We hope you have enjoyed your winter hike around Limberlost. It is beautiful in all seasons.
There is incredible beauty in winter at Limberlost. We hope you will enjoy the following photos taken in January and February 2019 by Kimberley Roll, Randy Lehman and Terri Gorney.
Red-tailed hawk in flight. It is a year round resident at Limberlost. Photo by Kimberley Roll.
The Loblolly Marsh has a quiet beauty in winter. Photo by Kimberley Roll.
Wabash River at Rainbow Bottom. Photo by Terri Gorney.
The pair of bald eagles at the Loblolly Marsh. Photo by Kimberley Roll.
White-tailed deer make their home at Limberlost. Photo by Randy Lehman.
Shelf ice at the Loblolly Marsh.
We have several native sparrows that make their home at Limberlost. This song sparrow photo was taken at the Loblolly Marsh by Randy Lehman.
Late afternoon sun at the Loblolly Marsh. Photo by Terri Gorney.
Rabbit. Photo by Terri Gorney.
Photo of the Wabash River on the east side of Geneva. Gene Stratton-Porter called this place Paradise on the Wabash. Photo by Terri Gorney.
We hope you have enjoyed your winter hike around Limberlost. It is beautiful in all seasons.
Wherein we relfect on the "butcherbird", studied by Mrs. Porter, but a Limberlost resident no more
By Curt Burnette
One of the birds that Gene Stratton-Porter studied, photographed, and wrote about was the loggerhead shrike. For her nature book "What I Have Done With Birds", she photographed a nest and the young birds in it at an oil lease east of Geneva, just east of the Wabash River. She was enamored with the five baby shrikes, calling them "darlings." They are striking birds in appearance, about the size of a robin with light grey bodies and some black and white on their wings and tails. Most noticeable is the black mask running through their eyes, and a hooked, hawk-like-beak. Although they are members of the perching bird group, like robins, jays, sparrows, etc, they are much like hawks in their feeding habits.
Two species of shrikes in the U.S. are the loggerhead and the northern. Both types of shrike are known as "butcherbirds." Shrikes have a notch in their beak that allows them to grab prey by the nape of the neck and sever the spine. Often, they impale dead prey on large thorns or barbed wire, much like a butcher will hang the carcasses of cattle and hogs in a cooler, waiting to be processed later into cuts of meat to be eaten. Butcherbirds' impaled prey can also be eaten later. Although they eat a lot of insects, especially grasshoppers, they will also kill mice, voles, shrews, snakes, frogs, and even other birds as large as cardinals.
Although the loggerhead shrike was nesting in the Limberlost area when Mrs. Porter lived here, we no longer have them around. The Limberlost would have been near the northern edge of the loggerhead's breeding territory, as they are more of a southern bird. The population of these birds is now in a steep decline, for unknown reasons.
The northern shrike is a winter visitor to the Limberlost area. They breed much farther north in the summer. They are rarely seen around here, and are the cause of a bit of excitement when one shows up. In the Decembers of 2012 and 2013, I discovered impaled voles (meadow mice) in a small locust tree in the portion of the Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve (LSWP) just west of Geneva's ball fields. One year the dead vole was intact, but the next year the impaled vole was headless. A gruesome find, but it told me a norhtern shrike was living in the area. Unfortunately, I was never able to see it. Then last Marsh, as I looked out a window of my yard, it was a northern shrike! This bird was very obliging in that it hung around my house for a number of days, allowing many excited birders to get good looks and photos. And just this past December, for a few weeks, a northern shrike was seen at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve. So, even though the loggerhead shrike is no longer found in the Limberlost, at least we are able to enjoy the occasional sighting of a northern shrike and thrill to the attractive but deadly butcherbird.
Note: This article was written by Curt Burnette for his Limberlost Notebook column in the Berne Witness in February 2018. In late 2018 and early 2019 Jesse Post and Kimberley Roll have seen northern shrikes at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve and the Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve.
