Saturday, May 25, 2013

Wildlife Hike at Ox Bow County Park and Watershed Treasure Hunt #2

Friday evening, we joined a Wildlife Hike at Ox Bow County Park. It was EXCELLENT! And FREE! I like FREE, but also don't mind paying for good nature experiences. The FREE makes it easier to take the whole family of 6. Andy, the naturalist, asked me if I'd be okay with the baby on the hike . . . :-) Cute! The baby goes on hikes all the time (even winter ones!), but I appreciate the concern. The hiking backpack makes it very doable to go on hikes with the little one. I was very lucky and paid $25 at a garage sale down the street about 4 years ago; however, I would pay 5 times or more for the mobility it gives me.

We started the tour with a poem about letting wild animals be wild and then did a wildlife quiz. Andy also gave us a good track guide that showed not only the tracks, but also the pattern that they make along the way. The wildlife quiz was helpful as a talking reference point on a variety of animals, such as badgers (just learned about them on Wild Kratts), chipmunks, coyotes, birds,  striped skunks, deer, and more!

We walked and talked along the Ox Bow property. I had a pencil and piece of paper and scribbled notes all over it! This was a crayfish chimney.  It looks like a big mound of mud. Andy took the top off to show us the hole underneath. It was interesting as my son had just found a half a crayfish while we were out earlier.

We stopped along the covered bridge. The paths in the aquatic plants at the top of the water are usually from muskrats or turtles.

There is also a muskrat mound right there. There are several in a pond nearby our house. Mute swans have made their nests on top for the last several years that we have noticed. It's fun to watch the progression over time, even if they are a controversial species. I didn't see the swan on the nest this week, so the babies must have hatched. Andy, the naturalist, also talked about beaver activity. Most beavers make a lodge as part of a bank, but there is an actual lodge up at Pipewort Pond at Lieber Nature Preserve. I've been watching this for awhile and wondered if it was beavers or muskrats. Good to know!

This guy found puffs of cattail fibers. He knew exactly what it was when he picked it up. He's spent some time exploring seed distribution, aka pulling all the seeds off the cattail and watching them blow in the wind, in the past.

I loved this sight! My husband put together a nature bag for me for Christmas. He bought me this extra set of binoculars when he tried a friends shortly after the present. Love seeing him getting into nature and pointing things out to me while we're out. I just asked him what kind of binoculars they are and he easily shared a string of specifications. Here it is Nikon 7540 Monarch 3. It's a popular birding binocular. I love that my husband memorizes and studies specifications of gear so easily!

We saw a snapping turtle in the water by the spillway. 

These guys really are rather mean looking!

We found another Watershed Treasure Hunt sign nearby! Getting closer! Okay, there really are many more to find--it will be a fun exploration! 

Fresh coon tracks by the water!

My oldest son noticed this big swarm of caterpillars on this nearby shrub. He is becoming more observant.

Andy pulled down a robin's nest from this pavilion. He said the babies were no longer there and the nest wouldn't be used anymore. 

The nest had a rigid mud structure with grass around the sides and bottoms, including Easter grass! We also got to take a peek at phoebe babies in another nest nearby. 

Later we found tent caterpillars--you've probably seen them around with webs in small areas of tree. The kids groaned when he talked about the caterpillar poop!

We also found a spittle bug--it creates something that looks like a big bunch of spit on a plant. He fished out the tiny insect for us to see. 

We checked on several nesting boxes. 

Bluebird eggs! The momma was still on the nest so we saw her come flying out of the nest and then all took a peek at the eggs. Andy said the robins are some of the earliest birds we hear in the morning and also latest in the evening. 

The boys found a rabbit down the lane--they were so excited, as it was their own discovery! Making friends. 

This nest had baby bluebirds in it--several others remarked that they're not that pretty!

As we progressed, the boys were becoming friendlier with others. Here they were "playing rattlesnakes". 

How cool is this? We ended the hike at the naturalists' office at the gate house of Ox Bow. We saw their reference library. I could have spent hours just looking at books!

We also saw the collection of taxidermy animals, too. Wow! That's a lot of animals in a small space! It's neat to see them up close staying still--it wouldn't happen as easily in nature.

They had bins of supplies and learning materials for programs.

As an educator,  I was in heaven! I might not need the whole animal collection, but having good spaces to store educational materials is always a plus!

The live animals they use in presentations are also housed here. Several of the kids held the turtles!

After the program, we remembered there might be another sign for the Watershed Treasure Hunt in the park, so we returned to quickly find another. One of the young men on the hike gave us a hint!

The van mysteriously drove on a detour on our way home. Hate it when it goes out of control! Especially when it finds its way to one of the best ice cream shops in the state of Indiana!

We do like to combine nature with recreation. We also LOVE The Chief. While I lived out of the area for about 30 years, we always had to visit The Chief while visiting. My favorite is a scoop of raspberry and lemon. It was Friday night around 8 pm on a gorgeous evening, so the lines were a little long. If the baby wasn't sleeping and it wasn't as busy, we like to sit on the picnic benches in the back. The kids play tag and hide among the trees--nature!