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.

[HORT ALERT] Hummingbird Feeders & Bees

Every summer, we normally get problems with bees and wasps being attracted to the syrup in a hummingbird feeder. Part of the problem is that it's an easy meal for the insects, and the bees are trying to desperately fill their hives with honey to survive the winter. Scavengers like yellow jackets are often attracted to sweets, including cans of soda pop.
Dr. Greg Hunt, Bee Specialist at Purdue's Department of Entomology strongly urges people to NOT try to feed the bees. His reasoning is that bee hives contain a LARGE number of worker bees -- you are only seeing the smallest fraction of the hive at your hummer feeder. If you feed the bees, you will attract a larger number of workers (with stings!) to your home...which is exactly what you DON'T want to do! However...if you live near a woods, and think the hive is out near there, you can try to put a feed pan out AWAY from your home. Get a reasonably shallow pan, preferably disposable, and fill it part way with syrup (basically, the same recipe you'd use for hummers). Place some leaves and sticks in the syrup, so that the bees don't drown trying to get to the sugar. You may need to refill this every few days because the heat will evaporate out the water quickly. The idea is to lure the bees and wasps away from your property. Dr. Hunt also recommends changing your hummingbird feeder to one that is "bee-proof". These are feeders that have either bee guards over the opening, or are designed to place the syrup out of their reach. Hummingbirds have long tongues, and can easily reach syrup that is far out of reach of the bees. If the bees can't get to it, they'll eventually lose interest and move somewhere else where they can definitely get a meal. [Hort Alert is a free service of the Purdue Extension Service of Vanderburgh County.]

Black-capped Chickadee

Range: central Alaska to Newfoundland, south to N. California, N. New Mexico, and W. North Carolina. Characteristics: black cap and bib, white cheeks and breast, gray back, buff sides, wing feathers edged with white.

This gentle little bird takes its name from its clearly enunciated call note, chick-a-dee-dee- dee. With the approach of spring it also whistles a plaintive, high-pitched fee-bee. Sometimes two blackcaps whistle a fee-bee duet, the second bird answering the first a tone lower.

Blackcaps are year-round residents in the northern states and Canada. They rove the winter woodlands in small flocks, minutely examining bark, twigs, and branches for spider eggs, cocoons, and other dormant insect life. They can usually be found with woodpeckers, nuthatches, brown creepers, and kinglets. The chickadees can easily be distinguished from the other small birds. Their white cheeks shine out, separating the solid black cap above from the fringed black bib below; their backs are gray.

In summer they feed mainly on insects, seeds, wild berries, and other fruits. Because they can alight upside down on the underside of a twig and perform similar gymnastics, they often find food missed by other birds.

The blackcap ranks as the most trusting and least pugnacious bird among those that visit feeding stations. It feeds in amity, yielding to bullies without argument and returning unobtrusively when the way is clear. At the same time this amiable bird wages incessant war on insect pests. Maine and Massachusetts have named it their state bird.

At the start of the spring courting season blackcaps grow agitated and begin their fee-bee song. Gradually the flock breaks up as the birds pair off. To build a nest both sexes work at chipping out a cavity in a dead stub. The female lines the nest with moss, plant down, feathers, animal fur, and insect cocoons. She lays five to eight white eggs speckled with reddish brown and incubates them for about 12 days.

The young birds soon may weigh as much as or more than their hardworking parents, who deplete their own strength by feeding the offspring. Blackcaps raise one or two broods each season; some adults remain mated for life.

Fast-moving hawks prey on chickadees, but the little birds are so quick and alert that they often escape. Sometimes they dive for cover in a network of evergreen twigs.

For some people, the chickadee has become their favorite bird at the feeding station.

Prairie Flower Power

By Kathryn Moore

The excitement builds in August and September as I go exploring for prairie flowers! There seems to be a magic surrounding these flowers, as so many schools, parks, and nature centers recreate prairies.

All across northern Indiana, there are pockets where prairie flowers have survived. There are attempts to save some of the endangered areas. The Hoosier Prairie near Gary, Indiana, is one of these areas. There are even prairie conferences, complete with lectures and tours of prairies. There are also prairie seed nurseries where one can obtain seeds from cultivated prairie plants.

Larry Yoder, naturalist at Merry Lea Environment Center, recreated a very nice prairie on the Isaaca Walton League land off Griffen Road. With permission, you could visit this site. Another area is SR 205, south of County Road 68 in DeKalb County, along an old railroad track. Many times, old railroad track right of ways are a good place to look.

Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area in LaGrange County has stands of Big and Little Blue Stem grass and Prairie-dock that blooms in late July. Prairie-dock is a magnificent plant with huge sandpaper leaves and tall six-foot spikes full of yellow sunflowers gracing the tops.

In July, the first signs of prairie in my area is drooping Coneflower. Its bright yellow petals that hang down from a black cone light up country roads. And of course, one can find prairie remnants by driving along country roads looking for tall grasses and wildflowers. Don't forget Fox Island County Park and the Acres Land Trust preserves.

Now, the exciting thing is that Metea Park - North on Hursh Road, also has prairie plants. There is a trail leading to Cedar Creek where one might visit on one of your pursuits.

When you walk to Cedar Creek, look around you. There will be stands of Big Blue Stem grass on the steep bank. On the forest floor, there are dry patches of moss in an open area. Blazing-star, Flowering Spurge, Goldenrod, Nodding Wild Onion, Partridge-pea, and Gerardia grow here. Stiff Gentian grows near the edge of Cedar Creek.

