We hope you enjoyed some of the birds this May at Limberlost!
Kimberley Roll has captured some of the favorite birds that we welcome back to Limberlost in the spring. Thank you for sharing your birding adventures at Limberlost for all to enjoy.
Bank swallow with nesting material in the beak.
Barn swallow with nesting material in beak.
Male indigo bunting. We look forward to hearing his lively song in May.
Male indigo bunting
Common yellowthroat. This bird is a welcome singer at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve.
Dickcissel. With the restoration of the wetlands, we are seeing more of these birds now.
Several cormorants have been seen at the Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve.
One of the adult bald eagles in flight. They are year round residents at Limberlost.
Beautiful male yellow warbler. He is a common singer around Limberlost.
Unusual sight for May: a male and female harrier. They are winter residents here.
We hope you enjoyed some of the birds this May at Limberlost!
Viewing Earth From Space
By Adrienne Provenzano
April 22 is designated as Earth Day! If you are looking for some interesting views of the planet, check, out the website Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth! 3.5 million images of Earth have been captured from the International Space Station, which obits the Earth every 90 minutes. Another 500,000 images have been gathered by astronauts on missions dating back to the earliest NASA missions with crew --Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Shuttle. You can take a look at the free database of still images and videos at https://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/ Browse through existing collections by topics such as Earth as Art or search for particular locations, including daytime and nighttime views. There are also opportunities to participate in citizen science projects!
This year NASA's Earth Day theme is Connected by Earth: From Big to Small We're All Connected. By visiting https://masa.gov/earthday you can find lots of resources, including an Earth Day Took it and information on how NASA data is used to study animal migrations, vegetation, and more! If you're looking for an interesting Earth-based project connected with space, you might enjoy being part of the 2021 Community Tree challenge, April 15-May 15. Participants can measure tree height and share the data online. This information is then compared with satellite data. The tree challenge site also lists many family-friendly nature activities to enjoy. the program is organized by GLOBE, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program, https://www.globe.gov
GLOBE was founded on Earth Day 1994, and provides a variety of activities for hands-on learning of Earth's systems. Data is collected worldwide and then shared online. Elementary GLOBE includes storybooks available in 6 different languages, with observation and data collection investigation activities geared towards students in grades K-4. Topics include clouds, hummingbirds, and soils.
Happy Earth Day!
Adrienne Provenzano is a Friend of the Limberlost, Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist, and NASA Solar System Ambassador
International Space Station
International Space Station Zinna.
NASA Apollo 8 December 24 photo of the earth.
Wherein the new Limberlost Visitor Center is chronicled in vintage style.
(modeled after newspaper articles of Gene Stratton-Porter's Geneva years)
By Curt Burnette
To the gratification of all Genevaites and other local citizens of the surrounding environs who have been faithful observers to its construction while eagerly awaiting its completion, Geneva's delightful new attraction, the Limberlost Visitor Center, is now open. This beautiful 4000 square foot building is clad with Alaskan cedar, but not in the usual lap-siding pattern of which we all are so well acquainted. Instead, these quite attractive boards are arranged in a West Coast style know as "rain screen." A gap between and behind each board permits them to dry in a most efficient manner after each rainfall and therefore impart to them a longer life. the Limberlost State Historic Site is the first location in the fine state of Indiana to have a structure with this particular type of rain screen design. The rustic golden Alaskan cedar marvelously compliments the red cedar logs covering the Limberlost Cabin where local author and celebrity Mrs. Gene Stratton-Porter and her husband Mr. Charles Porter, himself a local businessman and citizen of note, resided so many years ago.
The interior of this building contains three noteworthy areas. Visitors enter the central area through a wonderful glass foyer where handicap-accessible restrooms and drinking fountains await. Beyond the foyer lies a grand and open room with a splendid cathedral-style ceiling. Within is housed the Friends of the Limberlost gift retail establishment and several enlightening exhibitions about Mrs. Porter, her career, her family, and her beloved Limberlost. To the rear of this lovely hall a small bird-viewing room is discreetly placed for the pleasure of the ornithologically-minded.
