Monday, January 31, 2011

New Look

Hope everyone enjoys Hoosier Safari's new look; I'm coming up on the blog's first year anniversary and wanted to spiff things up.

Here is a bunny for everyone's Monday morning. Wild rabbits eat their food, mostly grasses that are hard to digest, twice. The first time the food goes through them it comes out as pellets that are re-eaten and more easily digested the second time.     

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday --Chance to win free note cards

Last week's mystery picture was taken at the Dunes National Lakeshore. Chicago is just discernible along the horizon. Even in the days before Northwest Indiana had any towns or cities to speak of, there were stories told about the lights of Chicago glowing from across the lake.

Below is this week's mystery picture. Leave me your guess, in the comments, of where in Indiana you think this picture was taken. All correct guesses will be entered into a drawing on the first day of spring. The winner will receive a free set of Blue Heron Moon Notecards.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Book Shelf

Budget cutting seems to be happening all over the country these days as state, local, and the federal governments struggle under the heavy deficit caused by the recession.

Unfortunately, it is often the things that make us the happiest and healthiest that get placed on the cutting block first; things like state and federal park funding.

Besides keeping us healthy and active, wild places nurture and heal us. Occasionally great things come out of this melding of humanity and nature. Almost everyone has heard of Walden Pond and the great Thoreau. An Indiana author of the same caliber came out of the swamps and wildflower fields of Indiana.

In Gene Stratton Porter's The Song of the Cardinal, Stratton-Porter takes the reader inside the mind and life of a male cardinal. The book is a haunting reminder that mankind is not the only intelligence on earth and that good stewardship of our wild areas should be a requirement in good times as well as bad.

The Song of the Cardinal is a short book that can be read in an afternoon. And I guarantee once you pick it up, like all Stratton-Porter's books, you won't be able to put it down.       

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Trails

Winter allows no secrets.

Every animal, no matter how tiny, leaves footprints in the snow.

Even Coffee Creek leaves a trail of shelf ice along its banks to catch tiny prints of creatures stopping for a drink.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Days get Longer

January sunrises come earlier each day. On January first the sun rises here around 7:18 and by the end of the month the sun greets us at 7:05.

This photo is the January sun rising over the Little Calumet River. An amazing amount of wildlife makes it's home on this 1/4 mile stretch of the river in a fairly urban area.

I found this stretch of the river after a hectic day at work some years ago. Since then, I've stopped by frequently and watched the seasons pass in this little piece of the world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Coffee Creek Deer

The Coffee Creek deer really worry me. There are a lot of deer in such a small area and their diet is artificially supplemented with good Samaritan corn and grains. I've become concerned as I've watched their numbers grow over the last five years.

Like most animal populations, deer will over grow their food source until the population plummets from starvation.

It's always nice to see healthy deer such as this one hanging around in the winter. It has to be rough for these guys to find winter forage inspite of all the extra food the area provides.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter at the Marsh

A couple of years ago this area, at the Grand Kankakee Marsh, would have been covered with Muskrat Lodges.

Since then the muskrat population has crashed and is now on the rebound; a reminder of the cycles of nature that are greater than a calendar year.   

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday--guess where we are to win some notecards

Last week's Mystery Picture was taken at Oakridge Prairie, a county park in Lake County Indiana. This is a magnificent park to visit first thing in the morning. It's a great stop for a short hike before tackling the work day world.

I can't decide which season makes Oakridge shine the best. I guess they are all my favorite seasons at Oakridge:

This week's mystery picture is fairly easy; so no clue is necessary. Leave your guess in the comments. If it's correct we'll throw your name in the first day of spring notecard drawing:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

 Have you ever been at a pond or lake during a dragonfly hatch?  It's a great time to get some photographs. The colors of a newly hatched dragonfly are very vivid and the dragonfly's colors become more muted as time goes by until, at the very end, some species appear quite chalk like. 

If you want to find out all about dragonflies one great source is Dragonflies Through Binoculars by Sidney W. Dunkle. This book has loads of pictures and information and will have you identifying meadow hawks from river cruisers in no time. 

