By Alexandra Forsythe
As a raptor rehabber, I've been privileged to work with some of the most amazing birds, including Barred Owls. As one of Indiana's larger owls, the Barred Owl sits near the top of the food chain (beneath the Great Horned Owl). However, they do not have the same menacing attitude of their larger cousins. Yes, they do use their talons to their full advantage, but they also have a warmth and friendliness about them. Just look into those eyes!
Barred Owls are usually easier to find by ear than by eye. Listen for their distinctive call: "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" If you want to see a Barred Owl up close, you can often spot them around dusk flying low over the wetlands of the Limberlost Swamp in Geneva, Indiana.
While most owls prefer to eat mammals and like to stay dry, Barred Owls have a fondness for fish, frogs and crayfish, and are willing to wade in water to catch their prey. They will eat mammals, but the Barred Owls with which I have dealt have always preferred surf over turf.
Barred owls do not suffer from wanderlust; they instead choose to stay close to home all year. They have, however, slowly expanded their range and have been displacing and hybridizing with Spotted Owls in the Pacific Northwest. Since Spotted Owls are threatened with extinction, a controversial plan was put in place that includes killing Barred Owls living in the Spotted Owl's range. The argument for the plan is that it is better to kill Barred Owls directly rather than kill Spotted Owls indirectly. You can read about the plan and the arguments here: http://www.newsweek.com/2015/05/29/killing-barred-owls-keep-spotted-owls-breathing-332540.html. Without human interference, Barred Owls are definitely survivors. Fossils of Barred Owls indicate they have been in existence for over 11,000 years (Hiscock Site, Genesee County, NY). Hopefully they'll be around for thousands of years to come!
By Adrienne Provenzano
October 9 – 15, 2016 marks this year's Earth Science Week, with the theme “Our Shared Geoheritage.” First started in October 1998 by the American Geosciences Institute, which seeks to connect “earth, science, and people,” the annual national and international event is a way to “help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth.”
According to the AGI website for the event (EarthSciweek.org), geoheritage is “the collection of natural wonders, landforms, and resources that have formed over eons and come to this generation to manage, use, and conserve effectively.” Rocks and minerals, fossil fuels, water, air, and plant life are all part of the Earth's geoheritage.
Ample information about Indiana's geology in particular – including energy and mineral resources, water and environment, and even geological hazards, can be found at igs.indiana.edu, the site for the Indiana Geological Survey, an institute of Indiana University since 1993.
Gene Stratton-Porter was reluctant to label herself a scientist, and preferred to refer to herself as a nature lover. She was aware of the complex systems of the Earth, as evidenced in this quote from Music of the Wild: “It was Thoreau who, in writing of the destruction of the forests, exclaimed, 'Thank Heaven, they cannot cut down the clouds!' Aye but they can! That is a miserable fact, and soon it will become our discomfort and loss. Clouds are beds of vapor arising from damp places and floating in air until they meet other vapor masses, that mingle with them, and the weight becomes so great the whole falls in drops of rain. If men in their greed cut forests that preserve and distill moisture, clear fields, take the shelter of trees from creeks and rivers until they evaporate, and drain the water from swamps so that they can be cleared and cultivated – they prevent vapor from rising; and if it does not rise it cannot fall. Pity of pities it is: But man can change and is changing the forces of nature. I never told a sadder truth; but it is true that man can 'cut down the clouds.'"
Whether roaming the prairie potholes formed by the glaciers in her beloved Limberlost, observing the flora and fauna along the Wabash River flowing above its limestone bed - like the hero of her Song of the Cardinal, or noticing the changes in landscape as oil, gas, and lumber were removed from the region, Gene Stratton-Porter took note of Indiana's geoheritage, and shared her perspective in fact and fiction. Many connections of Earth, science, and people can be found in Gene Stratton-Porter's works – and a visit to the Limberlost Cabin and the nature preserves associated with it reveals the contemporary connections as well. So while Gene Stratton-Porter may not have considered herself a geoscientist, she certainly appreciated our shared geoheritage!
By Terri Gorney
“The Limberlost was arrayed as the Queen of Sheba in all her glory,” wrote Gene Stratton- Porter. Gene’s literary legacy and the natural history of the Limberlost were very much front- and-center at a sold out Trek and Talk hosted by Indiana Humanities and Limberlost State Historic Site at the Loblolly Marsh on Saturday night, October 8. Indiana Humanities created this unique program to connect literature and the land for Indiana’s Bicentennial.
It was a perfect day for exploring the Limberlost. It began with a special tour of Gene’s Limberlost cabin in Geneva conducted by “retired” site manager, Randy Lehman. Guests heard about “Freckles,” and Elnora, and the Bird Woman’s connection to the cabin.