The western end of the Center houses a fine storeroom, office facilities for the illustrious Historic Site staff, and a classroom/multi-purpose room appointed with audio-visual equipment of the most updated capabilities. This pleasant classroom can be cleverly arranged with chairs and tables for programs, presentations, meetings, and gatherings of all manner and purpose. The eastern end contains an office for the sturdy and dedicated Nature Preserves staff, a kitchenette, a room housing furnaces and other devices of mechanical nature, plus another, albeit smaller, multi-purpose room.
Limberlost staff undertook the arduous but satisfying move into the building in mid-January and threw open its doors to the public by the end of the month. A dedication and grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 11:00 am. This festivity will truly be a community-wide celebration as our new attraction will not only welcome visitors to the Historic Site but also to the area at large. A bodacious brochure rack in the grand hall abounds with information about Geneva, Berne, Adams, and Jay counties, and the Hoosier State as a recreational and tourist destination.
The Visitor Center is the latest step in the most worthy effort to restore and promote the Land of the Limberlost. Mrs. Porter's writings made the Limberlost famous around the world. The heyday of her immense popularity and the magnificence of the might swamp are gone now, but the Limberlost Cabin remains, her books are still read and admired, and the Limberlost Nature Preserves still provide access to the wonders of nature she so enjoyed. The Limberlost Visitor Center is the gateway into her world an is quite deserving of a visit. So govern yourself accordingly.
Source: Berne Tri-Weekly, Limberlost Notebook column, March 2013.
[Note the ground breaking ceremony for the Visitor Center was held in October 2011. As then Site Manager Randy Lehman said it started as a dream he drew on a napkin and it took several years to raise the funds to build it].
Moving day January 2013: "Limberlost version of Abbey Road" Ken Brunswick (then East Central Regional Ecologist), Randy Lehman (then Site Manager), Curt Burnette (Program Developer and Naturalist) and Dave Cramer (then president of Friends of the Limberlost). Photo by Bill Hubbard.
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 s how I was greeted by my Cajun co-workers years ago when I worked at a swam tour just outside of New Orleans. To which I would reply, "Ca va bien or comme si, comme ca or ca va mal ("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 swaps 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 any 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 and 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 cam 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 cam 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 why I like what I see and why I like where it is going. Au mols prochain, mes amis (see you next month, my friends).
Note: Last month Curt Burnette celebrated nine years at Limberlost as naturalist. This is a look back at his first Limberlost Notebook column for the Berne Tri-Weekly.
Source: Berne Tri-Weekly, Nov 2012
Curt looking into a giant sycamore tree.
Curt portraying Paxson, Gene's #1 Swamp guide, at the Mural festivities September 2020.
Curt leading a hike in 2020. Young hiker asks a question.
By Adrienne Provenzano
Several years ago, I was hiking in Rainbow Bend Park along the original Wabash River path. Suddenly, a furry brown critter dashed across the trail in front of me and into the brush along the bank. What was it? My best guess: a groundhog, also sometimes called woodchuck. It's a common rodent in Indiana, the largest of the Indiana squirrel family, and goes by the scientific name of Marmota monax. I've been thinking about that close encounter with wildlife as February 2, commonly called Groundhog Day, approaches.
In search of more information about these critters, I turned to a publication on mostly small mammals create by Purdue Extension. Written by Robert N. Chapman and Rod N. Williams, the booklet Common Indiana Mammals is part of the education project The Nature of Teaching. This particular resource, FNR-413, and many others, can be found at www.purdue.edu/nature. Colorful images of 34 mammals and plenty of details on habitat, diet, distribution, reproduction, and ecology make this an excellent field guide and education resource.
In the introduction, the authors state: "Mammals play an integral role in many natural habitats. Knowing more about these intriguing animals can help us enjoy and appreciate the diversity of wildlife around us."
According to the Wikipedia article, the idea of the groundhog as a predictor of seasonal change comes from Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that this mammal emerging from hibernation and seeing its shadow on February 2 means six more weeks of winter, but no shadow means early spring. Groundhogs hibernate over the winter months, beginning in October and generally reappear in March or April, but sometimes as early as February. In Germany, where the Pennsylvania Dutch were from, a badger was the forecaster, but sometimes a fox or bear was the designated animal. If you've seen the 1993 film Groundhog Day, you're familiar with Punxsutawney Phil and his annual forecast. This year marks the 135th time the event will occur at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania!