These two pictures of the northern shrike were taken by Kimberley Roll in March 2017. This is the bird that caused so much excitement and was regularly seen in and around Curt Burnette's home.
Wherein is discussed how the Limberlost Swamp, Grand Kankakee Marsh, and Great Black Swamp share a past history and future prospects
By Curt Burnette
The Limberlost Swamp was a large wetland. It was roughly two miles wide and ten miles long, stretching from northeast of Geneva (Rainbow Bottom) to several miles southwest of town (Loblolly Marsh), and spanning 13,000 acres (20 square miles) before its destruction. The Limberlost contained swamp and marsh interspersed with higher, drier forest and seasonally flooded bottomland hardwood forest. But compared to two other wetlands that existed at the same time in Indiana and Ohio---it was tiny.
In northwest Indiana, not far south of Lake Michigan, was one of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States--the Grand Kankakee Marsh. It covered almost 500,000 acres. The Kankakee River was the heart of this great wetland. The Kankakee was 240 miles long before it was channelized, with around 2000 twists and turns along its length contributing to the wet, marshy nature of the area. Because of its vast size and outstanding quality of habitat, it was sometimes referred to as the "Everglades of the north." Sportsmen from all over the United States, and even the world, came to hunt the bountiful waterfowl that lived there, and resorts sprang up within it to cater to the citizens of the great city of Chicago, not far to the northwest.
The Great Black Swamp was located mostly in northwest Ohio, but extended into Indiana. It was enormous. The Black Swamp was almost 120 miles long and up to 40 miles wide at spots, covering about 1500 square miles or 980,000 acres. It stretched from just east of Fort Wayne to southwestern shore of Lake Erie. It was much like the Limberlost in that it was a network of swamp, marsh, forest, and grasslands. The Great Black Swamp was more infamous than it was famous. At certain times of the year--local residents declared--only adult men could withstand the rigors of traveling through it, and water levels would be up to the bellies of horses on the few roads that traversed it.
These three mighty wetlands were a result of the retreat of the last glacier that covered parts of Indiana and the upper Midwest. Another commonality was their destruction at the hands and machines of humanity. The felling of trees for lumber and land clearing, the ditching and rivers combined to lead to the demise of these titans of nature. They also have a common future. Grass-roots organizations--such as Limberlost Swamp Remembered, The Nature Conservancy (Kankakee Sands Restoration), and the Black Swamp Conservancy--are helping to restore and preserve relatively small, but valuable, remnants of each. These former natural wonders can never return to their glory days of the time before the Midwest was settled and tamed, but they can continue to be an important part of the Hoosier and Buckeye landscapes for a long time to come.
Curt Burnette came to Limberlost in January 2012. In November of that year, he wrote his first column for the Limberlost Notebook in the "Berne Tri-Weekly" (now the "Berne Witness"). We thought it would be fun to take a look back at Curt's first column.
The Limberlost Notebook
Wherein a Swamp Man Heeds the Call of the Limberlost
By Curt Burnette
"Eh labas! Comment ca va?" ("Hey there! How's it going?") This is how I was greeted by my Cajun co-workers years ago when I worked at a swamp tour outside of New Orleans. To which I would reply, "Ca va bien or comme si, comme ca or ca va ma! ("It's going well or so-so or it's going badly") - depending on how I felt.
My Cajun co-workers were the captains of the boats that took tourists down the bayous and into the swamps southwest of New Orleans. My job was to do educational programs under the tent where the tourists waited before they loaded onto those boats. I had interacted with Cajuns many times when I was the curator of the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, but had never worked so closely with them on a daily basis before. I was embraced by them an accepted into their world, so in a way I became an honorary Cajun - Cajun Curt, the Hoosier on the bayou. I even own a Cajun dictionary and a Cajun canoe known as a pirogue.
