THREE OAKS — Harbor Country Hikers President Pat Fisher led about 20 people on a "fifth season" exploration of the Chikaming Park and Preserve on Saturday. Sept. 12.

"There are four seasons, but we've got these shifts between seasons and this is kind of an important one," Fisher said, adding that some people call it the fifth season.

He said late summer lasts about four to six weeks, with some major changes occurring including — Some monarch butterflies still feeding on the abundant flowers as their migration south is in full swing (he said they can cover 50 miles a day); asters such as blue, New England and goldenrod blooming, but not causing allergic reactions (that's usually due to ragweed); songbirds gathering for their migrations, which mostly take place at night (Fished noted that not all robins migrate — some stay and eat berries and other food out of sight); crickets becoming especially active as they produce the next generation (which gets through the winter); aerial displays at dusk by little brown bats, which migrate, hibernate and sleep for about 20 hours each day while devouring 600 to 1,000 insects during their hours of activity; ruby throated hummingbirds fattening up on the flowers that are in bloom as migration approaches; sandhill cranes getting ready for their journey south (he said they winter as close at Southern Indiana and as far as Mexico); and plants everywhere maturing and sending their seed out to create next year's crops.

The hike through the Chikaming Park and Preserve lasted about two hours and passed through goldenrod filled prairies, a wooded area populated by a mixture of white pines and hardwoods planted in an effort to restore a healthy forest, and a ravine which is filled with marsh marigolds and skunk cabbage when a stream is running in the spring.

Also encountered were an ant mound on the prairie; an area where there may have been a home and barn in the 1930s; a variety of small trees, shrubs and other plants (including sycamores, elderberry bushes, and japan) rising out of the prairie.

Fisher said the Harbor Country Hikers plan to visit the Great Marsh near Beverly Shores, Ind., in the near future to see of they can find some sandhill cranes there.

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