We all may feel stuck in an endless loop these days, but spring is on the way! Whatever the groundhog may predict, if you visit a natural setting over the coming weeks and months you'll start to see buds appearing on trees, sprouts coming up from the ground, and an increase in green and other vibrant colors. Local and migrating birdsong will fill the air, there will be the scents of blossoms, and gradually warming air. By march 20, the official spring equinox this year, there will be no doubt what season it is!
Adrienne Provenzano is a Friend of the Limberlost and Advanced Indiana Master Naturalist
Groundhog. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Groundhog with young. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Some of Limberlost's bottomland where the groundhogs live. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Limberlost where the groundhogs roam. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Limberlost in spring. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Limberlost in spring. Photo by Curt Burnette.
In this blog we take a look what we accomplished this past year with the help of our members and generous volunteers and donors. The Friends of the Limberlost is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit. We work with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Nature Preserves which owns most of the land in the Limberlost Conservation Area and the Indiana State Museum which owns the Limberlost State Historic Site.
We thank all that helped us this past year and hope you enjoy a look back on some positive things that happened in 2020 at Limberlost.
Retired Ecologist Ken Brunswick is currently the chair of the Limberlost Swamp Remembered committee. He had a vision of a snake fence being placed at Music of the Wild Nature Preserve along with native plantings along the fence. In June 2020, Dr. Richard "Doc" Yoder volunteered to build it. He built a 250 foot fence and donated his time and materials.
In the fall of 2019 and 2020, native plants were planted along the fence. We thank Rebecca Stafford for the donation of the plants and Connie Ronald for organizing the volunteers and transporting the plants. Those that helped were: Willy De Smet, Jack Ronald, Dale Widman, Zach Widman, Melissa Fey, Randy Lehman, and LaDonna Habeggar. Ken Brunswick and his grandchildren prepared the ground for the planting.
A new kiosk was installed in November at the Bird Sanctuary. This was made possible through a grant by the Goodrich Family Foundation.
A new kiosk was installed in November at the Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve Deacon's Trail parking lot. It was made possible with a grant from the Indiana Parks Alliance. The grant committee: Terri Gorney, Willy De Smet, Curt Burnette, Ken Brunswick and Randy Lehman.
A carriage similar to the one that Gene Stratton-Porter drove for her ramblings around Limberlost was purchased by the Friends of the Limberlost in July 2017. It was restored and ready for its debut in the spring of 2020. The Friends have it on loan to the site.
The carriage is in the Visitor Center for the winter.
In November, repairs to the Rainbow Bend parking lot were completed.
The culvert at Rainbow Bend/Bottom over the Engle Ditch was in need of repair. This was completed in early November. This is the pre repair photo. Ken Brunswick oversaw this construction and took the following photos.
The work begins.
The chimney swift tower was the idea of Alexandra Forsythe. The Robert Cooper Audubon Society in Muncie received a grant to build a tower. Curt Burnette put a lot of volunteer hours into thinking about how to best construct it and then making it. It is attached to the Friends of the Limberlost barn along the Hart Trail at the Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve. We have a chimney swift interpretive sign ready to be installed this spring. The tower is up and will hopefully be used for a nesting pair of chimney swifts in 2021.
The grant committee is currently working on three more interpretive signs. The 10.64 acres addition to the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve the Friends purchased last summer will begin restoration in 2021.
For members, we publish a newsletter four times a year and will continue to do so.
We are looking forward to 2021. January 1 we welcomed three new members to the board: Bill Hubbard, David Rezits and LaDonna Habeggar.
Wherein A Limberlost legend writes a book and gives us insight into how both he and the Limberlost were born again
By Curt Burnette
It is easy to forget that one person can make a difference in the world. It needn't be something that affects the entire planet, very few people are able to do that. But many people can make a difference locally, and sometimes the impact of their efforts extends far beyond their area or community.
Local farmer-turned ecologist Ken Brunswick initiated and led the effort to begin the recreation of the Limberlost Swamp and other local wetlands. Geneva author Gene Stratton-Porter wrote about these areas in both her world famous novels and her nature books. It was after Ken witnessed farm fields flooding over and over that he connected their location to the Limberlost Swamp and Loblolly Marsh of the past. Once he understood that connection, he then remembered reading the books of Gene Stratton-Porter in his youth and realized this was the area she had written about. Those connections started a process of self-realization and environmental restoration.
