So long from the 2010 State Fair

August 23, 2010 by

Thank you to all of our readers out there. It was another great state fair and I hope you had as much fun as we did.

If you are looking to have more fun before the weather turns cold, stop by the Hoosier Outdoor Experience on Sept. 18 and 19 at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

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Touring the history of the fair

August 23, 2010 by

Built in 1931, the grandstands have seen a lot of good entertainment over the years.

DNR’s division of historic preservation and archaeology takes patrons on a tour of the historic buildings and structures of the state fair.

Not historical at all, but still fun to look at.

Taking the fair trolly around the grounds, I went along for the ride as the tour guide spits out nuggets of information every time we pass  a building. Including a couple of knee-slappers. How did the pig get to the hospital, by hambulance.

Included on the tour was our own DNR building. In the last few years the addition of the amphitheater and Fishin’ Pond have been fantastic for expanding the experience of everyone that comes stops in.
– Don

Out for a Swim

August 22, 2010 by

Nellie waiting patiently before the chase is on.

I have never seen as many people line the Fishin’ Pond as I did for the water dogs demonstration. Jarrett Manek, the naturalist at O’bannon Woods State Park brought along three of his canine friends. Boo, an Australian shepherd; Chelsea, an American water spaniel; and Nellie, a yellow lab.

Chelsea swimming with the popular duck decoy in her mouth.

There was nothing fancy about the demonstration, basically Jarrett would toss an object, usually a duck decoy and one at time the dogs would make their way into the water track down the object and bring it back to Jarrett. Boo and Chelsea are a bit older and therefore are a bit slower in their chase after the duck. But, Nellie on the other hand is a youngster and has a lot more energy to track down the decoy. In fact, after the demonstration was over, Jarrett continued to toss the duck into the water for Nellie to fetch.
– Don

Boo shaking hands with the faceless Jarrett Manek.

Busting a Few Myths…and Thinking About a Dirty Job

August 20, 2010 by

To start, I’d like to replay a recent quibble that I had with my fiance…SCENE!

Fiance: “You are not going to have a bat farm.”
Me: “I don’t want a bat farm. I want to rehab them.”
Fiance: “You aren’t going to rehab bats. You can’t even give them the right habitat: they live in caves.”
Me: “Not all species of bats live in caves. Many live in trees. And besides, if we don’t take care of our bats, there may not be any left in the US in 20 years.”

A common bat, the Indiana Bat.

Oh yes. That conversation really happened. But let’s back up a bit. I want to rehab bats. Ever since I saw an episode of “Dirty Jobs” 3 years ago, I’ve wanted to rehab them. They get such a bum rap. Not all are ugly (although some don’t exactly win the cute contest), they do not drink our blood (but there is a species of bat called the vampire bat, but more on him in a moment), they don’t ALL carry rabies, and they don’t fly in our hair. These are actually incredibly beneficial little mammals (yes, MAMMALS) that deserve our respect and our protection. So many evil myths surround the little guys that I wasn’t at all surprised to hear them spouted off during the “Indiana Bats: Myths and Reality” at the State Fair.

The largest Indiana bat, the Big Brown bat.

Myth #1: Bats fly in your hair.
Okay, let me clear this one up…they don’t fly in your hair. Bats have a wonderful adaptation called echolocation. This means that they send out high-frequency sound waves, which bounce off of whatever is in front of them, helping them get a mental picture of what’s going on. Say you use a wonderful-smelling shampoo or perfume and go outside at dusk. You end up surrounded by pesky insects, don’t you? You smell good to them! A  little bat looking for his dinner locks on to that bug buzzing in your ear. You see his little silhouette coming at you, unaware that he is trying to rid you of your insect annoyance. You try to jump out of the way, but instead jump right into the bat’s flight path. And he ends up in your hair. Guess what? You’re at fault for this collision. He would have never touched you had you held still. He knew exactly where you were and exactly where that bug was. But because you freaked, you changed his flight path and he wasn’t able to abort the mission in time. So there you go. Bats don’t get in your hair. You get in their flight path.

