Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Turtle eggs

While hiking the Indiana Dunes I came upon turtles that were busy digging nests to lay eggs.

Our turtles in Indiana dig nests in the same way as those more popularly written about sea turtles and, unfortunately, some of our turtles are equally as endangered.

Turtle eggs are magical looking things; they almost glow with a pinkish light. The shell is not as hard as a chicken egg and instead of the normal "egg shape" turtle eggs tend to be round.

I am very careful about not disturbing the turtles. I keep my distance and use a long lens to take pictures. In a few weeks I expect to see a bunch of empty egg shells along the path and hope that the little ones survive the many predators like raccoons, possums, and SUV tires that like to prey on them.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One is the loneliest number.....

Five years ago when I discovered the swans on a pond at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, there were a pair trying to start a family.

Over the years I watched the pair lose nest after nest to predators and flooding. But through trial and error they finally successfully raised first two chicks, and then last year, they raised six, although I can't verify if all the little ones made it to adulthood.

Swans are not solitary creatures. You always see them in pairs and they mate for life. While nesting, mom sits on the nest and Dad chases predators and other birds and animals away.

This year there is just one solitary swan; a lonely sight. I can't tell if it is one of the pair or a baby returning to it's home site. I hope it's the later and that he (or she) finds a mate soon.  

Monday, June 28, 2010


Brush your fingers across this plant and then breathe the scent of this plant and you know you are truly experiencing summer. The scent is a robust, heavy, deep perfume.

Yarrow was a medicinal plant brought early to the new world by pioneers. It was used to reduce fevers and speed the clotting of blood. Its other names include nosebleed and bloodwort. A tea made of the leaves was used for stomach disorders.     

Sources: Audubon Wildflowers Field Guide, Readers Digest Wildflowers  

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Poisonous plants abound in the nightshade family; a family that includes tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, and peppers.

This native specimen was blooming at the Dunes recently and is poisonous.

Friday, June 25, 2010


The coneshape flowers of the sumac are blooming at the Dunes. During mild winters these flowers will be barely touched by birds and other wildlife.

During harsher winters the fruit is heavily browsed by deer and birds and is an important source of vitamin A.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear  is a native cactus to the eastern U.S.  Found in the Dunes, they are currently blooming. Don't step on them with bare feet though; their spines have barbs pointing in two directions making the spines nearly impossible to extract once they go into the skin.

The cleaned fruits are edible. Candy and jelly can be made out of this plant.  

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wild Blueberries

Blueberries May 16th to June 13th.  Does someone who watches the wild blueberries become ripe have too much time on their hands? 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tiny Bubbles

This frog was sitting in a rain puddle at the Indiana Dunes surrounded by a necklace of bubbles. He was oblivious to me as I passed. If anyone knows why he's blowing the bubbles please feel free to post a comment. 

There was a lot of manmade noise in the area that day; a boxcar on the railroad tracks had a siren going off for hours. Maybe he just didn't care for the noise.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Goat's Rue or Devils Shoestrings if you prefer

This beautiful flower is just starting to bloom in the Dunes. A member of the pea family, Goat's Rue was previously fed to goats because it was thought that the plant increased milk production.

The plant is no longer fed to animals and it has been found to contain rotenone; a fish and insect poison.

It is also called Devils Shoestrings due to a trait that will become quite apparent if you ever find yourself trying to remove it from your yard; it has very long, very stringy roots.  

source: Audubon Wildflowers    

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Spring into Summer at the Indiana Dunes

The spring wildflowers are fading and summer blooms are making appearances at the Dunes. The last of the Lupines are producing their fuzzy seed pods for next years flowers.

Goatsbeard is also going to seed in big fluffy balls.

The scent of sweet clover is on the air and perky oxeye daisies brighten up the landscape.

Frogs lounge in temporary pools and puddles. 

