Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sun Dogs

This morning on my drive into work I noticed a "sun dog" in the sky.  Also called a mock sun, phantom son, or parhelion, sun dogs form when ice crystals in the atmosphere  refracting sunlight to form a mirror image of the sun.  This mirror image appears at 22 degrees away from the sun and is parallel to the sun's position over the horizon.  The sun dog often has the appearance of a faint rainbow and is often accompanied by a halo around the sun - this halo can be seen  in the photo below.  Sun dogs are most oven seen in the hours around dawn and dusk, but can occur at any point of the day.  Usually sun dogs appear in pairs, one on either side of the sun, but today I was only able to observe one of the pair.  For more information on sun dogs check out this article on Wikipedia.

Sun dog and faint halo (29 APR 2015) - the two circular dots of light (above the sun dog and below the sun) are called lens flare and were caused by my sunlight directly hitting my camera lens

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's Blooming - Friday 24 APR 2015

On Friday (24 APR 2015), I was able to get away for a short time to check on what's blooming in the woods.  I am not doing a "Wildflower Big Year" like I did last year, but I still plan to keep track of what I find.  After completing two programs on Michigan Trees at Ganiard Elementary, I stopped at Chipp-A-Waters Park to look for spring ephemeral wildflowers.  The word ephemeral means "lasting for a very short time" - this is a very good description of these flower species.  They emerge from the forest floor, grow leaves, flower, and produce seeds all before the overhead canopy fills up with leaves.  Then they die back to their roots and wait to repeat the cycle one year later.

Here are the spring ephemeral wildflowers that I found on Friday.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) - Lots of plants, but the bloom is almost done

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) - just starting to bloom last week, should be full this week

Friday, April 24, 2015

Happy Arbor Day!

Vintage Poster that I found in the back room at the Conservation District offices

Today is National Arbor Day!  It's time to plant trees!  Those people that ordered trees from the Isabella Conservation District Spring Tree Sale can pick them up today at the Isabella County Fairgrounds at 500 N. Mission Rd, Mt. Pleasant.  If you didn't order trees, there are limited numbers available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Stop by the fairgrounds to see what is available.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

2015 Isabella County Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Tire Recycling

The Isabella Conservation District is hosting two dates for Household Hazardous Waste/Clean Sweep Collection and two dates for Tire Recycling in 2015.

Dates for Tire Recycling are Saturday May 9th and Saturday September 12th. 

Household Hazardous Waste/Clean Sweep Collection dates are Saturday June 6th and Saturday October 3rd.

All collections run from 9:00AM to 12:00PM (Noon) and take place at the Isabella County Fairgrounds (500 N. Mission Rd, Mt. Pleasant).

Items that are accepted during collection are listed below.  For further questions please call the Isabella Conservation District at 989-772-5927 ext. 3 or visit our offices at 5979 E. Broadway, Mt. pleasant during normal business hours.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Singing a Song of Spring

Last Thursday (16 April), I arrived back at the office to the sound of a bird calling in the field to the north.  Looking out over the field I could see this bird perched atop a small tree.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna)

A closer look reveals an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna).  Every year, I hear one calling in this field a few times during the spring and then it seems to disappear for the summer.  Meadowlarks are a "blackbird" that isn't black.  It is closely related to birds such as Grackles, Blackbirds, Orioles, and Cowbirds.  In addition to its flute-like song, Eastern Meadowlark can be identified by their bright yellow underside and black v-shaped mark across its chest.

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) - a closer view

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Visit With Some Special Birds

On Sunday, Shara and I were fortunate enough to tour the Wings of Wonder raptor sanctuary with WoW founder and director Rebecca Lessard.  Wings of Wonder is not open to the public, but we were able to arrange a private tour.  In two weeks Rebecca will be bringing several of the WoW "ambassador birds" to Mid-Michigan for the Bird Day Celebration at the Ziibiwing Center on May 2nd.  Birds from WoW also appeared at the 2014 Bird Day Celebration.

The goal of WoW (and any rehabilitation facility) is to treat injuries and release healthy raptors back into the wild.  Unfortunately there are some birds, while otherwise healthy, have injuries that prevent them from being able to survive in the wild.  A few of these birds are lucky enough to call Wings of Wonder their home and Rebecca Lessard their caretaker.  There are currently eleven birds that have permanent homes at Wings of Wonder.

Here are some photos of most of those birds.

Florence the Long-eared Owl

Eoin the Great-horned Owl

Zenon the Snowy Owl

Golda the Golden Eagle

Gilda the Eastern Screech Owl - Gilda shares an enclosure with Arlo (a red colored male Screech Owl).  He was in their roosting box when we visited.

