Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Glennwood Nature Preserve, Kosciusko County

     What a beautiful day for a hike!  Hank, Evelynn, General Lee and I hit two nature preserves on the last day of our spring break.  Glennwood Nature Preserve was our final stop on this glorious, hiker-friendly day.  It is not a large preserve, but it proved interesting for my near-weary companions.  

Duckweed is eaten by humans in some parts of Southeast Asia.  It contains more protein than soybeans...yum!
     One of the first sights greeting us was this quaint little pond nearly covered with duckweed.  When I was very young our trips to town would take us past a pond similar to this, and my response was always, "eww, look at all the slime on that swamp!"  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Duckweed isn't slime at all, but rather tiny little individual plants, floating on or just below the water's surface.  Also called "water lentils," duckweed is an important high-protien food source for waterfowl, hence the name "Duck"weed.  

The Glennwood bog is unusual because it's PH is neutral.  Acidic peat bogs are much more prevalent. 
     Glennwood contains a circumneutral bog, one of only 15 in Indiana.  A circumneutral bog is a bog-like wetland that receives non-acidic groundwater.  This bog was once a lake, but it is now nearly filled with a springy mat of mosses and ferns, resting on a bed of peat.  The day we visited Glennwood, the ground was very wet, making our hike a bit tricky at times.
A pleasant view of the bog.  It won't always be this water-y, but no matter how dry the summer gets, bogs usually retain some amount of moisture.  

At this point, our hiking trail took us through the bog.  It was a bit too muddy...er, boggy?...for us to go much further in this direction.  But look at those trees in the distance...
If I didn't know better, I'd think it was autumn!  You never know when one of those pesky time-space continuum portals will pop up and transport you back a few months.   Actually, some trees have springtime buds that appear red, like Red Maple and Ash.  
Taking a little break.  Except General, who is always on the lookout for the next critter naive enough to cross his path!
     As we hike further and further into the springtime season, we are never disappointed with the prevalence of Indiana wildflowers.  It is nearly impossible to look in any direction and not see a myriad of these beauties...
Rue Anemone
Wooly Blue Violets
Garlic Mustard.  A highly invasive species of wildflower with few (if any) natural enemies.  Except perhaps humans. Garlic Mustard has been eaten in salads and other recipes since the 1800's.  If you can't beat it, eat it!!

"Nature made ferns for pure leaves, to show what she could do in that line."  ~Henry David Thoreau
     We can't wait to see where our next hiking journey takes us, and what new things we can learn about Indiana's natural splendor while we're there!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bock Nature Preserve, Kosciusko County

    My family has been a member of Acres Land Trust for a few years now, and during those years we have enjoyed only the nearby preserves of our own county. The comfort of the familiar, you know. Shame on us!  Up to now my hiking adventures and blog entries have taken us to those same familiar preserves.  So now...we venture into unknown (to us) territory!  
An addition to our usual merry band of hikers: General Lee
     On this day my entourage and I (plus our dog, General) traveled over 100 miles to visit two nature preserves we had never enjoyed before.  And it was well worth it!  Our first stop was to Bock Nature Preserve in Kosciusko county.  

On of my very favorite things about springtime is looking through the trees, my sight unimpeded by the future's leafy growth, and appreciating the vastness of the space surrounding me.  I love this illuminated view of the woodland floor's green carpeting.
An impressive vernal pool.  Find a description of a vernal pool in my last post, here: http://www.unearthingmycreativeidentity.blogspot.com/2012/04/wildwood-koskiusko-county.html
So large, one photo just wouldn't do!
     It was a beautiful day for a hike, and we saw so many indicators of spring.  I think I'm usually too busy and distracted to notice and appreciate nature's gifts that are able to be seen only in the springtime. 
The sun was behind this tree, effectively "lighting up" these leaves.  I love how they glow!

Blue Eyed Mary
When winter's chill has scarce left earth
And April winds blow "Hey down derry !"
Comes gaily dancing down my hill
Sweet, laughing, Blue-eyed-mary.

She wears a dress of bronzy green
Draped round her light and airy;
She lifts the loveliest face I've seen
Brave, tender, Blue-eyed-mary.

