Want to volunteer at Allen County Parks?

We would love to have you!!!!

We need volunteers for all kinds of activities, be it
program help, maintenance help, removal of invasive
species, filling bird feeders, small construction projects, hosts/hostess, anything you’d like to do!!

All potential volunteers for the Allen County Parks
Department must complete a volunteer application
before volunteering. A link to this application can be
found at our website on the Volunteer in the Allen
County Parks page.

What's Happening at Metea County Park?

To view a complete and up-to-date list of activities occurring at Metea Park, please see the Wild Grapevine, available at the Allen County Parks website.

Take a Hike! Milkweed

January 5, Saturday, 1:00 PM

Butterflies and flowers seem a long way off in the cold, dark winter. However, there is something we can do right now to ensure that we see a lot of both in the warmer months: plant some milkweed!

Milkweed needs to be planted when it's cold outside, so come out with a Park Naturalist to talk about butterflies, plant milkweed in the prairie, and daydream about summer! We'll have pots to take some milkweed home too!

Cost is $3. Call 449-3777 to save your spot.

Bringing in the Birds

By Karie Divelbiss-Harding, Allen County Parks Naturalist

Birds are warm-blooded animals, so it takes a lot of energy for them to keep warm during the cold, sometimes blustery months. When it is cold, birds can often be seen fluffing up their feathers to keep warm. Also during these months the natural food supply is dwindling, hidden by snow, or, in the case of insects, dead or inactive. Birds need high fat, high protein, and high energy foods to survive the winter.

Therefore, feeding birds in the winter is very important. The beginning of the winter months brings a change of eating habits for most birds. Birds will flock together and form groups that will allow them to better find food and protect themselves from predators. As this begins, they will often find sources of food to aide in their winter survival. This is where bird watchers - both novice and advanced - come in.

Bird watchers who tend their bird feeders provide a way station for many birds. As a bird watcher, it can become very disheartening when you attempt to feed the birds and have little luck. But there are some guidelines that may help you in your attempt to attract birds and to keep them happy.

Bird feeders should be hung out of the wind and elements. Feeders hung out in the open give predators an advantage over the birds. Some cover (evergreens, thick shrubs) should be nearby. Also, one should use a variety of feeders to give birds an assortment of different ways to get food. Certain breeds of birds have preferences to where they are fed. For example feeders hung in trees are for birds such as titmice and nuthatches that have little problem hanging on.

The following are suggestions for seed to put in feeders:

SUNFLOWER SEEDS. Many birds like black-oil sunflower seeds. Most birds in NE Indiana will eat them. The birds that aren't strong enough to crack open the shells can sit under the bird feeder and scavenge for parts of discarded seeds by the larger birds.

SUET. The fat of the suet is good for birds in the winter as it is a good source of energy. Suet cakes can be bought at most bird stores. There are many different types of suet cakes with mixtures that will attract different kinds of birds, but they are not hard to make at home. If feeding suet in warmer months, it is important to render the suet. This means to melt it and take out any particles that don't melt. Then mix in seeds and let it set again. This will give it a longer shelf life.

MIXED SEED. When purchasing mixed seed it is important to check the percentage of each type of seed. Many of the pre-mixed seed you can buy in grocery stores are filled with wheat and millet. These are fillers and are rarely touched by birds. To find a good mix, look for a mixture of sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet.

PEANUTS. Peanuts are a high protein, high energy food that can be given to birds. It is important to make sure they are unsalted. Birds like woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and titmice like to eat peanuts. Unfortunately, some squirrels can have an allergic reaction and can look as if they have the mange if too many peanuts are consumed.

THISTLE SEED. Small finches like to eat thistle seed. Thistle needs to be fed in a special feeder because of the seeds small size. Thistle feeders are usually tubes with oblong holes or mesh socks. Both work well.

SAFFLOWER. This is a white, thin-shelled seed eaten by many birds especially the cardinal. The main problem of safflower comes when it is fed on the ground, as it becomes rancid quickly because of its thin shell.

CRACKED CORN. Cracked corn is good for birds because it is in manageable pieces. Some people don't like feeding corn because it entices nuisance birds such as blackbirds and sparrows. Whole corn is too large for the birds; however, squirrels will love it. Cracked corn attracts other animals such as turkey and deer, so it should be fed in moderation - unless, of course, you want to feed a herd of deer.

FRUIT. Birds may have a short supply of berries during the winter so it may be helpful to entice them with fruit. Put out grapes, apple slices, orange slices, or even bananas to entice them. You can feed raisins, but they are a bit hard for the birds to consume.

In addition to feeding the birds in the winter, it is also important to give them a source of fresh, thawed water. Heated birdbaths are very helpful in attracting birds. It is important to have a heated birdbath, or to empty ice and refill with clean water several times a day.

It is also important to feed the birds every day. Birds will come to depend on the food found in your feeders. If the feeders are not filled on a daily basis, the birds could potentially leave and may not come back.

Solstice Celebration

Saturday, December 22, 2007, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

The longest night of the year is upon us! Will the sun ever return?

We will be learning about ancient Solstice traditions across cultures, having a bonfire and making treats for the woodland creatures. We will also be having a night hike, so dress for the weather.

Light snacks and refreshments will be available for purchase.

Cost is $3.00. To register or for more information, call 449-3777.

Introduction to Cross Country Skiing

Saturday, December 15, 2007, at 2:00 PM

Meet at the Metea Park Nature Center to learn about our favorite winter sport here at Metea County Park - cross country skiing. Find out about techniques, clothing, ski types and how to size skis, poles and shoes.

Class fee is $7.00, and includes an hour of ski rental (weather permitting) or a voucher for future ski rental (weather not permitting). If you bring your own skis, class fee is $3.00. Call 449-3777 for reservations.

Pioneer Presents

Saturday, December 8, 2007, at 1:00 PM

Discover what Christmas was like for the early settlers of our country. We'll be looking at some materials pioneers may have had on hand, and making some pioneer presents of our own.

This is an indoor program, in the Metea Park Nature Center.

Cost is $3.00. To register or for more info, call 449-3777.

Preschool Morning Adventure - Christmas Decorating for the Birds

Thursday, December 6, 2007, at 10:00 AM

Attention all preschoolers! Come to Metea Park Nature Center and help us decorate the small trees outside the bird room for the birds.

We will be stringing popcorn, cranberries, making birdfeeders and hanging other "bird-friendly" ornaments on the trees. You will also have some to take home and decorate your outside trees for the birds. Story and snack included, too!

$3.00 per child, $2.00 per adult partner (partner required). Call 449-3777 for more information and pre-registration.

Tiny Treads - Brrrr

Saturday, December 1, 10:00 AM

Just because it's getting cold outside doesn't mean that nature isn't interesting. Join naturalist Karie Harding as she leads a hike through Metea Park. Make sure to dress for the weather!

$2.00 per child and adult partner (partner required).

Tiny Treads is a monthly hiking program geared for students in Pre-K through 3rd grade.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire: Campfire Cooking

Friday, November 30, 2007, at 6:00 PM

Come clelbrate the spirit of Thanksgiving at Metea County Park by cooking out over the campfire. We will provide the supplies, but bring your own place setting. Be sure to stay for the night hike afterward!

Cost is $5.00. Pre-registry is required; call 449-3777.

Election of Officers for 2008

At the November 28, 2007, meeting of the Friends of Metea, officers for 2008 will be elected. Nominations can be made from the floor by 2007 members whose dues are paid.

The slate to be presented is as follows:

  • President: Ron Divelbiss
  • Vice-President: Gordon Cole
  • Secretary: Judy Ruoff
  • Treasurer: Joanne Beerbower
  • Trail Guide Coordinators: Helen Cole and Cindy Kimm

Officers will begin their duties on January 1, 2008.

See you at the meeting.

Take a Hike! Oh, Poop!

Saturday, November 10, 2007, at 1:00 PM

It is sometimes very difficult to spot animals in the woods, but if you know what to look for, you can tell who has been there. Naturalist Rachel Rossiter-Smith will be leading the search for animal "calling cards".

Cost is $2.00. To register, call 449-3777.

A Poppin' Good Time

Friday, November 9, 2007, at 6:00 PM

Let's learn about popcorn! Come to the Metea Park Nature Center and join naturalist Karie Harding for an interesting, hands-on popcorn experience. We will be learning the history of popcorn, doing a taste test, growing our own popcorn, and other a-maize-ing tidbits.

$3.00 per person. Call 449-3777 for more information and registration.

Preschool Morning Adventure - Pumpkins, Indian Corn, and More

Thursday, November 8, 2007, at 10:00 AM

Hey, preschoolers! Come to the Metea Park Nature Center and learn about pumpkins, Indian corn, and more. We will learn about these things, learn about how they are grown, and how they became popular Thanksgiving decorations. We will read a book, have a snack, make a Thanksgiving craft, and learn a lot about pumpkins, Indian corn, and more.

$3.00 per child, $2.00 per adult partner (partner required).

Call 449-3777 for pre-registration.

Tiny Treads - Fall Scavenger Hunt

On November 3, 2007, at 10:00 AM, come to Metea Park for a fall scavenger hunt with naturalist Karen Harding. We will be walking a trail and looking for items that usually are seen only in fall.

Tiny Treads is a monthly children's hiking program and is geared for lower elementary students.

$2.00 per child, $2.00 per adult partner (partner required). Call 449-3777 for information.

