With such beautiful (if a bit too warm and humid) weather on hand, I couldn't just take Toby for our usual spin around the block last night. We needed to go where we could enjoy trees and grass. Off to MacCready we went.
The last time we were here, things were rather snowy. I couldn't wait to see it sans snow. And maybe, just maybe, we might find some flowers blooming!
The first thing that caught my eye was this: strange blue tubes in the woods. What could it be?
I had my suspicions, so I went and peeked into one of the tubes. Yes - there was a small tree in there. Must be some sort of reforestation project.
Instead of walking along the designated Red Trail, I decided to walk along this plot. I wanted to know more. Soon we discovered a section without blue tubes, but with individual seedlings tied with pink tape, behind a tall deer fence.
Section by section, we noted a few changes - different colored tape,
tape and tubes,
fencing and no fencing.
An idea began to form. I suspected this might be a reforestation project looking at the impact of deer browse on seedlings, and ways to prevent it. Between aggressive non-native plants, and voracious (and way too numerous) native deer, many native plants have a rough time getting established and growing. I took at look at the mud at my feet - deer tracks.
I stepped into one of the unfenced portions and looked at one of the untubed seedlings - it showed classic signs of having been browsed.
A little further along, I found this collection of tree labels. Swamp white oak. I have been told that this tree is not doing well regeneration-wise. It is part of the historic landscape in this part of Michigan, but other trees are filling the understory (like black cherry), preventing this tree from reestablishing itself. Suppression of
fires in these fire-dependent habitats (oak savanna and prairie) allow these other trees to take over. Add to this the browsing pressure of deer, and you have the same situation we face in the Northeast with sugar maples - their disappearance from the understory, and ultimately from the landscape.
And then I saw it. Very tiny, but it was there - my first wildflower of the season. It was vaguely familiar When I got home I keyed it out: Whitlow grass (Draba verna) - one I learned from my friend Jackie just last summer. Sadly, it isn't a native flower, but it was still nice to see it.
By 8:00 Toby was really showing the effects of the heat and humidity. Our walk slowed to practically a crawl as we oozed our way around the trail. I think we were both glad to see the trailhead and come back home. I had taken a bottle of water along, and we both made use of it, but it was good to get back where water flowed freely in bowl and glass. I, at least, got to take a refreshing shower. Poor Toby had to settle for finding a cool bit of floor to lie upon.
Thank goodness the wind kept up. This was, however, a harbinger for "something" in the weather, and around, oh, 2 or 3 AM, "it" hit - a rip-snorter of a storm. Closing the windows helped keep the din to a more tolerable level, but the thunder must've been right above us. Thankfully we only had to endure a very few crashes before the wind swept the storm further northward. This morning it is almost hard to believe the amount of rain that came pelting down only a few short hours ago. And the temperature is once more back to normal. Ahhhh.