By now, my readers must think this little forest is an earthly paradise, packed with native plants and animals. The truth is rather different – I’ve only been showing you the good bits. The 20 acres or so now relatively free of invasive plants have been hard won, and some will not agree with our methods. Every acre restored has first been subjected to intensive “management” of the chemical sort, year after year. And there’s a lot more left to do. Read More
This is not Jake from the previous post. This is Tom, a young gobbler (mature male) who has been hanging out in a different part of the forest. Wednesday at 8:30 am he was standing on a log near the trail, his wattle, caruncle, and snood illuminated by the morning sun. Read More
It’s an odd feeling when you try to sneak up on a wild turkey, but the turkey just doesn’t care. Yesterday evening I noticed him picking his way through a meadow above the trail, with a casual, self absorbed attitude. As I approached he slowly moved along, keeping about eight feet away. Read More
You might guess that North America’s largest woodpecker would go after some pretty big bugs. You’d be wrong though – like a number of other woodpeckers, the Pileated prefers ants. With its formidable beak, the bird is perfectly adapted to dig deep into the heart of trees where Carpenter ants have their nests. I was lucky enough to watch just such an excavation a few days ago. Read More
This mud-encrusted head belongs to a Box turtle; one of the first to emerge this spring. I spotted him on 3/27, an earlier date than most of the previous seven year’s first Box turtle observations. But what exactly is he emerging from? Hint – it’s not hibernation. Read More
Spring is happening and the forest is getting noisy again. Birds are staking out nesting territories, yelling their songs at competitors and potential mates. But a huge number of tiny creatures are still sleeping, in one form or another. And before the birds can get on with it, the insects must awake. These buzzing, humming, flying, crawling hordes are some of the most vital strands in the forest’s food web.
As I recently wrote (10/30 Fall and Rise) nearly all the old ash trees of this forest are dying or dead, due to infestations of the Emerald ash borer. Pieces of them – from giant limbs to little crumbs, will be raining down onto the forest floor for at least another decade. Besides the obvious hazard to those of us who spend a lot of time in the forest, there are some unique opportunities…
…to see life forms that usually are happy to stay well above our heads. Several newly fallen chunks of ash lay on the trail yesterday, encrusted with foliose lichens in delicate shades of pale green. The very frilly Ruffle lichen was particularly interesting to see, since it doesn’t commonly grow near ground level. They all appeared to have been thriving prior to their fall, likely due to increased light levels as their tree declined. As you may know, lichens are actually a cohabitation of fungi and algae. They inhabit an amazing diversity of habitats, from barren rocky mountaintops to drippy rain forests to deserts.
To answer the question of how they manage to disperse themselves to such varied locales, lichens can reproduce asexually by shedding specialized specks of combined algal cells and fungal filaments. They can also just break into tiny bits when dried out – so either a windy day or a birds foot would suffice to get them into the treetops.
These fallen lichens are out of luck – stuck on the ground, they’re unlikely to travel anywhere but into a deer’s stomach. But who knows? If not annihilated by the powerful ruminant digestive system, perhaps they’ll be dispersed again throughout the forest.
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…
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