Although I've stretched this short hike out over almost a week, the trip did provide plenty of material that just screams spring. Highbanks Metro Park is great place, full of interesting habitats, and I hope to go there more frequently this summer.
After Megan and I stopped to check out the concretion in the shale, we walked slowly but steadily down to the floodplain of the Olentangy River. The woods at the base of the "high banks" are pretty srubby and weedy. Garlic mustard and Amur honeysuckle were definitely present, and the botanical diversity was fairly poor. But boy, the temperature was just right for a snake, I thought to myself.
And after a quarter mile or so, I heard that distinctive rustling of the dry leaves sound, very subtle, but instantly recognizable. Either a lizard or a snake. I wouldn't expect to see any lizards in Delaware County although a five-lined skink wouldn't be out of the question, I would be surprised. It turned out to be a slithering garter snake. It is great to see native reptiles here at Highbanks. Down in Columbus, I never once have seen a snake.
We continued on and went under a bridge, and finally saw the mighty Olentangy. I'm kidding of course, this is not a gigantic river, definitely, but Highbanks has excellent riverine habitat. This portion of the stream has been designated as an official State Scenic River by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
As we continued back up into the woods, I picked up three more wildflower species not seen yet on our hike. The first was Erythronium, or trout lily, but it was not blooming.
Then, a little patch of harbinger-of-spring, a delicate little wildflower that I've never really seen in abundance,
And, a toadshade trillium just about to burst.
We kept walking, further upwoods, and we crossed a bridge. I've been proud of Megan- she's learning many of the names of common birds. I'm the person that is good with names in the family- she isn't. Still though, she'll see white breasted nuthatches, carolina chickadees, and call them out by name. At the aforementioned bridge, Megan saw this bird, and wondered what it was.
Two eastern Phoebes, a pair, with grass in their beaks. It looked like they had begun to build a nest somewhere on the bridge, probably underneath the structure. The first bird is pictured in an Ohio buckeye, one of our first native trees to leaf out here in Central Ohio.
We walked a little longer, picked up a hairy woodpecker, and I could tell Megan was getting a little tired with the little guy attached to her in the carrier, so I decided to give it a whirl. It is pretty fun.
And that my friends is a wrap-up of our April 2 hike, a beautiful spring day. The sun has returned, although it still looks to be cold for a few more days, slowing spring down a little bit. The countdown to the first killing frosts of Autumn surely has begun.
In the Summer of 2009, there was a large Gypsy Moth infestation at Highbanks Metropark. Take a look at pictures and video of the devastation.