Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Progress on 2015's Nature Goals

Now that one-quarter of 2015 has almost passed, I wanted to check in on my nature goals that I set for myself.

1. Visit three new national wildlife refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

- Delta National National Wildlife Refuge in Venice, Louisiana.This NWR is near the very end of the Mississippi River.


The river is very wide at this point and has clearly picked up a lot of sediment along the way.


There is a bench and some informational placards to describe the significance of the area. This actual location did not have a lot of visible wildlife.


However, there's another nearby road that leads to the southeastern most point of Louisiana and that had significantly more birds and waterfowl that were visible from the road. I pulled over many times (as did others) to watch the wildlife - or, in the case of local people, do some fishing.

- Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe, Louisiana. This NWR spans a large amount of space and can best be seen by driving through it on a couple of paved roads. There is a small stop that has a wooden boardwalk/pathway that leads into the bayou.



The sounds of ducks and birds swimming in the water and hiding in the reeds is constant.


There was some vegetation that I had never seen before - like the tree pictured below with brown seed pods. The pods were dry and would rattle. I'm not sure what type of tree it is and could not find it on the internet.


Perhaps my favorite part of the walk was coming across this little tree frog that was nestled in a reed. The reed looked like bamboo, so I wanted to take a closer look. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked inside it and spotted this little green face looking back at me.


- Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge in Hollandale, Mississippi.This NWR wasn't on my list of places to see, yet it was on my way to Greenville, Mississippi where I was spending the night. I thought I'd take a brief detour to see it, and am happy that I did.


Although it was a bit early in the season, there was a monarch waystation at the NWR. It is an enclosed area with a few benches, trees, and variety of plants. The plants - or where they will be - are all marked with signs. There was a little area with water for the butterflies and other wildlife that visit the garden.


Along one of the roads, there was an area of slough. In the Little House books, Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions areas that were slough, but I had no point of reference since I had never slough before. Now, having visited Yazoo NWR, I know to what she was referring.


There is quite a diversity of landscape within the NWR. The picture above is right across from a wooded area pictured below.



2. Visit three new national historic parks in Louisiana, Mississippi, and/or Arkansas. ACCOMPLISHED!

I was able to see three historical parks, sites, or parkways while in Louisiana and Mississippi:

- Audubon State Historic Site in St. Francisville, Louisiana. This was on my must-see list and, thankfully, I arrived in time to go on a house tour and see the grounds.


The Oakley Plantation is where John James Audubon lived for four months. Yet, during that brief time he painted 32 of his bird pictures here.


The grounds had pathways that led through open and wooded areas.


There were old buildings where people were demonstrating what life was like back in the 1800s.


The displays showed items typical of that time period as well.


The main pathway leading from the interpretive center to house was once a carriage road.


Leading to and from the house, the paved road for cars goes under beautiful old trees.


- Natchez Trace Parkway in Natchez, Mississippi. I didn't take many pictures of the parkway since much of it looked like the photograph below. Although the entire parkway is 444 miles long, I was only on it for a small segment.


Nonetheless, it was a beautiful drive and I enjoyed the break from driving on the freeway.

According to the National Park Sevice, "The Natchez Trace Parkway forms an almost continuous greenway, or transect, from the southern Appalachian foothills of Tennessee to the loess soil bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.

"Over its length it crosses four ecosystem provinces, eight major watersheds, and twelve physiographic regions. Forest types range generally from oak-beech in the far south, to oak-pine mixes covering the vast middle section, to oak-hickory dominating in the north.

"Habitats represented within the park are diverse and include: streams, lakes, swamps, riparian woodlands, bottomland hardwood forests, upland hardwood forests, pine and mixed hardwood forests, prairie, fallow fields, and agricultural croplands."

If I ever have the chance, it would be interesting to drive the entire Natchez Trace Parkway.

- Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi.It was raining on the day I visited this park, but I still left the car at some spots and explored different historical points and monuments.



It is a 16-mile, self-guided car tour through the park which is quite large - much larger than I thought. The road passes by many monuments that are tributes to soldiers who fought and/or lost their lives in the battle at Vicksburg.


The land was rolling in parts and forested in others, with deep trenches in many parts.


There were beautiful, pink blossoms on trees. This picture below doesn't do justice to how vibrant the blossoms were against the dark tree bark.


I was surprised at how much diversity there was in the land in terms of hills and ravines. For some reason, I pictured battlefields more level. The images I always saw in textbooks were of flat battlefields - nothing like what is pictured below.


The visits to these historical parks provided a completely different and much more engaging view of American history. I'm so happy that I went to each one of them.

3. Visit six new state parks in Minnesota as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails (St. Croix, Afton, Fort Snelling, Minnesota Valley, Frontenac, and Forestville/Mystery Cave).

I have not done this yet.

4. Visit two new national wildlife refuges in Minnesota (Sherburne and Upper Mississippi) as a family, and take the dogs with us as we explore new trails.

I have not done this yet.

5. Identify and journal three new birds. IN PROGRESS

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw four birds that I have never seen before:

- Boat-tailed Grackle in Venice, Louisiana.


- Northern Mockingbird in Vicksburg, Mississippi.


