Monday, April 20, 2015

Early Spring Flowers at Nan Weston

We had a spate of warm (to me "hot") weather at the end of last week - in the 70s!  This meant the woodland flowers should be popping.  So Sunday morning I headed out to Nan Weston preserve to see what might be up.  I made this trip primarily as recon for a group we are taking out there on Tuesday. 

It's been a cool spring, so things are delayed a bit...and the lack of moisture hasn't helped, I'm sure.  On the plus side, I got to see some flowers at peak (Dutchman's breeches), while most stuff was only juuuuust getting started.

These bloodroots were tightly closed when I arrived, sometime between 9:30 and 10:00 AM.  The air was cool but pleasant, and there was a good stiff breeze blowing.  A storm was on its way, so I wanted to be sure that I kept an eye on the sky and got out before it arrived.  Turns out I had plenty of time - the storm didn't arrive until late afternoon.

Most of the rue anemone were also closed when I arrived. By the time I left, most were open.

This was the most advanced trillium bud I saw.  In another week or so, the forest floor will be carpeted with these beauties.

The blue cohosh was just getting going, too.  Most were still unfurling their leaves and were holding their buds closed.  It's such a delightfully odd flower, color-wise.  

Not too many spring beauties were open yet.

These yellow-flowered sedges (?) stump me every time.  I think it might be Carex ericetorum, which is a non-native species, considered a rare spring sedge in Europe and Asia.  It's all over the place at Nan Weston, which is noted as being a haven for native plants and has hardly any non-natives. So, that ID may be wrong.  I'm sure many of these plants look very similar. All suggestions welcome.

The leatherwood was at peak bloom.  All the shrubs were completely decked out with their clusters of yellow flowers.  

Finally found some round-lobed hepatica in bloom.  The few blossoms I saw were all faced away from the sun (and my camera).

Here's my little friend the bee fly.  I love these guys, and they were all over the place.  Devilishly tricky to photograph in flight, and even when they land, they often don't stay put for long.  They are important pollinators, and boy, were they out doing their thing Sunday morning!

Another insect I was able to photograph was this beetle.  I'm in a library as I write this blog, and field guides are not their thing, so I'm at a loss to ID this critter, but off the top of my head I'd say it's one of the click beetles.  Will try to find time at work this week to get it identified better.

My other insect for the day was this lovely syrphid fly.  It landed just long enough for me to snap a shot.

 Purple cress was another flower that was just getting started.  This was a new plant for me last year, so I had to look it up on last year's blog to remind myself what it was.  Lovely.

As I mentioned earlier, the Dutchman's breeches were about at peak.  So many in bloom, and many more in buds.  I usually get to Nan Weston after these flowers are past peak and looking pretty ratty.  How wonderful to hit them when they are at their best!

I wasn't the only nature nut out yesterday morning.  There were four other cars in the little "parking area" when I arrived, and another two drove up as I left.  This fellow was a pro - he had a reflector for the light, his little tripod, a shutter release...all he had to do was battle the wind.  I had opted not to bring all my gear - just too much to schlep around all the time.  Plus my tripod is missing a vital part - somehow I lost it in the house and have no idea where it is.  May be looking at a new tripod if I cannot find a replacement part.

As I was returning to the parking area, retracing my steps down the last portion of the looped trail, the sun had started to do its thing and many of the buds were opening.  

If the rain this weekend doesn't take a toll by pummeling the plants, they should be looking nice Tuesday for our group...if the sun is out.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winter Ducks

Yesterday some friends and I went to Port Huron to see the long-tailed ducks (formerly old squaws) on the St. Clair River in Port Huron.  Last year, apparently they were there in rafts by the tens of thousands.  We didn't see that many yesterday, but we did see many, many hundreds.

It was a stunningly (blindingly) bright day, with temps probably in the single digits.  I was borrowing a 300mm lens from someone to test drive it.  All my photos came out rather washed out, and none too terribly sharp.  I needed to practice more, I guess.  Still, I was having a grand time watching the ducks.

Bridge over St. Clair River to Canada

Here's what the scene was like:


 Male long-tailed duck stretching...


and vocalizing.

Here's what it sounds like:


 Female long-tailed duck.

 I think that's a red-headed duck sleeping, but it could be a canvasback.

 Male red-breasted merganser.

 Male red-breasted merganser.

