Biodiversity of Shades Creek

Fiery Skipper Butterfly (Hylephila phyleus)
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Goldenrod and honeybee
- Photo Credit: Francesca Gross
Watch for the pincers!
- Photo Credit: Dr. Randall Haddock
Inspecting the seining net
- Photo Credit: Dr. Randall Haddock
Tray of aquatic critters
- Photo Credit: Dr. Randall Haddock

You’ll find plenty of wildlife and floodplain plants along the Greenway. The trees along the Greenway include species such as American Sycamore and Box Elder, which are typical of the riparian – or riverside – forest. These trees need moist soils and are not usually found on the steep slopes of the surrounding hills and mountains. The lush meadows of grasses and wildflowers beneath the canopy adjacent to the greenway are great locations to practice wildflower identification or to seek out butterflies, beetles, and other insects.

The creek is home to a variety of unique wildlife. Along the greenway, you’ll find footpaths that lead to the stream bank and then down to the creek. Riffle habitats – shallow sections of the stream where the water tumbles over rocks – are a great place to splash around and explore. Look for schools of minnows zipping about near the riffles. In the deeper sections of the stream, look for Alabama Hog Suckers, Largemouth Bass, and Bluegill.

Pick up larger rocks in the creek to look for stream invertebrates. On their undersurface, look for the larvae of caddisflies, mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and stoneflies. You’ll also find snails and other invertebrates clinging to the underside of rocks.

Look for crayfish under rocks and logs. Good luck catching one, though.  When disturbed, the will flip their abdomen (tail) underneath their bodies to propel themselves backward – and swiftly – to safety. If you do catch one, watch out for their pincers!