2/22 February Forest

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an earthworm ventures out in the wet warmth

Got a taste of the new February this past Sunday. 52 degrees and waves of Sandhill Cranes surging north, the forest filled with their ancient shrill croaking. Once you’ve learned this call you won’t forget it; you’ll always look up when they’re passing overheard. As the flocks moved over the forest they were flying low and circling, seeking a better stream of wind to ride on. I could barely focus on anything else; the sound of cranes is one of my gateways to an altered state of mind. Read More

2/14 Survivors

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The oldest Black walnut I’ve found in this forest

Trees, like people, need to dodge a lot of bullets to get really old. The shade of other trees, browsing animals, insects, disease, wind storms, buck rubs, people with chain saws, and just plain bad luck. So many ways to lose out, it’s amazing that any tree makes it past 100 years. Even more so in this little fragment of forest, that has endured a succession of anthropogenic impacts over the last 200 years. There are just a few older trees left here; these survivors have been witness to the gradual fading of a remarkable landscape. Read More

2/1 A Year of Turtles

 

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female boxie hiding behind a stump, 9/13/17

One of the more unique aspects of Beargrass Creek SNP is the healthy Eastern Box Turtle Terrepene carolina population. Why have they have continued to thrive in this small fragment of forest? In part they’re protected by a quirk of geography – a human-made barrier. Though the preserve is completely surrounded by neighborhoods, it’s “walled” on two sides by the channelized South Fork. This deep ditch serves as a kind of moat,  preventing box turtle movement in the direction of nearby busy roads, while allowing for movement along the stream corridor. Habitat is good in the forest, with varied terrain, moist soils, springs, berry-producing plants and plenty of snails and earthworms. Despite being in the city, it’s box turtle heaven. Read More

1/22 Bedtime for Meleagris

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As I was leaving the forest this evening, about the time when it’s almost dark, a loud clumsy flapping in a nearby Black walnut tree startled me. It appeared to be a large bird, trying to steady itself on a small limb. Hawk? Owl? In my experience these masters of stealth would never draw so much attention to themselves. As it settled and stretched out its skinny neck, the bird’s identity was apparent. Have you guessed it? Yes, turkeys roost in trees at night. Read More

1/19 Winter Deer

 

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doe resting in the winter sun

As a child, the idea of actually seeing a wild deer was exciting, but improbable. I was a city kid, and though we often joined a local club for hikes in southern Indiana, I don’t remember even seeing tracks very often. And I certainly never imagined that one day there would be herds of deer in the city that I could watch every day. In less than 40 years, Whitetails have morphed into a fast multiplying garden nuisance and road hazard. And as usual there isn’t one single reason, but a convergence of ecological and cultural changes. Read More

1/10 Relict

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Giant fruits the size of softballs litter the woods near trail post #1. It’s a ridiculously over-the-top spread, laid out for dinner guests that won’t be coming. Squirrels and deer work on the freeze-softened remains but they can hardly make a dent – this fare was intended for something much bigger.

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Day 1

 

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It’s the unofficial one year anniversary of the blog; if I ever worried that I’d run out of things to write about, I’m not worried anymore. This tiny wild place in the city is infinitely richer than anyone could guess. Everyday-ness, familiarity helps – noticing the minute progressions of life in it’s seasonal cycle. Day 1 is just what I noticed today. Read More

11/28 Once and Future Parrot

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Carolina Parakeet, Conuropsis caroliniensis, at the Field Museum

Once there were parrots in this forest. Maybe the oldest trees remember them, since it wasn’t that long ago. The reasons they’re gone are tangled and various – even the details of their biology weren’t well understood before they vanished. Read More

12/14 Crystallofolia

 

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Finally, a color pic – crystallofolia emerging from a stem of White Crownbeard, Verbesina virginica

Scientists have been trying to explain the unique phenomenon of  “ice ribbons” for hundreds of years. But oddly, there was no consensus on what to call them. 19th century German botanists came up with “Eisblatt” (iceleaf); translated into latin it becomes “Crystallofolia”, which rolls off the tongue much more nicely. No surprise, the term was coined by linguist Dr. Bob Harms. In fact, we have Dr. Harms and Dr. James Carter (ISU professor emeritus, Geology/Geography dept.) to thank for finally demystifying the phenomenon with their careful research. Read More

12/9 Liquid Frozen

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I’ll bet some readers will recognize this odd, but relatively common natural phenomenon. If you don’t know what it is, the convoluted spirals may seem rather fantastical; reminiscent more of old-time ribbon candy than something in nature. Black and white images can make the familiar strange, and the unfamiliar even stranger… Read More