If you would like to move on and try to raise and release your own dragonflies, or if you just want to know how they do it, then the book for you is Dragonflies of the World by Jill Silsby and Michael J. Parr . This is a more indepth life history of dragonflies than your typical field guide. 

The larva are best observed in stagnant waters of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. They are ferocious hunters and move like miniature tanks. They are difficult to raise and need a long term commitment because they often stay in the larva stage for 2 or more years.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Indiana's National Lakeshore

Winter is beautiful on Indiana's National Lakeshore where the sky meets the water of Lake Michigan and paints everything a steely winter blue.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deer Brothers

While hiking on an early spring day at LaSalle Fish and Wildlife area, I came across these two deer brothers enjoying the hiking trail with me.

With their fuzzy new antlers on top of their heads, they were more concerned with feeding on the vegetation than with me snapping their picture.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Snow People of Coffee Creek

Lovely curley hair!

One of the things so great about winter is coming across a snow creation while on a hike. A couple of weeks ago I was at Coffee Creek and this snow couple was sitting on a bench waiting to greet everyone of us brave enough to be out in the cold.

Baldy must be the Mr. Snowman

Nice buttons!
Stay warm and enjoy your day!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Quail are fascinating little birds. Normally found on the ground, not in trees, quail will call to each other and gather together in a circle in the evenings; tails facing into the circle, heads facing out to look for danger.

They have an unmistakable call which gives them their common name, Bobwhite.

This bird is male. Females lack the white areas on the head. 

I have often wondered why quail are not considered as song birds. They remain hunted in many areas of the country even though sightings like this bird are rare and their sweet calls toward evening are even rarer. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday--Win some Notecards!

Last week's mystery picture was taken at Sunset Farm County Park in Porter County Indiana. The goats have recently taken up residence at the park and are enjoying the winter crowd of people snowshoeing, skiing, and running.

Chloe, a Meerkat/Yorkie blend peering
at goats.
The goats particularly enjoy the parade of dogs walking their people past their pen.

This week's mystery picture is a little more difficult, so a clue is included: This is also in a county park in the Northwest corner of Indiana. Leave a guess in the comments and you just might win the Blue Heron Moon Notecard set drawing on the first day of spring. Good luck!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

One early spring a few years ago I took off in search of the beginnings of the spring bird migration. As it turned out I was a little late and as I traveled south I discovered wave after wave of birds heading north. Nevertheless it was a grand experience.

On my bookshelf I have an old copy of Where the Birds Are  by John Oliver Jones. The book is full of maps, wildlife spots, and information on birds to look for in each location.

This book is not a field guide; you won't find pictures of any birds inside. What you will find is the most comprehensive amount of information brought together in one place on where you might go to observe certain species and at what time of the year you need to be at a given location for viewing.

I plan to get this book off the shelf again some snowy day this winter and dream of some place to go this spring to add another bird to my life list.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Can you see the sparkle of tiny rainbows in the snow?

Hard to believe that underneath grows the promise of the springtime. 


“SOFTLY sinking through the snow,
To our winter rest we go,
Underneath the snow to house
Till the birds be in the boughs,
And the boughs with leaves be fair, 
And the sun shine everywhere.
“Softly through the snow we settle,
Little snow-drops press each petal.
Oh, the snow is kind and white,—
Soft it is, and very light; 
Soon we shall be where no light is,
But where sleep is, and where night is,—
Sleep of every wind unshaken,
Till our Summer bids us waken.”
Then toward some far-off goal that singing drew; 
Then altogether ceas’d; more steely blue
The blue stars shone; but in my spirit grew
Hope of Summer, love of Roses,
Certainty that Sorrow closes.

From Garden Fairies by
Philip Bourke Marston (1850–87)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Summer Deer to Warm Us Up

With the cold and the snow that came overnight, I could use a warm up. So I dug into the archive and came up with one of my favorite deer pictures.

Deer are not very good at discerning immovable objects, so when I spotted this doe, I froze and the deer knew that she had saw movement but couldn't know for sure unless I moved again.

I stood still and watched her forage a little while longer and eventually she moved on. Here's to looking forward to summer on this cold January morning!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January Woods

A walk through the woods, even in January, always seems to nourish the spirit; makes the world fresh and good again.

