09 November 2009

More From Utica

As Lindsay explained so well in her recent post, we spent the weekend of our 7-year anniversary in Utica, Illinois, visiting several state parks (Starved Rock, Matthiessen, and Buffalo Rock). These parks are interesting in part because of some of the plant species that grow in the steep ravines. For example, we saw Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and Canada Yew (Taxus canadensis), two conifers that are typically found further north. These evergreen trees are relicts from a time when the climate was colder than it is today, and they persist in Illinois and Indiana only in ravines and bogs were the substrate is constantly cool and moist.

Thuja occidentalis on steep cliff

A few spring-blooming plants that have colorful leaves that persist throughout the winter were also obvious amongst the orange and brown leaf litter. One of these is Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba).

Hepatica acutiloba

The geologic features in these parks are also quite interesting.

Sandstone cliff

At Matthiessen State Park, we came across an interesting trail map. I guess the map wasn't as interesting as the rant that that someone had written on it. A bit ironic, too...

As Lindsay mentioned, we did some birding while we were on our trip. Our trip list of 49 species follows:

Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Swainson's Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)

As we drove home on Sunday, we tallied 18 Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) between Utica, Illinois and North Liberty, Indiana! That's approximately 6 per hour!

Thank you, too, Lindsay, for a wonderful 7 years and a great weekend!


Justin Thomas said...

Congrats to you both on 7 fun-filled years. You both found keepers,that's for sure.

Scott said...

Thanks Justin!

Ted C. MacRae said...

How far are these parks from St. Louis? They Look fascinating!

Scott said...

Hi Ted. Utica is probably 3.5 to 4 hours from St. Louis. Not too far if you make a weekend of it. I'd like to see these parks during the growing season.