|Field trip participants (Cathy Murray, Dick and Diana Moreau, and Ruth Chapman) pose by the preserve sign|
On Saturday August 12th, I led a field trip to the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy's Peterson Natural Area. At 79 acres, Peterson NA is one of the largest preserves in the CWC's inventory. It is also (probably) one of the least visited. Located in Mecosta County, Peterson NA is much closer to Big Rapids (less than 10 miles) than it is to Mt. Pleasant (approximately 40 miles). This distance from Mt. Pleasant puts off the radar for most CWC supporters - if you are going to Peterson Natural Area you are making a time commitment.
Despite the distance from Mt. Pleasant (or in my case from Alma), visiting Peterson Natural Area is worth the effort. Here are a few pics from that visit.
|Ruth was wearing a walking cast and needed a helping hand to navigate a couple stretches|
|Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) on Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)|
The surprise of the day was finding a Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in the wet meadow that runs down the center of the property. The Wood Turtle is considered a Species of Special Concern by the State of Michigan so it is always a thrill to see one. Wood Turtles do frequently spend much of the summer in upland areas, but I didn't suspect that the small stream running through Peterson Natural Area would bring one to the property from the nearby Muskegon River. I actually found this turtle with my feet - while walking through the tall grass of the meadow, I stepped on what initially I thought was a rounded rock. Surprise!
|Cathy photographing the Wood Turtle|
|Who wouldn't love that face!|
|Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) was growing everywhere along the stream.|
|Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) adds its magenta hues to the landscape mosaic.|
|Mating Yellow-collared Scape Moths (Cisseps fulvicollis) on Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)|
|Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) nectaring on Swamp Milkweed|
Near the end of our walk, we found three Monarch caterpillars. All three were in their 5th instar and were almost ready to enter the chrysalis stage. The first two caterpillars were feeding on Common Milkweed plants.
|Ruth zooms in on a Monarch caterpillar|
The third caterpillar was crawling around on the side of a large rock. In the hours before forming a chrysalis, Monarch caterpillars (and those of other butterfly species) often wander far from their host plant.
If you are interested in visiting Peterson Natural Area, this is the best time of year to do so. The late summer wildflowers in the wet meadow are at their peak and the fall asters and goldenrods will be blooming soon. If time allows, I may try to take one more trip over before the bloom is done.