The sky is so blue, its reflection in the snow sets off a million tiny prisms; sparkling minature rainbows flash at your eyes.

On such a walk, I long to taste the astringent flavor of a falling snowflake or smell the damp papery scent of the sleeping birch tree.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Whitebreasted Nuthatch

The Whitebreasted Nuthatch is a frequent visitor to Indiana feeders in the late fall, winter, and early spring. This little one was chowing some suet during Saturday's snow.

The Whitebreasted Nuthatch moves down a tree head first in search of food filling a niche left by the Brown Creeper that moves up trees head up.

This bird loves to munch suet, insects, sunflowers, and peanuts. It will eat one seed at a time; jamming the seed into the bark of a tree and then pecking away at it.

The Whitebreasted Nuthatch forages with other species; titmouse, chickadees, woodpeckers and they all learn each others 911 call. The more eyes watching for danger the better.

This looks to be a male because of the dark head cap; on a female it would be grayer. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday---Win Blue Heron Moon Note Cards

The mystery picture from December 18th was taken in LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area near Shelby, Indiana. This park is right on the Kankakee River with great wildlife viewing.

The park also has some of the best fishing and hunting in Indiana. The wetlands and fields are a great place to view deer, herons, egrets, swans, coyote, wild turkey, and fields flaming full of wildflowers each summer.

Some really good sized smallmouth and largemouth bass can be caught from the river bank in this park.

This weeks picture for a chance to be in the drawing should be easier; leave your guess in the comments to win the note cards on the first day of spring:


Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

My first hike of 2011 was through the Grand Kankakee Marsh. I love the wetland created by the Kankakee River. The marsh is full of ducks and geese in the spring. Deer, muskrat, heron and many frogs and turtles make their home there. And the fishing is great too.

Wetlands clean a lot of the poisons that we humans leave in our wake. Things like pesticides and fertilizers from farming along the river go into the river. People who use the area also leave things behind like horse and dog dung. And then there are things that float down through the area with the river water;  maybe a big factory farm that leaches antibiotics and chemicals from raising chickens and eggs. All these things can be filtered somewhat through a wetland.

The book that made the biggest difference to me about the havoc that pollutants can make to the environment is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Ms. Carson was just a regular person who noticed that birds had been quietly disappearing. She found the source was pollution and did something about it. Re-reading the book every now and then reminds me of the part we all take in making the pollution and the impact that it has on the water, air, and land that we share with all the creatures on the fragile planet Earth.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Downy or Hairy Woodpecker?

Downy Woodpecker
Woodpeckers are in the top 20 birds visiting Indiana feeders each winter. Two species that are quite similar are the Downy and the Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker
Identify the two by the length of their bill. The Downy's bill is shorter (only 1/2 of the width of the head) than the Hairy's (close to the total width of the head.)

Both woodpeckers have white bellies that reflect light back into holes in trees. They can hit a tree with their bills at 13-15 mph.

If you want to attract them to your feeder this winter, get some suet and a feeder that has a tail prop for the birds to balance on. You may have to be patient, but within a couple of days the woodpeckers will find you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Muskrat Family

From the archives:

A few years ago there was a muskrat boom at the Grand Kankakee Marsh. The living was easy for the little critters; full of cattails and aquatics to eat. There were lodges everywhere in the marsh.

One day, towards the end of winter, I came across this family taking part in the mid-day warmth of the sun. The smallest members of the family were heavily guarded up on top of the hut, while older members swam around, grabbed some weeds, and had a nibble.

At one point one of the babies on the hut got too comfortable sleeping and rolled off. What a commotion it caused as the older ones rushed to the rescue and got the baby back up to safety!

This year's lodge population is still low; nothing compared to the year the photo was taken. The boom apparently created a food shortage; the cattails still haven't recovered. Hopefully, when they do, there will be other opportunities to view these fun creatures.   

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Piece of Summer in January

Great big Water Lilies bloom each summer at LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area on the Kankakee River in Indiana.

This lily was caught in the act of unfolding. The centers of the flowers are quite interesting. Don't you think?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Morning Blue Heron

A Great Blue Heron from the archives for your first Monday of 2011.

This heron was captured fishing at my favorite spot in Chain of Lakes State Park in Indiana.