he sky mirrored the ground Saturday during the annual Wetland Day at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge.
The activities on a day filled with rain included two walking tours of wetlands attended by more than a dozen people.
The tours, led by longtime volunteer Ralph Cooley, explored the wetlands around the visitor center, allowing people to learn about the trees, animals and plants found in the wetlands habitat at the refuge.
Columbus resident Kallista DeHart, 12, was among the members of Girl Scout Troop 3059 that attended the first walk through a small portion of the refuge just east of Seymour.
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“I liked to see all the trees and learn the ways to tell them apart,” Kallista said of what Cooley discussed.
The group attended the event after the leader, Ashley Hamilton of Columbus, found it on an online calendar for the refuge.
“We were trying to find things close to home that could get the Scouts outside and help them become interested in different things,” Hamilton said.
After the tour, refuge park ranger Donna Stanley helped the students work on additional badges. The group was focused on earning badges for identifying trees, flowers and bugs and a badge about animal habitats.
“I think it’s important to show them there are other areas they can explore in life and see new areas for them to develop interests in,” Hamilton said.
While Kallista didn’t get to see her favorite animal, a bobcat, on the tour, she said she did get to see some wildlife, including birds and other animals.
Another tour left the visitor center at 11 a.m. touring the same area. This tour was attended by Cub Scout Troop 588, based out of Flintwood Wesleyan Church in Columbus, and several other nature enthusiasts.
The group attended the event after one of the leaders, Tamar Everard of Columbus, saw it in a refuge schedule.
“My son and I came with a friend over Christmas, and we found activities for spring break,” Everard said.
Both Everard and Greg Moore of Columbus, the other leader present, said they learned several new things on the excursion. The pair said learning about rainwater gardens and the “knees” of the bald cypress tree on the trip were educational.
Cooley also talked to the group about invasive species, such as the multiflora rose, in the refuge.
“They come up early and hedge out other plants for nutrients and resources,” Cooley said before mentioning that one of the most invasive species, kudzu, had been identified in at least six locations in Jennings County.
Moore and Tamar both said that information was new to them.
“We hope that visitors learn that wetlands are very important places both for animals and people,” Stanley said.
Stanley said the event also was part of the celebration of the 113th birthday of the national wildlife refuge system.
In addition to the tours, children’s crafts and activities were available at the visitor center. At 1 p.m., a program on nature photography using cellphone cameras was offered by local photography enthusiasts Bob Steiner and Cooley.
The program was free for all ages and provided information about how the “best camera is the one you have when you need it.”
Tamar said the refuge could become one of the group’s volunteer locations for the annual Earth Day Cleanup on April 23.
Besides Wetland Day, the refuge will host many other activities in the coming months as the weather warms up. There are master naturalist classes Wednesday evenings in March and April and a junior master naturalist class July 11 to 15.
The refuge also offers two monthly events, a bird walk on the second Saturday of each month and nature time preschool program on the second Wednesday of every month.
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Upcoming events at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge
April 16: Family Fishing Workshop
April 23: Earth Day Cleanup
May 14: Wings Over Muscatatuck and May Day Bird Count
June 4: Take a Kid Fishing Day
July 9: Butterfly Count
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For information about Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, visit fws.gov/refuge/muscatatuck.