Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Beat Goes On!

What do the Allen County Parks do in the winter time? Winter time is the ideal time to run programs on tracks and animal winter adaptations that allow them to survive in our climate. School groups regularly take advantage of these offerings.

Fox Island and Metea Parks also rent cross country skiing equipment for the visitors who want to see the snow covered landscape of the parks. Several of the trails in each park are restricted to skiing traffic only when there is at least 4" of snow on the ground.  Allen County Parks are two of the few places in the state that rents cross country skiing equipment and draws visitors from outside of the county as well as local visitors.
This school group learns about the anatomy of the crayfish through dissection led by Metea Park naturalist and former biology teacher Ron Divelbiss 
Several classes and workshops are offered to school groups and the general public related to the natural world of the parks. When the temperature dips below zero and the wind and snow are blowing, rest assured, the parks staff is busily laying out the offerings for the coming warmer weather.  For more information on the current and future offerings as well as current skiing conditions in the parks please go to Allen County Parks

Monday, January 20, 2014

She's a Tiger!

One of the residents of the Fox Island County Park Nature Center is this female Eastern Tiger Salamander (Abystoma tigrinum tigrinum). The Tiger Salamander is found throughout Indiana and is one of the largest terrestrial salamanders found in North America. Eastern Tiger Salamanders are members of the Abystoma family of salamanders commonly referred to as "mole salamanders" due to their habit of burrowing underground. Indiana has more Abystoma species (8) than any other state. The Tiger Salamander is not found in the Appalachian Mountains but is the most widely distributed salamander in the United States.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

"That stinks..........!"

This creature showed up, uninvited, in my kitchen and was preceded by several relatives since October.

You just never know who will show up at your front door, or invite themselves in for a little warmth and rest. Since the late 1990's the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) has been increasing it's presence in the states east of the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast states.  The BMSB damages fruit by piercing the fruit with it's beak which produces a non-sellable mark on fruits such as apples and peaches. A true bug, this insect has the distinctive "shield" shape of all stink bugs and emits a foul odor when handled or disturbed. The alternate brown/white markings of the feelers and body margins distinguish this stink bug from those bugs native to the US. The BMSB is a native of China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan and damages fruits, vegetables and farm crops as well as becomes a pest by seeking cold weather shelter in homes and buildings. The best way to prevent these invaders from taking up residence in your living room is by sealing entry points and removing existing visitors with a vacuum.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Robins in January

Where do American Robins go when it is -12 deg, F. (-24 deg, C) with 10" of fresh snow covering the landscape?  Obviously, my back yard.  This morning broke cold and clear after yesterdays snow storm and a small group of robins were feeding on the few remaining berries on the cranberry viburnums in the woods behind my house.  Viburnum berries are an important food source for many overwintering birds including Brown Thrashers and Cedar Waxwings as well as our Robins.  The berries are never the food of preference for the birds which explains why these red cranberry look-a-likes may go the entire winter without being eaten.

Friday, January 3, 2014


The rub on the trees behind this Ouabache State Park (Indiana) bison is due to the park's bison rubbing on the trees to remove their winter coat of hair.
Long a symbol of free ranging North American prairie wildlife, the North American Bison, is actually divided into two sub-species.  The American or Prairie Bison of the great plains and the Wood Bison of Canada are members of the largest of North American mammals. Large bulls can weigh 2000 pounds and stand over 6 feet tall at the shoulders.  Large herds of bison migrated through southern Indiana between Vincennes and New Albany, up until approximately 1803, crossing the Ohio River near the Falls of the Ohio on their way to the mineral licks of Kentucky.  This annual migration produced the "Buffalo Trace", a path 12' to 20' wide, that later became a main travel route for settlers and military forces on the move. This hardy, fast, hulk of an animal who's likeness graces the seal of the State of Indiana, was gone from Indiana by 1830, some 50 years prior to the extermination of bison on the Great Plains.

Bison at Ouabache State Park
Bluffton, Indiana
Incorrectly called a "buffalo", the North American BISON is very different from the Old World buffalo like the Water Buffalo of India and the Cape Buffalo of Africa. Our North American Bison are very closely related to the European Wood Bison also known as the Wisent.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


(apologies for the poor focus)
Our male piebald Eastern Fox Squirrel is back with us for the beginning of the new year and is always a welcome sight. I stopped for a few minutes and watched what he doing and realized that food was not high on his priority list even though he would have been wise to consume some calories before the next cold wave hits the area.  Female Fox Squirrels come into estrus from mid December to early January which changes the priority of the area males during this time of the year. Males communicate their presence by marking the tree branches of their territory with urine and the scent produced by the scent glands near their nose. This squirrel marked several branches by grasping the branch with front feet and rubbing his nose on the branches of about 3 different trees.

The piebald was also checking the branches for the scent of other males and females and has found a deposit
of squirrel scat he is sniffing to determine what other squirrels are in the area.