2/13 Gammarus

 

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Poor Gammarus is not the most well known of creatures. This tiny aquatic invertebrate spends its life crawling along the bottom of streams and ponds, eating leaf litter, algae and critters smaller than itself. Only by chance did I discover these tiny shrimplike animals living in two of this forest’s spring fed streams, and though I’d seen small clusters of them when lifting sticks or debris, they didn’t seem very abundant. But then I got lucky…

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1/21 The Coyote’s Diet

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What do Coyotes eat in January? Once again, our little urban fragment has provided some surprising insights. It began with a scat (animal poop), that reliable source of information on mammal diets. And there wasn’t just one, but in true coyote style, a whole series of them, placed at strategic intervals on the trail. The first was just below the front parking area, less than 200 feet from the Louisville Nature Center front door. Though there’s nothing unique about urban coyotes anymore, the strikingly uniform contents of these scats tell an interesting story. Read More

12 Months, One Forest

 

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January 2019 – on a rare 15 degree day, a fluffed Carolina wren forages in a brush pile.

Sometimes the simplest posts are the hardest to write. What began as a short and sweet look back at the year has, just from thinking on it, morphed into something more. As I stared at the images for this post, two questions came into my mind. Why is this little forest fragment even here. And what if it were not? Read More

12/14 The Year in Turtles, continued

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Young male Boxie with bold plastron pattern

As the spring and early summer heavy rains gave way to heat and drought, Box turtles were a little less active. On 7/30 I encountered this large male, one of the most strikingly patterned turtles I’ve ever observed. He was near the edge of the preserve and a busy road, and unfortunately rather boxed in (excuse the pun) between the road, the deeply channelized creek and open, mowed parkland. It leads me to wonder how he came to be in this little island of habitat – is it part of his home range or did he come here seeking a mate? If he wandered in from the forest, he had to clamber down a very steep bank, swim the creek, and climb back up the equally steep far bank. Read More

11/29 Raptor

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Red shouldered hawk wearing a bit of mouse on her beak.

As birdwatchers know, being inside a car is one of the best ways to get up close to birds. And luckily I didn’t jump right out of mine after parking at the Louisville Nature Center last week. Leaning over to rummage for gloves, I caught a glimpse of quick movement – and there she was on the trail sign with a just-caught mouse. Read More

11/19 The Year in Turtles

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First boxie of the year

Now that the last Box turtle has gone underground, it’s time to update my turtle data book. It’s a project I started in 2013, when it became clear there were quite a few boxies in this forest. It was just a couple years since we began major invasive plant removal, and I was spending a good part of every day working in the forest. In the most favorable areas, such as low moist sites near water, I was encountering a really surprising number of Box turtles. Considering this is a bottomland littered with fallen trees and stumps, the habitat should be excellent. But is this the only reason for the abundance of boxies? It occurred to me there is another important factor. This little 80 acre fragment is bordered on two sides by a deeply channelized creek, and buffered on a third side by a large park. Though completely surrounded by the city, the box turtles here are relatively sheltered from one of their greatest threats – cars. Read More

10/30 Fall and Rise

 

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Another tree is dropping out of this little ecosystem. Though ash trees (genus Fraxinus) will still grow from seed and become saplings, nearly all older trees here will die and fall within the next ten years. In health, before the Emerald ash borer (EAB) arrived, they likely accounted for 40% of the canopy. As with the American chestnut and the American elm, the disappearance of these pillars of the community will have a profound effect on eastern forests. Read More

10/20 On Her Own

 

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The Red-shouldered is a forest hawk, smaller than the Red tailed hawk but larger than the Cooper’s. Find a bottomland forest with an open understory, near water, and there you may see them. Fortunately their habitat needs are a perfect match for this little forest, so the noisy calls of at least one resident pair can be heard throughout the year. And they’re successfully raising young too – yesterday I was lucky enough to see this young Red-shouldered hawk apparently off fending for itself. Read More

10/13 A Long Dry Spell

 

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This Streamside salamander was burrowed down deep in the roots of a Spicebush I was watering.

Now that some rain has come, I have time to write about the lack of it. Instead of endlessly hauling jugs of water by wheelbarrow, up and down the trail to stressed plantings. Those of you living in dry and drought prone places are used to this, but here in the humid state of Kentucky, the hottest and driest September on record was tough. Particularly following the longest wettest period anyone can remember, during which we planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs. Like a stock market afflicted with irrational exuberance, it felt like the party would never end… Read More

9/15 P-Berry and the Edge

 

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If I ever start a band, that could be our name. And we’ll climb over every obstacle to reach the top, ’cause that’s what P-berry does. But of course we couldn’t do it without the Edge, and the legions of unwitting fans who enable our success. If any of this makes sense to you, then you already know Porcelainberry, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata – that urban scourge of a grapevine with the crazy colored berries. Read More