Life and Times of Chief Metea

By Andrew Hartsock

Metea County Park was named for a Potawatomi leader whose village on the north bank of Cedar Creek near its mouth was close to the boundary of the current park. Metea's village was called Muskwawsepeotan, which means "town on the old red wood creek".1 The village, the southeasternmost Potawatomi village in Indiana, was settled sometime after 1795, when the Potawatomi tribe first moved into northeastern Indiana from the area of the St. Joseph's River of Lake Michigan near modern South Bend.2 The site was abandoned after it was ceded to the United States along with all other Potawatomi lands in the area by treaty in 1828.3 Although the population of Muskwawsepeotan is not known, similar small Potawatomi villages on the Tippecanoe River are estimated to have had 125 to 150 inhabitants.4

Metea was known as a prominent spokesman for his tribe. Although he was not an especially powerful clan elder, his skill as both an orator and a warrior won respect and brought him influence among his people. Many times, Metea fought and argued for the interests of the Potawatomi. He was an active leader during the War of 1812 and a valued lieutenant of Tecumseh.5 Among the battles he directed was the notorious massacre of the United States outpost at Fort Dearborn, now Chicago, in 1812.6 His bravery in warfare left him with a scar on the right side of his nose and a useless right arm. His arm was shattered when he was shot by a sentry while he was scouting General Harrison's army near Fort Wayne on September 11, 1812.7 Despite the debilitating wound, Metea risked his life to save his gun because, as he stated afterwards, "I would rather have lost my life. Had I returned from battle without my gun I should have been disgraced; but had I died with my face toward my enemy, my young men would have said that Metea died like a brave."8

Although he was unable to lead his warriors into battle after he was wounded, Metea's determination continued to serve his tribe as he represented them at many treaty negotiations. His serious, uncompromising nature earned him a reputation as "the sullen one," an ironic contradiction of the literal meaning of his name, "kiss me."9 Metea's memorable appearance added to his commanding presence as a speaker. Tall, at six feet, and scarred, his looks were described as "unpleasant" but, ultimately, "striking."10 The contrast of his relative youth for one so esteemed by his people and grave bearing also struck observers; he was still in his forties when he was most recognized as a spokesperson. Nevertheless, his verbal ability was his most memorable attribute. Senator Tipton of Indiana, among many who professed admiration for Metea's oratory, asserted many years after hearing him that there were few more eloquent speakers.11 During an important negotiation at Chicago in August, 1821, concerning the sale of lands in Michigan and Indiana, Metea was delegated as a spokesman, not only for his own tribe, but for their allies the Chippewa and Ottawa as well. The following is an excerpt from his address to the United States negotiator Lewis Cass which exemplifies the beliefs for which Metea fought; in this speech he admonishes both the land hungry United States and those Native Americans who agreed to further land sales:

"My Father: A long time has passed since we first came on our lands; and our people have all sunk into their graves. They had sense. We are all young and foolish, and do not wish to do anything that they would not approve, were they living. We are fearful we shall offend their spirits if we sell our land and we are fearful we shall offend you if we do not sell them. This has caused us a great perplexity of thought, because we have counseled among ourselves and do not know how we can part with the land. My Father: our country was given us by the Great Spirit, who gave it to us to hunt upon; and to make down our beds upon when we die. And he would never forgive us should we bargain it away. When you first spoke to us of lands at St. Mary's, we said we had a little, and agreed to sell you a piece of it; but we told you we could part with no more. Now you ask us again! You are never satisfied!

"My Father: We have sold you a great tract of land already; but it is not enough! We sold it to you for the benefit of your children, to farm and to live upon. We now have but little left; and we shall want it for ourselves. We know not how long we may live, and we wish to have some lands for our children to hunt upon. You are gradually taking away our hunting grounds. Your children are driving us before them. We are growing uneasy. What lands you have you may retain forever; but we shall sell no more.

"My Father: You think perhaps that I speak in anger; but my heart is good toward you. I speak like one of your children. I am an Indian - a redskin, and live by hunting and fishing. My country is already too small; and I do not know how to bring up my children if I give it all away...."12

Despite Metea's arguments, however, the tribes agreed to sell their lands; many in the tribes wanted money and trade goods which were given in quantity by the government in exchange for territory. Unfortunately, however, to many Potawatomi, material goods were not the primary objective of the negotiations; speaking for them, Topinbe, who claimed to be a leading chief, desperately admitted to Cass, "We care not for the land, the money, or the goods; it is the whiskey we want - give us the whiskey." Cass, professing reluctance, agreed to give the tribes enough alcohol "to make every man, woman, and child in the nation drunk" in exchange for the approval of the treaty.13 In the drunken revelry which followed the treaty signing, nearly a dozen Indians died from inebriation.14

Although Metea was well aware of the danger that white encroachment posed to the Potawatomis' sovereignty and way of life, he was not inveterately hostile to all elements of white culture. Actually, he found some aspects of white culture appealing, beneficial, or, at least, inevitable. Metea, like most of his tribesmen, preferred to wear the latest fashions imported from eastern cities. Observers often commented on the fastidiousness with which he dressed. With many Potawatomi, he probably envied the life of prosperous, independent frontier traders. Metea even advocated the education of some of the youth of his tribe in white-run Indian schools, such as the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky.15 He also sought medicine, such as smallpox vaccination, for his people.16 Undoubtedly, Metea did not believe that all white influences were necessarily a threat; rather, he sought to incorporate the more useful elements of their culture into his own.

Metea, characteristically seeking advantage for his people, tried to exploit differences among whites. During the War of 1812, he personally warned French trader Joseph Bondie of a planned Potawatomi attack on Fort Wayne. Metea sought the gratitude of an important member of the relatively large French community in the area, as well as continued access to European goods during the war. Unfortunately for his plans, however, Bondie betrayed his trust to the U.S. garrison.17 Later, unhappy when required to journey to Detroit to collect annuity payments from the government, Metea opportunistically journeyed to nearby Ontario to receive gifts from the British, who were seeking to inspire dissent among the Indians in the United States.18 Despite treaties of friendship with the U.S., Metea received yearly pension payments from the British as a wounded war veteran.19

Metea's entire life was devoted to ensuring the prosperity of his people and the continuance of their independence. Ultimately, however, his quest was doomed to failure. The unprecedented, unrelenting pressure of white settlers combined with disease which decimated the Native American population eventually destroyed much of the Native American culture in the Old Northwest. In 1838, most remaining Potawatomi were forced out of Indiana at gunpoint.20 Metea, however, did not live that long.

The circumstances of his death remain mysterious. Some assert, with cause, that he was deliberately poisoned for speaking too forcefully against land cessations, possibly by either dissatisfied Potawatomi or white settlers. What is known is that he died at Fort Wayne in October, 1827, after a treaty negotiation. Tired after long discussions, Metea remarked that he must have a "frolic." He was given alcohol and demanded more. Drunk, he mistakenly swallowed a bottle of nitric acid he took from a shop window and died in less than an hour.21 He is believed to be buried on the shore of the St. Mary's River between Wayne and Berry Streets. Some of his descendants still live in Northeast Indiana.22

1William H. Keating, Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of the St. Peters River...under the Command of Stephen H. Long, Major U.S.T.E. vol 1 (London: George B. Whittaker, 1825), 88.
2Otho Winger, The Potawatomi Indians (Elgin, Ill: Elgin Press, 1939), 81.
3David A. Baerris, The Geographic Location of Potawatomi Bands: 1795 to 1846 (Bloomington, IN: Glenn A Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 1998), 41-42.
4Winger, 67-68.
5Gilbert Bil, God Gave Us This Country (New York: Doubleday, Anchor, 1989), 231.
6Ibid, 98.
7R. David Edmunds, The Potawatomi: Keepers of the Fire (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978), 191.
8Thomas L. McKenney, History of the Indian Tribes of North America vol. 2 (repr. Edinburgh: J. Grant, 1933) 207.
9Edmunds, 140 and Keating, 88.
10Keating, ibid.
11McKenney, ibid.
12Hiram Beckwith, The Illinois and Indiana Indians (Chicago: Fergus, 1884) 179-181, quoting Henry Schoolcraft, Travels...in the Central Mississippi Valley (n.p. 1821).
13Edmunds, 221.
14William E. Unrau and Craig H. Minor, Tribal Dispossession and the Ottawa Indian University Fraud (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 34.
15McKenney, 208.
16Keating, 130.
17Wallace Brice, The History of Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne: D.w. Jones, 1868), 213.
18Charles Poinsatte, A History of Fort Wayne Indiana from 1716 to 1829 (Notre Dame: MA Thesis, 1951), 156-157.
19Edmunds, 216.
20Shirley Willard ed, "Trail of Courage, Trail of Death" Fulton County Historical Society Quarterly 53 (Fall & Winter 1988, Spring 1989), 62.
21McKenney, 211.
22"Potawatomi Indian Clan Installs Chief in Ancient Ritual" The Scottish Rite Standard (Fort Wayne: n.d.), 8.

Famous Naturalists In Their Youth

By Ron Divelbiss

Today many girls and boys love to walk along the edge of a creek or watch a hawk soar overhead. But back when the science of studying nature was new, most naturalists were men.

Many naturalists started their study of nature as young boys. They liked frogs and worms and other wiggle things.

Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss-American naturalist and geologist, as a boy caught fish and put them in a drinking fountain to study them. His later studies of fish were world-renowned.

Edward D. Cope, a great American paleontologist, at seven went with his father on a voyage and drew pictures of the jellyfish and other marine animals he saw.

David Starr Jordan (who later became President of Stanford University) at the age of thirteen listed all the plants in his neighborhood and then learned all the constellations in the northern hemisphere.

Sometimes these young naturalists had rather funny experiences. It is said that Charles Darwin as a boy was once collecting insects and ran out of containers to put them in so he carried one precious bug home in his mouth.

Our great naturalist President, Theodore Roosevelt, as a teenager, had a similar experience only much more embarrassing. He was collecting specimens along the river with some friends. When he found he had no more room in any of his bulging pockets, which were already crammed with frogs, toads, snakes and insects of all sorts, he stuck the last frog under his hat. On the way up the river bank the boys came upon the Honorable Hamilton Fish and his wife. Poor Teddy tipped his hat and lost both his frog and his dignity, and in the process scared Mrs. Hamilton out of her wits.

Not all those who study nature have the chance to become professional naturalists, so most of us are amateurs. However, a large part of the world’s knowledge has been gathered by the amateur naturalist.

Backyard Habitat

By Cheryl Allen

"The retention of wildlife in the cities and suburbs goes a long way toward maintaining the essential bond between people and nature that breeds a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the land and its life far beyond city limits." Robert Michael Pyle

My cats, draped over the back of the sofa, think the yard is wildlife-friendly for their benefit. Avid bird watchers, their interest of late has been the baby bunnies nibbling at the creeping phlox and cotoneasters outside the front window.

