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Mar. 30th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Backyard Morning Nature....

The greatest things happen when and where you least expect them. Late morning coffee on my back porch with a good book is a simple pleasure that is on my top 10 list of things I most like to do. Especially with Spring in full swing! The weather is perfect: cool, breezy, low humidity and with a warm sun to pull it all together. I've watched (and heard) a male mourning dove seek out a partner and a male cardinal do the same, listened to blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, house sparrows squabble for territories in my backyard area and watched a wren flit in and out of my garage in full "nest building" mode.

I raised my eyes from my book to see the most welcome sight of all...my groundhog is back! This seems to be the same one that has made his (have never seen any signs of nursing or young, so I am making the call of male on this guy) home base behind my house for the past two years. He's thin and rangy from his hibernation but looks and acts healthy so he seems to be just fine. This is the first time I have ever been outside with him though and I tried to keep my observations discreet, dropping my eyes every time he stood up and looked my way as he grazed. It seems to have worked. I drank my coffee, turned pages and scratched a couple of itches without disturbing him.

He has in the past had a steady schedule, passing through my backyard always between 11 am and noon on his daily rounds and today was no exception. I am going to try my best to get him used to my being out there so that by the time summer is in full swing I might be able to snap a few pictures of him to put up on the website.

The big excitement in our neighborhood last year was a doe that took up residence with us for about a week or so. We've got deer all around us (I have seen them road-killed only 50 yards from the exit of the S.R. I live off of), but this is the first time we've had one actually on our street. I have also seen a coyote road-killed about a mile up from our exit, so they are on the move as well (which could be a bad thing as we are suburban/urban edge). My less nature oriented neighbors will pitch a fit if one moves into our area and someone will try to take it out ASAP.

I know we have foxes and skunks in our neighborhood too (caught a whiff of skunk last night when I came in from work...made me smile!), again via roadkill remains and have seen red-tail hawks, coopers (and/or sharp-shinned) hawks and screech owls around the house.

I'll keep posting about my groundhog and hopefully will have some photos soon so everyone can see him.

A.K.

Mar. 24th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Weekly update...

This weeks trip was to the Boone County Cliffs Nature Preserve. Well, it was briefly before the rain came down too hard to make hiking comfortable. This was one of those trips that was plucked straight out of a guidebook to a location I'd never been before. Google directions helped, but again the lack of street signs made this trip even more fun, lol!

I can see why this hole in the wall preserve is neglected by casual visitors...it is waaay back in the boonies of the county and when you pull into the tiny (and I mean TINY, it holds 4 cars) parking area, the signs are dilapidated, there's a bit of trash around and it is on a one lane road that winds out into nowhere. When I got out of the car I swore I heard the faint sound of banjos on the wind. I have to admit that if this was a park closer into town I would have had second thoughts about setting foot into it.

However, my car was the only one there so I thought I'd give it a try. I was only about 10 yards up the trail when the wildflowers burst up on either side of it! Gorgeous!! I saw tons of White Trout Lilly, E. albidum, covering the hillsides. Along the steep banks of the creek Bloodroots, Sanguinaria canadensis, were just pushing their way up through the leaves and opening up. With another day or two of the temperatures we've been having, they should be showing splendidly and I'll have to get back to see them again.

The trail hooks sharply to the right and straight up towards the cliffs themselves. Even more so than Hueston Woods, this nature preserve reminds me of WNC. Those craggy, exposed rock formations take me right back to the mountains. I rested for a moment at the spur to the overlook and took a pic up to the rocks and back down the trail. I went partially up the overlook trail with is steep before deciding to turn back. By that time the rain had begun in earnest and I wasn't going to court a twisted ankle on a slippery trail.

I've only scratched the surface of this natural area and will be going back again soon to check on the wildflowers progress. I've posted a few of the photos I did take on the gallery pages (check the community's User Info page for the link), Enjoy!!

A.K.

Mar. 18th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Hueston Woods & Drive part 2....

