Something about water

by Danesa R. Stolz, Chief Naturalist for Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve

There is just something about water. Of all of our natural resources, there is no other as precious, as plentiful or as fragile. Water is essential to all life. And as far as habitats go, in my opinion, none is more precious than a wetland.

The Loblolly Marsh at Limberlost State Historic Site is teeming with wildlife ... if you know where to look!

Wetlands were once considered wastelands. They could not be farmed and they were a place where mosquitoes flourished. In order to rid themselves of the nuisances associated with wetlands, people drained them, plowed them and attempted to control them.

But we were wrong and now know that wetlands are important. Hopefully, we have come to realize this before it is too late. It is essential that we protect wetlands. Wetlands are valuable resources. They sustain more life than almost any other habitat. At least one-third of the nation’s threatened or endangered species live in wetland areas. The productivity of wetlands, their cleansing ability and their water storage capacity make them a resource to be highly cherished.

Join us for Wetlands and Watersheds at the Indiana State Museum on Friday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to noon and Sunday, Sept. 19, noon to 2 p.m.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

This place is for the birds!

By LeAnn Luce, West Region Program Manager, Indiana State Museum and State Historic Sites 

Recently I heard a cheerful sound. A repetitive “fee-bee, fee-bee” call came from outside my office window located in the “House of the Singing Winds,” the historic home of T.C. Steele. I immediately registered it as one of the many bird sounds I hear every day … but today this call spoke to me.

Most days I have been inclined to completely ignore the bird, bat, butterfly and bullfrog sounds that are in constant symphony here. I work on the programming details of several Indiana State Historic sites; pursue grant writing and spend most of my time concentration at the computer. My mother has visited the site and says, “I don’t how you get anything done … I would spend all of my time looking out of the window.” She is right; I had to condition myself to ignore the seasonal and day-to-day splendor of the flora and fauna that is found here.

But on this particular day, that sound made work truly impossible. I was actually becoming annoyed at the frequent persistence and repetition of the call. I decided to step outside and investigate.

What caught my eye first was the flitting, manic flight of a little gray-brown bird. The bird landed on a nearby tree branch, issued several sharp chip, chip calls and began frantically pumping its tail in what I interpreted as a territorial defense. I looked around the West Porch to see what might be making the little bird so agitated. I looked up and saw the oddest sight. Right under the eave was a nest anchored with marvelously sculpted mud and covered with beautiful green moss. In it were three little heads poking up, but remaining completely still. I had never seen a bird or a nest quite like this. Now I understood what all the commotion was about.

I had just seen my first Eastern Phoebe and her unique architecturally developed nest. This little architect had built a handsome piece of art and she had chosen to do so right here under the eaves of the art-filled, enchanting home of T.C. and Selma Steele. What a smart little bird!

I researched information about the Eastern Phoebe. This bird species is quite loyal to their nests and will reuse them year after year. With a little spring cleaning an old nest can look like new. In contrast, most songbirds build completely new nests every year.

The irony of this information was not lost on me. It is exactly what the Indiana State Historic Sites do with our state’s architectural treasures that are visited each year by thousands of visitors. Preservation, conservation and interpretation efforts are made and guarded at these sites so that these places can be frequented for years and years to come by visitors in the future. The hardworking staff and their dedication can be seen at any of the 11 sites open to the public.

So take a lesson from a little bird and come and see what the State Historic Sites are all about.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Jonesing for your critter fix?

Warm weather, strawberry festivals and no more school traffic on my way to work are just a few of the many reasons I love June, but one of my favorites is Scales & Tails Fest. Since 2006 we’ve planned this annual event to celebrate  all kinds of critters. And since that first year, when I adopted my own dog, I’ve enjoyed bringing in as many groups and different kinds of animals as possible. Snakes, dogs, skunks, pigs, chickens, horses — you name it and they’ve been part of this program at some point.

This year I’ll have a lot of snakes and exotic animals as well as the cats and dogs that we all love to pet and cuddle. In addition we’ll bring back the miniature horses and also talk a lot about Indiana wildlife.

I’ll also make my annual trek up to Purdue to pick up eggs for the incubators. We’ll keep these guys warm and cozy for a few days in the R.B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab before they start hatching just in time for the festival. It’s always a lot of fun to watch these little chicks peck their way out of an egg and realize they went from nothing to cute little chicks in only 21 days! At that time I’ll be somewhere near the 252nd day of my own pregnancy and will still have a month to go. Yikes!

We also have several great programs lined up this year including one on snakes as pets, training your cat (yes, apparently they ARE trainable!), exotic animals as pets and miniature horses.

So if you just like animals, you’re thinking about a new pet or are interested in how you can get involved with these great groups, stop on by. See some newly hatched chicks, touch a snake, meet some interesting people and enjoy a fine Saturday in June. 

For more information about the event and links to exhibitor information, visit our website.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Snow on the mounds

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

Mound G covered in a light blanket of snow.

Evansville rarely gets any measurable snowfall, so when we do, we rush to get photos of the mounds being blanketed with the white precipitation. Several week ago we had a little over an inch, and it came down gradually, looking more like a fog on the site than snow.

Stillness falls over the site during a snowfall and you can forget that we are surrounded by a major city. It can give you a glimpse into what life may have been like almost 600 years ago at the time the site was abandoned.

Our wildlife becomes more apparent during times like this. Although we may not see them during the day, we see that they are actively leaving tracks all over the site after we leave at 5 p.m. Conservation Officers have counted a herd of over 80 deer in one evening on the site. Angel Mounds consists of 603 acres, over ½ in woods and therefore a great place to animal watch, especially in the winter. Jim Burton, our Site Naturalist, recently counted over 40 varieties of birds on the site, along with our year round residents the beaver, muskrat, fox and coyote.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine