Some wild creatures inhabit the Bull City, and not all of them walk on two legs.
This nice account of a recent night nature hike through the Ellerbe Creek Watershed 17-Acre Preserve, in the heart of the city, was posted by Diana Davis on the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association's website, www.ellerbecreek.org. We think it deserves a wider audience.
About two dozen brave souls showed up just before dusk at the Ellerbe Creek Watershed 17-Acre Preserve for our September nature hike. We were treated to a wonderful chorus of singing insects throughout our whole hike. The cicadas were the loudest, with several distinct species calling but the crickets and katydids chimed in to add their calls to the mix.
Barred owls (who, who-cooks-for-you) and screech owls (whinney or screech) both make their home in 17-acre woods and both were calling tonight. While only a few of the hikers heard any owls one lucky person got a wonderful view of a barred owl near the trail head. Before it got really dark we observed a flyover of chimney swifts headed back to their communal roost and got to observe a flycatcher flying out from it's perch to catch insects and then returning to the perch in a characteristic flight.
The only reptile spotted was a large river turtle (probably a slider). It managed to dissapear despite the shallow level of the creek.
We were also treated to a flight of bats who were probably just leaving their daytime roost (probably a hollow area of a tree, unfortunatly they are not using the bat box near the kiosk). It was a good viewing to compare their shape and flight pattern to the earlier flyover of chimney swifts. While chimney swifts have long sickle shaped wings that move very rapidly, bats have shorter, wider wings and a noticably differed wing beat. Both swifts and bat are skilled aeronautical acrobats who catch insects on the wing. The swift uses its great speed to catch insects it sees or hears, the bat uses echolocation.
Thanks to Barbara who encouraged the younger hikers to search the ground near the trail for treasures the kids found several cicada exoskeletons and a mouse skull that they brought to show us adults.
The nearly-full moon was rising as we were returning to our cars, after an enjoyable evening of learning about the native world that exists in our own backyards.