Indiana's smallest bat, the Pipistrelle Bat.

Myth #2: Bats drink your blood.
Once again…negative. There are some 950 species of bats in the world,  only 3 actually feed on blood, and all 3 are found in Latin America. There are no bat species in the United States that feed on the blood of other animals. The bat species in the US feed on insects, fruits, and flowers. They do not see us a food source. Ever. And to clear this up even further, those 3 species do not feed on human blood. They often feed on larger mammals, such as cows and other livestock. And they certainly do not drain these animals dry. In fact, most of the time the animals don’t even notice what’s going on.

Myth #3: All bats are rabid.
Wrong again. In fact, only 0.5% of bats are found to carry rabies. That’s one-half of a percent! Your dog is more likely to carry the disease, as dogs account for 99% of all rabies cases. Even if a bat did have rabies, it’s unlikely that it’d survive longer than 48 hours with the disease, as it takes its toll quickly on the minuscule mammals.

So now that I’ve cleared up the more common, completely untrue myths about bats, let’s hear some reality about them:

Did you know that for every 1 acre of cornfield (just as an example), a colony as small as 10 individuals can eat over 1 billion bugs in a season? 1 BILLION BUGS!
Did you know
that not all bat species live in caves? Some bat colonies are tree-dwellers, and some will even establish themselves in man-made bat houses.
Did you kn
ow that fruit-eating bats account for 98% of all rainforest regrowth?

Another common bat, the Red Bat.

But through all the good, the bats in the US are in big trouble. Bat colonies along the east coast are being infected by a fungus dubbed “White Nose Disease”. The fungus itself doesn’t kill the bats, but it wakes them up out of their hibernation, causing them to starve to death because of a lack of available food sources in the winter. It’s currently mainly affecting cave-dwelling species, as the fungus is hitchhiking on human spelunkers and being transferred from cave to cave. Indiana (among other states) took a very proactive approach and closed down the state’s caves, but that certainly doesn’t prevent a colony from leaving and moving to a different cave, thus contracting the fungus. The fungus is so aggressive and becoming so widespread that, if we do not get it under control, the ENTIRE bat population in the United States could be gone in 20 years.

To find out more on how you can help bats, visit Bat World Sanctuary at http://www.batworld.org.

-Jess

Duck, Duck, Goose

August 19, 2010 by

Steve Knowles with a puddle duck decoy.

Steve Knowles from Falls of the Ohio State Park stopped by the DNR amphitheatre to talk about waterfowl in Indiana. He is the naturalist at the southern Indiana park. Steve brought along with him the three common kind of waterfowl found here in Indiana, diving ducks, puddle ducks and of course Canada goose.

Decoys of puddle duck, diving duck and Canada goose

Steve brought along his duck calls with him. He told the story about going out with his son and Steve was using the duck calls to attract them and his son started yelling his way, that his calls were scaring away the ducks. I thought the calls were pretty good. I’m surprised a duck didn’t dive bomb Steve during the presentation.
– Don

Fishin’ for a good time

August 17, 2010 by

Kids learn about fishing before getting their chance.

Every single day at the state fair kids between the ages 5-17 have a chance to take their fishing skills to the DNR Fishin’ Pond.

Attempting to hook the record breaker

Before the kids get their chance though, they are taught the basics of fishing. The DNR Fishin’ Pond is designed to hook kids on fishing. It is an easy way to introduce fishing to the youngsters.

Swimming around in the fishing pond are two different types of fish, catfish and bluegill. Whenever the kids catch one their faces light up with a big ole smile.

It may not be the largest in the pond, but it's still special.

The Fishin’ Pond is open everyday between 4-7 p.m.
– Don

Got Geese?

August 17, 2010 by

Winks informs fairgoers about the Canada goose and urban control options like the egg oiling method.