Not all developers of backyard habitats welcome rabbits, though. Purdue Advanced Master Gardener Alan Clayton finds them too destructive.

"Rabbits are my most unwanted wildlife, and the occasional raccoon. I have tried many ways (some I now know were 'folklore remedies') to stop the rabbits from devastating our vegetable and perennial gardens. I finally have succumbed to green plastic coated chicken wire. It is not all that attractive (much better than plain chicken wire, though), but it is very, very effective. We had a split rail fence with green wire mesh installed around our vegetable garden. That worked great for adult rabbits. However, all the baby bunnies could get through the mesh; they devastated the tender new growth on the vegetables."

Since 1973, the National Wildlife Federation has sponsored the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. This program provides encouragement and assistance to those who welcome wildlife to their yards. Alan registered their yard in 1994.

Why register? "The main advantage to registering our yard as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat," says Alan, "is that we learned so much about a habitat by reading all about it and by just making the sketch of our yard to fulfill the requirements. It has been a real learning process."

The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program outlines the four basic needs of all wildlife: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Of these four, which has the most impact on the backyard habitat?

"Water, water, water," Alan explains. "Either in the form of bird baths (we have 3) or ponds (we have one with a waterfall). We had a lot of wildlife, mostly birds, but after we got the waterfall and the birds could hear it, they 'flocked' to our yard. And in doing so, they ate many insects, most noticeably mosquitoes and Japanese beetles."

The National Wildlife Federation also recommends that, to create a healthful backyard habitat, one should reduce chemical usage and build healthy soil. "Soon after we registered and stopped using chemicals on our lawn and gardens, the birds came in droves," Alan confirmed.

Attracting wildlife means attracting predators as well, the NFW points out. "We have many Cooper's Hawks, and the occasional Red-tailed Hawk," Alan states. "We see them every weekend, and recently we were home for a week (we many times vacation in our Wildlife Habitat) and saw them almost daily."

Unless the animal is behaving strangely, the homeowner usually has nothing to fear, according to the NFW. Still, the presence of predators can be disconcerting.

"We saw a hawk swoop in and kill a bird, smashing a poor sparrow against our garden gate. I went in to Wild Birds Unlimited and spoke with Ben Roush. He congratulated me and said that the hawk incident meant that we truly had a backyard wildlife habitat. So now, I occasionally see feathers in the lawn and just accept it as the natural pecking order of life."

For more information on creating a backyard habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation online.

Burning Fires in the West

By Angie Carl

The phone rings at 1:00 am. Normally I would be groggy answering the phone that early, but I have been anticipating this for two weeks. Indiana Fire Headquarters has an assignment for me, if I chose to accept. Of course I do, and I forget to ask where they are sending me, all I know is that I have to be there by 7:00 am. I make a few calls to say my good-bye’s, throw my bags in the jeep, and hit the road to Martinsville. This is the beginning of a 36 day tour of the west putting out forest fires.

I’d like to explain a little about why I choose to fight forest fires. The main goal is not as many might think, to stop the forest from burning completely. The media talks about the devastation of the forest fires every day. You hear about people losing their homes, thousands of acres burning up, the redwoods going up in flames, and so on. I read this and wonder if the media has actually been out there, because it is not that way at all. The most important job of a fire team is to prevent building loss. They spend a lot of resources on protection of homes and populated areas. Most of what burns is wilderness. The burning is good for a lot of plants and animals. It is a natural occurrence that revives the woods. The areas that burn usually only lose a few trees and most of the under story.

The first place I was stationed was Sundance, Wyoming. This was a beautiful area in the Black Hills. The fire was a small one and almost out by the time we got there. The Indiana Fire Crew #4 spent three days mopping up the hot spots (anything still smoldering) and we moved on to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The scariest part of both trips was the bus ride from Sundance to Steamboat Springs. The trip entailed two breakdowns, two bus drivers, passing cars in no-passing zones, tires rubbing on wheel wells, and lots of white knuckles.

The crew arrived safely in Colorado. Steamboat Springs is what I imagine heaven looks like. The Rocky Mountains are absolutely stunning. The fire was called the Hinman Fire. We were evacuated the first day as the fire made a run up the mountain toward us. The next few days the Indiana Crew got our division (the area of the fire we were working) under control. They changed our division and we received a great assignment working on the hot side (the front) of the fire. We dug several miles of line, ran miles and miles of hose, and cut down a lot of snags (dangerous trees that are dead or burned out).

We spent several nights on the fire line, which is called spiking out. A helicopter dropped in our food and camping supplies. On the first night we spiked out, it rained for most of the night. At 4:00 am I heard a sound that I thought was a big storm, but there was no rain falling on my emergency blanket. I stirred myself awake and sat up. 100 feet in front of me a tree was torching. Ashes and sparks were pouring off the tree. It was a beautiful sight.

We put out the fire and came back to Indiana. I took my mandatory two days off, and put myself available once again. Fire Headquarters called on the third day and I was on my way to Oregon. This time there were two crews from Indiana (Indiana Crew #6 & #7) and three from Pennsylvania traveling together. We went to the Umpqua National Forest in the Cascade Range.

This fire was the largest I have ever been on. When we arrived it was already at 17,000 acres, which included 94 fires burning together. This fire was a lot different than the first two I was on. The smoke never lifted from the forest, so it seemed like we were in a thick fog for two weeks. We never saw the sun. The wildlife was abundant. I saw tree frogs, snakes, birds, lizards, and two baby black bear cubs.

On this fire we did similar tasks such as line cutting, hose laying, and mopping up. We also saw a lot of back burns being set to get rid of unburned fuel between the fire and the roads that were used as containment lines. The tactics used to fight this fire were similar to the first two, but they weren’t as aggressively applied.

Fire camp was enormous with over 2000 people. It was called “tent city”. They provided us with meals, showers, and camp stores. There were medical tents, phone areas, and an entertainment tent with a television that didn’t receive any stations. For the large number of people stationed at this complex, the fire will still not be out until the snow falls. The day we left the fire was 30 percent contained and it was up to 50,000 acres.

Fighting fires is not a glamorous way to burn all of my vacation, but it is very gratifying work. I get to see parts of the country I have never been and I get to learn more about fire behavior, which I find fascinating.

Now that I am back home it is hard for me to hear that President Bush wants to allow logging companies into wilderness areas to thin trees to prevent more fires. Protecting inhabited areas should be the top priority, and in my opinion the wilderness I love is in more danger from this plan than from fires.

Metea in Community

By David S. Ridderheim, Jr.

I was asked to write a few paragraphs on what Metea Park means to the community and me. Those two are intertwined so here are some quick thoughts.

Rejuvenation: Being close to and a part of nature is truly restorative. Walking on the beautiful trails (there are several, all different), listening to the wind through the trees, seeing the bubbling waters of Cedar Creek, or just absorbing the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and touches is a great experience.

Recreation: There are so many opportunities throughout the entire year. It is great to see so many people hiking, jogging, swimming, bird watching, cross-country skiing, identifying trees, fishing, photographing, picnicking, or merely relaxing at one of the scenic overlooks.

Families: In today’s hectic world, I love to see families doing things together. My wife and I alone, or with some of our children and grandchildren, find Metea Park provides a great setting for family activities. You will be amazed at the questions and conversation that occur.

Education: Anybody walking through Metea cannot help but be in a learning mode looking for, and thinking about, nature and all of its inhabitants - insects, reptiles, mammals, plants, trees, birds - on and on. Most enjoyable for me is being a trail guide for Friends of Metea, and it is rewarding to help youngsters from pre-school through elementary ages as they explore the park. I am also most impressed with students from IPFW and Leo High School, teachers, and adult volunteers as they provide structured learning activities.

The residents of LeoCedarville and the surrounding region are fortunate to have a nature park such as Metea as an integral part of this community. With the rapid development of the area, it is vital this important area be maintained and improved for citizens to enjoy today and tomorrow.

Watch Us Grow (Trees)

By Ron Zartman

On Saturday, March 25, 2000, a Tree Planting Field Day was held at the north unit of Metea County Park. In a soybean field on Hursh Road, immediately east of Cedar Creek, nearly fifteen thousand trees were planted. A handful of people went home better informed to plant their own trees. Tom Crowe, of Wakeland Forestry Consultants, spoke about improving existing tree plantings. Bill Lambert, of Lambert Forestry Consulting, talked about tree planting do’s and don’ts. Gary Moughler, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, clued participants in on gypsy moths and other insect pests. Dave Hines with the Natural Resource Conservation Service presented information on federal agricultural programs like CRP and WRP. A lot of people and agencies cooperated to make this happen. This day was a long time coming.

Allen County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) had purchased this land in the mid-eighties. It had been farmed for about ten years to bring in revenue until it could be developed as parkland. Dave Lamb of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) worked with Allen County Parks in 1996 to enter 17 acres at the rear of the property in the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). This U.S. Department of Agriculture program preserves wetlands permanently by purchasing development rights from landowners. In exchange for placing a perpetual easement on their wetland property, landowners receive a lump sum payment of the approximate value of the acreage involved. This was perfect for Allen County Parks and Recreation (ACPR). We planned to protect these wetlands and create trail access to them anyway, and this payment replaced lost revenues from farming. This acreage was taken out of agricultural production and left idle. In a short time “pioneer” trees seeded in on their own. Cottonwood, sycamore, ash, cherry, and dogwood established themselves in the floodplain soils.

In 1998 the County Parks became aware that we could be eligible to enter the remaining sixteen acres of soybeans into the Conservation Reserve Plan (CRP), another USDA farm program. Again, Dave Lamb with NRCS and the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District guided us through the process. We would be paid a yearly rent on these acres in exchange for taking this land out of production. The rent paid would actually be higher than the farm revenues we had been taking in. If we planted trees the payments would be made for fifteen years. The USDA would cost-share expenses of planting trees and controlling weeds for the first two years. CRP and WRP would help us take thirty-three acres out of agriculture and restore them to forest cover. This would provide wildlife habitat, expand our trail system, and prepare this area for public use.