 White-winged scoters, catching lunch.  And a mallard (they weren't eating the mallard).

Red-headed duck.

Greater scaup (on right) and common golden-eyes.

Female red-breasted merganser stretching.

 I thought this was just a freighter, but apparently it was an ice cutter!

Another find for the day was a female king eider, but she was too far away fro me to get any photos of her.  Got to see her through the scope, though, making her my second life bird this day! 

Many thanks to Gary, Don and Robin for letting me tag along!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mid-November Find!

As we were wrapping up the journaling part of a school program this afternoon, I looked down on the ground and saw what I thought was one of those coiled hair tie things.  When I bent over to pick it up, I saw that instead it was a wee snake!  It was coiled up on a leaf trying to eke out some warmth from the rapidly disappearing sun.

Being the snake-o-phile (ophiophilist) that I am, I, of course, had to pick it up.

It was very cold, and didn't seem to mind me holding it.  I showed it to all the kids - who thought, of course, that it was poisonous.  One said "venomous" and I congratulated him for using the correct term. I wasn't 100% sure what it was, so I brought it inside and dug out my snake book.  Still not 100% sure.  The book doesn't really show juveniles, nor belly patterns, which, on this snake, were beautiful.

Upon closer inspection and some searching online, I confirmed that it is a juvenile northern watersnake.   What was throwing me was that it was a goodly distance from actual water!  And it did look a bit like a juvenile black ratsnake, which is a species of special concern here in MI.  So naturally I tried to make that fit.

Still, a baby watersnake out in a field in November...that's still pretty exciting.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another Trip on the Grand River

Last Sunday, Oct. 12, dawned chilly, but sunny.  It was gonna be another perfect autumn day, which was wonderful because GREAT (the Grand River Environmental Action Team) was hosting another paddle.  It was a 4+ mile trip on the Grand, from the put-in on Dixon Road to the take-out on Thompson Road.  By 11:00 our crew had the boats ready to go, and participants were starting to arrive.

Everyone has to sign a waiver, even those of us leading the paddle.  

Dogs and kids are always welcome.  Amelia and Caleb are regulars (Dad's on the Board).

It was chilly in the shade, with a good strong breeze blowing, so while we waited for everyone to arrive and get shuttled to the take-out, most people stood in the sun to defrost.

It wasn't long past noon before we launched.  

As always, I was the sweep boat.  This way I can take my time and enjoy the river, and also help out people who may be having difficulties.

Former Board member and owner of Quiet World Sports (kayak rentals and lessons) Kat joined us...fresh from paddling in Maine and Nova Scotia.  Her buddy is Pugsley B. Nitro,

who makes a great figurehead in the front of the boat.  Kat's busy with her business most of the summer, so we don't see her very often any more.  It was great to catch up as we drifted slowly down stream.

A real benefit about joining us on a GREAT paddle is that there are lots of folks available to help out those who might be having difficulties.  We can teach you some basic strokes to help you navigate turns and negotiate downfalls.  There's never a reason to get frustrated...we are all patient and want you to have the best possible time.  Take a deep breath and relax...the worst that will happen is you'll get wet, and no one has dissolved on us yet.

All too soon we were at the bridge - the take-out was on the other side.  

The lead boats were probably off the river in less than two hours; the last boats took out about 3:00/3:30.  

After all boats were secured on their trailers, and PFDs and paddles were stowed away, the group headed to Klavon's for pizza and beer.  GREAT paddles are great social events - for novices and regulars alike.  And what a perfect way to celebrate the glory of autumn!

If Happy Little Bluebirds Fly...

On the way home last night, we had a STUNNING full rainbow in the sky!  Usually, we just see one side of a rainbow, but this one was complete, and not only that, both ends were double!  And the colors...oh, my, the colors!  I've never seen such brilliant colors in a rainbow before.  Of course, the camera, which I conveniently had on the back seat, just did not quite capture the colors, and you can only see the hint of the double on the left side...but it was there.

And as I continued my drive, the sun was behind me and the very dark storm clouds ahead...what a gorgeous combination to show of our autumn colors.  Sadly, this is not easily done at 55 mph - just point and shoot out the window and hope you got something.

This was such a wonderful experience it put me into just a terrifically happy mood.  Judy Garland, eat your heart out - I belted out "Over the Rainbow" all the way home.