The berries on the red elders are a splash of red in the woods. My walks on the trails are now determined by the weather more so than at any other time of the year. Cool mornings are a necessity if one wishes to avoid the mosquitoes at their worst-a windy day also helps. The warm midday brings out the deer flies. Dealing with these pests is simply a matter of dressing for the occasion. Long sleeves help and a cap or hat helps keep the deer flies away. I watched as three deer moved through the woods. Some of the movements they made told me they were bothered by the pests. I walked to the north end of the woods to the edge of the open fields. As I walked along a trail in the open area I caught sight of movement far to the west of me. Two deer-a doe and a fawn were running from the woods across the open fields, pausing a time of two to look around, and then they disappeared into the long marsh grass where an intermittent creek makes its way through the meadows. I believe the two were going to spend the day lazing away in the long grass far from the mosquitoes of the woods. I also watched as a red fox worked its way along the edge of the woods. Lots to see on the trails of the Scotch Creek Preserve. Posted 7/13/15
A walk with my dog most days in the month of June kept me in touch with the trails in the school forest on the west side of the Scotch Creek Preserve. Ramps gave way to Trilliums, the burning nettles began to grow and finally the ferns became the dominant greenery of the forest floor. Cool mornings in June were the best to walk the trails. Once again I concentrated on the trees of the woods. Most of the trees in the Edgar school forest seem to be maples, but a significant number of hickory trees, elms, cherry, and yellow birch also are present. There is a stand of red pine trees that were planted by Dennis Schraufnagel’s ag classes in the 1970’s. The trails are one’s own for the most part. Sometimes a solitary runner will happen along the trail, some mountain bikers from a summer school class keep most of the single track trails relatively weed free. It’s an enjoyable walk.
It is now the middle of May. The trilliums are still in bloom, the ferns are up, and the woods of the Scotch Creek Preserve are greening up from the understory of the woods to the treetops. I walk the trails several times a week and the trails of the preserve are in fine condition. This last Monday, my daughter Lori and I walked the abandoned railroad right-of-way that forms the south boundary of the Preserve. We were looking for birds-our unofficial bird count we do in mid-May. We identified 24 species seen from the railway path alone. We saw the usual Robins, Cardinals, Orioles, Crows, etc. We saw a Blue Heron near the creek, but the most interesting was an Oven Bird. I had heard Oven Birds before while backpacking in the Porkies in Upper Michigan. I was familiar with the “teacher-teacher-teacher” call. Lori said she heard an Oven Bird-I heard a bird call, but did not recognize it. Lori took out her phone and played a different bird call of the Oven Bird from an app she has on her phone. Almost immediately we saw a bird flying past us and landing on a branch of a nearby tree. It was an Oven Bird and despite not playing the call anymore, not wanting to confuse the bird, that pretty little bird spent the next five minutes flying past us again and again landing nearby looking for that other Oven Bird.
I spotted what looked like a Screech Owl in a hole in a dead poplar tree. We both agreed it did look just like a Screech Owl. With a water-filled ditch between us and the tree and a reluctance to bother the owl, we left. After lunch we returned, this time with my 10x binoculars and Lori with her super long lens on her camera. It wasn’t an owl. It was a leaf that had lodged in the hole in the tree. Disappointment didn’t last long. I saw a rounded shape in a tree off in a distance through the woods and a look with binoculars revealed a Barred Owl looking back at me. A few days later, while walking my dog in the school forest area of the Preserve, I spotted the 25th species when a American Redstart went branch to branch overhead. The flowers are still pretty, the woods is a beautiful green, the flies aren’t around yet, and the mosquitoes are hardly present. Its a great time for a walk in the woods. Maybe you will see a Screech Owl. Posted 5/16/15
Its now the middle of April and I just cleaned out the Bluebird houses on the north fields of the Scotch Creek Preserve. Usually I like to do that task in late March or early April, but that task got delayed. The birds were waiting. As I walked along the trail I could see birds sitting atop the houses. I didn’t see a bluebird, but the tree swallows were waiting for someone to clean out last year’s bird nests and other nests from the houses so they could begin their nesting. Of the seven houses all had bird nests from last year. Three of the bluebird houses had also housed mice over the winter, with the abandoned bird nest completely filled with milkweed fluff and dried blossoms from goldenrod. I don’t know how the mice get into the birdhouses. They have to climb about four feet of steel conduit to get up to the house. As I approached each house, the swallows flew away, then returned immediately after I had cleaned the house and had walked away. I moved one house from the edge of the woods where it had wrens nesting each year, and I moved it to a more open area, hopefully it will house bluebirds. I may put up another house for the wrens. They will arrive later in the spring.
The snow is gone, the trails are once again walking trails, and we only have to wait a while until things dry out completely and until the last of the frost is gone from the ground and then we begin the late spring time in the woods. The deer have been herding in the preserve. Groups of several have been seen lately. One of the Barred Owls that have been seen regularly in January and February was found dead in the school forest adjacent to the Scotch Creek Preserve. With no outward signs of trauma on the bird, some natural cause of death is suspected. Since that finding, another couple of Barred Owls have been seen in the preserve.
This early spring time is a great time to learn the trails of the preserve. We members of EATS have talked to a number of residents of Edgar who say they are reluctant to walk the trails in the woods for fear of getting lost. With the vegetation down now and visibility great in the woods, trails can be easily followed. A walk in the school forest area directly north of the Edgar High School football field is a little muddy now. The members of the Agriculture classes have been collecting maple sap from the many maple trees in that area, and one can see what seems to be more than a hundred blue sap collection bags on the trees. So–with your skis and snowshoes put away, its time to put on a pair of boots and walk the trails. Lots to see in nature.