Her eyes shine like the azure sky, 
Her step light as a fairyHer face, no crystal drift so white,
Dear, steadfast, Blue-eyed-mary.

My hat is off to Bouncing Bet,
Gill-over-the-ground runs quite contrary,
Black-eyed-Susan is my pet;
But I'm in love with Blue-eyed-mary.

~Gene Stratton Porter

Dutchman's Breeches.  Named for their resemblance to the historical Dutch sailor's pants.  Only upside down.
I wonder what he's drinking?
    The Bock Nature Preserve is 47 acres, but is only half covered with forest.  The other half is an agricultural field that is being converted into native grassland. Tall-grass prairie plants have been established here, and it makes for a very diverse hiking experience.
We could see that the grasses had been very tall.  Today they were mostly flattened from the winter snows and rains.  
    In it's past life, this preserve was a portion of a family farm for over 100 years.  The windmill on the property remains as a reminder of the land's past use.

A memorial of a past life.
Next stop: Glennwood Nature Preserve!  See you there!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wildwood, Kosciusko County

Recently my faithful companions and I attended a bird-banding at Wildwood Nature Preserve near Silver Lake, Indiana.  A bird banding is when birds are humanely captured within a mist net, examined, measured, banded, then released unharmed.  
Does this photo look a bit blurry to you?  That's because this researcher is standing behind a mist net, a very fine and soft, nearly invisible net designed to safely capture the birds as they fly into it.
This was a great opportunity to see birds up close and learn about local bird species and the international bird banding program. If a captured bird is already wearing a band, their activities can be tracked throughout their lives.  If a bird isn't wearing a band, one is placed on their leg, and they are entered into the banding program.
The band for this tufted titmouse was very small. Bird bands come in many sizes and are light, comfortable and unobtrusive for the birds. Each band is stamped with a tracking number.

Special pliers are used to tighten the band so it fits the diameter of the bird's leg just right.
After the bird is measured and banded, all this data is recorded into a notebook, then later in a computer program and shared with the world.  And of course, the birds are released safely back into the wild.  

Evelynn got to hold and release a chickadee.

Hank's bird was very ready to escape captivity!
After the excitement of the bird banding, we headed out into the wilderness for our hiking adventure.  It was no accident that Wildwood was choosen as the site for a bird banding. There are many different species of birds that call this preserve home. Including the pileated woodpecker. 

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest of the common woodpeckers found in most of North America. These crow-sized birds present a memorable sight with their zebra-striped heads and necks, long bills, and distinctive red crests.
We didn't see any woodpeckers on our hike, but the evidence of thier existence was plentiful!

Pileated woodpeckers forage for their favorite meal, carpenter ants, by digging large, rectangular holes in trees. These holes can be so large that they weaken smaller trees or even cause them to break in half.
Our hiking adventure brought us to many bodies of water. Wildwood has a small pond, vernal pools, and numerous wetlands.
A vernal pool is a depression in the land that accumulates water with the rising water table of fall and winter or with the meltwater and runoff of winter and spring snow and rain. They contain water for a few months in the spring and early summer. By late summer, a vernal pool is generally dry. Learn more here: http://www.vernalpool.org/vpinfo_1.htm
Wetlands are places where there is shallow water or very soggy soil at least part of the time. There are three major wetland groups: swamps, marshes, and bogs. It’s easy to tell the difference between the first two. Swamps have mostly trees or shrubs. And marshes have mostly grassy plants. Bogs are spongy, mossy wetlands where plants pile up faster than they can rot away. All those plants form thick layers of peat. http://www.nwf.org/Kids/Ranger-Rick/People-and-Places/Whats-a-Wetland.aspx 

And all throughout our hike, I was pleased as punch to FINALLY be seeing some signs that spring has sprung! 

"If one daffodil is worth a thousand pleasures, then one is
too few." ~William Wordsworth


A very  helpful website if you are interested in identifying flowers...
http://uswildflowers.com/wfquery.php?State=IN&Color=White It is categorized by color!
I can't wait to see what lies ahead in our next hiking journey!  See you then!!