Limberlost Swamp Remembered newsletter, May 2002

     Updated 9 May 2002      URLis

Limberlost Swamp Remembered

P.O. Box 603

Geneva, Indiana 46740

Limberlost Swamp Remembered Meetings

Last Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm in the

Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva.

Call 260-368-7428.

Everyone is welcome to come!

Common Pintail, featured bird

The Cottonwood Tree, featured flora

How the Limberlost Restoration Began

Meetings and Membership Information

Background of this project

Links Out

Limberlost Bird of the Winter Quarter

Common Pintail Anus acuta

Family: Anatidae

This family includes swans, geese, and ducks. The Common Pintail is in the subfamily Anatinae that makes up a group of surface feeders commonly called dabblers.

As I was driving through the Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve this morning (2-21-02), I noticed several flashes of white mixed in with all of the Mallards. I drove into one of our pull-off areas especially designed for bird watchers. I wanted to get a closer look. Great, I thought, Pintails!

Common Pintails are a rare sight at the Loblolly Marsh. I checked the range map in the back of the Peterson field Guide, and it shows them in extreme southern Indiana during the winter, and more of a western US and Canada habitat during the summer breeding months. They are also common in Europe and Asia.

The hens lay a clutch of 8 to 10 olive-green eggs in late April. They conceal these eggs in a down-lined nest in dense vegetation, and the incubation period lasts about 24 days. Once hatched, the ducklings grow quickly, and they can fly in about seven weeks.

Since Pintails have a longer neck, they often feed in deeper water than Mallards. Most of their diet is plant matter such as seeds, roots and tubers of water plants. Occasionally, they will feed on aquatic invertebrates, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.

Without a doubt, the pintail is one of the most beautiful ducks to visit the Loblolly Marsh.

Limberlost Plant of the Winter Quarter

Common Name: Eastern Cottonwood

Scientific Name: Populus deltoides

Family: Willow

The willow family has two genera—the willow, Salix, and the cottonwood, Populus. These trees are like cousins, since they share a lot of common characteristics, but they have a different pair of parents.

Their name comes from the cotton-like fluff that carries the seed from the female trees. For this reason, male trees should only be used in yard plantings. The males lack the fluff, and their rusty red blossom makes them easy to distinguish.

The Eastern Cottonwood becomes a massive tree when it reaches 100 years of age. The trunk will be 3 to 4 feet in diameter. They also reach a height of

100 feet. This makes them excellent nesting trees for Bald Eagles and Great Blue Heron. The heron rookery in Jay County contains cottonwood trees. The nests are built in the upper forks, and they can become quite large.

The cottonwoods at the Loblolly Marsh are disappearing. Beavers are cutting them down at an alarming rate. Several of the largest have been girdled, and they have died. Our largest has been the perching tree for the Bald Eagle that occasions the Marsh from time to time.

We will not be without large trees for long, since young cottonwoods grow faster than any of our other native trees. They often grow as much as 5 feet per year in favorable conditions. Cuttings of twigs can be stuck into the moist soil, and they will sprout and grow a clone of the adult tree.

After we purchased the Limberlost-Hart Outdoor Classroom, cottonWoods were allowed to grow. Today, they are approximately 25 feet tall, and they are already providing shade and cover for many different species.

Some of the largest cottonwood trees I’ve seen are on the Manning area near Geneva and in the floodplains of the Wabash River. Some of them have become den trees for mammals

What are some of the uses for the wood? The wood is white and tasteless, so the next time you finish eating an ice cream bar, take a look at the stick. It’s cottonwood! Other uses include kite sticks, strawberry boxes, and paper.

Here’s an interesting bit of information. According to Indian legend, a cottonwood leaf was twisted around a finger, and it formed a cone and tepees were discovered.

How did the Limberlost Wetland Restoration Project Begin?

I get asked this question more than almost any other question, it is a difficult question to answer.

• Did it begin when we purchased our first property in June 1996?

