Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beautiful Sunday Hike!

Mom decided to go hiking today because it was another beautiful day. The sun was shining and it was in the 80's, a little unusual for mid October, but mom loves it.

Everyone knows that mom loves birds and that she loves to go birding. She used to bird all the time, but she hasn't done much birding this year. One of mom's favorite birds is the sandhill crane. She tells me that there is just something so majestic about these birds. I have never seen one in person, but I like what I see in pictures.

One of the best places close to our house to see sandhill cranes is the McHenry Dam, which is part of Moraine Hills State Park. The 2-mile trail is crushed limestone, and twists and turns past wetlands and marshes. Mom and dad took me there a few years ago, but I couldn't make it around the whole trail, so they carried me for most of it. I have not been invited back ever since. Mom could have taken me there in my buggy, but she decided to walk instead of ride, so I was left at home to nap.

The first part of the trail is next to a long marsh area where painted turtles love to bask on logs. Mom saw at least 25 turtles sunning themselves in the bright fall sunlight. This guy was alone on a log, but his friends were close by, all bunched up on another log.

There were a dozen sandhill cranes that were best viewed by one of the levees. Mom gets so excited when she sees these guys. They were too far away to photograph (at least with mom's camera), so she moved on.

Mom had her ears peeled to the trees listening for birds. She is not really good at identifying birds by sound, but she tries. She also scanned the treetops and the trails for flitting birds. She told me that this tree was "very birdy" which means there were lots of birds in it. She saw a bluebird, yellow rumped warbler, and an unidentified bird (maybe a flycatcher) in this tree.

Mom told me that there were lots of caterpillars on the trails last fall and just as she was thinking about them today, she looked down and saw this little guy.

This is a Woolly Bear caterpillar. These guys are often seen in the fall when they are looking for a sheltered spot (under a rock, fallen log, etc.) to hibernate. They eat different kinds of leaves. They turn different colors as they age, and as they get older and closer to the pupa stage, they become completely orange. The woolly bear caterpillar will become the Isabella Tiger moth.

Mom told me that the hike energized her. She loves the outdoors and all that it has to offer. Maybe I can convince her to take me hiking before the snow arrives and we hibernate.

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