Whether they are loved or hated, most Hoosiers are familiar with the Canada goose (Branta Canadensis) a bird that was once rare in Indiana, but is now plentiful. Some people enjoy the sight of the birds, while others are annoyed with the flocks that wonder the golf course leaving “surprises” for the bottom of a hole three visitor’s shoe. Golf courses and lake areas foster the perfect habitat for these geese with short fresh grass for them to graze on and a body of water, you’re likely to be sharing your day off at the golf course with their paradise home. But beyond their annoyance to golfers, boaters and picnickers, a concentration of too many geese in one area can cause harm to the landscape. Once geese start nesting in an area expect them back year after year.

With female’s laying one egg every day and a half rendering about five eggs, many goslings can be born in a flock. After they are born they do not fly for 70 days, with this, the landscape can be trampled and easily destroyed. 

So, you can’t hunt in city limits, then how is the population controlled? Shannon Winks a DNR Urban Wildlife Biologist explained on the front porch of the DNR building that permits can be obtained at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/ to either trap and relocate the geese or to take part in egg and nest destruction.  

But not so fast, this is a personal landowner decision whether the geese are an anoyance or not and there are certain ways to go about properly performing population control for your safety. 

For more information on this topic visit the DNR website at www.dnr.IN.gov

-Krista

The Main Attraction-Attracting Birds to Your Backyard

August 16, 2010 by

People flocked to the DNR Amphitheater on Thursday to learn how to attract everything from a Chipping Sparrow to a Goldfinch to their backyard. Brian Cunningham from Wild Birds Unlimited a nature shop that strives to “bring people and nature together” offered tips on what types of feeders to use along with giving the crowd insight into certain bird’s habits.

To build an ideal habitat Cunningham suggests four main components to satisfy the bird’s needs which include food, water, shelter and a nesting place. Feeders can come in many different forms and Wild Birds Unlimited seems to have them all from the versatile Dinner Bell™ feeder to the EcoTough™ Tail Prop Suet Feeder. The Dinner Bell™ feeder, which seems to be the most practical and versatile, is a clear plastic feeder with a tray that can be used to put any type of feed in like seed, fruit or worms. Above the tray is an adjustable plastic cover suspended by a metal rod in the middle. The rod can hold seed and suet stackables while the top plastic shield provides protection for the bird.

Since birds feed in different ways, it is always a good idea to investigate what types of birds are in your area and buy a feeder to attract those birds. For example, some birds are ground feeders while others like to eat from a perch. Buying a feeder that allows some seeds to drop to the ground can attract a variety of birds. Since over 90% of a bird’s feather is made up of protein, birds usually look for heavy seeds with high oil content, keeping the food fresh is ideal. When a habitat is first started it may take the birds anywhere from a few days to a month to find the feeder, filling it with only a little feed at first can help keep the food fresh.

Brian Cunningham from Wild Birds Unlimited explains the habitat of a Goldfinch.

Goldfinch, unlike many birds are vegetarian, therefore they nest later in the year when berries are more plentiful to feed their young. A spurt of these birds can be seen at feeders in the late summer months as they gather protein for their young.

Since hummingbirds drink nectar special feeders are designed to hold the nectar. Hummingbirds learn that red flowers produce the most nectar therefore they are drawn to red feeders. Cunningham explained that buying a red feeder can be healthier for the bird rather than using red dye which could potentially harm the bird. Sugar water is commonly used as the nectar. Many times people boil the sugar water to prolong its life, but hummingbirds prefer straight sugar water with four parts water and one part sugar. To keep ants out of the sugar water, an ant moat is installed into many hummingbird feeders that traps the ants and keeps them from reaching the sugar. Cunningham explained a sly trick to keep the bees away. Simply move the feeder about a foot away. Since bees send out a scout bee to find a food source and then tell the other bees the exact coordinate of that source, the bees will go to the old location of the feeder until they discover the new location.

