September is already gone as I write the September account. But then, it really didn’t feel like September. This month is usually the beginning of autumn-like changes in the woods, but the mild weather we’ve had this month means that now on October 6, we have not had a killing frost yet in Edgar. The leaves are just starting to turn and the feeling I get is that September is just starting, rather than being over. The fall mushroom time is in decline. Honey mushrooms have been very abundant but now are beginning to decline in quality. With a week of warm weather predicted for this next week in October, one may still find good mushrooms developing. As I walked my dog this evening there were a few mosquitoes around and biting, and this is unusual for October 6. The shorter days are cutting into the time one has to walk the woods, but the cooler evenings and early mornings mean a more refreshing walk than during sweat time of summer. The trails in the Scotch Creek preserve are in excellent condition for walking. The leaves are starting to fall and cover the trails. It’s a beautiful time in the woods. Enjoy!
As I am writing this, August is almost a thing of the past. I have been walking the trails of the Edgar School Forest and the Scotch Creek Preserve almost every day. Some days were calm and warm in the morning and mosquitoes and deer flies were a bother. I definitely prefer cool mornings with wind blowing as far as insects are concerned. A few of the really cool mornings permitted comfort as I worked to fix some of the trail problems. Many branches littered the trails after some of the recent strong winds. At some of the bridges in the school forest, cool mornings made it comfortable to repair the banks under the bridges where someone had thrown rocks from the side of the ditch into the stream bed itself. Chipmunks were everywhere it seemed, with the chucking sound and the little whistles very apparent on quiet days. A few grey squirrels can be seen, and today I heard a deer snorting from beyond where I could see it as I walked a trail with my little dog.
Maintenance of the EATS birdhouses in the field edges north of the preserve’s woods showed that all houses were used, some by bluebirds, most by tree swallows, and a few by wrens. As I cleaned the summer’s nests out from the houses, I did have one little tenant–a deer mouse made his appearance as I opened the nest box. I left him be. I’ll clean that box next spring in time for the bluebird arrival. Let the little mouse spend the winter in safety. (I still don’t know how they climb four feet of 3/4 inch conduit to reach the house entrance.)
There are a few gooseberries still on the bushes. Wild plums are almost all ripe. I ate several handfuls of blackberries, and I saw bushes just loaded with elderberries. And, for the non-humans with the munchies, the bitternut hickory nuts and the acorns from the oaks are starting to litter the trails. The yellowing of many of the low lying plants tells us that the transition to autumn is already starting. Fall is probably the best time to walk the trails. Do that. Enjoy! 8/27/15
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