Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Visiting four CWC preserves in one day (Part Two)

Yesterday I started to share a bunch of photographs from my Sunday (29 October 2017) trip to four Chippewa Watershed Conservancy Preserves.  I entered the first preserve (Sylvan Solace) at approximately 9:00AM and left the final preserve (Audubon Woods) at 3:45PM.  Add in driving to and from my home in Alma and the trip took nearly eight hours and covered 78 miles by car and (probably) 10 miles on foot.

Here are the photos from the second half of my trip.

Hall's Lake Natural Area

The Hall's Lake Natural Area is actually comprised of three connected preserves (the Schaftenaar, Kabana, and Neely Preserves) on the north and east sides of Hall's Lake.  A fourth, unconnected, Preserve (Fox Run) is located on the southwest side of the lake.  My trip took me mostly through the Schaftenaar and Kabana Preserves, with a short dip into the Neely Preserve.  Hall's Lake Natural Area is only three miles (as the crow flies) from Bundy Hill.  However, it takes six miles of driving to get from one preserve to the other.

Small American Beech sapling grows along the edge of a shrub swamp.

Lycopodium (a relative of ferns) will remain green throughout the winter.

A Tamarack sapling turns golden yellow before losing its needles.  It is the onlylocal conifer to lose its needles every fall.

In the previous post I mentioned that I found deer scrapes at every preserve I visited.  I probably found a dozen scrapes in total.  This scrape at Hall's Lake was the only one that I photographed with its overhead "licking branch".  Located directly over a heavily used trail, deer will both lick this branch and rub it with scent glands located on their nose and forehead.  The scrape acts like a sign drawing attention to the overhead branch.

A deer scrape located underneath an overhanging branch provides a place for deer to leave scent signals.

Located just a few short feet away, I found another type of deer sign known as a "rub'.  Rubs are formed by bucks scraping their antlers against a small tree.  Early in the fall, rubs are used to scrape velvet off the deer's fully developed antlers.  Later in the fall they are used much like the licking branch as a place to leave scent information for other deer.

A freshly rubbed sapling shows that one or more bucks has passed this way.

In this image both a scrape (left) and rub (right) can be seen. 

Green pine saplings and drying ferns add their own colors to the fall leaf palette.

Amanita mushrooms are toxic to humans.

Paper Birch trunks stand out in any fall forest.

Several benches provide a place to sit and view Hall's Lake.

Birch trunks rot within only a few years - the watertight bark holds moisture in!

Bronze American Beech leaves against a slowly decaying tree trunk

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) adds its own color to the woods.

A miniature forest of Ground Pine sprouts in the larger forest.

Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) leaves can turn a shocking shade of purple in the fall.

Water flows north out of Hall's lake into Pony Creek.

An old shelf fungus slowly decays, as does the log it grew on.

A bolete mushroom rises from the forest floor.

The bark on this tree formed an interesting pattern of cracks and fissures.

The preserve boundaries at Hall's Lake are well marked.

A large wetland divides the Schaftenaar and Kabana preserves.  An osprey nest platform can be seen in the distance.

Sometime in the recent past, beavers felled a large number of aspen trees at the northern edge of the preserve.

Red Oak leaves living up to their name for once.

Most of the canopy has fallen by now.

Audubon Woods Preserve

Audubon Woods Preserve is approximately 10 miles from the Hall's Lake Natural Area.  Audubon Woods is definitely the CWC preserve that I am most familiar with.  I have made many trips to Audubon Woods with school groups over the past few years and have written about that experience  several times.  Audubon Woods is a mature hardwood forest located on the banks of the Chippewa River.  The entire preserve slopes downhill toward the river's high banks.  Because I have spent so much time at this preserve, I decided to spend most of my time wandering off trail in hopes of finding something new.

Looking down the trail toward the river.

A small intermittent stream divided the property.

Northern Maidenhair Fern grows along the stream.
A pile of scat shows that a White-tailed Deer passed this way.

Bigtooth Aspen leaves turn golden yellow, but quickly fade to brown.

Looking up at Bigtooth Aspen leaves caught in an Eastern Hemlock.

A small fern grows deep in Audubon Woods.

Eastern hemlock forms several groves within Audubon Woods

Burls are irregular growths caused by damage to the tree.

Wild Grapes climb an Eastern Hemlock to the canopy.

This Sassafras seedling is near the northern limit of its range in Michigan.

Was it worth it?  I spent an entire day driving between preserves and hiking around.  I could have probably spent all day at any one of the preserves and still came away with the same number of photographs.  I did this mostly for the challenge - maybe other people have done something like this in the CWC preserves, but if they have I'm not aware of it.  I already have a more ambitious round of preserve visits mapped out in my mind, but that will have to wait until next summer when there is more available daylight.

Hopefully someone will see this and be inspired to challenge themselves to a similar photography project.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Visiting four CWC preserves in one day (Part One)

The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy currently own twenty-two preserves scattered across four counties.  Yesterday (29 October 2017) I visited the four "flagships" of the CWC's preserve system - Sylvan Solace Preserve, Bundy Hill Preserve, Hall's Lake Natural Area, and Audubon Woods Preserve.  The close nature of three out of these four preserves made it easy to link my visits together.  My goal was simply to visit each of the four preserves, walk on and off trail, and photograph whatever grabbed my attention.  Because I took so many photos I am going to split this into two posts.  This post will deal with my visits to Sylvan Solace Preserve and Bundy Hill Preserve.

Sylvan Solace Preserve

Sylvan Solace Preserve was my first stop.  This preserve is located on Pickard Road, between Gilmore and Littlefield Roads, approximately 7 1/2 miles west of Mt. Pleasant.  I arrived at Sylvan Solace just a few minutes after 9:00AM and spent about approximately 1.5 hours on site.

Here are a few of the many photos that I took during that time.

A deer trail through a grove of Black Locust trees.

A dead pine slowly succumbs to rot, insects, and woodpeckers.

Ferns change into their subtle shades of red, orange, and brown.

Small metal arrows mark the location and direction of trails throughout the preserve

Looking up at the overcast sky through Bigtooth Aspen trees.

Bigtooth Aspen leaves turn yellow then brown as they dry out.

Along the east trail at Sylvan Solace, I noticed several scrapes made by White-tailed Deer.   Scrapes are one of the ways White-tailed bucks leave scent to mark their territory.  Located above the scrape is typically a low-hanging branch that the buck will lick and rub with the scent glands located on his head.  The buck scrapes the ground with its hooves to draw attention to the scent marker and typically urinates on the scrape to add even more scent.  Both bucks and does will check out scrapes.  Although bucks create scrapes year-round, this behavior intensifies in the weeks before mating season.  I found several fresh scrapes at Sylvan Solace and would go on to find scrapes at each of the other three preserves I visited.

A fresh deer scrape is used to leave a scent "calling card" to announce a buck's presence in the area.

A mushroom pokes up from the leaf litter.

Looking upstream at Sylvan Solace Preserve.

Spreading oak trees grew up in the open before being surrounded by forest.

American Beech trees will be among the last to lose their leaves - often holding them through mid-winter.

Nest boxes provide artificial cavities used by many bird species.

A fern, grasses, and Bigtooth Aspen leaves create a colorful mosaic.

Rain and dewdrops bead up on the waxy coating of freshly-fallen Aspen leaves.

The pictures of my second preserve visit can be seen below.