Archive for January, 2014

Eagle Mountain

Our afternoon temperature reached 16 degrees. Buffy and I just had to get out of the house.

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Naturally, for a short outing, we went to Ingram Hill for a loop walk and for the long view. The distant line of hills is what I call Eagle Mountain.  Of course, one hill is called Cave Hill (the one on the left). One is William’s Hill Tower, and another Womble Mountain. The road is named Eagle Mountain road.

There is a cave at Cave Hill on Shawnee National Forest land. I’ve never seen or been in it — I don’t do caves. It’s been closed to the public for several years now.

The hill line continues to the south (right) and a little more to the northeast. There are hills on this and the other side of the ridge line too, which makes for scenic views. The view to the west stretches over flat land that was glaciated. The glacier made it to the middle of our county. South of here and across southern Illinois is hilly, with a many state and federal recreational sites.

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It’s five miles from Ingram Hill, as the crow flies, to where the road starts up the mountain. The almost three-mile road twice goes to lower elevation. It crosses a narrow water course the first time. The second time it goes down, it crosses the creek where Buffy and I hike. The road starts below the left side of the bluff line in the picture. There is a deep ravine between the road and the bluff.

Oh, what a view …  and what memories to walk back through during the extremes of this winter.

I Have A Mystery

I have spent a LOT of time out in nature for a lot of years,

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and I saw something this afternoon that I’ve never seen before. The strips of bark were on the east side of the tree. Something removed them up 10 feet or so.

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 There was no evidence of birds removing the bark.

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The bark looked like it was recently removed. I found no claw marks.

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I think the tree was an oak. The remaining leaves just looked like a jumbled mess.

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I have limited experience with mammal signs, except for deer. I saw a bobcat track on the road here once, and saw a bobcat here one time too. I was in the dry creek bed, looked up, and there  it stood, looking at me. It walk off.

My youngest son and a friend were squirrel hunting here with .22’s. Davis had a pistol and his friend with  rifle. Davis was at the edge of the road, and his friend was in the woods. A mountain lion walked in their direction, before it turned and meandered off up the hill. It never saw them. Southern Illinois didn’t have mountain lions until the last several years. I’ve never seen one and hope I never do.

Anyway, I would appreciate any suggestions that would explain this “bark removal.”

River Gravel Finds

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My mother (above ) and I used to hunt for rocks and fossils in gravel dredged from the Ohio River.  The gravel is sorted by size and piled for sale.

My best friend went with us on this trip.We hunted the smaller size gravel.

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I hunted for fossils and interesting rocks. I arranged these above as a sampling of what fossils could be found.

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These fossils, plus arrowhead,  made sure they got my attention.

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I knew this was a piece of a mammoth tooth when I found it.

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It was something I never expected to find. The piece measures 1 1/8 inch long.

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  There’s no telling how far this arrowhead traveled down the river before being dredged out. It measures 2 7/8 inch long.

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This bone was in no way expected. Ones that have seen it say it’s human. I have no idea and don’t know how to tell. It’s 3 inches long.

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It feels like stone. It’s heavy like stone.

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I brought this one home because of the colors, having no idea what it was.

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It turned out to be a piece of mammoth tooth too and measures 1 1/4 inch at the widest.

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My opinion differs from others on this last stone. It measures roughly 1 1/4 wide wide and is 1/2 inch tall at the tallest. It is a rock. To me it looks like a slice of bone. It’s relatively smooth on the outside. Areas on the inside appear slightly porous.

Obviously, I had a GOOD day!

Luckily, I drove, otherwise,  I probably would’ve been walking home.

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I didn’t find this last arrowhead until 2 summers ago when I was cleaning the river gravel along the side of my moon garden. Since it’s sandstone, I thought it might have been made by maybe someone learning how to chip arrowheads. It measures 2 1/2 inches long.

Hmmmm– Running Water

What a difference one day makes — this morning windchill at – 4 from another Arctic blast.

The sun shone yesterday (Monday) and temperature reached 50.