Jaeda the American Kestrel - Note how her left wing droops, this is a result of a broken wing suffered by falling out of the nest as a nestling

Pearl the Red-tailed Hawk

Another photo of Pearl

We observed the majority of the birds through the mesh of their flight enclosures, but there were couple of cases where we were able to enter the enclosures with Rebecca and observe the birds closer.  One of these birds was Ned the Saw-whet Owl.  Like several of the other permanent residents of Wings of Wonder, Ned was hit by a car.  This left him with a broken wing that did not heal well enough to allow him to be released back into the wild.

Ned the Saw-whet Owl

Another shot of Ned

Two of the birds provided a bit of comic relief during our visit.  Rita Mae the Peregrine Falcon decided that she wanted one of Rebecca's work gloves while we were in here enclosure.  A tug-of-war resulted between the bird and her caretaker.  Finally the glove was exchanged for a stuffed animal. 

Rita Mae the Peregrine Falcon

Rita-Mae with the stolen work glove

Rebecca and Rita Mae vying for control of the stolen glove
The final bird that we saw at Wings of Wonder was Doolin the Turkey Vulture.  Doolin is a very inquisitive bird.  Unfortunately he was stolen from his nest when he was very young and is completely habituated to humans.  He is too trusting of people and can never be released to the wild.  While we were there, he took quite an interest in Shara and was preening and showing off for her.

Doolin the Turkey Vulture eating a snack

Doolin showing his bare head and iridescent feathers.

To learn more about these wonderful birds check out their profiles on the Wings of Wonder web page and if possible make a donation to support their care.  Also come out the see some of them on Saturday May 2nd at the Ziibiwing Center in Mt. Pleasant.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wildflower Coloring Pages

Last Spring my wife asked me to help her design an easy art project for her second grade classroom.  We decided it should be something to do with wildflowers.  So I came up with design for a Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandilorum) that her students could color and assemble.  When printed on a sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, this trillium is about life-size.

This year she asked for some more wildflowers.  These wildflowers are going to turn a bulletin board into a spring forest.  When picking which flowers to draw, I looked for ones that had a simple pattern so they would be easy to come up with a stylized design.

First up was a drawing of a Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

Next, I drew this grouping of Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) leaves and flowers.

The third new wildflower was a Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum).

Finally, I drew this Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).

Please feel free to print and use any of these coloring sheets.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Public Event - Michigan State University Science Festival (15 - 19 APR 2015)

If you live in mid-Michigan and are looking for something to do this weekend, think about attending the Science Festival at Michigan State University.  There are activities for all ages and best of all it's free (as in no cost)!  The Science Festival starts today (15 APR) and continues through Sunday (19 APR).  For more information about specific events and times visit the Science Festival website.

I hate to say it, but I will not make it to the Science Festival.  I had already made plans for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Logging Photographs

In the past I have shared numerous photographs of historic logging operations in Michigan (and other Great Lakes states).  I use these photographs and various logging tools as part of a classroom program.  Recently I purchased two additional picture postcards that show logging operations in northern Wisconsin.

The first image shows two teams of oxen being used to haul a sleigh load of logs near Rice Lake, WI.  Both horses and oxen were used as draft animals in the lumber camps.  Oxen are typically stronger than horses, but are slower.  

Two teams of oxen in harness near Rice Lake, WI - circa. 1900?

Like horses, oxen may be shod with metal shoes both to protect their feet and help them get a better grip on the icy logging roads.  While horse shoes are a single piece, oxen shoes were in two pieces to accommodate the ox's cloven hooves.  Shoeing an ox is more difficult than shoeing a horse.  While the farrier (person who shoes horses) can lift a single foot of a horse up off the ground to replace a shoe, when shoeing an ox, the entire weight of the ox must be suspended from a harness during the shoeing process.

One interesting aspect of this photograph is that the oxen are wearing harnesses.  In most photographs that I have seen showing oxen working in lumber camps, the oxen are shown using a wooden yoke rather than harnessed.  This photo from Mid-Michigan shows two pair of yoked oxen.

Loading the sprinkler, Clare County, MI (1885) - note the yoked oxen to the left of the photo

My second new photograph is also from Wisconsin.  This photo shows a piece of equipment called a "swing jammer" and a group of shanty boys near Lakewood, WI.  The swing jammer was used to load logs onto sleighs for transport.  Prior to the invention of the swing jammer, logs were "cross-hauled" up a ramp onto the sleigh by a team of horses (or oxen).  The swing jammer allowed logs to be lifted onto the sleigh.  Swing jammers consisted of an A-frame with a base and a series of cables and pulleys.