5/17 Birdy

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Great Horned Owl trying to nap

It’s shaping up to be a very busy summer in the forest for this blogger, which helps explain the scarcity of posts lately. So much going on, and so little time to write about it! But I can’t resist sharing yesterday’s birdy encounters, as well as the fact that my life is increasingly dominated by birds (more on that below).

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4/25 Pure Green

 

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Sweat bee, that is. As a kid that’s what we called them, for their habit of landing on a sweaty arm to get salt. We thought they would sting us, and the females can if riled up. Little did I know they were just one of 4000 species of bees native to North America. But Augochlora pura, the Pure Green Sweat Bee, has to be one of the loveliest of the bunch – and it’s common in this forest. Read More

4/10 First

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This is how you look after spending the winter sleeping underground

Apologies for the long gap in posts, but I’ve been waiting for just this moment. 2019 will be my seventh year collecting data on the Box turtles of this forest, and yet the first one spotted each spring still gives me a thrill. Read More

3/12 Blue

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Male bluebird watching for dinner near trail post #20

Growing up as a city kid in the ’60’s, bluebirds seemed like faraway mythical creatures. I’d never actually seen one, but read that people built special trails for them with boxes to nest in. Once while hiking we came across just such a box mounted on a fence post -but alas, no bluebirds. Years later, living on the west coast, I came to know both western and mountain bluebirds and to recognize their calls. So when I finally heard that distinctive little “cheery-we” call in this forest, I knew Eastern bluebirds were about. Read More

2/16 Weed

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There is a plant that interests me as much in the depths of winter, as when it’s green and juicy. One of the last weeds still standing, gangly Pokeweeds’s bleached skeletons rear up along the forest edge, offering a few shriveled berries to animals sheltering there.

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2/3 Coldest Day

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Male Downy woodpecker foraging in brush

One of my favorite times to explore this little fragment is when it’s very cold. Last Tuesday’s daytime windchill reading was about 5 degrees, and I wanted to see how the forest birds were faring. Except for the creaking of trees and the occasional call of a woodpecker or wren, it was amazingly quiet down in the woods, as if all humans but me had suddenly departed the planet. Even more than usual, I marveled that I was in a forest in the middle of a city. Read More

1/26 Living Just Enough

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I don’t know how many times I walked past this strange looking object before recognizing it as a living creature. It resides near the trail, attached to a small Spicebush at a height of two feet, looking most intentionally like a clump of dead leaves. It’s actually the winter survival capsule for one of North America’s largest giant silkmoths, the Cecropia, Hyalophora cecropia. And like many insects, it’s in a state of “diapause”, the pupa slumbering secure in its silken bag till spring.

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1/19 Under Story

 

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Winter understory of Spicebush and Common greenbriar

Between the big trees and the herbaceous layer there’s an important but often neglected zone. In this little forest fragment, and many others, it’s the one occupied primarily by invasive shrubs. A popular feel-good activity for volunteer groups and scout troops is the removal of these plants. I’ve led many such events – by the end of the workday, viewing the clearcut of massive bush honeysuckle, there’s always the feeling we’ve done something good for the forest. But have we really? Read More

12/31 Return of the Bluebells

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Bare root Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, just before planting

Once upon a time, the South Fork of Beargrass Creek meandered across a floodplain rich with spring ephemeral wildflowers. Though the passing millennia brought changes in climate, soils, and geology that slowly altered this flora, the rapid changes of just the past few hundred years have caused the local extinction of most of it. So when deciding what to plant and where, one can only draw on experience with similar sites that are less damaged. But sometimes it’s easy. In my mind’s eye I see another floodplain along a riverbank in southern Indiana, covered with acres of the purest cerulean blue. Virginia Bluebells, of course. Read More

12/9 Unnatural Forest

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Five year old Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, one of hundreds planted to revive this forest’s shrub layer

Look through the boxes in your kitchen cabinet and you’ll likely see the word “natural” somewhere. Co-opted by marketers, it’s devolved into one of the most meaningless of words. The actual definition, “existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind” implies that it’s possible to draw a line between human and non-human causation (an increasingly difficult task in the age of the Anthropocene!) But if any place could be descibed as natural, it would surely be a forest, right? Read More