I spent many years exploring and learning about the swamps and marshes of southern Louisiana. They are fascinating, legendary, famous places: the Atchafalaya, Honey Island Swamp, Manchac. I missed them when I returned to Indiana after Hurricane Katrina. When I got back to Indianapolis I re-entered the zoo world by working at the Indianapolis Zoo for several years. During that time, the closest I came to fulfilling my love of swamps and wetlands was using baby alligators while doing education programs. After I quit the zoo, I thought my swamp days were completely over.
But then, as I searched for new work, I discovered a job possibility that actually involved a swamp - a swamp made famous over 100 years ago by an Indiana writer. The Limberlost State Historic Site was looking for someone to fill their naturalist and program developer position opening. I was intrigued. A fascinating, legendary, and famous swamp seemed to be calling me. I applied for the job, was interviewed and offered the position. I took it and so I came to the Land of the Limberlost.
By the time it had become famous, the Limberlost was mostly gone. During the time Gene Stratton-Porter was writing about it, it was disappearing. But the Land of the Limberlost survives and the local citizens of that land still care about it. When I arrived I saw the on-going effort to bring back a version of the legend that fit the current world and I was impressed. After 10 months on the job I am still impressed. Next month I will tell you more about whey I like what I see and why I like where it is going Au mois prochain, mes amis (see you next month, my friends).
Curt Burnette as Paxson and Bill Hubbard as Limber Jim
A Shy Killdeer Family
By Gene Stratton-Porter
The killdeer nest was in the middle of a cornfield. It was not much to boast of. The four tan-colored eggs sprinkled with dark brown and black lay on the bare earth surrounded by a few bits of bark and cornstalk. The mother bird was young and extremely shy and nervous, and , though I dreamed of having her perch on my hand like other killdeers I have known, it was only with the greatest difficulty that I was able to take a picture even of the young birds.
After a week or so of patient waiting I was compelled to miss one day's visit to the nest and when I went back it was deserted. Before I could decide whether or not there had been a tragedy I heard a faint cry which I recognized as that of one of the young birds. We gave chase, my daughter and I and finally, breathless, hot and disheveled, secured a picture of him as he mounted a rock.
He was the quaintest baby bird I have ever handled, with his downy black and white, pink and tan suit, his slender beak, his long legs and the big prominent eyes which showed plainly that he was able to fly by night as well as day.
Photos by Randy Lehman.
This blog is a collaboration of a hike led by Naturalist Curt Burnette at the Music of the Wild Preserve on October 27, photographs of the hike by Melissa Fey and Randy Lehman and the words of Gene Stratton-Porter from her book "Music of the Wild," Part II, Songs of the Fields, which is about this area. We hope you will enjoy your hike with Gene, Curt, Melissa, and Randy.
I love all the music of nature, but none is dearer to the secret places of my heart than the Song of the Road. The highways are wonderful. They appear to flow between the fields, climbing hills without effort, sliding into valleys, and stretching across plains farther than the eye or lens can follow.
The Limberlost is a wonderful musician, singing the song of running water throughout its course. Singing that low, somber, sweet little song that you must get very close earth to hear, because the creek has such mighty responsibility it hesitates to sing loudly lest it appear to boast.
All the trees rustle and whisper, shaking their branches to shower it with a baptism of gold in pollen time.
The many trees and masses of shrubs lower their tones to answer the creek, and he who would know their secret must find for himself a place on the bank and be very quiet, for in the thicket the stream will sing only the softest lullaby, just the merest whisper song.
Sometimes it slips into the thicket, as on the Bone farm; for it is impartial, and perhaps feels more at home there than in the meadows, surely more than in cultivated fields, where the bans are often are stripped bare, the waters grow feverish and fetid, its song is hushed, and its spirit broken.
.....and November spreads a blanket of scarlet and gold.
Shinrin - Yoku/Forest Bathing
By Melissa Fey
This is a new concept in the United States, but Forest Bathing has been practiced in Japan for many years. The idea is to immerse yourself in the forest. This is not a hike but more a leisurely walk using all your senses to engage with Nature.
