North to the lakes; Wabash Valley wildlife

The Spring Lake Woods and Bog Nature Preserve offered a peak into the Natural Bloomington future last week. A half dozen sites in the Central Till Plain Natural Region remain unexplored before the Northern Lakes Natural Region phase begins. But Spring Lake is the first of 37 natural lake areas on the itinerary.

The Spring Lake preserve protects a thousand shoreline feet on Lake Everett – Allen County’s only natural lake – and was one of the 16 natural areas I hiked and photographed for the Northern Indiana guidebook last week. The others followed the Wabash River and its watershed from Peru to Fort Wayne.

And while the range of images captured were as diverse as the places explored – a dozen Dedicated State Nature Preserves, three State Lakes, and two State Parks – this adventure stands out for the critters that presented themselves along the way.

The journey began at Mississenewa Lake – Seven Pillars, and included Asherwood Nature Preserve, Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run, Salamonie Lake, Kokiwanee Nature Preserve, Hanging Rock and Wabash Reef, a National Natural Landmark, and Dygert Nature Preserve. All but the lakes are owned and managed by ACRES Land Trust, as are seven of the other sites whose Photo Albums I’ve yet to process.

Indeed, the first image I captured was a white-tailed deer at Mississinewa Lake, where the bridge between me and the lake office was impassable due to high water. The first trail I hiked didn’t lead to the lake, as maps indicated. The hooved beauty watched from a road block as I got reoriented and allowed me two quick shots before flashing into the woods.

Moments after a massive turtle slid off his log into a mossy Dygert pond as I changed lenses, I heard a ruckus and caught a groundhog scratching his way up a tree. I didn’t realize woodchucks climb trees, nor that he would pose until I left. At Salamonie Lake, where I camped, red-winged blackbirds and other pond-side birds harassed and harangued me but again held tight while I pointed my Nikon at them.

An unusually lit red-tailed hawk at an aviary at Asherwood was the first creature in confinement I encountered. At Ouabache State Park, I walked a few feet from and chatted up an American bison in a 20-acre enclosure. (Later in the summer I will photograph the first herd to run wild in Indiana in two centuries at The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands.)

Other sites included J.E. Roush Fish & Wildlife Area, Acres Along the Wabash Nature Preserve, Hammer Nature Preserve, Baltzell-Lenhart Woods Nature Preserve, Fogwell Forest Nature Preserve, Bicentennial Woods, Mengerson Nature Preserve, and the Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve.

Other images focused on flooded roads, wildflowers, lakescapes, rare and dramatic rock formations, wildflowers, waterfalls and riffles, sunsets, old-growth forest, trails, grasses, ferns, blufftop views, spiritual light, butterflies, ponds and creeks.

And, of course, a natural lake. More of those in the near future.


Photographs: Top, Groundhog, Dygert Nature Preserve; Middle, Red-winged blackbird, Salamonie Lake; Bottom, Lake Everett, Spring Lake Woods and Bog Nature Preserve.


 

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