Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Severe Storm Warning Last Night

 The distant rolls of thunder started about 8:30.  A few random flashes of lightning, too.  Overall, it was less than impressive - mostly to the south of me.  And then the second or third wave hit.  LOTS of lightning, some thunder.  So, of course, I had to get the tripod set up and see what I could capture.

And this is what a blinding flash looks like...seriously:

Tried shooting some video, too.  The sky was filled with a constant wash of flashes, but only the biggest and brightest registered on the camera. The few flashes it caught are just too fast to register.

Still, it was quite a show!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mamas - Let Your Babies Grow Up... be Naturalists!

1970 at Rogers Environmental Education Center, Sherburne, NY
(I ended up working there in 1996 or 7)

2000 in the Amazon Forest of Peru

Some things never change.  :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Woodland Jewels

Ebony jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata) are stunning damselflies that we often find in the woods here, not too far from water (they like slow-moving woodland streams).  Their bodies are metallic green or blue, and their wings are black as black can be.  The females sport a single white dot (the stigma) on the tip of the wings (these are all males).  There's no other North American damselfly that looks like these.


The males arrive on the scene first.  It could be that since on the day that I took these photos I only saw males, and today I saw several females in the same location, that the females have just recently arrived in our woods here at work.  This particular location is near the small stream that runs through the property.

These lovelies live a mere 2-3 weeks, and 11 of those days they are not yet mature enough to mate.  When it is time to mate (and this is really cool) the male lands on the female's stigma (the white dots) and then walks down her wings to reach the position he needs to join with her and form the "tandem."  Does he land on the stigma because they are obvious, or are are the stigma obvious in order to provide him with a perfect landing spot?  It's the old chicken-or-the-egg question all over again.

I was pondering recently about the coloration of these insects.  Are there some that are blue and some that are green, or are they all green, but only appear blue in certain light (or light angles)?  I suspect it is the latter, if only because one of my dragonfly books refers to ebony jewelwings as green and black in color, although they "often look blue."

These insects are difficult to photograph - they never want to sit still long enough for you to focus and shoot.  I continue on my quest to get a perfectly focused image of one some day (although these aren't too bad).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Up to the UP - Part 6, Day 4...the Final Post

Monday morning...our last day in the UP.  There had been a freeze warning overnight, and it came true.  During breakfast we heard folks talking about ice on the roads.  When we loaded the car, we noted the glaze of ice on the windows. was a chilly, but sunny, morning.

The advice we had gotten at dinner the night before was to head down this side road for some choice birds.  

One that I heard was a swainson's thrush...another new one for me.  Don and Robin drove up after we'd been there a while.  Robin was shaking a baggie of some cheesy snack to try and call in the grey jays.  These birds are notorious for following people or coming into camps to sneak food.  Apparently they weren't too hungry this morning.

As we left the side road, we started to see the trilliums.  Soon, whole swathes of roadside forest were carpeted with the flowers.

Not only were the numbers impressive, but so was their size.  I know the white trilliums are called "large-flowered" trillium (T. grandiflorum), but I've never seen them with flowers this large before.  They were HUGE (and no, that's not just from the perspective of the camera to my hand)!

Soon we were back in our birding convoy, off to another dirt road leading into the woods, this time in search of the Connecticut warbler.

More potential mooseland...still no moose.  What we did have was olive-sided flycatchers ("quick, three beers") and least flycatchers ("fitz-bew").  

And we did hear the CT warbler.  The diehard birders put on their wellies and headed into the woods to chase it down.  Three of us stayed behind and went botanizing.  Paul found a pink lady's slipper, and soon we found quite a few.  All of them were bowed over...we suspect the overnight freeze was responsible.

The delicate white bud looks like an egg to me.

The birders returned victorious - they had seen the CT warbler within a few feet of where they stood.
On our way back to the main road, Paul, Libby and I stopped by a wetland to see the cotton grass up close, now dry and fluffy.  They look like little truffula trees.

We also had red chokeberry in bloom.

We were now headed back was time to play tourist again.  Apparently people from "below the bridge" are called trolls.  

Many of the sandy areas are eroded away by folks on ATVs.

We pulled off at a tourist trap called Castle Rock.  There it is...and for a dollar you could climb up to the top and see the view.

I opted just to take a photo of Paul Bunyan and Babe instead.

Before long the bridge was in sight.

This time not only was the fog gone, but the lake (Michigan) was spectacularly colored.

Back on the LP (Lower Peninsula) we see a fort.

