Wildlife Wednesday: Crooked Creek

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*DISCLAIMER* I was recently made aware that catching, handling, or possessing reptiles and amphibians in Pennsylvania without a fishing license is considered unlawful; therefore I will not be taking the kids on any more outings until I can purchase the required documentation. We respect the law here at ‘lil Burghers, however posts written about previous outings will still be published, as this knowledge was not yet made clear to me. I learned a valuable lesson, and since growing up in South Carolina, to my knowledge you did not need a license to catch frogs and snakes, especially for the purpose of study and release, this is all news to me.

This week’s adventure takes us to Crooked Creek State Park. We were accompanied by some friends and their kids. I had only been to this park once before and we didn’t do much exploring so I had no idea what to expect. On this particular day we found a few creatures I had never encountered before!

When we first arrived I suggested starting down at the lake by a boat launch area. We brought a few nets and bunch of buckets (thanks to our kids’ love of pretzels and cheeseballs) and started poking around a little creek.

The kids spotted several minnows and fry but all proved too quick for our small nets. It was very muddy and wet but that did not deter these brave explorers from splashing right in. Even Ava and Isla wanted to get into the action and at a few points tried to follow me into the muck (I was wearing water shoes, they were totally unprepared). Ava loved holding the net and trying to catch all the things!

As I was checking under rocks I heard a kid scream and a lot of excitement so I rushed over to see what happened. They were all pointing in the creek and yelling various “EEEEEWWWWW” “What is that thing!?!” “Kill it with fire”…ok maybe not that last one, but man just look at it, it’s pretty gnarly. Floating in the current was this wicked looking Crane Fly larvae.

After everyone’s shoes were thoroughly soaked, we decided a nice dry hike was in order. As we meandered along the trail we turned over rocks and logs and found many earthworms and slugs. I am so proud of the kids’ endurance, especially the little ones.

We stopped in a clearing and watched in awe as several Bald Eagles soared overhead. I still get chills thinking about it; ‘Merica! Amiright!?!

As we marched on, one of the little girls yelled that she found something. There, in the middle of the trail, was the biggest Millipede I have ever seen. Once she spotted one, then we all started to find them. They are so cool but I warned for them not to touch them with their hands. Millipedes cannot bite or sting, but when threatened, they will first roll into a coil, not unlike a rolie-polie. Their second line of defense is to secrete a toxin from the sides of its body that can result in a skin irritation and in more severe cases, nausea and vomiting.

The kids were growing tired of the trail so we headed back and one of our friends suggested that we check out the Environmental Learning Center. Unfortunately, we arrived to find the building closed, however we were not to be dissuaded. There was a perfectly nice garden to walk around and as I turned over a few pieces of wood this little emerald beauty scurried out.

Our friend pointed out a trail through the woods surrounding the center so we gathered the troops and got to steppin. I always love just simply being in nature, admiring all of the natural beauty around us. Too often we take it for granted. More slugs and worms were found, as well as some nice size locust. All of a sudden, the familiar screech of a very excited little girl yelling “SNAIIIIILLLLLS!”. Sure enough, there were snails EVERYWHERE! I had to watch my step so as not to crush the poor little gastropods.

As we made our way back to the cars, I smiled watching the kids running together, enjoying the wonders of nature and the company of good friends. I will admit, I was slightly disappointed that we did not discover some more impressive animals for the children to see, but that is also the beauty of nature. To quote Forrest Gump’s mama, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Until next week, happy herping, Ya’ll!

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