The theme of this field trip is to find reptiles and amphibians or “herps” as many naturalists refer to them (from herpetology). This group of animals includes snakes, turtles, lizards (reptiles) and frogs, toads and salamanders (amphibians). Our chances of success are very good because our field trip leader, Ryan Jorgensen, is an expert herpetologist and avid naturalist. Ryan is about to complete his Masters degree in Biological Science at UC where he is specializing in herpetology. His research is on snakes and particularly their muscular activity during locomotion.
Ryan recently led a July ASO field trip to Spring Valley Wildlife Area (SVWA). Unfortunately that trip was conducted on a day when heat indices soared to 105 degrees. Because of that the trip was poorly attended by both people and herps. Heat won’t be an issue on this trip. Cool to mild temperatures should prevail on this autumnal morning walk and fall colors should be near peak. Ryan assures me that this date and these conditions are great for reptiles and amphibians. After cool night temperatures these cold-blooded creatures become active as the day warms up seeking places to sun and bask, making them much easier to find and see.
Many of us know SVWA as a great birding area but the varied habitats found in this 842 acre wildlife area are also perfect for reptiles and amphibians. The shallow lake with dense emergent vegetation, the extensive marsh, the shallow Little Miami River, the wooded riparian bottoms and hardwood hillsides and dense brushy edges all contribute to a perfect habitat for a diversity of herp species. Ryan is also an avid birder
Ryan plans to spend the morning walking the loop trail investigating and probing all the hidden spots where our subjects may be hiding or basking. While there are never any guarantees, Ryan knows how to find herps so expectations are high. Ryan will most likely find several species of herps including snakes, skinks, turtles, frogs, toads and salamanders and believes that finding 10 or more species is a reasonable goal. And he may catch a few to boot. Ryan tells me October can be a particularly good month for snakes. SVWA is also famous as one of the few places in Ohio that the eastern massasauga rattlesnake is found. Ryan recently found one on one of his visits to SVWA.
This trip will consist totally of walking the loop trail around the marsh which is a little over two miles long. But walking will be leisurely and over flat terrain with lots of stops to view wildlife. Parts of the trails may be damp or wet, so waterproof footwear is advised. Binoculars will aid you in viewing wildlife and are also advised. Fall mornings can be quite cool before the day warms up so dress accordingly. To make your trip more comfortable we suggest bringing water. There are no restrooms available at SVWA, but there is plenty of privacy in the woods. Restrooms are available at “not so” nearby Caesar Creek State Park and Waynesville businesses. This trip is expected to end around noon. Come on out and join Ryan for what should prove to be a unique field trip on what should be a beautiful autumnal morning. If you have any questions feel free to contact Ryan.
Directions: To get to Spring Valley Wildlife Area from Cincinnati, take I-71 north from its intersection with I-275 for about 11 miles to SR 48 (exit # 28, Lebanon). Go north on SR 48 for about 5.5 miles to US 42. Turn right onto US 42 and go north for 12.6 miles (going past Waynesville/SR/73) to Roxanna New Burlington Road. There is a small SVWA sign before your turn. Turn right onto Roxanna New Burlington Road. Cross the Little Miami River Bridge and go 1.5 miles to Pence Jones Road and turn right. Follow Pence Jones Road for .7 mile to a T intersection. Turn right and follow this road .5 mile until it ends in the Spring Valley WA parking lot. Look for Ryan in the parking lot which should be pretty empty that time of day. From the intersection of I-275 and I-71 allow at least 40 minutes.