It was years later that I learned that more prairie exists under the power lines bordering the park. Bottle Gentian or Closed Gentian (named because the flower looks like a big blue bud) bloom very late in the year, along with big stands of Big Blue Stem and Indiana grass. Butterflyweed always attracts butterflies and is a true prairie plant. The bright patches of light blue Nuttall's Lobelia is another one of my favorites.

While you are exploring, be sure to identify the plants and flowers. One should always be aware of alien, non-native plants. When visiting reconstructed prairies, learn about the western flowers, often added to these projects. Learn to appreciate what is native to our area around Cedar Creek and Allen County. Take a friend along to share your knowledge with. And never dig up plants for your garden. Just love those prairie plants!

The Monarch Butterfly Story

By Ron Divelbiss

There is a caterpillar that looks like a little candy stick. Its white, yellow, and black rings might look like peppermint, lemon, and licorice to you. but to birds and other enemies, they are colors of danger, telling sparrows, chickadees, and blue jays to keep away.

This caterpillar is about the size of your middle finger, and it can squeeze shorter or longer like an accordian.

The monarch caterpillar eats mostly milkweed leaves. That bitter-tasting weed makes it taste terrible, because milkweed contains natural poisons. They don't harm the caterpillar, but they make its enemies sick. So hardly anything eats this caterpillar.

You can see the monarch butterfly caterpillar from April through September. However, there are greater numbers in August and September. It lives in open areas like meadows and fields, and on roadsides, wherever milkweeds grow.

Its egg is smaller than a pinhead. Yet, in the first two weeks of its life, the monarch caterpillar grows to 2,700 times its birth-size. An 8-pound human baby growing at the same rate would weigh over 10 tons at two weeks old!

When it reaches full size, it becomes restless and starts looking for a place to pupate. It first spins a button of silk to hang from. Then it sheds its skin, and becomes a smooth green chrysalis with gold spots. It spends 9 to 12 days reorganizing its ugly caterpillar body into a spectacular butterfly. When it emerges from the chrysalis, it pumps up its wings with body fluid. The wings harden in a few minutes and the butterfly flies away.

It is easy to tell which monarchs are male. They have mating scent sacs on their back wings. Each has a tiny bulge on the black line at the center of the wing. These attract female monarchs.

You will find monarchs along country roads sipping nectar from milkweeds, red clover, thistle, and goldenrod. They can also be seen flying through your yard sipping from garden flowers.

Monarchs are famous for migrating. Most monarchs fly to Mexico for the winter. Scientists have learned that they can fly as fast as 35 miles per hour. Some fly as much as 260 miles in one day. They fly up to 2,500 miles in six weeks.

Now that you know all about this interesting animal, try this with your kids or grandkids. Take a drive out in the country some time in August. Stop where there are milkweed plants. Look on the under sides of the leaves for a monarch caterpillar. Try to find the biggest possible. Be sure you can get a fresh supply of leaves each day to feed your caterpillar. Watch for yourself how fast it grows. Put a stick in your jar so it will have someplace to hang when it forms its pupa. Now watch it several times a day until it emerges. Feed it some sugar water and then enjoy watching it fly away.

Ten Things to Do for Fall Bird Feeding

By Ron Divelbiss

  1. Thoroughly clean all your bird feeders. Repair any loose perches and weak corners. rickety feeders that may have held up to light summer traffic need to be in tip top shape for the busy season.
  2. Invest in new feeders. You can never have too many. Buying a suet feeder, nut feeder, or another specialty type that you don’t already have.
  3. In September set up an oriole feeder for migratory nectar-drinking birds and woodpeckers.
  4. Inspect remaining stored seeds. If you find seeds that are infested with insects use them as fast as possible. Do not get any new seeds till these are gone. Clean out your bird seed storage bins and wash with bleach water to kill insect eggs. Stock storage bins with fresh seeds. Take advantage of fall seed sales to stock up. Buy in quantity and save.
  5. Replace suet bags and old suet with new blocks or chunks.
  6. Spread a 2-inch thick layer of wood chips under your feeders.
  7. Fall is a good time to add more bird friendly shrubs in your back yard.
  8. Take a walk in a rural area, or along a country road and collect ripe berries, the fruit of the sumac, weed seeds, nuts, and acorns. These can be stored and used for the early arrivals in the spring. Its fun to go for a quiet walk or take a family collecting outing.
  9. Hunt for the birdbath heater. Remove fallen leaves from the birdbath daily.
  10. Set up a small salt block to attract finches, siskins, and other such birds.

Where is Metea Park?

Metea Park is located near Leo-Cedarville, Indiana, in Allen County.

Access to the park is from Union Chapel Road and from Hursh Road. The entrance from Union Chapel is the main gate. At the present time, access by automobile is through the Union Chapel Road entrance.

Who Are the Friends of Metea?

The Friends of Metea is a tax exempt charitable organization whose purpose is to help preserve the natural features of Metea County Park, to raise funds to facilitate its development as a park and nature preserve, to promote its use as an educational center, and to coordinate volunteer efforts. Friends of Metea is operated by a board of directors who work in partnership with the Allen County Park Board. Membership in Friends of Metea is open to all interested citizens.

Board meetings are held the third Thursday of each month, at 4:00 pm, at the Nature Center in Metea Park; no meeting in July and December.

In September, the meeting is replaced with the annual picnic - bring hotdogs, buns, drink, table service, and a dish to share.

All are welcome at board meetings and picnic. Come join us!