What do nature lovers want to do on their birthdays?
Go hiking, of course! A couple of days ago Jennifer took Steve hiking at Kokiwanee nature preserve as part of a huge day of birthday fun. Here's what we were lucky to experience.
Barely out of the car and already stoked for birds:
Would we see woodpeckers?
Mosses, lichens, rocks, leaves, plants - how much can we find in just a couple of square feet?
It's a ways down to the Wabash River:
Oaks, Eastern Red Cedar and mosses are a whimsical combination on the edge of the steep river bank:
Wow, what else but moss is sooo green in winter?
The remains of one of last years' native hydrangea. This appears to be Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Here's what Deam says about it, "In Indiana it is generally confined to wooded slopes of ravines and to high wooded stream banks." That's just where we repeatedly saw this interesting shrub but we'll look for the leaves and flowers during the growing season to verify.
Ice becoming water, leaves becoming nutrients:
A look down towards the Salamonie River:
Evidence of the presence of crayfish:
What worlds are under a decomposing log?
One of the turkeytail fungi:
Thimbleweed seed head. These seed heads actually do look like a thimble during the growing season but begin to disintegrate during the winter and end up looking like cotton bolls (yes, bolls is correct). The individual seeds are very evident right now:
Jennifer points out some fascinating ice features:
This little creek bottom has very thin soil directly atop limestone bedrock. It's thin right here, at least, as exhibited by this shallowly-rooted tree that's fallen:
We've found a special plant in this little creek bottom in the past and we're in search of it on this day as well. We know this plant to be found in and around seep areas so that's why Jennifer is excited to have come across this little rivulet that is emanating from a seep:
A closer look. Could it be?
Yes! We found it! Our unofficial quest for the day, realized! We found Skunk Cabbage! Skunk Cabbage is in the Arum family of which the more familiar Jack-In-The-Pulpit is also a member. Is February 8th a little early for actively growing plants in Northern Indiana? Yes, but not for skunk cabbage which can "create its own heat", so to speak, via physiological processes. Read much more about this fascinating plant here.
What can follow "earliest plant"? How about "gnarliest sycamore branch"?
What can follow "gnarliest sycamore branch"? How about "freshest turkey scat"?
You don't see all this cool stuff standing in one spot - at this point we'd walked a few miles and were ready for a break. What? A handy pond:
Digging for some goodies:
Settling in for some coffee and raspberry cobbler:
Documenting happy hikers:
It's gonna be hard to beat this birthday!