Monday, February 28, 2011

Winter Trails

The trail at Coffee Creek seems to have no end...just like the winter that chills our bones.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday --- Name this place win some Note cards

Last week's picture was taken at Ouabache State Park where a herd of Buffalo can be observed.

While you're in the park viewing the buffalo, try climbing the fire tower that is in the park. If you don't get a case of vertigo and wimp out before you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful vista of Indiana farm and forest.  The climb is not for the faint of heart; the firetower is very high.

This weeks picture is below. If you can identify the place that the picture was taken, key your guess into the comments section. All correct guesses will have a chance at the drawing for a packet of Blue Heron Moon Notecards. The drawing will be on the first day of spring.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

Most people will never see the endless plain of the middle of the U.S. Humans love water; so we spend our time hugging our coasts; visiting the beaches, watching the waves.

The amber waves that make up our plains have just as much beauty and come with more majesty, maybe just because they are so empty. They have been abused; just like the rest of the earth, by people who had no idea what they had until it was gone.

Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O'Brien is a Great Plains story. It tells the history behind the rise and fall of the Great Plains ecosystem. It tells the story of one guy's battle to understand the plain, the way life is supposed to live there, and how to bring back this very fragile and often overlooked ecosystem.

This book is a reminder to all that the earth isn't just about rainforests in some country half way across the globe. We have ecosystems in our own back yards in need of  gentle stewardship.          

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Never fear; Spring is here

Just one of hundreds
in a tablespoon of wetland water
 Just about everyone hears about the ocean's krill; the bottom of the food chain for ocean dwellers, but hardly anything is said about the bottom of the food chain in our own backyard.

Take a tablespoon of water from a pond or stream in December and it will be as clean and empty as a tablespoon of tap water. Take another tablespoon from that same pond or stream in February and you will find it teeming with life that is getting ready to feed the spring and summer. The bottom of the food chain is starting to gear up for good things to come at a pond, river, or wetland near you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday Warm Up

Here's a Wednesday warm up for you.

We've got more snow coming. I don't know about you, but I've had it with winter this year.

Here's to an early spring.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking about a nest?

These are the geese that made it through the extra hunting seasons and the blizzards that followed.

The geese are now waiting on the price of  real estate in the marsh to go down before they decide whether to nest in the boxes provided.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Up too early

Even though Friday was a nice day for February, I wouldn't describe it as summer like.

This snake was out catching some rays of the February sun. It acted like it had been aroused too early. It was slow moving and its eyes were cloudy.

Last year, during a February thaw, I came across a nest of around twenty of these guys just waking up and moving into the river.

Spring must be coming shortly.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday --- Name this place win some Note cards

Last weeks picture was a nice fall scene taken at Tippecanoe State Park.

This week's picture is taken at another Hoosier State Park and, yes, that is a buffalo, (well bison these days,)  roaming in the picture. Name the state park where you can visit the bison and you'll get a chance to win free note cards on the first day of spring (which is coming up next month.)

Put your guess in the comments and if your guess is correct, I'll put your name in the hat for the drawing. Out of all the correct guesses one lucky winner will be sent a set of Blue Heron Moon Note Cards. Here's this weeks picture:


Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

The first time I witnessed a fish run up a river I was in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands of salmon running up a river to spawn and die was a magnificent, magical sight. Signs posted along the river warned not to wade or allow pets to wade in the river in order to protect fragile eggs. It was an event that can rarely be witnessed today.

We have our own fish runs in Indiana, maybe not to the same extent as the salmon of the Northwest, but our fish run from Lake Michigan to spawn in streams in Northwest Indiana. The fish in the photograph were spawning in Coffee Creek a couple of years ago.

The Stream by Brian Clarke is a poignant tale about the struggle between stream, river, ecosystem, fish, and man's needs and desires. It takes place over a five year period in the life of a stream.

A trout is born; escapes being otter food, being caught by fishermen, struggles to find food. In the meantime, in the human world, dams are planned, factories built, human needs are being met by people totally oblivious to the trout, his needs, his place in the scheme of things. His world is at risk of being exterminated by beings who don't know of his existence and whom he has never met.

The Stream is a haunting book that applies no matter where you live; right in your own back yard is a world at risk; a trout, a stream, a wetland; an ecosystem. If you only read one book about the environment this year; read this one. And be sure to take a look around your own backyard ecosystems before they, too, disappear.....            

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stoneflies in the Snow

In some places people get together and count stoneflies in late winter. Stoneflies are said to be an indication of water quality. Because they only survive where water quality is good, the more stoneflies the better.

During Sunday's hike at Coffee Creek, I observed hundreds of Stoneflies crawling through the snow. Hopefully this is proof that the water quality is great. For more information regarding this subject and folks who get together and count insects on cold winter days click here. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cleaning up

Tiny pink feet and toes walking through the February snow; this opossum was taking advantage of warm temperatures and was hunting food well before dark the other day at Coffee Creek.

Rabbits are having a hard time at Coffee Creek lately. Something seems to be killing them off, leaving little scraps of fur and entrails which this opossum was cleaning up. I can only speculate what is doing the dirty deed to the rabbits; could be an owl feeding babies this time of the year.

Opossums rarely stay in an area very long so I have no hope of seeing this guy again. Opossums are the wanderers of the animal world.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doe Eyed

The Coffee Creek Deer herd is healthy in spite of the recent blizzard and below zero weather. This doe was bright eyed and her white tail was very bushy. She's finding plenty to eat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lovebirds and Valentine's Day

According to an email I received from the National Audubon Society, Valentines Day became a day for lovers because that was around the day it was believed that birds started looking for a mate and therefore, singing.

