Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Book Shelf

One of my favorite things to do is to take a jar full of water from a local stream, pond, or lake and examine all the tiny critters that make a living right under our noses; yet we rarely take notice of them.

Most of the tiny creatures are difficult to identify but with some practice and a good field guide the hidden wonder of your local wetland will be revealed.

One of the best fieldguides that I have found is A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America by J. Reese Voshell, Jr. This book does an outstanding job with detailed drawings, helpful size charts, and detailed life cycle information.

Because most of the aquatic creatures that are found in wetland waters metamorphose 2 or more times during their life cycle it can be difficult to identify a specimen in a juvenile stage without this informative and helpful reference.

The best time of the year to explore a jarful of water is in early spring. If you're lucky you can find mayfly or dragonfly larva ready to hatch. As the year progresses into summer, the population in the water changes with the season and more aquatic beetles, scuds, and even mosquito larva will be present.

With a copy of A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America,  you'll be able to identify them all. Happy hunting.   

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Herons are easy photography targets. They are least active during the day and if you don't get too close will stand for a long photography shoot.

This bird is most active at dusk when it fishes and hunts where other herons fish and hunt during the day.

This heron was photographed in a Hammond, Indiana city park. Other places in Northwest Indiana to view this lovely bird in the spring and summer are the banks of the Little Calumet River in Gary and the Kankakee Grand Marsh.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Purple Martin

From the archives:

A Purple Martin to wish for on this cold December day.

This one was captured a couple of summers past in the Grand Kankakee Marsh in Indiana.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coffee Creek Christmas Morning

It was a magical Christmas Morning at Coffee Creek this year; cold but bright as the sun came out a bit. A layer of snow and ice tried to cover the creek but did not succeed.

All the little critters were sleeping in; things were quiet.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Hike in Indiana Dunes

I was out hiking the Indiana Dunes this holiday  to earn that extra holiday cookie and piece of Christmas pie. Climbing the dunes is easier in the winter after the sand freezes hard and is a great cardiovascular workout and a way to keep warm and enjoy the quiet beauty of the Dunes habitat.

Christmas Eve was a grey day full of bright cardinals and blue jays in the woods. Once I reached the shore of Lake Michigan there were bright beach toys left from summers heated days to add to a holiday picture.

You never know what you will find on the Indiana shoreline. One Christmas day, a couple of years ago, someone had left a message of "Peace on Earth" in the sand of one of the dunes, as a quiet Christmas blessing to all who passed.

This year I found a crawdad, not quite frozen, in a bunch of sea junk. I felt sorry for him, so I stuck him in my pocket thinking I would take him home and warm him up in an aquarium.

A little ways down the shore I came across a bird trying to eke a living out of the sea junk. I realized that by picking up the crawdad I may have cheated the bird out of a meal. I quickly took the crawdad out of my pocket and tossed him to the bird. I don't know if it was the bird or the gulls that got the crawdad but he was no where to be found on the return walk. 

The lake was restless and cold, but still not frozen, and as I walked I could see in the distance a group of Bufflehead Ducks bouncing on the waves. As I turned to climb back through the Dunes to return home, a tiny dusting of snow started falling, promising a white Christmas.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday Book Shelf

Wildlife watchers often lament the darkest, coldest parts of the year when glimpses of any wildlife is often limited to the bird feeder.

But now is the perfect time to take advantage of the dark, clear, starry nights and look up.

If a telescope is in a loved one's or your Christmas stocking this year, the perfect accompaniment is Three Hundred and Sixty Five Starry Nights by Chet Raymo. This book leads you through a whole year of navigating the stars and will provide all the information you need to find your way around the sky during your first year with a telescope.

Winter is the best time for viewing the sky; not only are the brightest, easiest stars visible, but the cold, clear nights make for the best conditions for viewing. Just make sure to bring your scope down to the outdoor temperature prior to using and never try to view anything through a window; it doesn't work.

Enjoy.....heaven waits.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Ducky Life

Here's hoping everyone is just ducky on this special day.

