Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ribbon Cutting for the New Trail!

Wednesday, October 27th was the date for our official ribbon cutting for the new 2.7 mile paved bike trail at Southeastway Park. Quite a few folks were out to enjoy the fall weather and witness the ceremony.

Mayor Ballard gave a brief speech. He thanked the Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails Program for providing nearly $130,000 to make this trail possible. “With this funding, Indy Parks created a sustainable resource for Indianapolis residents and visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

Indy Parks Director, Stuart Lowery, spoke highly of our park. “Southeastway Park offers a wonderful palette of outdoor spaces, shelters, ponds, prairies, and a unique center for programs,” said Director Lowry. “This trail will serve as a magnificent connection for those amenities while fostering an updated path for health and fitness, and we hope everyone finds time to celebrate and embrace this fully updated trail for years to come.”
Many of the Southeastway Park Advisory Council were present at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Our council President, Norm Laufer, is in the foreground. Norm volunteers many, many hours of time helping us with projects and events. Thank you, Norm, for all you do!

Another photo showing many of our advisory council members. Ted Roberts is in the hat and plaid shirt and Chris Martini, park manager, is in the brown jacket. On the bench, left to right, is Linda Schoppel, Harriet Roberts and Sue Carter chatting with Mayor Ballard. Russell Dove is in the red sweatshirt. The advisory council helps with fund-raising, events and volunteer projects. We greatly appreciate all their help!

The official ribbon cutting!
Come on out and visit our new trail! You are welcome to bike, run, skate or walk the eight foot wide trail which has two large loops, one that is almost two miles in length. Such a nice way to spend a lovely autumn day!

All photos provided by Jennifer Burrough, Marketing Coordinator for Indy Parks. Thanks, Jenny!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet would have been quite unhappy to encounter this...

While sweeping the front step for the mayor's big visit (more to come on this), I uncovered this little, er, big lady, hiding in the leaves. She was almost as big as my house key, when I measured her with it. I called Chris over to admire her. He promptly quipped "Better get out your gun... " There is a funny story behind this, which I will tell in a bit.

This is a Wolf Spider and I am pretty sure it is Hogna helluo, but I might be wrong. There are a lot of things that can be tricky with the identification of spiders. Anyway, the photos I have found match up pretty well. If any of my spider buddies think it might be another species, I welcome your comments. The scientific epithet helluo means "devourer".

Wolf Spiders, in the family Lycosidae, have three rows of eyes. There are 8 total, four smaller ones on the bottom row, two larger ones in the middle and two more on top. This allows the spider to see various angles in order to snatch its prey. Most Wolf spiders do not make a web, but rely on the element of surprise and a burst of speed to catch their prey. (Funnel Web Wolf Spiders , that live in the South, do make webs. ) Wolf Spiders do make silk for constructing their egg case and for laying a drag line for safety. The female Wolf Spider will carry her egg sac behind her, attached to her abdomen. She raises her abdomen off the ground while she is carrying the sac. Once the spiderlings have hatched they will ride on her back for some time.

You can see the eye pattern quite easily in this photo.

And now for the funny story... Chris and I had to attend a benefits meeting at the county jail. No, we didn't get put away ;) While there, a big commotion happened in the corner. People were jumping up and making all kinds of noise and jestures. What was the culprit? A tiny, itty-bitty yellow crab spider, not much bigger than a quarter inch. Some guy whacked it, it jumped off the wall and started to run along the base board and then another one squished it. Chris asked me what was going on. His response, "All these guys are carrying guns and they are afraid of a spider?" I giggled for about two minutes, visioning them drawing out their guns and aiming at the poor spider.

So, when I realized the mayor would be accompanied by armed body guards, I shooed Miss Spider under the building, out of harms way. I wouldn't want her to get shot. ;)


Monday, October 25, 2010

Yellow Witches and Spiders

Over the weekend, we spotted a Marbled Orbweaver spider, Araneus marmoreus. It was a rich orangish-yellow color with long red and white legs. Its common name comes from the marbled pattern on its abdomen. Some believe this pattern looks like a face.

