Friday, November 21, 2014


Last winter I wrote a post about how small mammals use the subnivean zone for shelter and transportation.  Yesterday I went out into the same field behind the office and found several collapsed subnivean tunnels in the freshly fallen snow.  The longest of these tunnels extended nearly 20 feet.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chippewa River at Mill Pond Park - 20 NOV 2014

After giving two presentations this morning I took a few minutes to stop at Mill Pond Park and take a few photographs. 

A Mallard Duck surfs through one of the weirs at Mill Pond Park

The same Mallard now facing upstream below the weir

Ice has begun to form along the shore of the river and the banks are covered with this week's snowfall

Beetle holes in a standing dead tree

Honeysuckle berries and leaves

Reflections of the sun on the surface of the Chippewa River

Looking across the Chippewa River toward  the south

The sun and clouds - my favorite photo of the month so far

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - One Hundred Fifty- One Years ago today

The Soldiers National Monument at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, PA - near the site of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
19 November 1863

100 Species to Know by Sight - #8 Fox Squirrel

Fox Squirrel (Sciurrus niger) eating fruit from an ornamental crab apple tree

Species #8 on my list of 100 Species to Know by Sight is an easy one.  There are eight species of squirrels that can be found in Mid-Michigan.  Only three of them are true "tree" squirrels.  The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest of those three species.  While it can have many color phases, Fox Squirrels in Mid-Michigan are reddish-brown to orange in color.  They share this color with the Red Fox, resulting in the name Fox Squirrel. 

For more information on this species please visit this species profile that I wrote in February 2013.

A resting Fox Squirrel - photo by Shara LeValley

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winter Adaptations

Winter poses survival challenges for every species in Mid-Michigan

Animals and plants have many strategies that help them survive the winter.  Birds (and some bats and insects) migrate to warmer climates.  Mammals develop thick winter fur to help them stay warm.  Reptiles, amphibians, insects, and a few mammals reduce their metabolic rates and hibernate through the colder months. 

Most non-woody plants die down to their roots.  Deciduous trees shed their leaves to keep from dehydrating.  Pines and other needle-leaf trees (except the Tamarack) have waxy coatings on their narrow leaves that allow them to retain their leaves through the winter. 

Humans either stay indoors or if we go outside pile on more layers of clothes to mimic the layers of fur that our mammal relatives have.

To read about some of adaptations that help species survive in the winter check out these previous posts.

Chickadees in Winter

"I find you galling", said the goldenrod to the fly.

Winter Rabbit Sign

Next Stop, the Subnivean Zone!


Monday, November 17, 2014

The First Snows of the Season

Just in case anyone is not aware...  Wintry weather has arrived in Mid-Michigan and across much of the rest of North America.  After giving a presentation this morning, I decided to take a short trip to Mission Creek Woodland Park to photograph the woods and its new cover of snow.

The trail where it enters the woods near the sledding hill

American Beech trees hold onto many of their leaves through the Winter

A pair of White-tailed Deer bedded down along the edge of the swamp

These leaves have been pawed up by squirrels and deer searching for acorns

The object of the search

Red Oak leaf and snow

Cow Parsnip seeds

A fallen leaf curled around goldenrod seeds

Northern White Cedar growing along the banks of Mission Creek

A closeup of a group of Cedar trunks

Roots of a wind-thrown Cedar

This last pictures show something that I am not very happy about.  I don't like to rant about things on this blog, but this is an issue that bothers me.  The City of Mt. Pleasant cleared two acres of woods at Mission Creek Woodland Park to install a dog park - note the park name.  They had other property available to install a dog park that would not have required destruction of habitat, but decided this was the best option. 

Two acres of formerly wooded property at Mission Creek Woodland Park

Friday, November 14, 2014

2015 Deer Season


Tomorrow (15 NOV) is opening day for the 2015 Michigan Firearms Deer Season.  Good luck to all of the Michigan hunters!