Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Monday, August 29, 2011

Burkhart Creek Park & A Little Frass

I visited Burkhart Creek Park on Saturday morning for some photography and nature study.  The park is located in Morgan County (Indiana) off State Road 67 on Duckworth Road. Burkhart Creek County Park is the first established county park and was opened in 2010 by the Morgan County Parks & Recreation Board. Currently the park has 1.5 miles of trails, picnic shelters, and tables for public use.

It was a lovely morning. I walked along the loop trail with the intention of investigating the area which will soon be an established wetland. It is obvious by the wetland plants present that this area is often wet. Of course we are behind on our needed precipitation this summer, so the area was devoid of standing water.

Thanks to the generosity of Mary A. “Sal” Hench, a lifelong philanthropist, a gift from Hench’s estate was
donated to the Community Foundation of Morgan County to be used to construct and preserve natural wetlands at Burkhart Creek County Park near Paragon.

A five (5) acre wetlands area will be created by the Wildwood Dam Conservancy District as an effort to ensure the survival of Wildwood Lake. With the assistance from the Hench gift, a variety of educational opportunities will become available for exploring wetlands plant and animal life. (Info from Community Foundation of Morgan County website).

I am drawn to wetland areas and have studied and photographed them for many years. I am thrilled that this wetland area will be enhanced and available for educational purposes. Thank you to Mary "Sal" Hench and her family for their generosity and foresight.

During my short visit I watched bluebirds, Carolina chickadees, blue-gray gnatcatchers, pileated woodpeckers, red-wing blackbirds and numerous butterflies. Below is an image of the proposed wetland area. Note the wetland loving vegetation already present.

                                          Wetland Area      ©Joni L. James

Below is a photo I also took of a Japanese Beetle. Note the material protruding from the rear abdomen of the insect. I believe this would be frass-- insect excrement. So for all of you who wonder what insect excrement looks like or what the correct term is . . . here you go!

                                                        Japanese Beetle & Frass
                                                        ©Joni L. James

I encourage those of you who live in and around Morgan County to stay informed about Burkhart Creek Park. It is a work in progress and is evolving. The County Park Board meets once a month alternating between locations in Martinsville and Mooresville. The public is always welcome.

I would love to see more green spaces and especially nature parks here in our county. Support your local natural areas! Get outdoors!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Symphony: Summer Nights

Driving home last night along rural roads with windows down and cool air circulating through the car, the summer symphony of insect songs serenaded me from the roadsides. Once home, I heard them singing from the trees and fields thick with vegetation. I realized how much these songs are a part of my summer nights.

They are the background music to my life as the sun sets and the night blankets the landscape. I unconsciously depend on them to keep me company. When cold nights arrive, the landscape becomes silent except for the persistent cricket. It is then that I notice their absence.

These insects are invisible companions . . . rarely seen but always heard. Last night Common True Katydids, Nebraska Coneheads, Greater Anglewings, and Lesser Anglewings graced the darkness with their lovesongs.

                                           Waning Light on Pond   ©Joni L. James

                                           Night Falls    ©Joni L. James

                                                        Greater Anglewing Katydid (??)
                                                        ©Joni L. James

                                           Note tympana on right front leg. ©Joni L. James

Singing insects produce their sounds in many ways. Many insects in the order Orthoptera (Crickets, Katydids, & Grasshoppers), produce sound via stridulation. They rub one body part against another. The base of the forewings of katydids and crickets are designed for sound production. They possess a sharp edge/scraper at the base of one front wing. It is rubbed across a uneven ridge or "file-like" structure at the base of the opposite wing. Wings are elevated and moved rapidly back and forth  during sound production. The wings produce the song through vibration.

These Orthopterans have oval-shaped eardrums/tympana on their front legs near the base of the tibia. (Note the tympana on the right front leg of the Anglewing in the bottom image). Most of the songs are for attracting mates by males.

In general grasshoppers sing during the day and usually the hottest hours. Ground and Field Crickets sing anytime. Katydids and Tree Crickets sing mostly at night (especially early hours until around midnight) -- some often do during the day.

Listen tonight for the beautiful singing of crickets, katydids, and more.
Summer evenings impart memory markers onto our lives through our senses and we all respond differently. What are the pleasurable characteristics of summer nights that create fond memories for you? What defines a summer night?

(Please take a moment to respond via the comment link below this post. I invite discussion and sharing on this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!).

Listen tonight . . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beauty in a Retention Pond: Lotus & Water Lilies

Beauty. I am always in search for beauty--the obvious and the not so obvious. I discovered beauty in a retention pond in Brownsburg (at least I assume it is a retention pond--right next to a road in a subdivision). I have never seen a RP that was beautiful. Most are mowed to the edge with no wetland vegetation. No management for diversity of vegetation or control of runoff of water or any chemicals. This one is very different.

The water was filled primarily with Lotus and Water Lilies around the edges. These are some of the most beautiful plants and a favorite of mine.

These images speak for themselves.

                                                        ©Joni L. James

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                                        ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                                        ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sodalis Nature Park

Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, and her sweet little girl, Heidi, I discovered Sodalis Nature Park last week. I returned on Friday to do some photography. Sodalis is a new park which is home to the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). It consists of newly reforested woodlands, mature upper woodlands, riparian corridor, and a 5 acre pond. The park was created through a unique partnership with Hendricks County Parks, Indianapolis Airport Authority, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Near the pond are picnic tables, a floating fishing pier, an observation platform, and five trails. The trails range from 0.5 miles to 1.2 miles in length. Fishing is allowed but please note it is catch and release only. No swimming, wading, or boating is allowed. The park is open from dawn to dusk. Hendricks County residents are very fortunate to have another beautiful park set aside for the enjoyment of nature.

It was very peaceful the day I visited, although hot and humid even with cloud cover. We have set a new record with our heat and humidity this summer. As of today, we have had 21 consecutive days with temperatures 90 degrees or higher.

I am fascinated by the reproductive parts of flowers. They are miracles at work as are the metamorphoses of butterflies & moths and frogs & toads and much, much more in Nature. There is an amazing diversity and beauty in the stamen (male) and pistil (female) organs and their parts (anther, style, stigma, etc.).

I believe the flower images here are Swamp Mallow Rose in the Hibiscus family. (If I incorrectly ID any species in this blog at any time, please contact me with the correct name. I welcome confirmations of my identifications).
Notice the pollen and beauty in the reproductive parts.

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

A view of the pond--

                                          ©Joni L. James

                                           ©Joni L. James

I watched an adult dragonfly (teneral) emerge from its last larval skeleton (exuviae) along the edge of the pond. Can anyone help in identifying this dragonfly? I believe it is in the Skimmer family-- perhaps a Halloween Pennant?