So many amazing animals!
Many different creatures call the Children of Indiana Nature Park home. Let’s explore what can be found in the area and what makes these critters unique. We’ll periodically rotate this list so there will always be someone new to learn about!
Northern Spring Peeper
This small frog is named for its chorus call that makes the beginning of spring. They are tan or brown with a dark “X” mark on their back. The northern spring peeper’s coloring makes them hard to see against a tree trunk or among leaves. They are less than one inch in length, though you’d never guess their small size from their chirps. Females are lighter in color than males who also have darker throats. Only males chirp and this call is used to attract mates.
The northern spring peeper are found throughout the eastern portion of North America and can be seen as far south as northern Georgia. They live in marshy woods, non-wooded lowlands, and areas that are near ponds and swamps. They can climb, but seem to prefer being burrowed in the soil or just on the ground.
Many animals see the northern spring peeper as prey. To avoid being eaten, these frogs have their coloration to thank since they blend in so well to their surroundings. They eat mainly small insects as well as ants, beetles, caterpillars, and spiders. Just about anything that is small enough to fit in their mouths is food to the northern spring peeper.
Northern Ring Neck Snake
Northern ring neck snakes are found in southern parts of Canada, New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, and the Great Lakes region. Their body color ranges from bluish gray to black with a yellow or orange ring around its neck. They are usually 10 to 15 inches long but have been known to reach more than two feet in length.
Northern ring necks are social snakes and hide around rocks, logs, or leaves on the ground in groups. They are found in moist wooded areas where there are many hiding places. They will eat a variety of food sources from salamanders and earthworms to small snakes and slugs.
Deer mice are similar in appearance to white-footed mice. However, they have smaller feet and are more bright brown in color than the white-footed mice. They are generally two-toned with darker colors over the top of their bodies and white on their lower bodies. The mouse’s fur is soft, dense, and short.
Deer mice can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from woodlands, to grasslands, even to deserts. However, they prefer areas of woodlands, bushy areas, and prairies. They are most active during the night, which makes them primarily nocturnal creatures. Most of their activities are focused on building and maintaining their nest or obtaining and storing food. They eat both plants and animals including insects, seeds, fruits, flowers, other invertebrates, and nuts. Deer mice help to spread seeds around the areas where they live.
Mice can have home ranges as big as almost two square miles. They also function as an important part of the food chain. Deer mice are carriers of Lyme and other diseases, which makes them an animal to avoid contact with in the wild.
Not to be confused with the field sparrow, song sparrows are extremely common and can be seen everywhere from brush areas and marshes to suburbs, farm fields, and roadsides. Often, they can be found in low dense vegetation or branches. Sometimes song sparrows move into open areas to search for food.
Song sparrows are medium sized birds with fairly stocky bodies for sparrows. They are brown with white on their bellies and have dark streaks and a dark brown spot in the middle of their chest. Their tails are brown and rounded at the end.
The song sparrow gets its name from the large variety of songs it will sing, knowing as many as 20 different songs. It is said that one of their calls in particular is similar to the opening four notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Let’s talk about plants!
The park is home to a variety of plants. Some belong here (they’re called native plants) and some do not belong here (they're called invasive plants). We’ll explore both native and common invasive plants here, sharing a little about each one to help you learn about what grows on your land. We will periodically update this list, so be sure to come back so you can become a native plant expert!
Native: Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)
These flowering plants with oddly shaped blooms are native to the deciduous forests in eastern North America. They bloom in the spring with white heart-shaped flowers and have dissected, fern-like leaves. After squirrel corn blooms in the spring, the plant will go dormant in the summer. It can cause minor skin irritation when handled so it is best to leave it alone if you find it.
Native: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
Also known as the Virginia strawberry, wild strawberry is one of the two species that were used to create the domesticated garden strawberry we enjoy today. It is native to North America and produces small white flowers April – June before it produces a strawberry. This edible fruit is the enlarged central part of the flower (the middle). Wild strawberry grows best in cool weather and so grows actively in the spring and fall. However, it often goes dormant after producing fruit during the summer. Conditions must be right for fruit to develop; for example, if it is too dry, the fruit may not grow. It spreads easily forming a loose ground cover. We do not advise you to eat any plants you encounter in the wild.
Native: Annual Bedstraw (Galium aparine)
Annual bedstraw is also commonly called cleavers, goose grass, and sticky weed. This plant has creeping stems that branch and grow on the ground and over other plants. It can grow to three feet tall and sometimes more. The star-shaped white flowers bloom in early spring and summer and grow in clusters of two or three. They produce burrs that will stick to animals and to human clothing which aids in spreading the seeds of annual bedstraw. Sometimes skin contact with the plant can cause a non-serious rash. It is best to leave the plant alone if found in the wild.
Native: Spring Avens (Geum vernum)
Spring avens grows between six inches and two feet tall. The stems are light in color and vary from green to red and are hairy and shiny. The flowers are yellow and light green. They bloom in mid-late spring and last around three weeks. Only a couple flowers bloom at a time and after the flowers are done blooming they produce clustered fruit. Spring avens prefers to grow in areas of mixed shade and sun in deciduous wooded areas.
Stewards of the Land
On this page we feature stories about how people work to keep native habitats healthy and wild, by caring for our lands and waters. Below is a story about Good Turn for Nature, the Boy Scouts Crossroads of America's 2018 service project!
Cub scout holds removed invasive honeysuckle at Bitternut Woods for Good Turn for Nature!
Good Turn for Nature
This past fall the Children of Indiana Nature Park teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America’s Crossroads of America Council for Good Turn for Nature, the council’s community service project, Parks and natural areas around central Indiana hosted Boy Scouts by providing opportunities for hands-on conservation activities and engage them in our natural world. It was an amazing experience!
Read the rest of the story!
A Natural Park
NOPE, you won’t find slides and swings at the Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park), but you WILL find trees, insects, signs of critters, and life around every corner. This land was deeded to all of the children in Indiana because we think YOU ARE IMPORTANT and because PROTECTING NATURE MATTERS! As you explore the land, you will learn about ways we are changing the property to make your land as healthy as possible!
My Spot Now
Depending where your deed is located, your spot may be in a hay pasture or your spot may be in a wooded area. The Park is mostly flat with a ravine running north-south through the center of the Park. The eastern part of the Park is largely an old white pine plantation where the trees were harvested for building materials. The western part of the Park is a hay pasture that is bordered on the east by hardwood forest that generally follows the ravine. There are mowed trails throughout the property for people to walk. In time, this area will be restored to its natural state as it was before the hay pastures and the pine plantation.
Making the Park Healthier
In the future, the Children of Indiana Nature Park will look more like it should with native plants and animals, thanks to the great care that many children gave to the land, and all deeds to the Park will be located in hardwood forest habitat. The Park will be a native hardwood forest with a diverse understory of native plants, and will reflect the natural features of the Central Tillplain region. The Park will look as settlers may have found the land in the area in the mid 1800's. A new trail system will also allow easy access throughout the Park.
Caring for My Land
What people do on the land affects the plants and animals that live there - sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good. People who care for the land and the creatures that live on the land are called conservationists. At the Children of Indiana Nature Park, we are planning conservation activities that will maximize the number of native plants and animals that call the Park “home.” Read about some of the big changes
occuring at the Park!