The Shawnee News-Star Weekender April 13th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg March 30th was raw and cold.  Invigorating.  Lake Arcadia Conservation Education Center was spacious and warm.  Snacks, drinks and the edible wetland supplies were set up.  At the back, nearest to the electrical outlet and large windows, was a folding table that held the dissecting […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender April 13th 2019

Crabapple in Full Bloom

Becky Emerson Carlberg

March 30th was raw and cold. Invigorating.  Lake ArcadiaConservation Education Center was spacious and warm.  Snacks, drinks and the edible wetlandsupplies were set up.  At the back,nearest to the electrical outlet and large windows, was a folding table thatheld the dissecting scope, watch glasses, equipment, magnifiers, pond watersamples, Pond Life identification kit and book.

All things to do with nature and water were presented throughoutthe day in pictures and text.  TheOklahoma Master Naturalist (OMN) coordinator, Dr. Marley Beem, was in charge ofthe program.  Aquaculture and pondmanagement is his passion, no doubt influenced by growing up in the desertSouthwest. The group of attending naturalists had diverse backgrounds,interests and lively curiosities.  Oneperson had concerns about neighborhood associations. The importance ofenvironmental awareness should be high on the list of these governing bodies inthe unique position to promote natural landscaping in their neighborhoods.  Education. Provide places for native wildlife that lived there first.

An environmental educator felt training the grandparents is the jumping off point., Countless grandparents care for their grandkids.  Another recommended using gardens as paths to nature.  The Forestry Therapy Guide said simply 'Slow down.' 

Edible Wetlands Experiment

However slow or fast we go, we can't outrun the ticks.  Be tick free! Picaridin is an insectrepellent which appears to be effective against ticks without the solventproblems of DEET.  Sulphur dusted aroundfeet, legs and wherever is reported to turn off ticks.  The ticks are now active.  March to mid-May is when the adults are mostaggressive.  Wear light clothing, tuckpant legs into socks, don't sit on the ground, logs or stone walls, try to nothave contact with vegetation, use repellents, keep duct tape handy to neatlyremove those arachnids and good luck.

Seems odd I now say get up close and personal in nature.  Go to water. Fishing, especially Fly Fishing, tops the list of activities whichrequire close observations in nature. One must know the fish, habitat and food.  Minnows, worms, hand tied flies and luresmimic those insects and invertebrates found where the fish live.  In case you want to put in your own fishingpond, please make it at least 18 inches deep. This discourages raccoons from eating your fish.

The Lake Arcadia Center was edged in dormant bare shrubs decoratedwith long thin seed pods.  Possibly theyellow trumpetbush (Tecoma stans), a native shrub very attractive to bees,hummingbirds and butterflies.  Otherplants had 3-lobed green leaves and yellow tube flowers with tiny red throats.  They mystified me.  I sent a picture to my resident gardeningexpert Linda. She immediately recognized them as the clove currant (Ribesodoratum) because of the leaves and flowers. She loves them, but warned the currant has a tendency to stray far andwide.

Last year students walked around the Lake Arcadia wetlandsmaking observations and taking samples, but today's cutting wind precluded theoutdoor adventure.  At our 'Indoor FieldTrip' pond water came to life under magnification.  Droppers full of cloudy water werescrutinized and occupants tracked and described.  Were they bacteria, worms, copepods (tinytranslucent crustaceans), algae or other freshwater organisms?  Some zipped across the field of vision whileothers hid and continued to eat plants.  Wesaw two types of water fleas with two styles of eating.  The Cyclops copepod had attached egg sacks. Minisculebut mighty, the tiny aggressive crustacean grabs and chomps its prey.  Daphnia uses its legs to create a current thatbrings suspended particles into its open mouth.

What is a Wetland?  Ina nutshell, a wetland is water-saturated land often with aquatic plants. Sixtypes exist in Oklahoma:  flood plains,marshes/bogs/swamps, playa lakes that periodically dry up, oxbow lakes cut offfrom their river and forested wetlands, as in McCurtain County. 

Time to make edible wetlands.  A lab especially great for kids, thenecessary equipment was easy to find: plastic cups, spoons, plain shortbread cookies, chocolate puffed ricecereal, chocolate pudding, whipped topping, blue food dye, green sprinkles,pretzel sticks and Gummies.

To simulate solid bedrock (lowest layer of soil), plain cookies were layered in the bottom of a cup.  The subsoil of smaller rocks (layer above bedrock) = chocolate puffed rice.  The topsoil (dark, damp and organic surface layer) = chocolate pudding.  A spoonful of whipped topping mixed with blue food dye = puddle of water. Green sprinkles on top = duckweed.  Pretzels = cattails.  Swedish fish and Gummi worms = wildlife.  Before a picture of our wetlands could be taken, some had already been partially eaten.

St. Gregory Abbey Grounds

St. Gregory's Abbey in Shawnee was the site for the DeepFork Audubon Society Field Trip the following Saturday.  A less chilly but moist morning with grayclouds hanging low in the sky. 

The stately pin oak by the Labyrinth (at the beginning of thehike) appeared to have been decorated with brown balls.  Horned oak galls. The old tree is coveredwith woody wasp shelters housing the developing larvae of cynipid wasps. Timeto rake, remove all twigs and leaves and apply fertilizer.  Just beyond the tree the ground was coveredin tiny blue, pink and purple flowers as well as a few dandelions. These arethe early spring blossoms that feed pollinators, including the earliesthummingbirds and Monarchs.

Chickadees sang 'Sweetie', wrens chirped, and we saw robins, a pair of scissor-tailed flycatchers, bluebirds, starlings, red-winged blackbirds and at least six cardinals hanging around the chicken coops diving in and out grabbing food. The four toed French Faverolles have not been good egg producers, thus earning the nickname “four toed French Freeloaders.”

A roadrunner poked out itshead, then body, from the redcedar hedge. Mockingbirds flitted between theground and wires above.  Doves cooed.  Brown-headed cowbirds hunted for nests.  The Great Blue Heron flew past the oldtree-lined swimming hole.  Canadian geesequietly camped at the eastern edge. Frogs sang. A striped skunk meandered justpast where we stood, leaving a slight whiff of parfum de moufette (French forskunk pronounced moo-fit) as it disappeared into the trees.    

The lemon-scented Trifoliate orange tree was in full bloom.   The meadowlarks warbled in open fields beyond, but we just could not locate a single bird.   Standing by former student housing we heard the clear notes of a meadowlark.   Creeping over to the hedge, we peered through the branches and saw, sitting on top of a small tree in the fence row, this meadowlark proud as punch.  

The Four Toed French Freeloader

We walked past the crabappleimmersed in dark pink blooms.  What the differencewas between a daffodil and jonquil?  Simple.  Jonquils have multiple blooms on one stem!? Exceptthere IS a daffodil called Narcissusjonquilla and ALL daffs are in the Narcissus genus, so… a jonquil is adaffodil and a daffodil may or may not be a jonquil.  Love them either way.

Bath yourself in naturethis spring. So many good things to make you feel better.