Here are some Mallards and one Bufflehead from the archives.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Woods

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost
A white Christmas is being guaranteed to Northwest Indiana this year; we have a few inches on the ground with more promised. The snow makes everything quiet with hardly a sound from a bird.
But signs of life are everywhere in the tracks of tiny creatures that eke out livings in the cold.  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Quiet Stalker

Hanging out in the summer garden this silent stalker of ants and other insects was making a good living.

I watched as it grabbed and devoured a tasty morsel that tried to crawl by; the whole deed done with those "prayer like" appendages.   

The Praying Mantis, a close relative of the cockroach,  preys on the meat of other insects.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dark December Days

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness every where!
W. Shakespeare 

This week the days stop getting shorter as the winter solstice arrives...finally.

I look forward to the lengthening days even as winter's clutches tighten around us.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mystery Picture Saturday --Chance to win free note cards

Last week's mystery picture was taken at Oxbow Park, maintained by the City of Hammond, Indiana. Oxbow is a jewel of a park within city limits; full of wildlife--ducks, geese, herons, muskrats and deer all call the park home.

If number of fisher-people is any indication of the fishing at Oxbow; the fishing should be good. The Oxbow is caused by a bend in the Little Calumet River into the park perimeter. The Oxbow creates a wetland; perfect habitat for the wildlife that frequent the park.

This week's mystery picture is taken at one of my favorite places to view wildlife and fish in Indiana. Add your guess of where in Indiana the picture was taken into the comments section to be included in the Blue Heron Moon notecard drawing on the first day of spring:



Friday, December 17, 2010

Bunny Boon or Bust

The Indiana Dunes had a bunny boon in 2006. The little ones were all over the place that year.

Many species of plant and animal go through boon and bust cycles and many are interconnected in ways that humans are only beginning to understand.

The picture of this little bunny was captured in 2006 when every two or three feet along the path a tiny baby bunny would appear and sample the salad along the path rim. In 2010 I saw a couple of grown rabbits but no babies along the same area.  

A great book to learn all there is to know about rabbits is The Private Life of the Rabbit by R. M. Lockley. This book details studies performed on rabbit populations on a farm in England. Population numbers and rabbit behavior was found to be affected by different stimuli in amazing and interesting ways. Everything you ever wanted to know about rabbits can be found in The Private Life of the Rabbit.    

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blue Heron

Another from the archive: This Blue Heron picture was captured at Oxbow Park in Hammond Indiana.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goose Family of the Little Cal

This goose family was crossing the Little Calumet River in the spring in Gary Indiana.

The amount of wildlife that shares this abused urban river is astounding.

Even more astounding is the number of people who travel through this area of Indiana who miss the gentle, forgiving beauty of the river.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flowers Under Glass

One way of taking a picture of very small flowers or objects on nature walks is to carry a magnifying glass in your pocket and take the picture through the magnifying glass.

It takes some practice but I have used this technique taking pictures of tiny flowers and insects in places where my lens wouldn't reach.

Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by a different view of nature too.   

Monday, December 13, 2010

This Goose is a Questionmark

Here is a goose with a question from the archives. She was sitting with her goslings at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area this summer.

It is a mystery what happened to her neck which appeared to working well in spite of the additional curves.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mystery Picture Saturday --Chance to win free note cards

The bird in the picture is fishing at Hovey Lake in Indiana. I like to think Indiana is a Christmas stocking chock full of good surprises. When I was young, Mom would put a really nice surprise in the toe of our Christmas stocking. Hovey Lake is in Indiana's toe.

The lake is created by the wetlands that occur when the Wabash and the Ohio Rivers come together to make Indiana's southwest border. This is a very special place with its very own kind of beauty and one of the prettiest areas in the world.

There's something really magical when two great rivers come together; a sense of peace perfades the area that is full of wildlife, swamps, and water. Herons, egrets, frogs and turtles, beaver, and abundant wildflowers all share the area. What a treasure in Indiana's toe!