Many benefits were going to be realized by Metea County Park’s participation in CRP and WRP. Allen County Parks Board member and County Extension Director Roger Moll could see the potential for expanding the County Parks’ and Purdue Cooperative Extension Service’s educational efforts with this project. He proposed using this area as a forestry demonstration area. Land owners who were considering planting trees on their own properties could learn from this planting at Metea County Park. They could compare planting strategies, and in the future they could see best management practices in use. We began to look for partners.

Roger Moll enlisted the help of Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist Brian MacGowan. Brian offered several tree planting and maintenance strategies, advice on wildlife problems, and suggestions of tree species that would benefit wildlife.

Dave Lamb suggested getting local forestry consultants involved. They may be interested in using this area as a demonstration area for the strategies they commonly use in their work. Being public land, potential customers could view the practices in use at Metea over time and at their leisure.

Two firms decided to help with reforestation efforts at Metea. Both firms were on the Forestry Committee of the Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D. Bill Lambert, of Lambert Forestry Consulting, and Tom Crow of Wakeland Forestry Consultants teamed up to plant trees at a reduced rate. Tom Crowe developed separate tree planting plans for the CRP and WRP plots. The Conservation Reserve Plan plot was started from scratch, planting directly into the soybean stubble. The Wetland Reserve Program land supplemented what came up naturally. Trees that would have taken a long time to come in by themselves, like oaks and walnut, were planted into what was already growing there.

Both of Wakeland Forestry Consultants’ tree planting plans had the objective “to recreate an aesthetically pleasing natural woodland that will produce an economically valuable timber resource in addition to maximizing species diversity, improving wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational and educational opportunities while reducing soil erosion. An additional objective is to demonstrate various aspects relating to tree planting and plantation management that may be used in the future as a demonstration area by people interested in tree planting for timber production.”

Tom Crowe was able to successfully help Allen County Parks secure $3,400 in funding from the Hardwood Forestry Fund, a program of the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association. This funding will cover costs of seedlings, planting, and weed control not covered by CRP. In return, Allen County Parks has agreed to document the progress of the project with photographs and published news articles and provide the Hardwood Forestry Fund with copies of these. We must also notify the Hardwood Forestry Fund of tree survival and health at years one, five, ten and twenty, or if any changes occur impacting the health or management of the project. Their members may benefit from a timber harvest in the future.

The CRP planting called for black walnut (2800 tress), red oak (2800), white oak (1400), chinquapin oak (700), burr oak (700), tulip (1400), black cherry (1400), and butternut (100). These species of trees were intermixed in rows by a tractor-pulled planter. Some rows were planted with trees every six feet. Another area would be planted with trees every nine feet. Rows would be eight feet apart. We will be able to determine in the future which did better.

Another variable demonstrated was weed control. The difference between applying herbicide only on the rows of trees vs. broadcast spraying of whole areas should be visible almost right away. Brochures will be developed to explain what areas received different practices so that landowners can determine for themselves how to go about their own tree plantings.

The WRP areas were planted with seven hundred each of black walnut, red oak, white oak, chinquapin oak, burr oak, and shagbark hickory. One area was left alone to show only what has come in naturally with no help. Another will be broadcast sprayed with herbicide to “release” the tress that have come in naturally. In this area the pioneer trees should do better than the first, due to not having competition with weeds for the two years of herbicide treatment. A third area will supplement existing natural regeneration by planting heavy mast (nuts and acorns) producers and controlling weeds over planted trees only. Trees were planted mechanically right into existing trees in eight-foot spacing. Rows were ten feet apart. The remaining area of WRP land followed the same planting regimen as the first, but will be broadcast sprayed for weed for two years, again releasing naturally occurring tress and protecting planted trees from competition with weeds.

To create as much diversity as possible, Hoosier Releaf supplied trees planted by park staff and volunteers on May 20, 2000. These were planted by hand in the same rows as the mechanically planted and will benefit from any weed control applied there.

It is wonderful to think that in ten years we could have a canopy of tree cover where there is now just soybean stubble. There will soon be new trails to hike. And Cedar Creek will begin to benefit from a new buffer from agriculture. It has been gratifying to see so many people and organizations get involved.

Skunk Cabbage - Nature's Oddity

By Kathryn Moore

How can one describe this succulent, thick fleshed flower, that pokes its tips out of the muck and swamps at Metea Park? It is truly an oddity of nature! I have seen the tips in November in readiness for a very early appearance in late February or early March. The flowers are a knob-shaped cluster (spadix) covered with yellow pollen. Surrounding the flower is a 2-5" thick hood (spathe) mottled with colors of brown, green, and purple. The leaves come a week or two later, at first coiled, then becoming very large in late spring. The cabbage-like leaves rise to two feet and have a foul odor when crushed. In early summer, the flower dies away, leaving the beautiful large leaves to brighten the swamp with marsh marigolds. The two are companions in the swamp. I love the scene!

The Latin name is Symplocarpus foetidus and the plant is in the Arum family, the same family as the jack-in-the pulpit. Skunk cabbage covers a large range, from Eastern Quebec to Western Ontario and south to Missouri and Georgia. The leaves are called elephant ears in some localities, in reference to their large size. The flowers have a carrion-like smell which attracts flies for pollinating other plants. The bad odor coming from the crushed leaves is skunk-like, hence the name skunk cabbage. The plant grows in swamps and bog margins, in wet mucky soil.

In Euell Gibbon's 1966 book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, he entertainingly tells us about how he cooked the tightly rolled cones of the young leaves as a vegetable, boiled in two or more changes of water, with a pinch of soda. The bad smell covered the kitchen and when he ate the leaves, there was a bad burning in his mouth! Later he successfully made pancakes from the dried roots. The roots were dried for six months!

Skunk cabbage is listed in the U.S. Parmacopoeia from 1880 - 1882. It is still listed in the U.S. Dispensatory as an emetic, stimulant, antispasmodic, and narcotic. The Micmac Indians treated headaches by binding a bunch of the leaves together, crushing them, and inhaling the sharp odor. This would fit the "doctrine of signatures" where "like cures like".

Once, the land surrounding the Fort Wayne area was filled with swamps and bogs, but in recent years, most of the land has been drained. Metea Park is fortunate to have an area (where the Soft Shell Turtle and Raccoon Trails merge) where this plant grows. The Metea parkland off Hursh Road also has this oddity, growing near Cedar Creek. In a huge area at the Isaac Walton League, near Cedar Creek, skunk cabbage and marsh marigolds thrive. There is a small stand at Fox Island, our other county park. It is sad to note that driving down country roads, all our natural wetlands are gone and the sight of bright green skunk cabbage leaves a forgotten sight. Although skunk cabbage was never rare, it is now disappearing with the draining of our bottom lands. On the bright side, there are county parklands and Acres Land Trust, who are dedicated to saving these wonderful areas, where nature's oddity, the skunk cabbage, continues to grow this spring and forever.

Happy exploring!

Alien Invaders Threaten Our Parks

By Jodi Leamon

In mid-November at the parks, most of the vegetation is leafless. A few of the oaks are holding onto their brown foliage, but most of the landscape consists of bare limbs reaching up into the crisp air. This affords a unique view through the forest. At first, one becomes aware of cheery clouds of green hovering about eye-level for as far as is visible. It is tempting to think of this last bit of live growth at this time of year as a good thing. A closer look, however, reveals a more sinister side to the phenomenon.

Those last green leaves belong to the Honeysuckle bush. It is a plant native to Russia, which was imported here for ornamental landscaping. Now there are areas of the park in which the understory consists of very little besides Honeysuckle.

There are several species of this shrub, but one of the most prevalent in our area is Lonicera tataria. The flowers are non-fragrant and produce bright red berries late into the fall. Wild animals seem not to favor the berries as a food source because the berries remain on the plant for long periods of time. When almost nothing else is available, though, birds and deer will eat them. It is believed that this is how the plant escaped to forested areas.

Observers have noted that the Honeysuckle population in the park is increasing at an alarming rate. Any species introduced into a new area brings with it a host of problems. First of all, there are no natural predators or competitors for non-natives. Normally, an ecosystem co-evolves to keep itself in balance. Take any one element out of that system and put it into another, and balance is thrown off. The fact that an introduced species can survive in a new area indicates that the growing conditions are right for it; couple that with the lack of competition or predation, and uncontrolled growth results.

Local flora and fauna suffer due to alien plant species as well. Animals do not recognize the intruder as a normal source for food or shelter. In the case of Honeysuckle, certain animals are able to eat the berries, but it is a low quality food. The real trouble comes with crowding. Native plants are shaded out by the tall leafy shrub, and the sheer number of individuals takes up literally acres of space that could and should be used by our precious natives.

Non-natives, invasives, aliens, weeds, exotics - however they are referred to, these plants pose a huge threat to our wild spaces. Because we are such a mobile society, we transport species to new places faster than we can realize we have a problem. Once the species is present in an area, seeds are spread on shoes and clothing of unwitting hikers and make their way into the winderness on the treads of off-road vehicles.

Exotic plants are the number two cause of loss of biodiversity worldwide after loss of habitat. In 1999, President Clinton supported an initiative to begin widespread eradication efforts on non-native plants in parks and other protected lands in order to address this problem.

Fox Island has begun to take its own initiative on the issue. We are removing Honeysuckle by cutting and treating with herbicide to prevent re-sprouting from the stumps. This is more an effort to control the spread than to completely eradicate the species, and will take a considerable amount of work due to the proliferation of the plant throughout the park.

Some people may think that any plant growing in a forest, especially a nature preserve, has a right to be there. In order to protect that forest, though, we must take measures to prevent the limitless growth of exotic plants. It is hard for any nature lover to go out and kill a living thing, but when faced with the facts, many gentle-hearted naturalists become fierce "weed warriors".

Looking through the trees at that sea of light green Honeysuckle leaves in the fall is a little less pleasant when considering the darker side of the story. Hopefully, the more aware people become about non-natives, the less ground they will gain in our forests, wild lands, and protected places.

Landscaping for Butterflies

By Cheryl Allen

If you are like me, you spent at least part of the winter leafing through gardening catalogs. I love winter, but by February I am ready for a new season. How better to prepare than planning for something new in the yard or garden? Better yet if that something new improves my backyard habitat by attracting and nurturing butterflies.