And now that nesting duties are over, the robins enjoy a midday bath.  
Roses and birdsfoot trefoil join the June parade. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Breakfast at Coffee Creek

Every morning a man goes through Coffee Creek park with a bag of nuts, corn, and seeds for the wildlife. You must get up early for the breakfast hour but it is worth it. This trio was enjoying nut and corn.

The moocher deer hang out and wait for the handout and sometimes even follow you down the path. All turn into friends in the face of such abundance.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Birth Announcement

A pair of swans residing at Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area are the proud parents of four little swans.

The family was seen parading through the wetland recently.

In lieu of birthday presents it is requested that you support a wetland near you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


One of my favorite summer wildflowers, spiderwort is in abundant bloom right now. This is a native wildflower.

This beautiful flower is so named because the person naming the flower decided that the leaves were arranged like a squatting spider. I don't know...I think I could have figured out a better name.

The flowers open in the morning and then wilt and turn into a jelly like fluid. I caught these in the morning before the meltdown.   

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Foxglove Beardtongue

Foxglove Beardtongue is blooming abundantly at Coffee Creek.

This is a native wildflower. The deer barely stop munching the plants to give passerby's a glance.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Oxeye Daisy

There weren't many Oxeye Daisies the last couple of years, perhaps because of the wet conditions. This year they are back to being abundant.

The Oxeye is an introduced species from Europe.   

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Ahhhh....a plump, warm, juicy mulberry picked fresh off the tree and popped into your mouth is a wonderful summer treat.

A few years ago I made a batch of mulberry jam. It was the best jam I've ever tasted. Unfortunately I also got a severe case of poison ivy while picking the berries.

The park near my home has a lot of big mulberry trees; they are so beautiful. Unfortunately, most of the lower branches were trimmed this spring and so much of the fruit remains just out of reach.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Happy little Blue Birds

Sunset Hill Farm County Park is covered in Blue Birds this year. I have never seen so many...somebody apparently raised a family.

This little one was hanging around on a post enjoying the day. 

His feathers are not really blue...if you see him go into a shady spot he will look like a different, dull colored bird. His feathers contain air pockets that refract light like a prism. He appears blue because that is the color that is refracted.

Source: Indiana DNR Naturalist Program  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Anglewing Butterfly

Anglewings are all over the Indiana woodlands this time of year and they will pause for a picture better than most butterflies.

I'm thinking that this is probably a Question Mark, although I can't really be sure unless I harass the butterfly and capture it to examine it more closely. I was satisfied with just the picture. (I'll leave it to an expert to identify by the picture and make this truly  a "question mark" for me.)

My Audubon guide states that the butterflies can get intoxicated from drinking fermented fruit. Next we'll be hearing about butterfly AA (BAA.)

This is another butterfly that uses those dreaded nettles, in addition to elm and hackberry, as a host plant.   

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yellow Goatsbeard

The first time I identified Goatsbeard by referencing this tall yellow wildflower in my guidebook I wondered how this flower got it's name. It didn't resemble a goats beard to me!

Then I walked by the same flower a couple of weeks later and figured it out when I saw how the flower goes to seed.  The seed head is a complete sphere and is at least as big as fist. It is quite beautiful.

This flower was introduced to Indiana from Europe long ago and is edible. The roots supposedly taste like oysters. Don't go looking for the flowers much past noon though, since the flowers shut down about that time. You can find these blooming right now in Indiana in open areas and fields.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Birdsfoot Trefoil

As a child I loved dandelions. I think all children do. They are bright and gorgeously yellow. And as a child a a a flower.

When I find that plants like Birdsfoot Trefoil are introduced European plants that may crowd out the native American species I feel the same sense of childlike disappointment. Like most non-indigenous species they are wonderfully beautiful, bright, and numerous. 

These wildflowers have been here from as early as 1597 and make great plants for cattle to munch on. They are also members of the pea family that affix nitrogen to the soil. They are still being used in agriculture so I think they are here to stay. Good thing they're so gorgeous.  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Garbage to fuel or fool?

Why is Lake County building a trash to ethanol plant in the Kankakee River flood plain even against the advice of the builder?