This week's Mystery Picture is in the heart of one of Indiana's metropolitan areas.  Where do you think the picture was taken? Put your guess in the comments and you may win a set of Blue Heron Moon Note Cards in our first day of spring contest.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snowy Crab Aps

The last of the crab apples are still hanging on and wearing coats of snow. They won't last long though, the tree was being visited by Blue Jays in search of food in the early season cold and snow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Snow Day

Snow changes the whole world doesn't it? The smell of snow is fresh and clean. I love how it muffles all traffic sounds but seems to enhance bird calls.

And no deer or mouse passes through snow undetected.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Say Hello to Hairy

The morning snow persuaded this Hairy Woodpecker to visit the feeder.

This little one was getting his fill of peanut flavored suet. The Hairy can be distinguished from the Downy Woodpecker by the length of his pecker. The Hairy's beak is as long as his head is wide. The Downy's beak is 1/2 the width of his head.

Woodpeckers peck at 13-15 mph and have larger brains than most birds. The brain completely fills the head cavity so that there is no whiplash effect from pecking.

Woodpeckers have 2 toes forward and two toes back, unlike other birds, so that they can hang on to trees and suet feeders. They eat suet, insects, and nectar.

The Hairy Woodpecker was the 19th most seen bird at winter feeders in the 2008-2009 season in Indiana.     

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Morning Squirrel

From the archives: A Monday morning squirrel to start your week.

All the squirrels in this part of Indiana are currently tucked in their beds; it's cold outside with snow coming down.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mystery Picture Saturday --Chance to win free note cards

Last week's mystery lady can be found at Holliday Park on the north side of Indianapolis. Holliday is a jewel box of nature in the middle of city burbs. You can take a walk along the White River, enjoy the gorgeous landscape, watch children play on an unique playground that would entice a grown up to play, or join in one of the nature programs offered at the center.

If you go, don't miss the inside viewing center to view birds at the nature center's feeders.

And the treasure of this park are the ruins from New York City. Yes, there are ruins from New York in Indianapolis....Back in the 1950 New York City's first sky scraper was being torn down in the name of a newer building. The building being torn down had marvelous sculptures fashioned from limestone taken from right here in Indiana. The city of Indianapolis won the sculptures in a contest and the sculptures were moved from New York to Holliday Park in Indianapolis.

Even though the sculptures could use a little TLC, they are very beautiful and the history of how a piece of Indiana traveled to New York and back makes a very interesting story.   

This week's mystery picture is from one of Indiana's many wetland areas. If you recognize it and want to submit a guess, enter your guess as a comment. All correct answers will be placed in a hat for a drawing on the first day of spring. The winner will receive a set of Blue Heron Moon Notecards. 


Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Book Shelf

This week's book is The Natural Heritage of Indiana by Marion T. Jackson. I won this book off of the Indiana University Press Blog  and it is a real treasure load of information regarding the natural resources of Indiana.

This book is massive and encompasses just about everything you would need to know about how Indiana's land was formed, age of the land mass, the lakes and wetlands, plants and fauna, animals, and human settlement and impact on the land.

Jackson takes you on a historical journey from the ice age all the way through the present day and into the challenges that face our natural resources tomorrow.

The book is jam-packed full of magnificent pictures and maps supplementing all the facts and historical information. For anyone interested in a book all about Indiana and its natural resources The Natural Heritage of Indiana is a book not to be missed.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love a Muskrat

Muskrats are plentiful in the wetlands and swamps that are part of the Kankakee River flood plain.

In early spring or late winter, on the first warmer days of the year, you might be able to spot a whole family basking in the warming rays of the sun on top of their lodges.

And contrary to the song Muskrat Love, if you come across a pair in the swamp on some summer evening, you are more likely to witness a fight. They will mutter to each other. They will box with their tiny paws. And the sorry loser will move off in the opposite direction muttering and chirping all the way.    

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 1

Braving the elements this morning, risking frostbite, and chill, dogs and I went forth on this Indiana December 1st to capture a picture of the first snow squall of the season.

The snow has stopped since, but from the looks of the sky, we will have snow off and on all day long.