- Black Vulture in between Vicksburg and Greenville, Mississippi. I didn't get a picture of this type of bird because I was driving. There were about a half dozen of the black vultures in the median.

I also saw a vulture on the side of the road driving from Vicksburg back to New Orleans. Since there were no cars behind me, I stopped on the side of the road. The vulture just looked at me - much like the bird pictured below - and didn't move from the carrion. It was not going to give up its meal.


- Double-crested Cormorant at Lake Chicot, Arkansas as well as in northeastern Louisiana.



I have photographed the birds, but not completed entries in my nature journal because I want to include pictures of them.

6. Identify and journal three new types of wildlife. IN PROGRESS.

On my trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas I saw three new types of wildlife that I have never seen before. I have photographed them and want to include pictures of some of them in my nature journal. So journaling will have to wait until I return to Minnesota.

- Nine-banded Armadillo in Greenville, Mississippi. (Unfortunately, the armadillo was road kill, but I was able to it up close.) Rather than show what I saw, I found a picture of a living armadillo.


- Brown Anole in St. Francisville, Mississippi.



- Eastern Carpenter Bee in St. Francisville, Mississippi. The bees that were visiting these flowers were huge - way beyond anything I have ever seen. They were focused on flying from flower to flower and didn't seem aggressive or bothered that I was so close to them. It gave me plenty of time to enjoy seeing a bee that does not live in Minnesota.



7. Take 12 hikes throughout the year. IN PROGRESS.

- Hiked briefly at Leroy Percy State Park on Saturday, March 21st. The rutted, muddy road that is pictured below was next to the sign for the state park.

As I drove for probably a good mile on it, sure the car would get stuck the mud, I turned around when I came to a gate to the right hand side indicating this road was not the road to the park, but rather would be the next road over.



No one was at the welcome gate or at the visitors center, so I drove around a bit to see if there were any trails. I didn't see any which is quite different from state parks in Minnesota.

I ended up driving to a section where there were cabins and parking at one where no one was staying. The cabins all were along this river that was clearly flooded.


The ground around the river was very saturated.


Many of the trees were submerged in a couple of feet of water. Since it was raining, I didn't spend too much time outside. It was, nonetheless, nice to get out of the car and walk around a bit.

- Took an extraordinarily brief walk through Winterville Mounds State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. Due to the torrential rain and super-saturated grounds, it was not conducive to a pleasurable hike. Yet, I wanted to go to this park because of its historical significance.


The mounds were build by prehistoric Native Americans and the mounds range in height from between 1-2 stories tall.


There were no large animals used for work at the time, so the mounds were all built by hand. The Native Americans took buckets of soil, brought them to the mound, stomped it down, and then repeated the process. 

- Hiked at Lake Chicot State Park on Sunday, March 22nd. The lake is 22 miles long and 1 mile wide. Is is shaped almost like a crescent moon or the letter "c."


The trail that they had at this state park was partially submerged in areas due to all the rain that this area of the state has been receiving.


Eventually, I came to a path that someone made using logs. The first and middle parts were rather secure in the mud. However, the last few logs still had some movement in them, thus the intention of keeping one's shoes dry did not work.


Despite the water-logged path, it was well worth the time spent. All around were countless birds singing - many of which I had never heard before. Periodically, the red-winged blackbird would chime in - a familiar - and welcomed sound in the spring in Minnesota!

8. Visit 6 nature centers at the state parks and wildlife refuges. IN PROGRESS.

None of the wildlife refuges that I visited in Louisiana and Mississippi had nature centers. Rather, they had outdoors displays with information about wildlife typical to the area.

Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas had a nature center that I visited and learned quite a bit at about the largest lake in Arkansas, some of the wildlife in the area, and the historical significance of the area.

Saw an alligator, though it made me sad that it was in such a small aquarium.


There was a display on the wall with different patches of fur. You could touch the fur and then try to figure out which animal it belonged to using the images on the wall to help.


There was information a bout the Mississippi Flyway - something that the 4-H Wildlife Project Bowl team I am coaching has been learning about over the past few months.


9. Post a nature photo each week based on the Nature Photo of the Week Prompt List. IN PROGRESS.

I wrote about the first 12 weeks of the challenge HERE.

10. Do nature studies at least three out of four weeks of each month (36 entries) both online and in my journal.

Not doing so well on this goal.

11. Try 2 new outdoor sports.

I will be waiting until warmer weather to try some sports.

12. Have 6 picnics when the weather is pleasant and we aren't battling with mosquitoes.

Still waiting for consistently warm weather.

13. Go camping twice during the year at new state parks.

In a few months it will be warm enough to go camping.

14. Learn 3 new outdoor skills and/or hobbies.

Nothing new learned here yet. I'm waiting for late-spring and summer to work on this goal.

15. Attend 4 workshops, classes, or activities at state parks.

Programming for the spring and summer has been posted, and I have classes and activities on my calendar now including nordic walking, outdoor cooking, and archery.

2 comments:

Rita said...

Wow! You've done a lot already. Thanks for taking me along. ;)

Padmajha PJ said...

Enjoyed reading your post and love the lineup of activities.Nice pics too. Wish I could do something like this. Maybe next year..And all the best for your upcoming classes/activities and programs :)