Why butterflies? Most of us are simply enchanted with their beauty. A more practical reason to attract butterflies is we need them. The adults’ constant search for nectar is a critical fragment in the grand scheme of nature: the flower feeds the butterfly which lives to reproduce while the butterfly ensures the plant’s own future generations by carrying pollen from blossom to blossom. Also, both adult butterflies and their larvae serve as food for other animals. And the study of butterflies adds to scientific research.

One problem for butterfly proliferation is shrinking habitat. Endangered butterfly species do not get the press that threatened birds and mammals do, but many species of lepidoptera (from the Greek lepis which means “scale” and ptera which means “wing”) are on the verge of extinction. We can do our part to replace some lost habitat by making our backyards butterfly havens.

What attracts butterflies? They need sunlight and warmth, shelter from the elements, water they can access, and nectar and food sources.

Butterflies are “cold blooded” which means they cannot generate their own warmth. Few yards are so shady they discourage butterflies. A south facing stone wall or the south side of a building offers an additional butterfly-attracting warm-up area.

Butterflies need shelter from the wind, protection from their predators, and protected areas for breeding. Shrubs, fall litter, and windbreaks made of trees, fences, or strategically placed buildings help provide this. And don’t be such a neatnik in autumn; leave a few messy spots of leaves and branches around your yard for butterfly pupa to winter over.

Just like us, butterflies need water as well as a supply of minerals. Fragile creatures that they are, their water sources must be extremely shallow. Wet sand, earth, and mud make the best butterfly fountains; bury a bucket of sand in a sunny place and place a few rocks and sticks on the surface and fill with water. If your neighbors don’t, mind, a mesh bag of wet manure hung from a tree branch also works well. Butterflies get their minerals from damp sand, earth, mud, or manure, but you can add a livestock salt block for an extra treat.

For nectar sources, butterflies are partial to blossoms of purple and gold, but also like red, orange, and pink. For purple, plant pin-cushion flowers, Russian sage, Joe Pye weed, purple coneflower, or a butterfly favorite, butterfly bush. For gold, try coreopsis, yarrows, marigolds, and goldenrods. Different species of butterflies prefer different colors, so for the best variety of butterflies, plant a wide variety of colors. The red of cardinal flowers, the orange of butterfly weed, and the pink of milkweed will add diversity.

Butterflies prefer flat-topped flowers that offer flat landing pads they can access without damaging their wings. Plants with clustered flowers allow the butterfly to reach many sources of nectar with little expenditure of energy. Because of their short proboscis, butterflies also favor short flower tubes. Plants that satisfy these criteria include coneflower, aster, gaillardia, shasta daisy, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, goldenrod, veronica, yarrow, and sedum.

Butterflies need nectar all season long. Aim for a variety of bloom times so that something is available spring, summer, and fall.

If your space or budget is limited, plant old-fashioned zinnias in mixed colors and in the fall, save the seeds for next year.

We learn the stages of an insect’s life in elementary school science class: egg, larva (caterpillar), cocoon (chrysalis, pupa), adult. We learn about metamorphosis and maybe even diapause (hibernation). Butterfly needs vary depending on which stage they are in.

Adults, of course, need nectar, but the plants on which they feed frequently are not the plants on which they lay eggs. Generally, a diverse collection of native plants and trees will serve your butterfly visitors well, but you can supplement these with specific plants such as members of the dill family (dill, parsley, coriander, fennel), wild plants such as milkweed, and flowers such as nasturtiums.

Again, if you are like me, your yard probably already has many butterfly-friendly features in the flowerbeds, vegetable and herb gardens, and foundation plantings. Remember to refrain from pesticide use, as even some “organic” pest control can be harmful to butterflies at one stage or another of their life cycle.


  • The Butterfly Garden, by Mathew Tekulsky, The Harvard Common Press, 1985
  • Creating a Butterfly Garden, by Marcus Schneck, Simon and Schuster, Inc. 1993
  • “Create a Butterfly Haven,” Organic Gardening, Rodale Press, Jan./Feb. 2003
  • “Attracting Butterflies to Your Backyard, Schoolyard, Workplace, or Community Wildlife Habitat,” National Wildlife Federation Guide, available online by clicking here.
  • “Special Feature Gardens,” Landowners Guide, available online by clicking here.

Insects: Edible and Otherwise?

By Jason Morrison

Once again it’s time for our friends to come along and join us for picnics, hikes in the woods, canoe trips, and backyard barbecues. I’m not talking about Ron your coworker or Chris your neighbor or even your brother Ted. I’m talking about our friends, the insects. Now I know some of you are thinking, “Each time I go outside the insects drive me crazy!” Well, even though this may be true, it is important to understand how these wonderful, six-legged beasties interact in this wild world.

Insects, even though many times they annoy or seem to try to hurt us, actually help us in more ways than any other type of creature in the world. They pollinate our plants and help to give us fruits, vegetables, honey, and many other sources of food. In some cases they help us control “pest” species of insects by predation, and they are commonly used by biologists to help control invasive plants like purple loosestrife. They are a source of food for many different mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and peoples of the world. In fact, the Native Americans of the plains states would harvest thousands of grasshoppers to consume. So just because a few make us uncomfortable, we shouldn’t let those give the others a bad name. And yes, they all do have a place in an ecosystem (even mosquitoes).

First of all, we need to know exactly what an insect is and is not. An insect has six legs, three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and usually a pair of antenna. Most have wings, but not all. If a creepy crawly has more than six legs, less than three body parts, or more than one pair of antenna it is NOT an insect, period. Other close relatives are Arachnids (spiders, ticks, mites), Centipedes (one pair of legs per body segment), Millipedes (two pairs of legs per body segment), and Crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, pill bugs).

Next, we need to know the differences of some major families of insects. Listen closely: All bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. There is one order of insects called Hemiptera. Those are the only true bugs. They include assassin bugs, stinkbugs, and box elder bugs. All other flies, bees, ants, etc., etc., etc. are NOT bugs. Each of these insects has their own family. Here is a list of common families you can find in and around your home:

  • Coleoptera - beetles
  • Diptera - flies/mosquitoes
  • Isoptera - termites
  • Homoptera - leaf hoppers
  • Hymenoptera - bees/ants
  • Lepidoptera - butterflies/moths
  • Orthoptera - grasshoppers
  • Odonata - dragonflies

Finally, just for more random information to pack into your mind (who knows, maybe one day you’ll need this for your appearance on Jeopardy), we currently have roughly 1,000,000 species of insects in the world. And entomologists (people who study insects) find new species constantly, especially in rain forests. Estimates by many scientists range from 1.25 million to 3 million total species in the world. Any way we look at it, insects by number and mass are a very important part of the natural world. It is prudent that we understand their total involvement in our daily lives so that we may appreciate them more. Until, next time - Buzz off!

    Do They Really Lose Their Temper?

    By Bob Dispensa

    You may have seen this before: a raccoon staggering around in the daytime, walking in circles and bumping into things. What on earth is wrong? Is there anything you can do?

    What you may have witnessed was the effects of a distemper infection. Distemper is a viral disease of carnivorous animals caused by a paramyxovirus. Related paramyxoviruses cause mumps, measles, respiratory syncytial disease and parainfluenza (including croup) in humans. Humans cannot get distemper, and the disease is uncommon among wild animals.

    Distemper comes in two types - canine and feline. Both are highly infectious for certain carnivores, and especially deadly to the young. Some wild animals (raccoons, weasels, ferrets, skunks, mink, otters and badgers) may be infected with both. Because of differing outcomes and susceptible animals, we will look at the two types separately.

    Canine distemper is mostly found in dog-relatives - wolves, coyotes, foxes and dogs, plus those mentioned above. Infections can be found year round. Because the virus is cold resistant, most domestic animal cases occur in fall and winter. Most wild animal cases are found in spring and summer in juveniles, since the young are more susceptible than adults. Viruses are transmitted through aerosol droplets (sneezing, coughing), direct contact and, rarely, contact with contaminated objects. The virus is usually inhaled, occasionally ingested. Canine distemper is not necessarily fatal.

    Feline distemper affects bobcat, domestic cats and lynx, along with raccoons, mink, weasels, ferrets, otters, badgers and skunks. Transmission is mostly by infected body secretions/excretions, and possibly by fleas, flies and other insects. The virus is inhaled or ingested, and the disease is often fatal.

    Symptoms are many and varied, but often include neurological disturbances. Infected animals may show aggressiveness, loss of fear of humans, disorientation, lack of alertness, convulsive or uncoordinated movements, aimless wandering and unkempt appearance. Sometimes nasal and eye discharge is present. Due to digestive system damage, infected animals may show excessive thirst.

    Animals that exhibit these symptoms should be avoided. Chances of helping them are extremely small, and if the disease is not distemper, handling the animal could be quite dangerous. Distemper virus does not effect humans, but confusion with rabies is of concern, since it has many of the same symptoms as distemper. Other diseases may mimic distemper: tularemia, listeriosis, histoplasmosis, tetanus, poisoning and some parasitic diseases (like raccoon brain nematode).

    Keep yourself and pets away from suspicious wild animals. Do not try to approach or handle such animals. Leave them alone and leave the area. If you or your unvaccinated pet has had direct contact or been bitten by a diseased animal, you should react as if rabies is involved, just to be safe. Distemper is harmless to humans, but rabies can be deadly. Capture the wild animal if doing so will not expose you to danger, or kill the animal without damaging the head. Make sure you let the conservation officer, police or sheriff department know if you have killed the animal. Call Animal Control at 449-7491 and they will test the animal for rabies. If you cannot capture or kill the wild animal, your pet will have to be quarantined or you may have to be evaluated for rabies exposure.

    It is much easier and safer to just keep your distance from suspicious -acting animals. If they’re not afraid of you, you should be afraid of them.

    Swallow Summer by Charles R. Brown

    A Book Review by Cheryl Allen

    Monitoring ground water at Fox Island is probably the closest I will get to field work. When I began participating in this project, I expected to eventually grow bored covering the same ground at the park on each of my surveys of the wells. But that has not been the case. Each time I walk my route, I see or learn something new.