Buffy and I hadn’t hiked lately because of the Arctic weather and the last of the deer seasons. We headed to Eagle Mountain (a ridge of hills on the eastern side of southern Illinois.)

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Water actually ran in upper parts of the creek and dropped underground in the lower areas where the creek widened considerably.

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Ripples created the most fascinating yellow-edged shadows.

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Bubbles distorted the shapes they reflected.

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Melting ice remained on a small north-facing sandstone outcroping.

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At least I can walk back through my memories of this hike while the frigid winds blow again outside.

Cicada Killer

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I knew cicada killers nested in my garden, and also knew they paralyzed cicadas to feed their young.

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That was basically all I knew about cicadas until camping at my rural property. I sat in camp that evening, facing west.

A cicada killer flew from a tree. Its flight angled downward because of the weight of the cicada it was carrying.

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It carried/dragged the cicada a considerable distance to the nearest tree that was inline with the location of its nest.

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It climbed the tree and flew out toward its nest. I lost sight of it this time because of the thick vegetation.

Obviously, watching this made much more of an impression on me than just reading about it in a book would have.

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Close Encounters

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… which this wasn’t.

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I took these pictures through a not-quite-clean double-pane picture window. The deer was feeding on leaves of what looked like vines.

 The young deer reminded me of a close encounter many years ago. I was hiking at a limestone barrens on Shawnee National Forest land. A light brown shape caught my attention. Why would anyone leave a lunch sack in the barrens. I went to retrieve it … it was a very young fawn. It remained motionless while I did a rapid sketch of it. Then I left.

Then I thought, “I bet the mother was just inside the woods, watching me.

That memory quickly took me to one of another close encounter. I returned to camp on rural property I own. Four or five biggish young birds were hunkered down in the mowed grass  near the pull-in. I did a gesture drawing, all the time asking them aloud, “What are you?”

Then I heard movement to the left and behind me. A hen turkey was sneaking toward the taller grasses where we didn’t mow. She had been feet from me. I didn’t see her because I’d locked in on the young birds. Obviously, she didn’t perceive me as a threat. Needless to say I decided it was time to leave and walked causally to the truck.

I wrote and illustrated nature articles for several local newspapers for almost 10 years. Obviously, this kept me hiking and camping a lot. Wildlife didn’t notice me when I was in deep concentration. One time I sat on the ground, drawing mosses. I heard movement and here came a coyote trotting down the short hill toward me. It saw me when about 12-15 feet away, “turned the corner” and kept on trotting.

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Another memory just came to me, one that left me shaking.

I hadn’t seen my first wild turkey yet and knew they were feeding up the hill from camp at my rural property. I suited up in camouflage, sat at the base of a tree with my 35 mm camera in my lap. No turkey. I dosed off. Wind rustling the trees woke me, only the leaves weren’t blowing. To my left — here came a 4-foot kingsnake. Somehow, I grabbed my camera and quickly made it to a standing position. My movement stopped the snake’s movement 5-6 feet from me. My hands shook too much to take a picture, besides, I wanted more distance between us. I stepped back several steps and watched it. Finally, it started moving in the same north east direction. It stopped when it came to the warmer ground where I’d been sitting.

It would’ve gone — or at least started– across my lap if I’d been asleep.

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All this from watching a young deer in the backyard.

Who Tunneled Here?

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 Buffy and I went to Ingram Hill. We go often for a short walk  and for the long view.

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Most of the snow and ice from a recent winter storm had finally melted. This tunnel looked to have been dug under the snow.

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I have little to no experience when it comes to identifying tunnels. I recognize ones from crawdads in our yard and the change in them if one of our impressive-size king snakes takes it over.

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My first thought was mouse, and I’m calling it that, until and if, I learn differently.

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Another reason to visit Ingram hill is that one of my favorite trees grows there.

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The oak’s been struck by lightning twice that I know of. That was before I took this picture. A tornado went by close enough to do damage 3 years ago, and required trimming some limbs. I took this picture before the storm damage. The trunk has a 13-foot circumference, and the crown spread measures 37 yards (111 feet).