While attracting birds, other unwanted animals can also be attracted to the feeders. Raccoon and squirrel baffles can be bought through Wild Birds Unlimited to keep them from climbing the poles of hanging feeders. Cages can be bought for feeders as well.

For an online bird guide or to buy Wild Bird Unlimited products visit www.wbu.com.

-Krista

“Fish with a Fireman” and a Visit from the First Lady of Indiana

August 14, 2010 by

The bluegill and channel cats at the DNR fishing pond had some pretty special visitors today. Not only were they greeted with beemoth and worm snacks from the young’uns, but they also received visits from firefighters and the First Lady of Indiana, Cheri Daniels. Oh, how envious I am! What a great day to be a fish!

“Fish with a Firefighter” day was a wonderful success. The fish were biting and, despite the heat, the kids relished the experience. Many of them even caught their first fish ever today! The First Lady didn’t miss out on her angler-opportunity either. She caught her 3-fish limit as well and enjoyed her experience at the lovely little DNR Fishing Pond. In all, it was a great day at the DNR building, with many more great days and even more wonderful experiences to come!

All sorts of animals at the fair

August 14, 2010 by

Naturalist Leslie Grow holding a five-year-old bald eagle.

The bald eagle always seems to draw a crowd and today was no different. Leslie Grow, interpretive naturalist, brought along the Raptors from the rehabilitation hospital at Hardy Lake.  All of the birds at the rehab hospital are there because they have disabilities preventing them flying. Unlucky for them, but lucky for the state fair patrons who the chance to see these wild and exotic birds up close.

Raptors by the way are not dinosaurs that escaped from Jurassic Park. They are actually birds that eat mice and snakes and other living creatures. They have excellent hearing and eyesight. When they spot a mouse they swoop down silently and use their incredibly strong talons to pick up their dinner.

Birds weren’t the only animal at the DNR building, Abby the police dog was also on hand. Abby is the partner of Conservation Officer John Fennig. There are eight canine conservation officers throughout the state, four in the north and four in the southern part of the state.

Abby engaged in public relations with a few kids. Notice the badge hanging around her neck.

The dogs have great sniffers and are used to find not only bad guys but also they are used in the field to find evidence left behind by the bad guys.

Abby and her partner John live together. John’s wife though isn’t crazy about all the sheding Abby does, so Abby gets to live in the backyard. Being only four years-old Abby still has a long career ahead of herself, but when the time comes for her to hang up the badge and start collecting her doggy social security, John and his family will still look after Abby. In fact some retired dogs have been adopted by dog-friendly families .
– Don

Seeing Red-the Red Tailed Hawk that is

August 11, 2010 by

Many angry farmers may be familiar with calling this bird the chicken hawk, because it was thought they would swoop down to steal the chickens. However, an interpretive naturalist from Patoka Lake explained about Indiana’s most populous bird of prey as it clung onto her arm. These birds usually only choose dinner that is half of their weight and under, this usually ends up being mice, small rabbits and snakes. Although this particular red tailed hawk only weighs about three pounds, it can apply between 200-300 pounds of pressure by gripping prey with its talons.  Although thier threatening appearance and striking eyes may make them seem like unloving birds, red tailed hawks, unlike many birds, are loyal to their mates as  they often hunt together to provide for the family.

This particular red tailed hawk was taken in after it was hit by a car in Anderson, IN and injured its wing. This four year old female gets fed about four to five frozen mice a day (which come from a local distributer that supplies feed to places like zoos and pet stores). As the naturalist talked the hawk’s mouth remained open and she stretched her beak like she was gasping for air or panting. Even though it was hot out, she was not panting, but actually regurgitating the unprocessed bones of the last mice she ate. Although it never happened during the presentation, when the “left-overs” work their way up her throat she spits up a pellet of bones and fur.

If you saw this show last year you may remember the bald eagle, unfortunately it passed away due to a tumor. The Patoka Lake center hopes to get another one.

-Krista