Ken writes about this process in his recently published book, The Limberlost "Born Again." After his retirement from the Department of Natural Resources Nature Preserves Division, he began organizing his notes and data, researching information he still needed, writing and rewriting, giving draft copies to friends to read for their comments and criticism, and adding and deleting everything from sentences to chapters. In the midst of all of his work, Ken had a stroke which affected him enough to slow him down, but it did not stop him. He continued working on his book while everyone encouraged him and pestered him and anxiously awaited its publication.
His book was worth the wait. Ken describes in detail how each portion of the Limberlost nature preserves was acquired. He also writes about, in the first few chapters, his boyhood in Ohio, the many jobs that gave him expertise he would use in the future, his military experience, moving to Indiana nd dairy farming and his struggle with alcohol. It was his battle with alcohol that eventually led him to embrace his faith and be personally born again. Once Ken had been born again, he was ready to help the Limberlost be "born again."
The Limberlost "Born Again" is the type of book that an appeal to a wide audience. Those who want to learn about wetland restoration will read a step by step description of the process. Those who like to read about a person's life and what factors helped to determine the person thy become will enjoy the stories and anecdotes Ken relays. Local folks will enjoy reading about the history of the Limberlost area, from the Ice Age to our current time. And everyone should be interested in the true stories of the Limber Jims (yes, there were more than one!) who gave their name to the creek and swamp, a name Gene Stratton-Porter spread around the world. Ken Brunswick's book of a man and Limberlost being born again is a ready that is well worthwhile.
Note: This blog was originally published in the Limberlost Notebook column in the Berne Witness in August 2017.
Sunset at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve
Prairie Dock in late August at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve
Rain clouds over the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve
Limberlost Swamp Nature Preserve in October
Clouds over Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve
Veronica's Trail at the Loblolly Marsh
Snake fence at Music of the Wild
Wherein we examine the history of beaver in the Limberlost--
from the Ice Age giants to the disappearance and return of our modern dam-builders
by Curt Burnette
Beaver are the largest rodents in Indiana, the largest rodents in the United States, and the second largest rodent in the world (South American capybara are the largest). But as large as they are now, they were even bigger in the past--or at least their relatives were. Around the end of the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, what is now Indiana and Illinois was home to the greatest concentration of giant beaver in North America. These cousins of the modern beaver were as big as black bears, up to 8 feet long and over 200 pounds! Unlike current beaver, their teeth were not chisel-shaped, so they would not have cut down trees and probably didn't make dams or lodges. They would have lived in the water, though, and eaten various types of aquatic vegetation much like muskrats do today.
The two species of modern beaver, our local North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver, are not descended from their giant cousin. Modern beaver were already around when the giants were alive, sometimes living in the same area, according to fossil evidence. But as the glaciers of the Ice Age retreated and the climate warmed up, the giant beaver went extinct and their smaller tree-chewing cousins flourished.
Beaver were common throughout Indiana and much of the United States and Canada when the two countries were being settled. Many historians believe beaver were more responsible for the exploration and development of our country than any other animal, because of the great value of an desire for beaver fur. The first white men to explore many portions of North America were trappers searching for beaver. The demand was so great that the population of beaver in many areas was greatly reduced, or even wiped out. Such was the case in Indiana. Beaver were completely trapped out of our state by the late 1880s or early 1890s. when all of a certain type of animal is gone from a defined area (like a state), it is said to have been extirpated. It is likely Gene Stratton-Porter never saw any beaver in the Limberlost during the time she lived in Geneva, from 1888-1913.
Beaver were re-introduced into Indiana in 1935 and have been successfully re-established throughout much of the state. They have returned to the Limberlost area. Beaver don't always build dams and lodges. They also commonly dig burrows into the banks or rivers and streams.
These "bank beavers" are not nearly as noticeable as the dam building ones. Often people don't realize they are around. If you hike along the Wabash River at the Rainbow Bend Park or Limberlost County Park you probably won't see a beaver, but if you look along the river's edge you might find beaver-gnawed branches. Or better yet, you might hear the slap of a beaver's tail as it dives underwater when it realizes you are nearby--a sound Mrs. Porter may never have experienced in her wanderings though the Limberlost.
Originally published in the Berne Witness November 2013
Beaver dam in the Loblolly Creek. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Beaver stick cache. Photo by Curt Burnette.
Beaver chewed tree.
