Friday, May 16, 2014

Highbanks




Highbanks Metro Park is where I recently had my favorite bird watching moment (to date). Kenneth and I got a really close up look at a Pileated Woodpecker. The bird was about thirty feet from the path. We stood and watched the woodpecker for about ten minutes while I frantically snapped photos (which Google+ turned into a GIF!) and pointed the bird out to other hikers. Some of my other favorite birding moments have been seeing Sandhill Cranes for the first time, getting a really close look at a Northern Saw-whet Owl, watching Carolina Wrens on our apartment balcony and correctly identifying Blue-Winged Warblers the first time I encountered them on a hike. What made seeing the Pileated Woodpecker so special was how long we were able to observe the bird, and how close it was to the pathway. We didn't even need binoculars!

I really enjoy birdwatching - it's a fun and relatively inexpensive hobby. All you need is a bird book, a pair of binoculars and a place to watch birds. This could be a metro park, or your backyard - just throw out some bird seed (or set up a feeder). You might be surprised by what birds show up!



Highbanks is a great Columbus Metro Park! It is one of the larger parks, with over 1,150 acres to explore! The name of the park comes from the 100 foot tall shale bluffs over the Olentangy State Scenic River. The forested oak-hickory and beech-maple portions of the park are full of deep ravines and tributary streams. Since Kenneth and I visited before the trees and shrubs had fully leafed out, we were able to see great examples of these shale bluffs. 

Highbanks has a total of 11 miles of hiking trails and two Adena Native American burial mounds and a prehistoric earthwork. The trail that we hiked on our last visit was the 2.5 mile Dripping Rock Trail.  Other features of this metro park include picknicking areas and shelters, a sledding hill, cross-country skiing trails, a pet trail, a natural play area where families can leave the path to climb trees and play in the dirt!





The Everett H. Krueger Nature Center is one of four metro park nature centers. It has a library and a wildlife observation area where visitors can watch chipmunks, chickadees, woodpeckers, squirrels, doves and other wildlife. There are several educational displays in the nature center, covering a wide range of topics. Several are devoted to the archaeological and geological history of the park, others are interactive and change seasonally. When we were there I checked out a display about Vernal Pools and the Highbanks Bald Eagles, which have nested in the park since 2010.

There is also a really cute indoor play area for children. Animal puppets are stored in a cabinet made to look like a tree, another tree has holes in it so kids can put on their own puppet shows. The center has a few animals on display, including a fish tank full of native fish, a box turtle and an American Toad.

Kenneth and I visited Highbanks in early spring, when it was still cool and just a tad bit too early for spring wildflowers. I found one Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) blossom on the trail we hiked. A lot of spring wildflowers do not bloom for very long. Just two weeks later when we went on a wildflower hike at Battelle Darby Creek, several spring flower species' blooms were already spent. 

Despite the lack of spring wildflowers, we had a wonderful hike. It was the perfect temperature for a spring hike, cool but not too cold, and very sunny! I took so many photos I was having to go back though my camera to delete some to be able to take more (most of them were of the awesome Pileated Woodpecker!).

I have two slideshows this time, one of just the Everett H. Krueger Nature Center, the second is full of photos from our hike.