Contact with nature is as vital to our well-being as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Just as our health improves when we are in nature, our health suffers when we are divorced from it. As we walk slowly through the forest, seeing, listening, smelling, tasting and touching, we bring our rhythms into step with nature. Shinrin-Yoku is like a bridge that opens our senses and bridges the gap between us and the natural world. When we are set in harmony we can begin to heal.
Why should we be interested in Forest Bathing?
~3.9 billion people live in cities
~Living in cities can be stressful
~The average American spends 93% of their time indoors
~A high percentage of our time indoors is spent looking at screens
Even a small amount of time, as little as two hours, will help you unplug from technology and slow down. Forest Bathing can help:
~Reduce blood pressure
~Lower stress levels
~Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
~lower blood-sugar levels
~Improve concentration and memory
~Improve pain thresholds
~boost the immune system
~Increase anti-cancer protein production
~Help you to lose weight
A walk in the woods can do all this?
There are natural oils in plants, Phytoncides. They release these oils as a part of their defense system to protect them from bacteria, insects and fungi. It is the way that the trees communicate with each other. A study at the Mie University in Japan showed that the citrus fragrance of phytoncides is more effective than anti-depressants for lifting mood and ensuring emotional well-being.
The microbes in the soil we breathe, Mycobacterium vaccae, activate neurons associated with the immune system. Soil stimulates the immune system and a boosted immune system makes us feel happy. Digging in the garden or eating vegetables from the earth will give yourself a boost.
How to get started. Visit someplace that will fill your heart with joy. If you do not live near a forest, a local park will do. Trees in the city are just important as trees in the country. a single tree can absorb 4.5 kg of air pollutants in a year.
~Leave your camera and phone behind
~ Let your body be your guide
~Listen to where it wants to take you
~Take your time
~Focus on your breathing
~Savor the sounds, smells and sights of nature
~Let the Forest IN
~Listen to the birds sing and leaves rustle
~Smell the fragrance of the forest, breath in the phytoncides
~ Place your hands on a tree, dig your fingers/toes in a stream
~Cross the bridge to happiness via your natural path
If you cannot go outside, bring the outside in by using tree essential oils. A test performed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Emergency Department, which is a high stress and fatigue area, showed hat using essential oils generated from pine, cedar, spruce and other conifers made a big difference. 84% of the people tested felt that essential oils contributed to a more positive work environment.
Work-related stress 41% 3%
Feeling well equipped to handle stress 13% 58%
Perceived energy levels 33% 77%
Develop a hands-on approach to the Natural World. Get in harmony with the earth. Take some time and practice Shinrin-Yoku, you will benefit from nature.
Photos from the Limberlost and the Loblolly Marsh woods trail.
Gene's Paradise on the Wabash
By Terri Gorney
Where was the magical place that Gene called Paradise on the Wabash? In a 1903 article, Gene gave clues to where it was located. She mentions Stanley's end, Shimp's farm, a favorite picnic, fishing and swimming sot along the river. It was also a place she could easily reach by carriage as she wrote that "almost every day there was some wonder for her" at this place.
Gene spent summers in the field working on bird studies. Paradise on the Wabash was where she photographed many birds and their nests. Gene gave Bob Black credit for finding over forty bird nests for her to photograph. Bob, like Gene, had a way with birds. Gene wrote that "the birds trusted him."
In helping her with her studies, Gene wrote that oil men were the best "whether it was a millionaire lease holder or a ditcher in a trench." Bob Black was an oil man as was J. W. Paxson. Gene wrote that Bob was her best field worker and that Paxson was her best Limberlost guide. Gene would be lifelong friends with Bob.
At Paradise on the Wabash, with bob's help, Gene was able to photograph many birds and their nests. Gene penned that there was a scarlet tanager nesting in a mulberry tree, a vireo in an elm tree, a masked warbler (common yellow throat) in a wild plum, a crested flycatcher in a giant maple, a cardinal in a red haw. She also mentions a cuckoo, catbirds, robins, blue jays, doves and goldfinch. She noted that every hollow tree had flicker sapsucker, woodpecker or nuthatch.