The group of robins that I recently observed at the Indiana Dunes certainly looked in the mood for love as they interacted with each other, and a few "What Cheers" could be heard yesterday at Coffee Creek as cardinals celebrated the warming weather.

Who knows, maybe Valentine's Day truly is for the birds?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday --- Win Free Note Cards

Last week's Mystery picture was taken at Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area. Kingsbury is a great place to view wildlife. There is abundant deer and a view of the Sandhill cranes in early spring.

Fishing runs hot and cold at this state area but a bicycle ride is always great through the area's country roads.

This week's mystery picture was taken in a state park that is situated along a river. Enter your guess in the comments and you just might find yourself the winner of a set of Blue Heron Moon Notecards in a drawing on the first day of spring.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Bookshelf

Deer aren't the only animal that will eat and reproduce until they starve; but they are one of the largest.

Nature is full of instances where populations grow at phenomenal rates and then crash when the food source is used up. Everything from lowly moths, dependent on forests, to birds of prey that depend on a growing rodent population; grow and crash based on food sources.

We, humans, think we are immune.

Cod by Mark Kulansky is a wonderfully, fresh book; one part history, two parts environmental prose, to one part recipe book. It tells the tale of the lowly cod; starting at the beginning of time, following the course of human history as each and every place that human civilization has gone has affected cod populations. Cod was once bountiful fish in all parts of the world.

The tale explains the impact we have had on the cod with the advent of factory ships. We are shown how the factory ships work, why we take so many fish, the ultimate impact of the over-fishing for us and the rest of the animals of the earth.

This book can be read in a weekend and it's not just about fish. It's about everything lovers of nature and the natural world care about. But most of all it's about how humans are more like deer than we even realize.  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Coffee Creek Winter

As fast as Coffee Creek moves, it is almost completely frozen this year. The deer congregate around what little open water there is and the gray, snow heavy sky give the water a steely shade.

Hiking through two feet of snow would have been quite an accomplishment if others hadn't pounded down the trail before me. Even with the snow packed down, though, hiking was quite a work out.

I'll leave you today with Ms. Snowwoman who is sporting her seedy pasties.  
Happy Winter!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday Warm Up

After shoveling nearly 2 feet of snow last week and another 6 inches that came down in an hour or two yesterday, I can only say that I long for spring like an old woman longs for youth.

Today I send you a winter warm up; whether you need one or not.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chickadees Coming Out in the Deep Freeze

Since the blizzard and the aftermath of deep freeze temperatures, I've been blessed with a Chickadee at  the feeder.

Chickadees will take 20-25% of their food from feeders. And during times with frigid temperatures (-10F) they will experience 50% or more mortality rates if there isn't an alternative food source available; so they depend on us humans to stay alive in the rough times.

Although this one is devouring some peanut butter flavored suet, the preferred food choice of chickadees is said to be sunflower seed.     

Monday, February 7, 2011

Robins before the Storm

Until recently I thought that all Robins left for the winter. The State's Naturalist course let me know I was wrong.

Some robins stick around all winter, like these little guys that were enjoying winter at the Dunes before the big snow storm last week. Surviving the winter must be difficult for a bird that requires 14 feet of worms each day; that's about 28 worms.

But survive they do; on a winter diet of things like millet. Millet has a high protein content which serves a different niche than the seed other birds eat which is usually higher in fat. Robins are also said to be frequent visitors at bird feeders in the winter and might come to snack on fruit if offered.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mystery Picture Saturday --Win free note cards

Last week's Mystery Picture was taken on the Little Calumet River in Gary, Indiana. There is abundant wildlife in this area of the river. Even though areas of the river are still be cleaned of pollution, we share the water with ducks, geese, herons, muskrat, and deer.

For several years, during the darkest days of my life so far, I stopped by this area of the river and watched the seasons change and the wildlife struggle to exist on this tiny piece of urban property.

We often take for granted tiny oasis' of nature in our urban areas and so they become neglected and abused. At the same time we give money and time to save the rainforests, while all the time we could be saving something we can touch right in our own backyards.

For a chance to win some Blue Heron Moon Notecards on the first day of spring name the park that the picture below was taken. The week's clue is the place is in the Northern fourth of Indiana. Good Luck.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Book Shelf

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard  is a book that blends poetry with hard environmental facts. It is the prose that makes your heart sing with nature's song.

I particularly loved this book because the author spent so much time hunting down the elusive muskrat until finally she learns to sit down, enjoy nature, and let the muskrat find her.

I share the author's love for muskrats. They fight, and love, and snack. And if you are very quiet and patient; they discover you and share their world. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is such a masterpiece; stay in out of the cold and spend a winter afternoon nature walking with Annie Dillard.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hibernating Butterflies

Adult Mourning Cloaks spend the winter hibernating. It's difficult to think of such a delicate looking creature surviving a winter day like this one with minus zero temperatures and over two feet of snow on the ground.

Mourning Cloaks depend on trees, mostly willows, and survive on tree sap. I found this one fluttering around on the forest floor one June day.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!

No self respecting groundhog would be out today in Northwest Indiana. I rarely see groundhogs out and about even in March. This year, though, there is not a chance that the groundhog would see a shadow; which means, I hope, that the avalanche of snow that fell upon us during the last 24 hours is soon to be melted in favor of an early spring.

Happy Groundhog Day!      

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Precious Days

Even as we brace ourselves for a blizzard and say hello to February, I can feel the air has changed; a promise of spring is there.

In a way I am sad to see January go; although I am so sick of winter's coats and boots, breath taking cold and dirty snow; even winter's days are numbered and precious.