage of Bald Cypress beginning to emerge.

And then there was the State Champion Cherrybark Oak (Quercus pagoda)...

What a beast!  This tree is a well-known attraction at the preserve and seemed to be in pretty good shape.  Here's hoping it can add to those impressive stats.  It's not an 'open grown canopy' by any means but a 35m crown spread and a diameter at breast height well over 2m make this one the biggest of it's species in the state of Illinois.

Like nothing I've ever seen before, the Bald Cypress swamp from the boardwalk.  The knee roots pop up through an endless carpet of Lesser Duckweed.  It was really neat to see this habitat having come across isolated Bald Cypress trees in Indiana Dunes State Park last year.

The next day we were off to Nashville for 2 nights were we enjoyed a bluegrass show at the Station Inn.  After that we made our way east to Waynesville, North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains which will be highlighted in my next post.


  1. Awesome pics! I wonder if your mystery snake is a Cottonmouth?

  2. Thanks, yeah I was wondering about Cottonmouth, the head shape kind of suggests that it could be.

  3. Yea and the whitish facial markings on the side of the head