• Did it begin in the meeting with ACRES Land Trust in that small cabin beside Tnlakes in Whitley County in late 1993 when we agreed on the Loblolly Marsh as our first purchase?

• Did it begin when we went public with our first printing of the Limbenlost Swamp Remembered Brochure in June 1993?

• Did it begin when representatives of Friends of the Limberlost, ACRES Land Trust, and Division of Museums and Historic Sites began meeting at the Limbenlost State Historic Site in Geneva in mid 1992 to iron out our goals and how to accomplish them?

• Did it begin in early 1992 when Forest Clark from US Fish and Wildlife Service began to show me how wetlands are restored and what it takes for a good wetland?

• Did it begin in 1991 when Jay County Soil and Water Conservation District hired me to look for wetlands to restore in Jay County?

As you can see, it took several years, many people, and several organizations to get this project going. If you ask each of those involved, I’m sure you’ll get a different time and a different story about the time of beginning.

For me, I can honestly say that this project began in my mind after seeing all of those acres of so-called farmland flooded in April 1976. That’s the year my family moved to Indiana from Mercer County Ohio. We hadn’t been into our home more than 6 weeks when an all night rain filled the former Loblolly Marsh just a short distance from my home. As a farmer at the time, I thanked God that I didn’t own any of that flood prone land, but it stirred something inside me when I saw all of that water, something I couldn’t let go of

I didn’t really focus totally on the wetlands, but I made mental notes about the flow of the water, and the most frequently flooded areas. Soon I began to understand how each stream interacted with the flooding of the Loblolly Marsh.

Some time passed, and then I had a life changing experience in September 1982. Soon, I began to earnestly study the wetlands and Gene Stratton-Porter. I began to plant trees and restore the wetlands on my own land. I’d see a pair of Mallard ducks mating on my wetland and think it was such a thrill to have provided an area for this one pair. Occasionally, I’d see diving ducks or a grebe. I’d watch them, and be fascinated to see them disappear under the surface and then reappear a short distance away.

A few years later, I’m working with Forest Clark, and we’re restoring wetlands on private land in Jay County. One day as we were surveying an area, I began to tell Forest of my dream to restore part of the Limbenlost Wetlands. I don’t recall his response, but I do know it was positive. That’s what I needed back then, a little encouragement.

I got bold and began to tell others of my dream. The reply came back, "That’s been tried before!"

That’s when I heard of some of the other failed attempts at restore the Limherlost. "But, I haven’t tried!" I thought, but I didn’t speak.

By then, I had already picked 80 acres for the pilot area. This 80-acre area had a large wetland that flooded regularly, and two smaller depressions that were troublesome for the farmer. In one depression, the area we call Woodie Retreat, the farmer had already quit tlying to grow crops. The other depression is to the right of trail 1. it’s about 300 feet east of Jay County 250 W as you are hiking the stone trail east of the parking lot at the Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve.

ACRES Land Trust helped get the acquisition started at the Loblolly Marsh, so did the Ropchan Foundation, Indiana Heritage Trust, and all of those who purchased their Foot of Swamp. What it all comes to is the fact that you can pick a lot of different beginnings. Each was the end of one step and the beginning of another.

What is the result? Some tales you won’t believe as Mrs. Porter states them. Today, February 23, 2002, 1 parked at the Loblolly Marsh. Circling in the sky were 4 Red-tailed Hawks in mating maneuvers. Below, I saw hundreds of Mallards, and a few Pintail, Shoveler, and Black Duck paired for their flight north to the nesting grounds. Several hundred feet away, Sandhill Cranes were gathered and doing their strange dance. Minutes later I saw a Kestrel dive into the grass and come up with a vole. Then, another Kestrel began chasing the first. It is apparent to me that love is in the air. All of this activity in an area that a few years ago lacked these birds and it was causing heartache for a farmer.

—Ken Brunswick

Mark your calendars for the Limberlost Swamp Remembered Meetings

Last Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm

in the Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva.

Call 260- 368-7428. Everyone is welcome to come!