Along with Jarel Hilton and Dave Minney, I participated in the fifth Hocking Hills Christmas Bird Count. We found lots of birds, including White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Hermit Thrush. This count is really excellent, and you may wish to put it on your radar screen for 2010.
Fortunately for me, Dave and Jarel are great all-around naturalists and general biodiversiasts (I have coined a new word!). And it was much to our pleasure and good fortune that I realized that one of Ohio's only two stations for the incredibly rare Appalachian Filmy Fern, Trichomanes boschianum, happened to be in our assigned area.
This semi-subterranean beauty was a "life fern" for both of them, and I was most curious to see what it looked like in winter, so we detoured over to the top secret locale where it grows. Not all was naught on the ornithological front in regards to this detour, either - upon exiting the car, Jarel spotted a female Sharp-shinned Hawk high overhead. These gorgeous and savage little raptors are easily enough missed on CBC's.
The sandstone alcove where Appalachian Filmy Fern grows. A small patch of this strange plant hangs from the ceiling in the deepest shadows of the recess, where sunlight never strikes and its feet remain damp due to a constant seepage.
Finally, extreme and prolonged cold snaps can whack filmy fern colonies, perhaps permanently. On this last score, the future may be rosier if mean winter temperatures continue to rise.
In an exclusive, here is actual Appalachian Filmy Fern video - maybe the first on the 'net! You may notice that the company from whence I downloaded this video software wants me to but their goods - no!