Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Year of the Bird

2018 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  In celebration of this milestone, this year has been declared "Year of the Bird" by the National Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, Bird Life International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In honor of the celebration I thought I would share a few of my favorite bird photographs.

Don't forget to mark your calendar for Saturday May 12th from 1:00PM TO 5:00pm.  Join me on that date as the Isabella Conservation District, Chippewa Valley Audubon Club, and Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe celebrate World Migratory Bird Day at the Ziibiwing Center.




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Six views of a dead Beech Tree

Following an afternoon presentation at Fancher Elementary yesterday, I drove to Chipp-A-Waters Park to take a few photographs.  Many of the park's trees have fallen victim to the Emerald Ash Borer in recent years.  These trees have begun falling and knocking down many of the park's healthy trees.  Some of the older trees in the park are simply dying of other natural causes (insect infestations, fungus infection, high winds, etc.).  All that remains of one American Beech is ten foot tall stump.  This trees is covered with a great collection of lichen and fungi.

With apologies to Katsushika Hokusai, here are six views of that American Beech trunk.

Monday, January 15, 2018

IMG_0115 for 01/15 (A random collection of photos that all have the same name)

The following photographs have nothing in common, except their file names.  Each of these photos is titled IMG_0115.  I don't do a good job of labeling photos as I add them to my computer.  Each of the pictures goes into a separate file according to the date that the picture was taken, but the individual pictures all have the name that the camera assigned to them.

I actually thought of this idea of posting several of the pictures a few months ago while I was searching for an image on my computer.  I was writing a new blog post and wanted to use a certain photograph, but I couldn't remember which file it was saved in.  Fortunately I had used the file previously in another blog post.  When I use an image on this blog the link to the image contains the name of the file so I was able to look at that link and then do a search on my computer for the original file.  I found the file that I wanted, but I also found several dozen more images with the same name.

With that experience, I decided that I would share several photos that share the same name.  Why did I pick IMG_0115 as the title to share?  Today's date is January 15th, or if you are expressing it as a number in the format MM/DD it is 01/15.  So IMG_0115 it is.

IMG_0115 - Devil's Tower as seen from the base of its boulder field (July 2017)

IMG_0115 - Mt. Rushmore (July 2017)

IMG_0115 - Red Admiral butterfly  (May 2017)

IMG_0115 - Yellow Trout Lily (April 2017)

IMG_0115 - Trail clearance at Audubon Woods Preserve (April 2017)
IMG_0115 - Rural sunrise (January 2017)
The rest of the photos can be found below the break.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why nature?

Why nature?

Let me explain that better.  Why should people care about nature?

With technology it is possible to instantly connect with people around the globe, but people alive today are more disconnected from nature than at any previous point in human history.  This disconnection is unfortunate, because exposure to nature has been proven to be good for people.

Scientists are just beginning to measure the positive effects of nature on our well-being, but available
research indicates that it has the following effects:

It reduces stress,

reduces heart rate,

increases concentration,

improves learning,

and improves the retention of knowledge.

I currently sit on the board of directors for two organizations that know all about the value and power of nature.

The Chippewa Watershed Conservancy (CWC) protects natural habitat and open space in the counties of the Chippewa River watershed.  The CWC currently protect over 600 acres of land on twenty-two preserves in Mid-Michigan.  These preserves protect woodlands, wetlands, and river frontage throughout the Chippewa River watershed.  With the exception of a couple of preserves that have limited access, these preserves are currently open to the public. 

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) has the goal of promoting environmental literacy through education.   To achieve this goal, MAEOE hosts an annual environmental education conference, certifies teachers in environmental education, gives environmental education grants to its members, and offers online education resources.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Northern White Cedar - An important winter food source for White-tailed Deer

On two recent occasions I have visited locations with Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) trees.  This tree is typical found in wet, mucky soils in swamps, floodplains, and along the edges of lakes. The picture above (and the following two pictures) show Northern White Cedars growing in the Chippewa River floodplain at the Chippewa Watershed Conservancy's Sylvan Solace Preserve.  The Cedars at Sylvan Solace are restricted to this narrow band of muck soil along the edge of the river.