    Consequently, it is not difficult for me to understand why Charles and Mary Brown return, year after year since 1982, to study the cliff swallows near the Cedar Point Biological Station in western Nebraska. Driven by a passion for the birds, Brown leads us through a season in the field, complete with its frustrations over the weather, uncooperative subjects and inexperienced assistants, and its rewards of supporting behavior theories with cold, hard, earned-with-blood-and-sweat statistical data.

    Available at the Allen County Public Library

    Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park by Marie Winn

    A Book Review by Cheryl Allen

    When one thinks of Central Park in New York City, 190 species of birds is not what comes to mind. Nor 53 species of butterflies and 16 species of hawks, not to mention hundreds of edible plants.

    Yet this is the Central Park Marie Winn introduces to us in Red-Tails in Love. Full of first hand observations by the Regulars (New York's own Nature Nuts) plus facts from experts (sometimes very surprised experts), the book provides a different view of city life and the role that nature plays in the lives of some of its citizens.

    Ostensibly, the book is about Pale Male and his serial mates, and their attempts to survive in a hostile environment, but it is more than just their story. It's also about how nature binds us to each other, and brings out the little hero in each of us as we try to help the other creatures of this earth not just survive, but thrive.

    Available at the Allen County Public Library

    The Life of a Woodcock

    By Sara Kahn

    Also known as the timberdoodle, mudsnipe, labrador twister, or bogsucker, the woodcock is a species from woodland habitat. The genus name for the bird, Scolopax, actually means woodcock in Greek. About the size of a robin, the woodcock has a feather design of mottled brown and russet. With an unusually long bill, the woodcock probes muck for earthworms. The nostrils sit high on the bill for this reason. A woodcock’s eyes are set high and back on its head. This is helpful in staying clear of vegetation, avoiding splattering mud, and is a good way to see predators. As a matter of fact, woodcocks have better binocular vision to the rear than to the front. The ears are positioned in front of the eyes!

    Woodcocks are active at dawn and dusk; this means that they are crepuscular. It is during this time that woodcocks perform the flight displays, which are followed by a “peent” call. Peenting is also used in territorial behavior. A single male may defend several spots in a field. To impress potential mates, the male does a zigzag flight in which he may fly hundreds of feet into the sky before coming down.

    Although there is no positive way to distinguish between the sexes, the female is bigger. Males mate indiscriminately; the female is responsible for rearing the young. There is a maximum of four eggs laid and she lays one per day, incubating after the last is laid. Eggs are a pinkish cinnamon color and marked with brown. The nest is made among the fallen leaves under brush, tall weeds, trees, or rocky hollows in early March to June. As the female incubates the eggs, she relies heavily on her amazing camouflage and will stay on her nest until you can get close enough to touch her. If disturbed during early incubation, she may abandon her nest and only one brood is raised per year.

    The young hatch over a twenty-four hour period and will start probing the soil for worms and insects after a day or two. At three weeks, they can fly short distances. They are with the mother for six to eight weeks until they go off on their own.

    The female has some interesting behaviors as well. She will feign injury to lure predators away from her young. It is unclear whether woodcocks are one of the species that practices aerial carrying of their young. They may be faking this to lure away predators.

    A young woodcock will be making its first move to warmer areas as the first hard frosts tell the birds to head south. Colder weather makes the ground too hard to probe and woodcocks need more than their body weight in worms daily. Migration starts in October and ends in mid-November. Woodcocks leave at dusk and fly through the night. Their flocks can range from a few to more than fifty birds. Wintering grounds are in Gulf Coast and southeast coastal states. The largest concentrations winter in central Louisiana. They migrate back to the north again as early as February, when the weather is warmer. The most northern states are reached by late March and early April.

    Populations of woodcocks vary through the years. The birds are threatened by human development onto moist woodlands, timber maturation, and flooding. Bad weather, predation, accidents during night flight, hunting, disease, and parasites affect woodcock mortality. The woodcock’s life expectancy is 1.8 years, although banded woodcocks in the wild were found to be seven years old.

    Interested in providing for woodcocks? High quality habitat for nesting is young, second growth woodlands with open spaces and is within ninety meters of a singing ground. Courtship will take place in spring near open fields next to forest edge, in abandoned fields with low brush, or in forest clearing. A quarter of an acre can provide enough of this needed space. However, large fields are needed for roosting. An ideal habitat will have an abundance of food as well as a shelter canopy that is diverse in age. As any cover matures, different tree species will take over and it becomes less attractive to the woodcock. Periodically harvesting large trees that would shade brush or hinder the growth of younger trees can be a solution or shrubs and trees can be planted. Management practices include cutting and controlled burning to renew the habitat for this bird and other wildlife and it must be maintained. Anyone willing to manage for woodcocks will be treated to a fascinating show of “peent” and nasal calls, foot-stamping to locate prey, and the sight of a shy, little, plump bird.

    How Hummingbirds Fly

    By Ron Divelbiss

    All birds can fly forward, and some birds can hover for a short spell, but only hummingbirds can zip into backward flight, too. This is possible because their wings actually flip over on each stroke when hovering or going backward, so that the leading edge, which remains facing front in other birds, works in either direction. Hummingbirds also work their wings from what would be our shoulder joint, instead of flapping them at the elbow and wrist joints like other birds. To really appreciate the fantastic mechanics of a hummingbird's wings, try it yourself.

    1. Hold your arms out with thumbs forward so your arms are slightly ahead of your shoulders.
    2. Now swing your arms so that they point backwards, while rotating your arms at the shoulders so that your thumbs face back.
    3. Repeat, so that thumbs again are facing front as you rotate your arms and bring them forward.
    4. Now do it 70 times a second.

    Hey, you're a hummingbird!

    Carolina Wrens in My Garage

    By Ron Divelbiss

    We have always had House Wrens nesting in our wren houses, but this spring I was excited to have a pair of Carolina Wrens lurking around the yard. You’ll hear this wren long before you see it because it has a loud, ringing call that is a series of double or triple notes.

    Carolina Wrens occur across much of the Eastern half of the United States, but are essentially thought of as a bird of the Southeast. Their range is spreading north, however, and for several years now they have been in our area. The will come to the feeder, especially if you are feeding bluebirds, as they love the same kinds of food.

    A couple of weeks ago I was working in the garage and noticed some twigs and grass sticking out of my ski boots. Some pesky mouse had built nests in them I thought. As I ripped the nest out of the boots I realized this wasn’t a mouse nest. What could it be?

    I was soon to find out. A few days later my wife found the same kind of nest in one of the baskets she had painted. The baskets were to be used as decorations for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. My wife needed the baskets so she removed the basket with the nest in it and hung if from a rope a few feet above where it had been located. The birds returned and continued to lay eggs. The basket had to be moved again because we couldn’t shut the garage door. This time it was hung from the door opener electrical cord.

    The birds persevered and incubated 5 brown-spotted whitish eggs in a feather-lined, domed stick nest with an entrance on the side. Now young are being tended by both parents, however, I see the male tending the nest most often as the female begins a new clutch. We have to leave the garage door open from sunrise to sunset to accommodate our basket guests!

    I have since built two houses for them. I placed them under the eve, just above the garage door. The female has chosen one of them as her next nesting site.

    The Three Faces of Cedar Creek

    By Dr. Jack A. Sunderman

    Reprinted with permission form the Acres Land Trust Quarterly, Autumn 2000

    Northwestern Allen County’s Cedar Creek Valley is one of the most unusual valley systems in the world. The valley consists of three distinctly different sections, all with different histories.

    The northern headwaters section crosses a former floodplain of the Eel River, resulting in a shallow valley with poorly-defined boundaries, whereas the central and eastern sections are deeply incised across the hilly Wabash Moraine, giving them the popular name, “Cedar Creek Canyon”. However, only the steep-sided central tunnel valley section is truly canyon-like; the eastern downstream section, in contrast, has more gently sloping sides and a meandering stream channel, giving it a much more normal appearance.

    The origin of the Cedar Creek Valley system is so complex that it probably is not completely understood today. However, many aspects of its origin can be identified from the features noted above and from other well-documented information.*

    For example, the sequence of Wisconsin-age glacial features formed in this area show the following: (1) An early version of the Eel River formed at the edge of a small lobe of ice that came through the Saginaw Bay area. (2) The Lake Erie Lobe later covered the older Saginaw Lobe and its topographic features, including the early Eel River Valley. (3) As the Lake Erie Lobe melted back to the site of the Wabash Moraine, a new version of the Eel River was established along the ice margin. (4) The central part of Cedar Creek formed as a sub-ice stream, draining the Lake Erie Lobe and carving the tunnel valley section in the underlying sediment. This early version of Cedar Creek, flowing westward, disgorged meltwater and produced an alluvial fan of sand and gravel at its mouth. Note that the tunnel valley section is younger than the headwaters section, suggesting that the older headwaters section of Cedar Creek somehow was “captured” by the younger downstream parts of the system.

    Enter the St. Joseph River! As the Lake Erie Lobe melted farther northeastward, it formed the Fort Wayne Moraine, essentially parallel to the Wabash Moraine. Its meltwater then flowed between the two moraines and formed the St. Joseph River. Downcutting the St. Joseph gave renewed energy to small tributaries along its path. One of these east of the tunnel valley became the downstream section of Cedar Creek. It is not know whether this section originally was a part of the tunnel valley section, whose stream originally flowed westward, or whether it was simply a small tributary that originally flowed eastward into the St. Joseph River. Because it is so different from the central tunnel valley section, perhaps the latter explanation is the most likely.

    Eventually, the downcutting by the St. Joseph River affected all of its tributaries, many of which eroded headward across low places in the adjacent moraines. At Cedar Creek, the downstream section was affected first, then the tunnel valley section, then the headwaters section of the once mighty Eel River. It is possible that floodtime overflow from the upper Eel River initiated the reversal of flow through the tunnel valley and thus aided the erosion process. With the addition of the headwaters of the Eel River, Cedar Creek took on its modern appearance, and its waters began to flow eastward across the Wabash Moraine and into the St. Joseph River.