I personally think it looks like a tap dancing caterpillar. But I might have a bit of an active imagination. If you look closely, you can see its top hat and three sets of legs.

Marbled Orbweavers may look big and scary, but they are actually very docile and gentle. I picked this one up a few times to position her for photos.

We also found yellow spider-like objects hanging off the limbs of a nearby tree. These are the flowers of Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana. Yes, believe it or not, Witch Hazel blooms this time of year.

Above is a closeup of the flowers. The long petals give the flower an interesting look. The common name "witch hazel" has a strange origin. The "hazel" part is from the leaves which look similar to those of Hazelnut, Corylus americana. The "witch" part comes from the tree's use in divining rods to find ground water. Some believed divining rods were part of witch craft. Believers took a forked twig from the Witch Hazel and walked slowly around the area where they believed the ground water might be. The twig would dip when it was near the source of water. Some totally believe this to be true and others believe it is a complete hoax. Some even practice it to this very day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nature's Adaptations

On Wednesday, we had a round robin for the third graders of Acton Elementary. Great bunch of kiddos! Chris did a program on food webs, Miranda covered habitats and I did a program on nature's adaptations.

One of the topics I covered was camouflage. This topic always fascinates me! How an animal can blend so perfectly with its environment utterly blows me away. They don't have mirrors, so how do they know what they look like? A frog can't possibly see its back, so how does it know it matches the mud seamlessly?

When shooting the photos of the handsome Leopard Frog, I stumbled upon this Blanchard's Cricket Frog. Blanchard's Cricket Frog, Acris crepitans blanchardi, is a sub-species of the Northern Cricket Frog which is a Species of Special Concern for Indiana. (Also, very pleased we have lots of these around.) The frog caught my eye when it hopped. It was so cryptic it took me a while to locate it. Can you see it below? It is right in the center of the photo. In the above photo, look for the dark indentation and go down a little and to the left.

Below is another pair of photos I used for my program. These wonderful photos are from John Howard. John thought this was a dead leaf at first, until he saw it move! The caterpillar, a Rose Hooktip, Oreta rosea, is on the right side of the dead leaf.

Below is a shot of the caterpillar on a green leaf so you can see all of its parts. The "tail" is what intrigues me the most. It looks just like the petiole, or stem, of a dead leaf! The adult moth also mimic dead leaves having a yellow and brown coloration to its wings.

Thanks, John, for sharing your amazing caterpillar photos. The students and teachers really enjoyed them!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Leopard Frog

Today I spent a little time at our pond prepping for tomorrow's class. While there, I noticed a Northern Leopard Frog, Rana pipiens, floating in the water near the bank.

After admiring the frog for a few minutes, I used my net to gently scoop it out of the pond for a closer look.

The Northern Leopard Frog is a Species of Special Concern for Indiana. This means it requires special monitoring since its numbers may be in decline. I was quite pleased to find three using our man-made pond. We have provided a much needed habitat for this frog. The Northern Leopard Frog is also an indicator species. Its lack of abundance, in a habitat where it is normally found, can indicate there is something wrong with the health of the environment. It can give biologists a heads up that there may be pollution or another environmental problem that could affect human health, too. For this reason, I was also pleased to see the frog and happy I had fought to not allow pesticides or herbicides to be sprayed in the pond for "routine maintenance." Sorry to those I snarled at, but I don't like my frogs to be belly up.

Such a handsome frog with the lime green background and scattered dark brown spots. I would even kiss this one! :) After a few minutes of posing for pictures, it bounded into the pond and tucked into the vegetation becoming completely camouflaged.StumbleUpon

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hayrides at Southeastway Park

'Tis hayride season here at Southeastway. Many, many families were out enjoying the fantastic fall weather. The crisp air, the cool autumnal breeze, the fresh scent of fallen leaves all come together to create an unforgetable experience.
A group of girl scouts were out enjoying a hayride this evening.
We still have opening for our weekend group hayrides. Please call our park office at (317) 861-5167 for more information.