Is it reconstructed or the actual remains of Fort Michilimackinac?  I don't know...we didn't stop.  Plenty of school buses were there, though - last week of school field trips.

We stopped at a little park for lunch and a view of the bridge.

The park was home to this old buoy...

and to some pretty persistent gulls who wanted to share our lunch.  They were disappointed.

I'd heard tales of Maciknack Island Fudge, so we stopped to get some.  I gave it to my cat-sitter as part of my thanks for taking care of "the kids" for me.

The last stop on our trip was at the Big Buck Brewery (we passed it on the way up).  Libby wanted to get a growler filled for her cat-sitter.

She had told me about the woodcarvings at the brewery, so I was armed with my camera to record them.

These are all carved on the bar:


ducks and lily pads



fish swimming behind the otter

We were back in Jackson by 5:00.  It had been a long and very filled weekend.  We'd all added new birds and plants to our various lists, and I had now seen more than just the southeastern part of Michigan.  I have now whetted my appetite to see more of the state and to get back up to the UP.

Up to the UP - Part 5, Still Day 3

So, here we are, at the visitor center at the Upper Taquamenon Falls.  Interestingly, this facility is apparently privately owned and is not part of the state park.  Signs alert visitors to exactly where they leave state land and step onto private property.

There's a brewery at one end, and we stopped in to see if they had restrooms we could use (it had been a long morning).  No restrooms for the public (unless you ate in the restaurant), but they did have this great eagle overhead.  Loved its catch (zoom in to see what's in its feet)!

After locating the public restrooms, we headed for the falls.

Along the way we took in the scenery.  Mountain ash was in bloom.  Looking closely at the leaves, I believe this is American mountain ash, which I've never seen before.  There were rumors of this in the Adirondacks, but all we ever saw was the European variety, which is taking over.  Hooray - a new plant to add to my life list!

And I've now finally seen an American beech in Michigan that has the beech scale disease.  So far all the beeches I've encountered have been free of it, but the disease is here, no doubt.

The day was not really warming up, and we found this yellow and black dragonfly trying to eek out some warmth from the asphalt path.  It was so chilly that it let me pick it up and put it on my hand.  After a photo shoot, I placed it on a maple leaf where the sun would hit it if it ever came out, and it would avoid being squashed by an errant visitor, dog, or stroller.  On our way back down the path an hour or so later, it was back on the asphalt, still hoping for some heat.  Thanks to a dragonfly expert we know (thanks, Don!), this has been identified as a mustached clubtail, and one that is newly emerged based on the shininess of the wings and the fact that the eyes have not reached their full adult color yet.

Soon we were getting glimpses of the falls through the trees.

But this was not all I glimpsed.  With my eyes cast ever downward looking for plants, I soon spotted early coral root, a saprophytic plant in the orchid family.

The green and white flowers are very small, 

but their orchidness is beyond doubt.

Looking around we found quite a number of these plants...I wonder if any other visitors saw them.  They all seemed to be along just the one side of the trail.  On the other side we found this strange-looking thing.  It's not a pale's squawroot, a root parasite that especially likes oaks.

I was now on a mission...what other cool plants would I find?  Another coral root soon presented itself.  This was one I'd never seen before...and it wasn't in Newcomb's!  The wife of one of the birders is a plant afficianado and I later emailed them the photo for ID.  It is striped coral root, Corallorhiza striata.  What a spectacular plant.  It has the largest flowers of all the coral roots.

The falls kept calling to us, though, so we continued down the trail.

An American redstart was also calling to us.  I've heard these birds, but I've never had a good look at one.  This one cooperated enough that I was able to get a quick photo of it.

It was now time to descend to the falls.

Ninety-four steps are not as many as you might think.

A wooden observation platform has been built right at the edge of the falls.  These falls drop about 40 feet...much more impressive than the lower falls we had seen the day before.  

Paul told us how when he was a youngster he walked along the bare shoreline below the falls right up to the cascade.  From there he walked behind the falls, with the rock wall on one side and the crashing waters on the other.  We peered at the spot where he said he'd done this...I don't think you could reach it today.

The Tahquamenon River was used for shipping logs downstream back in the big timber days of Michigan's past...much like the rivers back in the Adirondacks had been used.

Day Three of our trip came to a close with the group all meeting up for dinner at Pizza Hut.  It was there that we discovered that the birders had become mushroom hunters that afternoon.  They had followed the advice of the fellow we met at dinner the night before, and revisited one of the burns in search of morels.  Their search resulted in a fairly good harvest of these much-sought-after mushrooms.

Stay tuned for the final day of our trip...