The next two photographs were taken at Mission Creek Woodland Park in Mt. Pleasant.  Mission Creek Park is a mixture of upland and wetland habitats.  Along Mission Creek itself is a section of swamp filled with Norther White Cedars.  Because these trees grow in habitats with a high water table, they often have very shallow root systems and are prone to toppling over in high winds or even when snow or ice builds up in their branches.  On a walk through the park last week I noticed several trees that had recently fallen over.

Northern White Cedar is a preferred winter food source for White-tailed Deer.  Often deer will eat every needle from a tree that is within their reach to a height of 6-8 feet off the ground.  In areas with a large deer population, cedars can have a difficult time reaching adulthood, they are often consumed before they have the chance to grow out of the reach of deer. 

When a mature tree such as this one falls deer are quick to discover this easy source of food.  Many of the needles on this tree have already been stripped by hungry deer.  I expect that before winter is over, the deer will eat every needle that they can physically reach.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Five years...

Self portrait with beard and mustache icicles (03 January 2018)

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary for this blog.

The first post that I wrote here was an introduction of what I wanted to do in this space: answer questions from students, focus on local nature, and highlight upcoming science and nature events in the local community.  I think I have generally stayed with that focus.

My first "real" post was about how Black-capped Chickadees survive the winter.

In the past five years, I have written nearly a thousand posts.  According to Blogger these posts have been viewed over 300,000 times!

The top 10 posts by page views have been:

     1.  Leaves of three, let it be...  What about leaves of five?
     2.  Soil Particle Sizes - Sand, Silt, and Clay
     3.  Logging Tools Part 1 - Axe and Saw
     4.  Waterproof Fur
     5.  Fungi!
     6.  Dogwood misidentification
     7.  Leaves of Three...  Revisited
     8.  Aquatic Ecology and Mother Earth Week at the Ziibiwing Center
     9.  What's in the woods? - 2, 4 & 5 May 2013
    10.  A tale of two flowers - one native, one alien

In the course of writing all of these posts, I have taken and shared thousands of photographs.  I have been contacted several times about using my photographs in books and one of my photos appeared on the cover of our local phone directory for 2015. Several of my photographs have even won awards in photo contests.

Here are ten of my favorites photos that have appeared on this site, with two pictures from each year.


Pileated Woodpecker - Mission Creek Woodland Park, Mt. Pleasant, MI

Sunset - Old Mission Point Park, Traverse City, MI


Stan Lilley photographs a Wild Calla - Hall's Lake Nature Area, Isabella County, MI

Oak Leaves - Mill Pond Park, Mt. Pleasant, MI


Barred Owl - Mission Creek Woodland Park, Mt. Pleasant, MI

Prairie Dock leaf - Mt Pleasant Discovery Museum Garden, Mt. Pleasant, MI


Grey Tree Frog - Audubon Woods Preserve, Winn, MI

Fun with maple leaves - Vowles Elementary, Mt. Pleasant, MI


Northern Water Snakes - Chipp-A-Waters Park, Mt. Pleasant, MI

Badlands National Park, Interior, SD

What's coming up in 2018?  My plan is to continue frequent blog posts, with a goal of 4 or 5 posts every week during the school year.  I also want to spend more time outdoors so that I have more to write about and more photos to share.  This can actually be a challenge because my job keeps me inside most days.  While I try to never write about something original in every post, I might spend a little time revisiting some of my favorite subjects.

To everyone that has been following along - Thanks!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Red Oak in Winter

Most trees lost their leaves a couple of months ago, but many oak and beech trees have held onto their leaves until now.  Yesterday (03 January) while retrieving my trail cameras, I noticed many of these leaves scattered across the surface of the snow.  Depending on when they fell, these leaves were covered with varying amounts of fine snow.  Here are a few Red Oak leaves that I photographed.  I really like the simplicity of these images.