There was one bird in this area that Gene did not like It was the cowbird. The reason is that they deposit their eggs in another bird's nests to let them incubate and raise, sometimes to the detriment of their own young. She referred to them as "the feathered interloper." Bob found a nest that contained an extra cowbird egg. Gene asked him to leave it as she wanted to use that nest as a study.
Paradise on the Wabash is on the east side of Geneva between the Wabash River and Riverside Cemetery. It was where Bob worked on the Stanley's Oil Lease. This area was sometimes referred to in the Geneva Herald as Bob Black's Park.
Today it is still a thriving place for bird life. The birds that Gene recorded over one-hundred years ago are still here. Those birds, as well as pelicans, snow geese, greater white-fronted geese, pileated woodpeckers, bald eagles, barred and great horned owls, and red-shouldered haws have all been seen in this area. Gene's Paradise on the Wabash lives on!
The Herald - One Way to Find Out
by Willy DeSmet
Inspired by Melissa Fey, my wife Phyllis started raising Monarch butterflies from eggs and caterpillars we found in the yard. Going around in the garden we came across other caterpillars, including some of the Red Spotted Purple butterfly (which she has already raised to butterflies and released). She asked me what a rather non-descript green caterpillar would turn into. I didn't know but answered if she wanted to know, she could raise it and see what it turned into. She did. She put it in a ventilated box with some of the leaves it was on and changed the leaves for fresh ones every couple of days.
One day she let out a surprised yell. She said she thought she saw a dead and withered leaf in the box and reached in to replace it with a fresh one. It moved! The caterpillar had pupated and hatched into an adult moth. This is a moth, called The Herald, Scoliopteryx libatrix (Scolio: curved; pteryx: wing; libatrix: someone or something that pours.)
As you can see in the photo, the wingtips have not completely straightened out yet. Being newly emerged, the colors are strikingly strong.
Some species of moths look a lot alike and are difficult (sometimes impossible) to tell apart just by looking at them. The color and pattern is quite unique in this moth The orange colored patches are described as "wide streaks of mottled orange." they remind me of glowing coals. it almost looks like there's a fire burning through the wings from below. maybe that's just my imagination.
Phyllis was fooled by the moth's camouflage pattern. Hanging among (wilted) leaves it really does blend in. It is a fairly common moth, but rarely noticed.
The caterpillar prefer poplar and willow. An interesting note is that this species overwinters as an adult, often in caves or in man-made structures like basements, barns and sheds.
Dated 12 September 2018
A Tale of Two Genevas
By Adrienne Provenzano, guest blogger
Limberlost State Historic site in Geneva, Indiana is where Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924) wrote many of her articles, books, and poems, inspired by the surrounding Limberlost Swamp, Gene hiked, took photographs, observed the changing seasons, and created classic stories such as "Freckles" (1904) and "A Girl of the Limberlost" (1909).
About a century earlier, in another Geneva, a different classic story was created. The English author Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley (1797-1851) first created the idea of what became the novel "Frankenstein" when in Geneva, Switzerland in 1816. She was visiting the villa of the poet Lord Byron, who challenged Mary and his other guests to write original ghost stories. Mary was later encouraged by her then lover, and later husband, Percy Shelley, to expand the story into a novel, and "Frankenstein; Or, the Modern Prometheus" was first published on January 1, 1818.
To celebrate that work and encourage reading, discussion, and related events during this 200th anniversary year of Frankenstein, the Indiana Humanities Council has organized a statewide read of the book as part of a program entitled One State/One Story, offered in partnership with the Indiana State Library. Information about the program can be found at www.quantumleap.indianahumanities.org, including calendar of events around the state.
Earlier this month, the 155th birthday of Gene Stratton-Porter occurred on August 17th. This week, August 30th, marks the 221st birthday of Mary Shelley. Two women authors whose works have stood the test of time, inspired by two Genevas!