The NKU Bio-Alumni Birds & Blooms Hike Returns

Saturday, April 16, 10:00 am

After being scotched by COVID restrictions in 2021 and being rained/snowed/sleeted out last Saturday, intrepid alumni of Northern Kentucky University's Biology Department and various NKU faculty met at Boone County's spectcular Middle Creek Park to see what we could see. We joked that it should be Birds, Blooms, & Boulders this year, since we had someone with geology background (Dr. Cooper-- former NKU student & current NKU faculty) join our normal compliment of botanist and ornithologist.

Finding a site that has both good bird-watching potential and diverse wildflowers to admire can be tricky, as birding opportunities peak here in May and the birds are easiest to see in open areas, while the wildflower show peaks in late April and is best under huge trees. Nonetheless, we pulled it off today.

Dr. Walters, our bird expert, had a list of over 30 species of birds encountered by the time we finished our 2 hour amble out along Middle Creek. We heard more than we saw, as we were under a canopy of giant sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and poplars (Populus deltoides). The trees were alive with birdsong and woodpeckers drumming, everyone busily defending their territories. We heard Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warblers, Eastern Towhees, Redwing Blackbirds, and several distant hawk cries. We got a lovely closeup view of a male Northern Parula, saw a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes and a kingfisher along the creek, spotted an American Kestrel drifting down to land in a treetop, and got a good look at a magnificent Pileated Woodpecker as it zipped over a clearing on its way to more large trees. We even startled up an astoundingly huge Great Blue Heron when we strayed too close to the creek.

Cute Northern Parula
A Red-eyed Male Towhee

We've had a cool spring, and the wildflowers weren't at their peak yet, but there was still color everywhere. The Blue Eyed Marys (Collinsia verna) were just beginning to tint the forest floor with sky blue. We spotted one white-flowered individual among all the blue and white bicolors. Both species of native Dicentra were in profuse bloom-- Dutchman's Breeches (D. culcullaria) and Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis) -- and they were joined by their pretty little yellow-flowered relative, the Pale Corydalis (C. flavula). The reddish-flowered toadshades (a sessile Trillium) were abundant, as was Mayapple (Podophyllum) and white-splashed waterleaf (Hydrophyllum) foliage. We saw blooming Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Paw-paw (Asimina triloba) branches covered in knobby brown bloom buds. The Woodland Phlox (P. divaricara) provided splashes of blue, lavender, and pinkish, and at least three species of violets (Viola spp.) added white, yellow, and purple punctuation. There were even a few Virginia Bluebells (Meternsia virginica), and of course plenty of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica).

Lovely Woodland Phlox
Virginia Bluebells Just Starting
Squirrel Corn Showing Off

The temperatures were cool but very pleasant, but combined with a mostly gray morning, they kept the insect activity muted. We saw a rusty orange butterfly (perhaps a Questionmark) and a little Spring Azure. We saw a fuzzy big bumblebee checking out some violets, and a tiny bee visiting chickweed flowers. Along the creek, there was one large dragonfly zipping around and one mayfly fluttering by.

On the banks of the creek, we admired 400+ million-year-old bryzoan fossils, rounded quartz pebbles and other smoothed rocks dropped off by glaciers, and what was perhaps a fossilized chunk of deer skull (coffee brown with age). In rocky stretches, you could see interesting little caddisfly larvae stuck to the flat stones, including some that made amazing little spiral shells that could pass for snails. The water was a little too cloudy today to easily spot darters, but I'm sure they were out there.

Strange Spiral Caddisflies

Overall, a great hike, and fun organisms to suit everyone's fancies.

Even Fungi

Publicado por m_whitson m_whitson, 17 de abril de 2022

Observaciones

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Chipe Pecho Manchado (Setophaga americana)

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 12:25 PM EDT

Descripción

Male Northern Parula foraging for insects in a blooming boxelder (Acer negundo) tree along Middle Creek. Over our 2-hour hike, we heard these singing from high in the treetops, but this was the only one that came down low enough for us to see well. Handsome little guy.

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Toquí­ Pinto (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 12:39 PM EDT

Descripción

Male Eastern Towhee defending his territory from a boxelder branch (Acer negundo) at the edge of the graveled parking lot at Middle Creek Park. We also saw a couple of these in the woods along Middle Creek, as we walked back up the hill to the parking area. His red eyes are impressive.

Fotos / Sonidos

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 11:29 AM EDT

Descripción

The moss-covered trunks of several huge sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) were hunting grounds for 4 mm long, red velvet mites. This one was patrolling the trunk of a particularly huge tree right on the bank of Middle Creek, along with 5 or 6 more of its kin.

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Gallinazo de Cabeza Negra (Coragyps atratus)

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 12:24 PM EDT

Descripción

There must have been lots of good thermals around Middle Creek Park today, because we saw many a vulture circling overhead as we hiked. This one was on its own and taking a break on a big tree branch right along the bank of Middle Creek.

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Acacia de Tres Espinas (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 12:18 PM EDT

Descripción

Honey Locusts are one of the relatively common and very easy to recognize trees in the woods along Middle Creek. The amazingly thorny trunks are hard to miss. I was amused to see that at least someone properly appreciated the thorns. This tree would have been doubly protected during the growing season, as who wants to take on thorns and wasps? I'll pass.

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Mirlo Primavera (Turdus migratorius)

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 16, 2022 11:56 AM EDT

Descripción

This beautiful blue egg (robin?) was laying on a fallen tree trunk along the creekside trail at Middle Creek Park. Recent high winds could have knocked it from the nest, but vague scrapes that looked like peck marks made us wonder if a baby cowbird had been involved...

Fotos / Sonidos

Observ.

m_whitson

Fecha

Abril 15, 2022 11:37 AM EDT

Descripción

Mosses may be a bit more subtle than the colorful spring wildflowers, but it was hard not to admire this lush display of sporophytes. This little patch of moss was growing on a rotting log right along the banks of Middle Creek. (Sadly, you can also see Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) seedlings emerging in the background).

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