Sunday at the Indiana Dunes
On Sunday, just before heading out the door, I posted "Doug is off to the Indiana Dunes" as my Facebook status. A friend in New England expressed surprised that Indiana would have sand dunes, so I decided to take a bunch of photos and blog about the trip. To me, the surprising part about the Dunes is not that they exist in Indiana, but that so much of them has been preserved among the steel mills of Gary and on the doorstep of Chicago.
The Chicago skyline is dimly visible on the horizon
The occasion for our visit was our friend Michael. He had been driven to Dearborn, Michigan to run in a marathon the day before. He and the two friends who drove him out there plant to stop off at the Dunes on their way home. Leon and I decided to meet up with them.
There was construction at the park and we couldn't get into the nature trails via my usual route, so we started on the beach.
On the Beach
Duneland ecological succession is the natural process of conversion of shoreline to woodland. You can spend several millenia on the beach watching it happen, or move inland to view successively older vegetation. Beach grasses stabilize the sand. Smaller trees take root. As they grow, they shade out the grasses, which are replaced by a new community of plants under the trees. Each change in the vegetation changes the landscape and sets the stage for its own exit as other species take over. It was here at the Indiana Dunes in the early 1900s that Henry Chandler Cowles developed the theory of ecological succession. Over a century later, it remains a cornerstone of ecological theory.
Prairie Grasses Stabilize a Sand Dune
Further back, the dunes are cloaked with rich woodland. Some of the spring wildflowers were beginning to bloom.
We were looking for the Olympia Marblewing, a beautiful early spring butterfly that lives in sandy habitats. The weather was a bit cooler and cloudier than was forecast, so the butterfly was a no show. Its host plant, Sand Cress, was putting on a show. I have a feeling that had we been there on Saturday we would have seen the butterfly.
We did see other wildlife. Migrating birds included Brown Creepers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Eastern Towhee. All were difficult to photograph. I got a recognizable image only of the Towhee.
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
The hike ended with a visit to an interdunal pond and a stroll through some fine oak woods. The woods are being managed to help support endangered Karner Blue butterflies that live at the Dunes.
Managed Oak Woodland
A wonderful day was capped off with a delicious dinner (dessert: red velvet cake). Congratulations to Michael for successfully completing his first marathon.