Limberlost naturalist, Curt Burnette, and Professor Rachel Blumenthal, from IU Kokomo, led the hike through the Loblolly Marsh’s prairie. The Loblolly Marsh was the first of the Limberlost territories to undergo restoration beginning in 1997, and that process continues today. There are basically five wetland preserves that are part of the Limberlost territories in northern Jay County and southern Adams County—all managed by DNR Nature Preserves.
After the hike, dinner was served around a campfire at the well-equipped Loblolly Pavilion. Judy Williams, a Friend of the Limberlost, made a special centerpiece with natural items found around her home and guests enjoyed a special Bicentennial treat that she made for the occasion. We also welcomed Jim Langham, a journalist from the Berne Witness. Jim came to enjoy the hike and to get material for an article he was planning for the newspaper about this event.
After dinner, Professor Blumenthal led a good discussion of Gene’s writings and shared the poetry of some contemporary nature writers of today. The evening was not complete until s’mores were served and Adrienne Provenzano sang Curt’s poem “Loblolly Lullaby” and Gene’s 1916 poem “Limberlost Invitation.”
Thank you to Indiana Humanities for visiting Limberlost. It was fun working with the staff to make this event happen. We welcomed Jay County native George Hanlin home. George is a former resident of Pennville in Jay County, and he now serves as the Head of Grants for Indiana Humanities. A special thank you to Indiana Bicentennial Director, Perry Hammock, for another return visit to Limberlost, and we also thank the Indiana Historical Society, the Indianapolis Hiking Club, and guests from all over Indiana for attending this event.
If you missed this event, on October 22 Curt will be leading a hike at the Music of the Wild Nature Preserve. This is another Limberlost wetland property located in Jay County. The name is taken from Gene Stratton-Porter’s book, Music of the Wild, and the area that will be hiked is the same general area Gene refers to in the second part of her book. Curt will be exploring the nature of this preserve following along with Gene’s words. This is the perfect time of year to amble along Limberlost Creek, which flows through a section of this nature preserve.
Check out #trekandtalk Indiana Humanities
By Terri Gorney
In 2016 we celebrate the Bicentennial of statehood for Indiana. One-hundred years ago, Gene Stratton-Porter contributed to Indiana’s Centennial Celebrations.
Indiana in the late 19th century and early 20th century, was in the Golden Age of Literature. Indiana was second only to New York state in the number of best selling authors and number of books they produced. Gene was part of this special assemblage of literary talent and was recognized as such by the Hoosier state.
Meredith Nicholson wrote the book “The Hoosiers” in 1900. It was about the literary figures in Indiana. This was published before Gene wrote her first book, “Song of the Cardinal” in 1903. For the 1916 celebration, she decided that a new revised edition was in order and called it “The Hoosiers: Centennial Edition.” Gene was included in this edition. Meredith describes her as “one of the most popular American novelists.” Her books that were written about Limberlost have “endeared her to thousands of readers.”
George Ade asked his fellow Hoosier writers to contribute a work of theirs to a book created for the Centennial Celebration. It was called “An Invitation to You and Your Folks from Jim and Some More of the Home Folks.” Gene was pleased to be included and contributed “A Limberlost Invitation” which was a poem that she had written. It was appropriate that Gene had created a poem about the Limberlost because she would be forever tied to the place that she made famous. This Indiana homecoming booklet and issued by Bobbs-Merrill Company, under the auspices of the Indiana Historical Commission. The proceeds from the book benefited the Centennial Celebrations. Others in this book were Gov. Samuel M. Ralston, United States Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, former United States Vice President Charles Fairbanks and other literary celebrities including: Booth Tarkington, James Whitcomb Riley, Meredith Nicholson, the Country Contributor Juliet Strauss, Kin Hubbard, William S. Blatchley and several others. Gene was in very distinguished company.
On June 12, there was a “Telegraph Tea” hosted by the Women’s Press Club of Indiana in Indianapolis held in the Riley Room of the Claypool Hotel. It was advertised as “novel and notable.” Gene participated by sending in a short writing called “A Limberlost View.” Gene wrote about her views of marriage and raising children. She wrote, “I stand for love, by which I mean a proper commingling of respect, admiration and passion….I stand for old-fashioned homes, won by work, love, mutual effort and both man and woman.”
Gene was asked to present a program at “Corn School Week” in LaGrange as part of the Centennial Celebration. Gene’s program was on Friday, October 6. After her program, she presented the Sweepstakes winning boy a gold medal in the corn growing contest with a special bound volume of one of her books.
“On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” by Paul Dresser is Indiana’s state song. The Wabash River wraps around Geneva where Gene lived for twenty-five years. We at the Limberlost State Historic Site would like to extend a special “Limberlost Invitation” for all to visit the site or attend one of our special events this year.
The research is a Bicentennial Legacy Project that was the inspiration for the Limberlost State Historic Site’s upcoming exhibit called Limberlost Then and Now.
Article was published in the Berne Tri-Weekly, Limberlost Notebook column, 29 Jan 2016, p. 4.