Liberty Nature Preserve

 

Liberty Nature Preserve

Wildlife

CRITTERS AND TREES

This is what Liberty Nature Preserve is really about.  When we found this property, it was used as a private hunting area.  The previous owner built 14 deer stands throughout the woods and various walking trails to access the entire property.  Don't get me wrong, I have no ill will against any hunter.  It just ain't my bag.  I still get misty when I think about "Old Yeller" and "Bambi".  Down came the deer stands.   

This property find was a perfect blend of all our desires:  wooded, pond-able, fairly large size, reasonably close to home, secluded, somewhat wild and  a great place to develop an eco-friendly habitat that we could someday retire to.  Our strongest affinity is toward birding, but this new atmosphere will certainly expose us to so much more.  Because of this "brave new world" exploration, we want to document not only our man-made progress, but the natural findings that Mother Nature introduces us to.  This "Wildlife" page will be dedicated to the nature end of this growth.  As goes most of this website, this page will evolve as we do and we will share as much of the sights and stories as they occur.

** NOTE**  Most, if not all, of the pictures displayed are professional photo representatives; they are not the actual specimen sighted

A Box Turtle roaming around in the (pre) pond area August 2005

  Rufous sided Towhee August 2005

   Red headed woodpecker, July 2005

  Northern Cardinal July 2005

   Catbird, August 2005

   Blue Jay, July 2005

   White breasted Nuthatch, July 2005

  Yeah, go ahead & guess....

  Pileated Woodpecker Sept 2005

  Ruby Throated Hummingbird Sept 2005

  Hairy Woodpecker Sept 2005

  Red Bellied Woodpecker Oct 2005

  Black capped Chickadee Nov 2005

  Downy Woodpecker Nov 2005

  Tufted Titmouse Jan 2006

  Indigo Bunting, June 2006

  Rose breasted Grosbeak, June 2006

  Great Blue Heron, June 2006    While surveying during pond construction, a young specimen landed in a small, shallow pool of rain water that had collected within the basin.  It didn't take long to figure out that there wasn't a free lunch at this diner, yet.

  The famed Red-tailed Hawk.  I was walking the driveway through the woods in Aug '06 when an adult specimen erupted from the forest floor and pumped it's massive wingspan about 5 times to get about 50 feet up into a nearby tree.  It flew away from me (as I caught my breath) and I swore it was carrying a fox or something.  A wide brownish-red mass hung at it's feet.  When it landed in the tree a short distance away, it was carrying nothing of the sort...?  I later realized what I was seeing was one of it's most recognizeable features....it's red tail, fanned open to reveal it's wide, brick-red majesty.  Awesome!       (more below)

   Another shot of the Red-tailed hawk.  Adults have an average wingspan in the 4 ft range.  The impressive tail is brick-red across the back and pink-ish underneath.

  American Goldfinch Nov 2006

  Dark eyed Junco Nov 2006

   Yeah, it was inevitable....Canadian geese in the new pond April 2007

  But, after I shooed away the geese, this American Coot came paddling out of a shallow draw; April 2007

  April 2007, Tree Swallows.  When we first noted the abundance of these birds working the pond for insects, we thought they were Purple Martins.  Turns out to be Tree Swallows.  They compete with the Bluebirds for the nesting boxes, often successfully.

 So, it's been a long day of clearing brush and we're cleaning up to go home.  A strange bird call catches my ear and we both look straight up into the trees.  A half dozen Cedar Waxwings are gathered at the top of a tree, munching on the soft green tree buds April 2007.

  Eastern Kingbird May 2007

  While installing the bluebird houses in the meadow May '07, we spotted a Great Crested Flycatcher working the tree tops for dinner.

May of 2007, we installed 6 Peterson Design Bluebird houses.

   2 in the meadow, 2 in the entrance meadow, 1 on the pond building site, and 1 on the dam.  Within hours, the Tree Swallows were taking turns like it was open house.  2 weeks later, one of the houses actually had a Bluebird guarding it.

  Eastern Bluebird June 2007

  Wild Turkey     It's June 2007 and we're walking one of the woodland trails.  It is secluded and forest-quiet; we can hear every twig snap beneath our feet.  Then this monster explodes from the forest floor about 25 feet from us.  No, we had no idea she was there and yes, we both needed a change.

  Belted Kingfisher July 2007.  Not necessarily good news if you're a fish (or trying to manage a fish pond), but quite impressive nonetheless.  That major league beak is designed to grab fish as he dives head first, straight into the water.  The upside?  He's about the size of a large Blue Jay, so lunkers aren't on the menu.

  Barred Owl March 2008 (aka; Hoot Owl).  It's cold, there's still snow on the ground, and we just finished painting the interior of the new shed.  We go sit in the car with the heat on and take a lunch break to get a break from the paint fumes.  This large, reddish brown bird flies across the driveway in front of us and lands in a tree about 100 feet away.  At first, I thought it was a red-tailed hawk because of the size and color...then we see it's face.  A couple hours later, we can hear it hootin' up a storm deep in the woods.  Very cool.  (click the play button for the haunting hoot; it will play over the Wildlife Page background sound effects: 

  

  March 2008   During one of my solo visits to LNP (Donna elected to stay home; she'll just have to believe me), I took the patented "walk around the pond".  On the way back from the dam, a red fox sauntered across the building site and back into the woods.