    The process just described is called stream capture, or stream piracy. The St. Joseph River and its Cedar Creek tributary give us an excellent example of progressive stream piracy. The St. Joseph first captured the downstream section of Cedar Creek, then the tunnel valley section, and then the upper Eel River headwaters section, giving us today’s Three Faces of Cedar Creek.

    Background information related to this article can be obtained in the following publications:

    • Anthony H. Fleming, 1994, The Hydrology of Allen County, Indiana

    • Indiana Geological Survey Special Report 57, 111p

    • Ned K. Bleuer and Michael C. Moore, 1978, Environmental Geology of Allen County
      Indiana Geological Survey Special Report 13, 72p

    Geologic Features in the Metea Park Region

    By Dr. Jack A. Sunderman

    Most of the topographic features of Metea Park and the surrounding area (“Metea Park Region”) were produced about 20,000 to 10,000 years ago by Wisconsinan continental glaciers and their meltwater streams. As the glaciers moved slowly through this area they melted constantly, depositing sediment both beneath the ice and around its margins, leaving gently rolling to hilly landforms. Meltwater streams issuing from the ice also produced landforms, including ice-marginal valleys, cross-moraine valleys and sluiceways filled or partly filled with sediment.

    Glacial Sediments


    Sediment deposited directly from glaciers is called till, or in the Midwest, clay till, much of which was derived from nearby sedimentary rocks. Clay till in this area was derived primarily from rocks of Silurian and Devonian age (420 million to 360 million years old) exposed between here and Lake Erie. Limestones, sandstones, and especially shales of this area were easily ground by the glaciers into calcareous sand, silt, and clay size sediment. Northern Indianan’s till also is calcareous, because it contains finely ground limestone, composed of calcite (CaCO3).

    However, as anyone who has attempted to dig into northern Indiana’s gray clay knows, pebbles and even large boulders also occur in the till. The larger rocks are of two origins, local and distant. Sedimentary blocks consist of relatively resistant rocks, mostly limestone derived from nearby sources in Indiana or Ohio.

    The most exotic and interesting boulders are very resistant rocks derived from more distant sources, on the Canadian Shield. These sometimes beautiful specimens vary in composition from pink or gray granite (intrusive igneous origin) to white quartzite (metamorphic) or black basalt (volcanic igneous), and almost everything between. Some of these rocks have been rounded by interludes of stream transport, and others have been planed flat on one or more sides while in the grip of the ice.

    These rocks have survived the long trip from Canada because they consist of interlocking crystals of hard minerals such as quartz and feldspars, making them resistant to weathering and abrasion. Other less resistant Canadian rocks, such as metamorphic gneiss (layered) and marble (soft), have been broken or ground to small sizes and thus seem less abundant than the other rocks.

    The locations of these intriguing rocks, and even an occasional small diamond or fleck of gold, are not predictable. Glacial ice is a solid transporting agent that cannot sort sediment. Thus the Canadian rocks (and sparse gems) are randomly distributed throughout the till. Clay till has virtually no important economic use.


    Sediment deposited from glacial meltwater is called outwash. It contains the same types of materials as till, but because meltwater streams are capable of sorting their sediment load, outwash typically consists of beds or lenses of sand and gravel; finer silt and clay sediments usually are carried in suspensions and transported farther downstream. In some areas, glacial outwash is a major economic resource of both sand and gravel.

    Lake Sediments

    Numerous glacial lakes were impounded between the ice and moraines, or within moraines. Other lake basins were produced by partial burial and melting of blocks of glacial ice, forming so-called kettle lakes. Lake James and some of the Chain-O-Lakes basins are thought to have this origin.

    Fine silt and clay from glacial meltwater accumulated in the quiet waters of many glacial lakes. Greater melting and sedimentation during warm summer months produced layers of light-colored silty sediment, whereas lower rates of melting and sedimentation during winter months produced thinner and darker clay-rich layers. One couplet of light and dark sediment is called a varve, and represents one year’s accumulation. Varved lake sediments thus can be used to determine the length of time a glacial lake existed. Some small glacial lakes became the sites of peat bogs, eventually filling with plant material.

    Landforms and Meltwater Streams

    Lake Plains

    Although many glacial lakes still exist in the glaciated areas of northern Indiana, others have been drained, leaving very extensive and amazingly flat surfaces, or lake plains. Perhaps the most famous of these is the strikingly flat and enormously large lake plain of Glacial Lake Maumee and related glacial lakes; it extends from the Fort Wayne-New Haven area all the way to Lake Erie. This amazing lake-bottom surface really is a series of lake plains that formed stepwise across northwestern Ohio. As the front of the melting glacier receded through Ohio in a series of stages, the ponded meltwater first produced Lake Maumee, then other Ohio lakes at lower levels, and finally modern Lake Erie.

    End Moraines

    The most prominent landforms of the Metea Park Region are its end moraines, areas of hummocky or hilly topography formed by deposition of till at the margin of glaciers. Two prominent end moraines occur in the Park Region, the Wabash Moraine on which the park is located, and the Fort Wayne Moraine just to the east of the park. These two moraines are so close together in this area that they almost overlap, and are separated only by the St. Joseph River.

    Ground Moraine (Till Plains)

    Continental glaciers also produce areas of relatively flat or gently rolling topography, called till plains in the Midwest, that are underlain by ground moraine. This type of moraine forms by deposition of sediment beneath glacial ice or by release of sediment during rapid down-melting. The resulting ground moraine surfaces (or till plains) commonly lie adjacent to and on the up-ice side of end moraines.

    South of Fort Wayne, the Wabash and Fort Wayne Moraines diverge. The intervening relatively flat area is a till plain underlain by ground moraine. West and southwest of Huntertown, the relatively flat area just west of the Wabash Moraine is another good example of a till plain. Such till plains give large areas of northern Indiana their “featureless” appearance.

    Ice-Marginal Streams

    Meltwater streams are capable of carving valleys through older glacial deposits or even through bedrock. Some such streams follow the margins of glaciers, their main water source, whereas others follow paths leading away from the glaciers or even across end moraines. Meltwater streams commonly form along the margins of rapidly melting glaciers, thus taking on the shapes of the ice margins and marking the down-ice boundaries of the associated end moraines.

    Several ice-marginal streams formed in the Metea Park Region along the west and southwest margins of the Wisconsinan ice lobes: a former upstream part of the Eel River northwest of the park (now called upper Cedar Creek), Aboit Creek southwest of the park, the St. Joseph River east and south of the park, and the St. Marys River south of Fort Wayne. Aboit Creek and the north-south trending upper section of Cedar Creek approximately mark the western boundary of the Wabash Moraine, and the St. Joseph and St. Marys Rivers mark the western and southwestern boundaries of the Fort Wayne Moraine.

    The Wabash-Erie Sluiceway

    Where meltwater is funneled through a valley, the resulting landform is called a sluiceway. Sluiceways (named after miners’ gold sluices) typically are underlain by outwash sand and gravel deposits, called valley trains, commonly capped with overlying silt and clay from later flooding. If the meltwater streams are not restricted to a valley, they may meander widely, distributing outwash over wide areas, resulting in broad flat surfaces called outwash plains.

    Two prominent sluiceways formed in the Metea Park Region, perhaps the most striking of which is the valley that connects Fort Wayne and Huntington, known as the Wabash-Erie Sluiceway. This large, seemingly empty valley, today occupied only by the “underfit” Little River, was initially eroded by the headwater streams of the Wabash River (the St. Joseph and St. Marys Rivers), and later by sometimes torrential overflow from Glacial Lake Maumee.

    The Eel River Sluiceway

    The Eel River also developed a major sluiceway that contains a very large deposit of sand and gravel outwash. The Eel River Sluiceway trends diagonally west-southwest across areas of ground moraine west of the Wabash Moraine, then crosses both the Salamonie and the Mississinewa Moraines before entering the modern Wabash River at Logansport. In some places this sluiceway is so broad that it has the appearance of an outwash plain.

    The importance of the Eel River history for interpreting the history of the Metea Park Region is that the upper part of the Eel River system was captured by the stream that later became the present-day Cedar Creek

    Stream Capture Events

    The St. Joseph and St. Marys Rivers

    Steam capture events, sometimes called stream piracy, were relatively common in the Metea Park Region. Perhaps the most significant capture event occurred in what is now downtown Fort Wayne. There the Maumee River, which had formed on the drained surface of Glacial Lake Maumee, captured both the St. Joseph and St. Marys Rivers, causing their waters to be diverted from the Wabash-Erie Sluiceway into the Maumee and thus northeastward to Lake Erie.

    Cedar Creek

    A few somewhat unusual meltwater streams trend across the end moraines produced by glaciers, instead of paralleling their margins. Cedar Creek was eroded by such a stream, but there is more to its history. A short westward-flowing glacial stream probably first carved the western end of the Cedar Creek valley. This low area then probably was used by a sub-ice stream, also flowing westward away from the glacier. It is thought that this “ice-tunnel stream” carved the unusually deep and steep-sided western valley of Cedar Creek (Bleuer and Moore, 1978).

    However, it was not until the ice had melted away that Cedar Creek took on its modern appearance. A small tributary of the St. Joseph River eroded toward the westward-flowing Cedar Canyon stream by downcutting, possibly aided by overflow from the upper Eel River. Water flowing in the eastern part of the Cedar Creek valley thus flowed eastward, as now, into the St. Joseph River (Bleuer and Moore, 1978).

    The Upper Eel River

    If that weren’t enough, even the Eel River could not escape the capture process. Its south-flowing headwaters were captured by the now east-flowing waters of eastern Cedar Creek, “beheading” the Eel and adding more than 15 miles of stream course to Cedar Creek.

    The Cedar Creek and Upper Eel River capture events probably were closely related in time, and together they resulted in a curious right-angle drainage pattern for Cedar Creek. This unusual stream now flows due south from the northwestern corner of Dekalb County, following the path of the former headwaters of the Eel River; it then takes a right-angle turn to the east across the Wabash Moraine, where it first flows through a deep (former sub-glacial?) canyon and emerges into a broader valley, then, at the east margin of the Wabash Moraine, Cedar Creek makes another right-angle turn to the south where it joins the St. Joseph River.

