Monday, April 29, 2013

What's in the woods? - 29 April 2013

The weather has improved considerably here in Mid-Michigan over the last week.  Spring has finally started to arrive in force.  Many of the spring ephemeral wildflowers are growing quickly and will be in bloom by the end of the week - this puts them about 10 days behind a normal spring. 

I took a walk at Chipp-A-Waters Park in Mt. Pleasant yesterday morning to check on the status of the wildflowers there.  Much of the floodplain forest is still flooded from the rains of the past few weeks, but the river is back within its banks now.  Here are some of the species that I found.

A Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii or Emys blandingii) was sitting in the grass along the side of the trail.  Easily identified by its bright yellow chin and throat, the Blanding's Turtle is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Michigan.

Blanding's Turtle

Native Species Profile - Canada Anemone

Canada Anemone

The Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) is a native wildflower that is found across much of the northern United States (29 states) and Canada (11 provinces and territories).  Quite adaptable, it can be found in a variety of sunny/part sun locations such as prairies, wet meadows, and woodlands.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Wetland Plants

The following pictures are from a PowerPoint presentation on wetlands that I do in local 4th and 6th grade classrooms.  Why 4th and 6th grade?  Grade level content expectations at those grades for science include learning about various habitats.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Upcoming Event - Bird Day Celebration (May 11th)

On Saturday May 11th the Isabella Conservation District and the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways are hosting our second annual Migratory Bird Day Celebration.  This event is from 1:00 PM to 4:00PM and is free to the public.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Native Species Profile - Northern Blue Flag Iris

Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

Northern Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) is 2 to 3 foot tall wetland plant with sword-like leaves and  violet/blue flowers trimmed with yellow and white.  The leaves form a flattened fan-like cluster.  The plant spreads both by seed and by spreading rhizomes.  Northern Blue Flag often forms dense colonies.

Spring Delayed - In the Swamp

Yesterday I went to Mission Creek Park to check out the wildflowers in the Cedar and Red Maple Swamps.  The only thing that was blooming at all was Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).  Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). The Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) that grows along the creek was barely poking out of the ground.  In fact there was still one patch of ice in the cedar swamp.

Skunk Cabbage flowers and shoots

2 to 3 inch thick ice - covering an area of approx 15 x 40 ft

Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) growing through the ice

More Skunk Cabbage growing in a warmer location.  It is a little further along.

Today, we woke up to snow on the ground.  It's April 24th.  In Mid-Michigan.  It should be Spring.  It's trying.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring - Delayed

I went out to one of my favorite wildflowers spots yesterday to see what is blooming.  Usually by the third weekend of April I can find Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum),
Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia), and probably a few species blooming at this site.  Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) is often done blooming by now.  

So what did I find yesterday?

The only significant green is from Wild Leeks (Allium tricoccum).

Wild Leek shoots - photo taken 18 APR 2013
Bloodroot was just beginning to come up.

Bloodroot, less than 1.5 inches tall
As was Dutchman's Breeches.

Dutchman's Breeches

There were also a few leaves from Spring Beauty and Yellow Trout Lily visible, but that was it as far as native wildflowers.  I am going to another site today, but I expect more of the same.  Spring seems to have been delayed by about a week.

I did see one other thing.  My third snake of the year a small (1 foot long) garter snake.

Garter Snake peering over downed branch.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Every Day is Earth Day.

Today is Earth Day 2013.  I am not going to give you a list of things that you can do to celebrate.  There are lots of other places where you can find a list like that.  Remember we have to live on Earth every day and not just one day out of the year.  Every day is Earth Day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin to break" - Mid-Michigan Floods April 2013

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
When the levee breaks I'll have no place to stay
                     - Led Zepellin 
                                          "When the Levee Breaks

According to NOAA data, over the last 14 days Mid-Michigan has received over 6 inches of rainfall (with some areas receiving more than 8 inches).

NOAA 14 Day Observed Precipitation

This has cause light to moderate flooding throughout the region.  The Pine River is over its banks in both Alma and St. Louis.  In Shepherd, the Little Salt River has gone over its banks.  The Chippewa River is over its banks in Mt. Pleasant and downstream.  In Midland, the Titabawassee is also flooding.

Mt Pleasant is under a Flood Warning until further notice.  As of noon on April 18th the river was at 7.8 feet; flood stage is at 8.0 feet.  it is expected to rise to nearly 12.7 feet by Sunday morning.

Water flowing over the Riverwalk Trail at Chipp-A-Waters Park

Water over the trail at this point measured about 4 inches.  The Chippewa River is to the left in this picture.

The Chippewa River at its banks.

Much of the floodplain is already flooded.

This is the same area of the trail as in pic 2.  The water level had risen to 8 inches  by this point.

The next few pictures are from Mill Pond Park in Mt. Pleasant.

The Chippewa River almost out of its banks and covering the Riverwalk Trail on both sides of the river.

Due to rising water, all City of Mt Pleasant Parks that border the Chippewa River were closed to the public until flood waters recede.

The next two pictures are of the Little Salt River in Shepherd.

The Little Salt River over its banks, flooding Little Salt River Park.

The view upstream from Blanchard Road (Photo by Shara LeValley).

The final set of photographs is from the Pine River in Alma.  People have been evacuated from several blocks of houses and apartments near the river and several streets and bridges have been closed.

Looking across the Pine River from the Alma Public Library
Water nearly to the roadway of the Superior Street Bridge.  The bridge was closed to traffic shortly after.

Pine River floodwaters up to Superior Street and the Alma Public Library.

The park a few blocks from our house.

The sign becomes more interesting when the trail is under water.

This is two blocks south of our house - our house sits at least 8 foot higher.  

This is this second time in as many weeks that the apartments and houses at the end of our street have been evacuated due to flooding.  Our house sits significantly higher and is out of the floodplain.  We do have some water seeping into our basement, but the floor drains are taking care of that.  The concern is that Alma's combined sanitary/storm sewer system will be overtaxed.  Partially treated water is already being released in the Pine River from the city wastewater treatment plant.  The city commission has declared flooded areas of the city as a disaster area.

Houses on the other side of the street, three blocks from our house.

Yes that sign does say duck crossing - the resident at that address feeds ducks in her yard. A duck actually swam by as I was walking back to get in the car.


I wrote this post last night.  We were expecting more rainfall and the rivers were expected to continue rising.  Much of the expected rainfall missed our area.  The Pine River in Alma has crested and is expected to begin dropping soon.  The Little Salt River has begun to drop.  The Chippewa River is expected to continue to rise over the next two days.