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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.

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.

    The Story Behind Metea Park

    by Brigette L. Camarata (Photographs by Marcus Holloway)

    Pond at Metea Park
    In January 1984, the start of Metea Park was underway. The park is located in north central Allen County and borders Cedar Creek. The initial parcel, 104 acres of land, was purchased by the Allen County Parks and Recreation Department with Rivergreenway money. Along the Maumee, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s rivers, a series of bike paths and parks, make up the Rivergreenway. Rivergreenway funds are distributed by the state to obtain and develop land, like that around Cedar Creek.

    Fawn at Metea Park
    After the land was purchased, a 1.4 acre pond with beach was soon built and the park opened to the public in 1989. Since then, the park has grown to almost 250 acres. Metea Park has two miles of hiking trails and is home to a variety of wildlife.

    While the park was being created, they came up with a theme to base it on the Woodland Indians of the area and their contributions.

    Metea, which means “Kiss Me” in his native language, was born in 1778 and died in 1827. Metea was a Potawatomi Chief who came to the surrounding Ft. Wayne area in 1800. He was accompanied by his brother, as Metea’s rank required somone to light his pipe and perform various other duties as requested. Metea was approximately six feet tall, had high and prominent cheek bones, small elongated black eyes and painted red around one of them.

    Metea was a great speaker and diplomat. Some people thought he was the greatest chief of the Indian nation. Even though he was not the head chief, he gained his status through his skills as a warrior and speaker in the councils of his nation. He was respected by the Americans and had a lot of influence with the Indians. He took part in many battles, treaty assemblies, and conferences. Metea was generous to his friends and would never betray them.

    In 1812, war was brewing between the Indians, who were allies with Great Britain, and the United States who were allies with the French. Metea led the Indians to the attack on Ft. Wayne to try and stop Harrison’s army from advancing. Metea went ahead of his men, found part of Harrison’s army and hid behind a tree, accidently leaving part of his elbow exposed. Major Mann, an American, saw Metea’s arm sticking out and took a shot. It crushed his elbow and left his arm useless for the rest of his life. He retreated towards his men with the Americans following close behind but was still able to escape. After the war was over, Metea received an annual payment from the British for the loss of use of his right arm.

    In 1827, he attended what was to be his last council meeting. After several days of difficult negotiations he wanted to celebrate with a drink and eventually got intoxicated. It is unknown whether he accidentally drank poison while he was drinking whiskey one night or if his fellow Indians poisoned him in retaliation of the treaty Chief Metea signed, which turned a large amount of land over to the U.S. Government. Metea died shortly after drinking the poison.

    Is There a Bluebird in the House?

    by Doug Rood

    When the first farms were carved out of the forest surrounding Cedar Creek in the last century, the Eastern Bluebird was a common sight. Because of its cheerful song, friendly disposition, habit of nesting in sheds and the cavities of trees in nearby orchards, and its keen interest in any stray insect, the “Blue Robin” was a welcome neighbor in the farmsteads and villages of nineteenth century America. Unfortunately for the Bluebird, its abundant food supply and pleasant accommodations caught the interest of two recent avian immigrants. In addition, farming and gardening practices changed, and by the time the boys came home from World War I, there were few Bluebirds left to greet them.

    William Shakespeare was in large part responsible for the demise of the Eastern Bluebird. This happened because certain Americans thought it would be “nice” to have every bird mentioned in his works made a part of this country’s fauna. As a result, in 1851 a small number of House Sparrows were released in New York. In 1890, the same thing was done with Starlings. It took the Sparrow just forty years to colonize North America. The Starlings were less fecund and required sixty years to do the job. When these two species were added to the Bluebirds’ list of traditional enemies, which included cats, snakes, squirrels, blue jays, and wrens, the “Blue Redbreast” was forced to move elsewhere.

    The diminishing number of Bluebirds retreated to wood lots bordering fields where they could find grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and beetles. Unfortunately, this was the time when farmers began to increase agricultural production with the use of pesticides that the birds could not tolerate. As a result, the Bluebirds were limited to areas where competition from predators was light and agricultural chemicals were not used. While relative uncommon around Metea, they can still be found in numbers at the Salamonie Dam, in meadows around Pokagon State Park, and near Mongo, Indiana.

    In the 1930’s naturalists began to try and save the remaining Bluebird populations. The most important things done were the creation of successful nesting box designs and learning how to choose effective sites for the boxes. These efforts, coupled with the creation of many wildlife areas on abandoned farmland have allowed the “Blue Robin” to stage a limited comeback.

    In many ways the Eastern Bluebird with its cheerful song, friendly disposition, and natural benefits, represents America’s wilderness heritage. Both have been lost due to careless development and the application of technology. Today, the only way to preserve both is to go to considerable expense to create conditions that ensure their survival, and to work to stop the unthinking exploitation of what remains.