As promised, I now continue with my post about my road trip on 3/16. The park was excellent and having the trails all to myself an added bonus. Apparently, no other misanthropic freaks like me were braving the high 30's temps go play in the woods. I've added a second page to my photo gallery if anyone wants to check it out (link is on the User Info page).

On a related note to my earlier roadkill post: striped skunks seem to be the temporary king of the road casualties, at least along my drive route. Heading up SR 177N and then back home along SR 27S, with a side trip on OH 190W yielded up the highest number of skunk corpses I've ever seen. I wonder if the recent temperature flux has got their internal clocks confused. In any case they added a "wild tang" to the air. Unlike many people I like a slight (very, very slight mind you...) hint of skunk smell. To me it is the smell of the wild and untamed. A huge dollop of it however is enough to send me retching for the nearest trash can.

Skunks are nature's way of putting us "oh so superior" humans in our place. There is something very humbling about a 4 pound ball of black and white fur reducing a 100 pound plus "lord of creation" to a helpless, quivering, wheezing mass of uselessness. They also prove that God has a sense of humor.

A.K.

Mar. 17th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Road trip of 3/16....

Went up to Hueston Woods today and explored a bit of trail in their nature preserve area. Very, very nice!! This reminded me so much of the "big woods" of WNC and I felt better than I have in a loooong time. Almost every turn of the trail yielded huge beech & yellow poplar trees, the largest must have been over 3 feet in diameter and were a treat to see.

I got to observe a pileated woodpecker and hear it call and hammer to another which was just out of sight. Also saw a fox squirrel and jumped a few whitetail deer as we were leaving. Around the lakeshore area there were quite a few Canada Geese & a black vulture. Best of all the place was EMPTY!!! There is something to be said for going hiking when it is in the mid-thirties, temp-wise. When the breeze died down the sun was very comfortable and it was clear and beautiful!

Lots of photo ops as well, including a decent shot of raccoon tracks. Check out The Highway Naturalist gallery page, link is in the User Info for the community. Enjoy!

Tonight I'll continue my roadkill post, with an update from yesterday's trip.

A.K.

Mar. 15th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Drive by Nature Topic: Roadkill 101

Not a warm, fuzzy topic...well, if it is a hot day then roadkill is warm and most roadkill I find is fuzzy, but I digress.....yet one that all roadside naturalists encounter on a regular basis. As such the topic of roadkill is worth mentioning.

When I lived in NC, by far the most common roadkill species was (and I'm sure still is) the opossum Didelphis virginiana, or 'possum as it is affectionately known in the south. Although it is North America's ONLY marsupial animal and very interesting it its own right, it is sadly regarded as a "trash animal" by most people. One step above the starling and that is only because it wasn't introduced here. Anyone who has driven the back roads of WNC knows the grayish-white lump of fur with black legs on the verge is an opossum...even without the long, naked tail showing.

Having lived many years in NC, I assumed that I would be seeing the old familiar 'possum piles along the roads of SW OH...to my surprise the raccoon, Procyon lotor, holds the dubious honor of most common roadkill casualty around here (in about the same numbers as the 'possum back in NC). I have seen opossums where I live, they are here, they just seem to be a bit more road savvy than their WNC cousins. Perhaps this is because I do live on the fringes of a city (much to my personal dismay) and the ones near my residence inhabit the storm drains...with a few raccoon neighbors.

Second only to raccoons in my neck of the suburban woods are of all things whitetail deer Odocoileus virginianus. I see roadkill deer constantly on my commute to work, as many as 7 along one 8 mile stretch of I-275W. I have also seen wild turkey, coyote, great horned owl and snapping turtle casualties on this same stretch.

TO BE CONTINUED AFTER WORK.....

A.K.

Mar. 14th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

A day off from work is a thing of beauty....

with lots of possibilities. I will be heading out on another drive later this afternoon, going north instead of south this time and taking a route which I have before which always provides great country driving. This is one of the few OH drives that I take and it is worth it.