Has Lake County filled up to such a point that there is not one vacant existing industrial lot that can accommodate the trash to ethanol facility?

Must the facility be built in one of the few areas where deer, coyotes, and wild turkeys still roam; one of the last few areas that has really great fishing and the fish are relatively safe to eat?

There are three major rivers in Lake County. The Kankakee is the last unpolluted river. Trash to ethanol is an unproven technology that has not been done on a large scale. Some existing ethanol facilities are notorious polluters.

Is the plant in the proposed area worth the risk?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

You don't know what you've lost.....

Today a few pictures of the area around the LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area on the Kankakee River:

Some deer:

A Quail

A fawn

Some Sandhill Cranes
The Water full of fish and beautiful in any season

Hope you enjoyed this pictures. The area may soon be so badly affected that these pictures may be gone....more Monday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

wild garlic

Round a bend on a certain path in Coffee Creek and suddenly you are dreaming of garlic toast. The smell of garlic is all around and comes from the patch of wild garlic growing underneath the trees.

The plant is edible; the flowers are delightful. It is said that the meat of cows grazing in wild garlic patches comes pre-seasoned with garlic flavor. Imagine that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wandering Turtles

Turtle, why do you wander so? Is it for love? Or are you looking for a select spot to leave your eggs?

After being sick of the sight of so many of these guys lying smushed on the roads this year, I stopped to help this one so it wouldn't become another casualty. He or she was not appreciative, as I knew would be the case.

I had heard that these guys have strong jaws that latch on to fingers, toes, etc and then refuse to let go; so I went to my car and grabbed the long snow scraper I have yet to stow for the summer. The turtle had almost crossed the road but was headed for the side that had a fence which would leave the turtle without a place to go. So I had to persuade it to go back where it had come from; a nice shady, moist side that had a swamp a short distance away.

As I walked up to the turtle he raised up on his feet and stood tall and swaggered a stare at me; letting me know who was boss. I cautiously placed my snow scraper close to his face. True to form, he used his massive jaws to snap at the scraper; but then he let go.

I tried to prod him across the no avail. He would just dig in his heels and look annoyed. Finally I rolled him to the other side of the road. You can just imagine his look of indignation when I set him upright in the shade on the safe side of the road.

Nope. No look of gratefulness. No thank you. Just outrage and disgust. Best wishes guy.

Watch out for the turtles.      

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

When I first tried to identify these damsels years ago I searched on every version of the word green that I could think of because they are such a lovely shade of emerald green. I just knew they had to be named the emerald damsel or the damsel of Oz. Alas, their name comes from their black wings.

They are now active in Indiana and can be found flitting around any sunny spot in the forest. They always seem to be observing me observing them. They fly but not too far. Like all damsels they start out in a swamp or wetland, and metamorphosis into the flying adults that eat, among other insects, lots of mosquitoes.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fishing at Willow Slough

Sunday I took an old-fashioned  picnic of cold chicken, potato salad, beans, and peaches down to Willow Slough.

The focus of Willow Slough is Murphy Lake. The lake was drained a few years back, in a massive undertaking by the DNR. I followed some people out into the lake area shortly after the draining. Shortly after the people had disappeared, I sank into a muddy area of the lake bottom up past my knees. Fortunately my two little dogs were out walking with me and I some how managed to come out of the quicksand with their help.

The lake is finally getting back to normal. An hour of fishing yielded many bites and a good sized small mouth bass. There were a lot of good times being had around the lake; people fishing, camping, and picnicking.

Even though the lake is where most people spend their time, there are other things to do at Willow Slough. I took my bicycle down a couple of the country roads that criss-cross the property. You can see wildlife; deer, raccoon, turtles, snakes, minks, weasels, butterflies, and wildflowers. The country roads offer some good nature hiking too, if a bicycle is not your thing.

After an afternoon of bicycling and a picnic dinner I finished off the day with some more fishing in the area; caught a bunch of little ones, nothing worth keeping; my it was a great day!