October Birds of Limberlost
By Kimberley Roll
Kimberley Roll took this great photo of a Lincoln's Sparrow at the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve. It is a private bird and hard to photograph.
One of Limberlost and Loblolly's resident bald eagles. The Limberlost Conservation Area is known for its number of bald eagles. A bird that had been extirpated from Geneva in Gene Stratton-Porter's time.
Striking photo of a male cardinal. The cardinals were not that common in this area in Gene Stratton-Porter's time. Gene's first book was "Song of the Cardinal." It was a bird she loved seeing and was happy to know that they nested in Geneva.
The blue jay has been seen in good numbers this year around Limberlost.
The kingfisher. This is a bird that Gene was excited to photograph and its nest by the old gravel pit on the east side of Geneva. Gene would be pleased that the kingfishers are still seen in that same area.
A swamp sparrow. A bird well named as this is a bird seen around the Limberlost wetlands or "swamp."
We have had flocks of red-winged blackbirds migrating south. The female red-winged blackbird is commonly mistaken for a sparrow.
White-crowned sparrow is one of our winter residents. One of our native sparrows.
Song sparrow is one of our year round birds at Limberlost.
Thank you to Kimberley for sharing her birding adventures at Limberlost.
By Adrienne Provenzano, Friend of the Limberlost and NASA Solar System Ambassador
The Limberlost is much beloved by birdwatchers for the variety of species that visit this area. Some stay year-round and others migrate. It takes curiosity, time, effort, and patience to engage in this pastime.
Gene Stratton-Porter loved birds and while living in Indiana sometimes traveled to Michigan for fishing trips with her husband Charles and daughter Jeanette. While on one such trip, she found herself with time alone. With a heart for exploration and adventure, she rowed herself along a river to a lake where she was able to observe and photograph a heron. She was quite pleased with the results, especially catching the heron in the act of grabbing and swallowing a frog! She writes in Friends in Feathers: "There stood the Heron, a big fine fellow, the light striking to brilliancy the white of his throat, wet with dew from the rushes, the deep steel-blue of his back, and bringing out sharply the black on the flattened crest and the narrow line down the front of his throat." The story continues, "out darted the Heron's neck, clip went his shear-like beak, then pointed skyward, crest flat, the frog was tossed around and caught head-first-one snap, two, it was half-way down the gullet of the bird, whose beak was dawn in, crest flared and chin raised, before I recovered from my surprise enough to remember that I held the bulb in my hand and must squeeze it to secure the picture."
In September 2016, I wrote a blog for this website about a space mission to capture a sample of an ancient space rock and return that sample to Earth. The mission, called OSIRIS-REX, launched in September 2016 and successfully arrived at that asteroid, named Bennu, in December 2018. This coming Tuesday, October 20, 1t 6:12 p.m. EDT, the OSIRIS-REX spacecraft will stretch out a long robotic arm and, using a special tool at the end of it, collect a sample of up to 4.5 pounds of dust and rock from its surface. The sample will be put in a special container and returned to the desert of Utah in 2023, transported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and studied to learn more about our solar system!
Bennu is the ancient Egyptian name for a heron-like bird associated with Osiris, believed by ancient Egyptians to bring knowledge of agriculture and rule the underworld. The name was given to the asteroid because the robotic arm, combined with the extended solar panels which give the spacecraft power, make it look like a flying bird!
Keeping with the theme of birds for this mission, the collection site is called Nightingale. There were four sites considered: Nightingale, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Sandpiper. The back-up site is Osprey. All were birds that could be found along the Nile River in ancient Egypt. Gene Stratton-Porter often photographed birds along the Wabash and in the Limberlost marshes, among them Kingfishers and various birds of prey.
Tune in to NASA-TV at www.nasa.gov, beginning at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, and you can follow the capture of the sample! At 200 million miles away, it's much further than Gene's trip to the Michigan wilderness to study heron behavior, but the curiosity, time, effort, and patience involved are similar. Missions like OSIRIS-REX provide opportunities to develop and test technology, challenge scientists and engineers, and inspire students and educators and space enthusiasts around the world. Often, NASA missions lead to spinoff technologies we use in our everyday lives!
This is Gene Stratton-Porter's photograph of a great blue heron taken in Michigan. Today the great blue heron is a common sight at Limberlost.
The volunteers and staff of Limberlost