Head up S.R. 127 towards Celina and take any of the myriad side roads. I've come across everything from farms and woodlands to family cemeteries *don't go exploring those without permission however...you may find a load of buckshot in your backside!* and lots of small towns. One time I crossed over into Indiana without knowing it. I may do that again today.

Something that has helped me on recent trips is taking a journal along to record what turns I take, mileage to them and road names. To this day I cannot find my way back to a small park I found in KY and regretted not having my journal along to note where it was. The rest of my road trip kit includes the following:

*Digital camera and LOTS of spare batteries
*Full water bottle
*Granola bars and/or fruit
*Sun/rain hat
*Spare pair of shorts (or long pants depending upon the season)
*Spare pair of socks (you never know when a stream slogging opportunity will arise)
*Hiking boots (I prefer to drive in sneakers or my Tevas as boots are heavy)
*MONEY (some places still do NOT take credit cards) & credit cards
*Dramamine (mostly for my passengers...lol)
*Tripod
*Day pack (holds keys, ID, water bottle, hat, etc)
*Spare shirt
*Wet wipes
*Journal & 2 pens
*Bandannas (2)
*Basic first aid kit (invariably I wind up with a scrape or two)
*Frisbee, kite and picnic blanket


The most important thing of course is a FULL TANK OF GAS! Ignore this at your peril and don't say I didn't warn you. I am a stickler for routine maintenance on my car and always make sure my tires are in good shape during road trip seasons (basically all the time there's not snow on the ground). Nothing ruins a great drive like a Check Engine or Oil light coming on.

Hope this helps any newbie back roads trippers out there.

A.K.
slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Well, it finally happened.....

After years of taking off in my car and meandering around lonely country roads and always finding my way back home again, I got trapped in a city! If I have one complaint about KY cities it is the lack of adequate and clear road signs. What started out as a very good and promising country drive yesterday afternoon turned into a fume filled, interstate traffic nightmare and 3 hours later, I was glad to get back to the house.

I sat out on the back porch to decompress and read a bit and lo and behold, I found more peace and quiet than I did in my search for it. Sometimes life *and a higher power* knows better than we do what we need, rather than what we think we want. The half an hour I spent on my porch listening to the birds and reading soothed away all the frustrations of the drive I took to relax in the first place.

Next time I'll stop and think for a minute before I rush out the door, lol.

A.K.

Mar. 13th, 2007

slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Spring seems to have sprung....

Here it is right around the middle of March and we are looking at a high of 75 degrees. It is sunny, slightly breezy and can't get much more beautiful than it is already.

When the weather gets good...the good go hiking....see you guys after sundown!

A.K.
*most likely heading out towards Big Bone Lick State Park*
slytherin, snakes, books, potter

tezukasama

Welcome to the woods.....

INTRO POST:

If you've found your way here it's because you're interested in hiking, camping, hunting, stream-stomping, birdwatching or just plain sitting in the woods. Although I set up this community to post about my wildlife/nature experiences...specifically in the great state of Kentucky *with a few appearances by North Carolina*, anyone is welcome to post about their own nature encounters. The group is called road_nature because many of my postings will be of the "drive by" variety. I love getting out on the highways and bi-ways of country roads and just driving. I always come across the most amazing sights unexpectedly and have just recently gotten myself trained to carry my camera with me everywhere. The cost of gas lately has slowed me down a bit but I'd rather spend $30 on a road trip than a restaurant so it evens out *grin*!

I am always looking for new, off the beaten path locations to enjoy the outdoors and will be sharing some of the ones I've found here. There's a reason that although I live "over the creek", I tend to play in Kentucky...it's beautiful, plain and simple. The variety of habitats and bounty of scenic areas makes the state a treasure box waiting to be opened and looked through.

NOTE TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS/POSTERS: Please take the time to read the community guidelines in the road_nature User Info page. The community is moderated to make sure that everyone who joins has a good time, so let us all be polite now and play nice. Chances are if you spend any amount of time in the woods, you've already got a lot of commonsense...or you wouldn't have lasted this long *grin, again*. Have fun, share info and enjoy!!

The REAL POSTS start below!

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