    Cedar Creek is well worth all its accolades, and even today its complex history probably has not been completely unraveled.


    Bleuer, N.K., and Moore, Michael C., 1978, Environmental Geology of Allen County, Indiana: Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Geological Survey Environmental Study 13, Bloomington, Indiana. 72 p.

    Fleming, T., 1994, Groundwater Geology of Allen County, Indiana: Indiana Geological Survey Special Report, Indiana Geological Survey, Bloomington, Indiana.

    Sunderman, J.A., 1987, Paleozoic and Pleistocene geology of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, area: Geological Society of America Centennial Field Guide Series, North-Central Volume, p. 325-332.

    Streams of Life

    How Streams Provide Many Different Environments

    By Ron Divelbiss

    Less than one percent of the world's water is fresh river water. Yet in this tiny portion of the biosphere lives a great variety of animals and plants. It is estimated that 640,000 microscopic animals, weighing in total some 45 pounds, drift past the Andrew Britten overlook every 24 hours. The flowing water continuously replenishes oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nutrients, providing river plants and animals of all sizes with the basics of life. Along their lengths, streams present wildlife with many opportunities and challenges.

    Flowing downstream, along with the detritus, are tiny worms, snails, and insect larvae carried along by the current. But as the stream widens and deepens, the current slows sufficiently for plants to take root. On their leaves grow algae, which are eaten by snails and other invertebrates. Plants provide not only food but also shelter for river animals. They add to the ecological niches available and to the complexity of the ecosystem. Along the riverbanks, vegetation provides another niche, inhabited by birds such as redwing black birds, and mammals such as carnivorous raccoons.

    Detritus-eating and herbivorous invertebrates are hunted by fish and carnivorous insect larvae, and these hunters themselves fall prey to predators: larger fish, turtles, and birds. Down on the mud - or in it - are worms, snails, and crayfish, feeding on organic material, and in turn providing food for bottom-feeding fish.

    In early spring the waters are often very muddy with the sediment they carry. It becomes more and more difficult for animals to find their way through the water. Streams are vital for wildlife - and for people. We must treat these ecosystems with respect so they retain their value and their fascination for us.

    The Living Lake

    How Lakes and Ponds Support Life

    By Ron Divelbiss

    Lakes and ponds are complex and delicate ecosystems, where balances change with the seasons, climatic variations, and water levels. Pollution can destroy these fragile balances all too easily. Sewage and fertilizers artificially boost nutrient levels, thus encouraging blue-green algae growth, ultimately leading to oxygen starvation and the death of many life-forms.

    Lakes grow old and die because they eventually fill up with sediments and wastes. The lifetime of a lake is controlled by its origin, size, and shape, together with the climate and, most importantly, the area drained by the lake (its watershed). The natural aging process that affects lakes is called eutrophication. Although the process is gradual and continuous, it can be divided into stages according to the amount of nourishment the lake offers any potential life. At first, when the lake is "young," there is oligotrophy, when nourishment is sparse; next, mesotrophy, when there is moderate nourishment; and finally eutrophy, or abundant nourishment.

    Young lakes have, at all depths, clear oxygenated water that is poor in the nutrients essential for plants to grow, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. This lack of fertility limits the growth of phytoplankton, the tiny plant organisms that form the basis of the food chain. As a result, relatively few plants and animals grow and live here. Rapid replacement of the water in a lake slows eutrophication, because the discharged water carries the phytoplankton away with it.

    Algae and phytoplankton require 21 different elements in order to flourish. In general, small amounts of these elements are carried into the lake by rain and snow, but the main source is the lake's watershed. As a lake becomes older, its fertility increases at an accelerating rate. In nutrient rich lakes, plants grow luxuriantly near the shore; mats of algae cover the surface in green slime. As the plants die, season after season, the lake becomes smaller and smaller. Eventually the lake turns into a marsh, which in turn may become a bog and then a meadow.

    A lake has three main zones: a pelagic zone (deep, open water in the center), a littoral zone (the area on the gently sloping sides), and a benthic zone (the bottom below the littoral zone). Each zone has a different variety of life-forms, often overlapping each other. Ultimately, all depend on photosynthetic algae growth.

    Large algae and plankton colonies grow in the still, pelagic water. Most plankton eat algae, including some that rapidly multiply in sunny weather, when algae is abundant. Plankton are a vital food link between algae and larger creatures; growth rates of perch closely correlate to sunshine and plentiful plankton (their food). A lake's waters provide birds and fish with all their food. Lakes are also a night refuge for birds from land predators such as raccoons and skunks.

    Benthic animals living on or in the mud mostly eat organic debris from above, though there are also benthic algae. Larger animals include worms, larvae, and sometimes mollusks. Phantom midges live by day on the bottom, but feed on the surface at night, when they are invisible in the dark. Animals at depths have breathing systems to cope with low oxygen levels. As a lake ages, it grows more fertile and its ecosystem changes, favoring species that can cope with less oxygen and more congested conditions.

    Large plants (macrophytes) in the littoral zone help create the lake's most complex animal community. Cattails give shelter from wind and waves, and trap sediment, home for fragile mud organisms. Slime made of algae and other microorganisms adheres to underwater plant parts, and is a major food source of pond snails. Underwater plants give cover to crayfish and other crustaceans.

    The water surface hosts many insects, including pond striders, which use surface tension to avoid sinking. Some air-breathing insects and spiders store air to dive in the water. Further down, various nymphs and larvae extract oxygen from the water. The sunfish is one of many littoral fish; its feeding creates plant debris subsequently eaten by invertebrates. The camouflaged bass ambushes prey, starting with larvae in its first year and graduating to tadpoles, young fish, and finally large fish, birds, or frogs.

    Among the Cattails

    How Plants and Animals Live in Wetlands

    By Ron Divelbiss

    Some swamps produce up to eight times as much plant matter as an average wheat field. Wetlands, wild half-worlds between land and water, occupy some six percent of the world's land surface, their ever-changing patterns of floating vegetation, solid ground, and open water providing plenty of opportunities for a wide range of plants and animals.

    Wetlands are found throughout the world, in a wide range of climates, and vary from swaying cattail swamps and steamy forests to desolate peat bogs. They are among the most threatened habitats in the world.

    Wetlands form where water gathers. They occur at the edges of lakes, for example, and where rivers reach the sea. Plants grow out into the open water; once established, they slow the flow of water and trap soil; the silt is then invaded by more vegetation, and the open water is itself gradually taken over. The type of wetland formed by this process is swamp or marsh, and is often dominated by species such as cattails, reeds or swamp cypress.

    Another important type of wetland is bog, which is typically dominated by sphagnum moss; such vegetation usually develops in closed basins, where rainfall is high but evaporation of surface water is relatively low.

    Temperate cattail swamps are one of the most familiar types of wetland. Cattails are very well adapted to the wetland environment. They can tolerate a high water table, and their new shoots grow quickly upward to reach the light above the water. There they grow tall and dense, and although other plants grow beneath them, few can overtop them. The cattails provide a habitat for wildlife throughout the year. Together with other wetland plants, the cattails also provide food for the wetland animals. Moth larvae eat the leaves of the cattails, and other herbivorous insects bore their way into the cattail stems.

    The smaller flying insects fall prey to such hunters as dragonflies. Drangonfly larvae develop in the water, spending up to a year submerged as nymphs. They then climb cattail stems to emerge from their larval skins as adults, and find plenty of food among the vegetation. Amphibians such as newts and frogs also feed on insects. Small birds feed on the insects too, and when the insect abundance ends with the passing of the summer, these birds leave.

    The open water provides food for many species that shelter in the cattail swamp itself. Vegetations, water invertebrates, and fish provide food for ducks, water shrews, voles, and raccoons.

    But wetlands are easily damaged and destroyed by drainage and pollution. Swampy areas, so vital to many types of wildlife, are widely regarded as wastelands, and are always under threat of reclamation. Bogs suffer a different type of damage; they are exploited for their peat.

    The Deciduous Woodlands

    How seasonal change affects temperate forest life

    By Ron Divelbiss

    Most of Fox Island and Metea Park is woodlands. The changing seasons dominate deciduous woodlands. Woodland animals and plants live and breed in conditions that vary widely throughout the year. The key to their success is an ability to survive the winter and then take full advantage of the spring and summer. Deciduous woodland is the natural vegetation of much of temperate Europe and North America, and also occurs in the limited temperate lands of the Southern Hemisphere. But its water retentive soils make excellent farmland, and in places woodlands have been replaced by agricultural development.

    In the depths of winter there seems to be little life in a deciduous woodland. The trees are bare, snow may lie along the branches, and there is little bird song to be heard. Yet, even so, there is activity. On the woodland floor shrews hunt for invertebrates such as wood lice and earthworms. Also active are resident birds like downy and hairy woodpeckers and blue jays. The blue jay survives the winter by eating the acorns it stored in autumn. The hairy woodpecker changes diet, eating invertebrates in the warmer months and seeds in the winter.

    Many species of birds - and a few bats - simply avoid the winter; they head for warmer climates after breeding. Mammals like the mouse and the skunk stay put but become less active or hibernate.

    As winter retreats, the days lengthen, the temperature rises and the snow melts; greenery and life return to the woods. First come the spring flowering plants, which expand their leaves and produce their flowers before the canopy closes over them and shades them from sunlight. Woodland trees - oak, hickory, maple, ash, beech, and many others - burst into leaf, and no sooner are their leves expanded than they are being eaten by insects and their larvae.

    Migrating birds such as warblers return in spring to build their nests and raise their broods. The plentiful harvest of insects provides breeding birds with a protein-rich diet for their young. Down on the woodland floor deer browse the vegetation, and in the dense understory mice are busy searching out seeds, buds, and invertebrates.

    All parts of the wood - from the woodland fooor to the top of the canopy - have their predators. Hunting spiders chase small invertebrates across the woodland floor, and far above, superbly adapted woodland hawks hunt small birds among the branches.

    By late summer the migratory birds have raised their young and begin to leave. Trees are preparing for the dormancy of winter by withdrawing the nutrients from their leaves, shedding them. The leaves turn brown, red and gold as they die, and the jays hunt once more for acorns. The cycle begins again.