Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Little Rain...

We've all heard the phrase..."Into each life, a little rain must fall."  Well, I must say that we've certainly had our share of rain or more lately.  Last Monday, it rained all day and all night.  An stream runs under our house, and when it rains without stopping, the creek rises and floods our basement. Tuesday we found 4 inches of water in the basement.  Sigh...  So the carpet is gone, and the blowers were still blowing when we headed off for the spring meeting of the Kentucky Society of Natural History on Friday morning. guessed it, more severe weather in the South, including another inch + of rain. But what's an inch of rain to dedicated Naturalists in a wonderful place like Carter Caves State Park in Kentucky!

John Tierney, park naturalist for many years, leads us to Box Canyon. Water drops from the branches, and hangs from the leaf tips as rainclouds finally blow away and the sun breaks through.  After a short but steep climb, we turn the corner to find Box Canyon with a waterfall leaping over the edge, something which would not have happened without all the rain of the last 24 hours.  There, we found some good from all the rain after all!  Water dripped, dropped, and slid over every rock face, so I was glad to have my rain coat to keep the camera dry.
As we drove up the hill into the park, I had to stop the car and jump out to see all the wonderful white Trillium growing under the cliff faces!  Since we only have Sessile Trillium at home, I was excited to see these.  Although the petals are white, look at the maroon center - characteristic of Erect Trillium, John says - but Tavia's book says they are Sweet White Trillium.  Hmmm, I'll have to double check with her.

As an added treat for having survived all the rain, we also see hillsides full of the Large-Flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, where the white flowers turn pink as they age and are about to fall off. I asked John why we never see these white trillium at home.  Could elevation have something to do with it?  Olive Hill is about 1060 feet in elevation, and I bet many spots in the park are much higher.  He says they have to have a particular pH level in the soil, and here it is just right.

Oddly enough, we saw some very early bloomers still in bloom, while other flowers which I would expect to see in another month (such as Dwarf Iris, Wood Betony and Hoary Puccoon) were starting to bloom too.

Limestone is the favorite habitat for many flowers, including this small Stonecrop, which seems to grow in solid stone.  Moss and lichen are the first to grow on the limestone cliff faces, or on boulders fallen to the ground.  Then Stonecrop, Bishop's Cap, Ginger and ferns root in the moss.
Quick, there's a Newt dashing between the wet leaves. For a little guy, he runs really fast. The 3 inch long slug we find on a damp log waves his eye stalks, but is in no hurry to go anywhere.

Bird song echoes off the rocks- an Ovenbird down in the creek bed, Cardinals in the trees, a Towhee in the brush.  This Chipping Sparrow perched on a fence at the lodge, singing back and forth to another Chippie at the other end of the building.  Isn't he a beautiful little guy!  Tomorrow, we will brave cold temperatures for a bird hike.  With this group, there is always on expert on hand for anything you find!  I just hope the smell from the basement isn't  too bad when we get home.

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