  March 2008   We had 4 pairs of these guys cruising about.  We're not sure, but there's 4 unoccupied Wood Duck boxes and Hooded Mergansers are well known for using them for nesting.  The Audobon Society notes:  Estimates vary, but the current population of about 350,000 individuals makes the Hooded Merganser one of North America’s least numerous ducks.  To have them visit LNP is a blessing...but...it does have a down-side.  They are expert, diving fish-hunters.  Uh-oh...

  April 2008, while walking the driveway thru the woods, the forester we hired to plant the seedling shrubs and trees spots a Scarlet Tanager and points it out to me.  In fact, there's two working thru the woods.  Their bright red color is extraordinary and stands out like neon in the woods.

  August 2008, we've been working all day and take a lunch-break on the deck.  All the way at the other end of the pond, a large bird lands in the top of a tree.  It's time to put those new Nikon binoc's to work.  Whoa!  Our first Osprey.  Magnificent markings and coloring. 

  Ospreys are fishing machines.  Bad news for a die-hard fishing pond manager.  We accept the natural balance (and secretly hope that it's not real hungry).

 November 2011, and we have just moved into the shop area of our garage-apartment project.  Our decision to increase the amount and size of the windows is already paying back dividends as the corner of my vision catches the flash of a large bird across the pond.  The large areas of white are unmistakeable and I wonder if another Osprey has arrived.  Set down the coffee cup, fumble for the binoculars, and I find myself hurriedly coaxing Donna out of bed to see a new bird; our first bald eagle.  It doesn't stay long, but his exit route is directly across the pond and toward our position as we both stand, pressed against the windows with binoculars glued to our eyes.  He flies right over us and is gone.  Neat!   

 

  Spring 2012                                                We had actually seen a mink a couple of years ago....forgot to document it.    We got another visit as it scampered around the pond perimeter, occassionally diving into the shallow shoreline water looking for a fish or frog breakfast.  It scared the crap outta a couple of Canadian geese standing on the beach.  It runs link a slinky with short legs; kind comical.  Not so funny, though, if you are a critter and on the menu.  They are killing machines, typically putting prey out of it's misery with a bite thru the back of the head and neck with sharp, long canine teeth. 

 

 September 2012, the sun has set below the treeline and we are well into dusk o'clock.  Just before I pull down the window shades, I take that last look out over the darkened pond, fully expecting to see the bats darting about.  Instead, I see another pack of flying critters.  There must be at least a dozen; maybe 2 dozen.  Out come the binoculars.  They are gliding and swooping over the pond surface, obviously dive-bombing insects.  Their size?...mabe a little larger than a Blue Jay, a little smaller than a crow.  I have never seen this bird, and the darkness isn't helping the ID.  The only obvious and notable characteristic is the shortened body and those white bars on the wings.  Next out is the trusty Bird Book and yep....it's a pack of Nighthawks.  

 

  October 2012; Donna is always takin' care of her bird buddies by keeping the feeder full and the suet cakes replenished.  Some of her feathered friends seem to be getting used to her routine and will sit and wait on the pole or a nearby branch.  We have seen these Rose Breasted Nuthatches numerous times in the past, but never took the time to document their visits.  They are smaller than their cousin (White Breasted Nuthatch), and seem to be much less skittish.  An eye-to-eye encounter at the feeder this past weekend has prompted this journal entry into the wildlife page. 

 

  November 2012, 3 males and 2 females Gadwalls are paddling about in a convoy.  Gadwall ducks are fairly common, though I have never noticed nor identified one.  They spent a lot their time in the shallows where the weeds reached up to the surface, providing a bounteous and easily accessed meal.  Though not spectacularly colored, the males are readily identified by the black tail patch and the white swatch just beneath the wings. 

 

  March 2013, we notice a lone pond visitor paddling about and diving for breakfast.  Our Ring Necked Duck was likely passing thru on his way to the northern breeding grounds.  He did stay all day, enjoying the solitude.  The coloring on the bill is pretty unique for ducks, so identifying him was pretty quick and easy.  UPDATE 3 WEEKS LATER.....we are experiencing an explosion of duck visitors. It's spring and the migration is definitely setting the scene for lotsa ducks, but this is more than we have ever seen in the 5 some odd years that we have had the pond full. We counted somewhere upward of 75 - 100 of Ring Necked ducks (it's hard to count 'em cuz they are constantly diving to find food). Within this substantial pack of duckage is a scattered few of Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, a Mallard or 2, and then the guys directly below...

 

 March 2013, starting with the Ring Necked Duck activity (documented directly above), this unusual surprise was spotted by Donna whilst scanning her sizeable collection of ducks for the weekend. Neither of us has ever seen a Northern Shoveler, though it is not uncommon in the midwest. This drake was solo, so no gal pal....or, at least, we could not pick her out of the pack.

 

 March 2013, as if the above noted duck party wasn't enough for our entertainment, we also got about 4 male/female pairs of Green Winged Teals to join in the duck parade. The was, indeed, a good weekend for duck watching.

 

  April 2013, five Great Blue Herons land in the trees right after daybreak.  They are, no doubt, getting ready to fish for breakfast....until 2 of these Great Egrets come flying in to mess up their plans.  Almost like scare-di-cats, all the Blue Herons take flight and leave the area pretty quickly.  These two lanky white fish stabbers spent the rest of the day working the shoreline of the pond.  They are noticeably less skittish than Herons normally are and continue to move toward us even though we were out running the tractor and weed whacker around the house.   

 

  Shagbark Hickory Nuts; word is they taste better than Pecans, but a bear to husk and hull.  Liberty is loaded with 'em.

  Walnuts still in the husks.  They range in size from 2" - 3" in diameter.  We have good supply of these, also.

 The same Walnuts, husked and ready to crack open.

 

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