MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Flower Tree_6031a By now the interested blog viewer will have gotten the idea that I’m rather fond of wildlife. You might think by the sheer number of bird photos that winged creatures top my list, but in fact I’m a mammal kind of girl. My all-time favorite animals are American black bears. All right, I admit, it’s the cute factor, but if I were twenty-five years younger I’d be in school right now, studying to be a wildlife biologist and hoping to work with black bears.

Frustratingly, I’ve never seen one. When I was 16, one strolled through my unit at summer camp, and I slept right through it. The Philadelphia Zoo has Asiatic black bears, but not American, and when we visited the Cape May Zoo, their bears were inside while the enclosure was being cleaned. I even have bad luck at zoos.

MI Mitchell SP Sign_7536aThe closest I’ve gotten is this sign, near Mitchell State Park. Not your average “Deer Crossing” sign is it?

It’s becoming my new excursion mantra – “Great trip! But NO bears…”

Here are a few Michigan images that didn’t make it into previous posts, but I like too much to leave out.

MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Flower Tree_6183aLost Lake, Ludington State Park

Sign CollageMichigan Highway 116 runs past endless beaches and right into Ludington State Park, and M-22 is the route through Sleeping Bear Dunes. The locations they provide access to are so popular there’s a whole cottage industry of M-22 and M-116 trinkets. Also common are Michigan T-shirts: “Lake Michigan – Unsalted and Shark Free”.

MI Mitchell SP Flower_7240aMI Mitchell SP Flower_7383aOn the trail at Mitchell State Park

Ludington CollageSome things you might see around Ludington, including art at the Waterfront Park, and the House of Flavors. Fantastic ice cream with really creative flavor names. “NSA Feature Flavor”?

MI White Pine - 19 Windmill_5471aAs the sun sets on another wonderful sojourn to Michigan, good memories flood back:

  •  MI Tricycle Kim_7701 acsTelling time by the toot of the Badger’s horn
  • Getting Jersey-sized waves on the first day
  • Dirt roads and red barns
  • Kayaking
  • Betsey’s delight with the scallops at Steamer’s
  • Meeting Doug and Suzanne – YAY! – and Terry and the Obrechts
  • The Club Mich sign
  • Getting lost
  • Barefoot Brownie ice cream, aka Bear Claw
  • Michigan cherries
  • Sherry’s battle with the ants
  • Going from way too hot to almost cold, and getting to wear an International House sweatshirt when it was too cold
  • Sherry whistling the blues to the accompaniment of Doug’s guitar
  • That darn tricycle
  • Forgetting to sign the garage before I left

Most of all, long conversations with wonderful people. I’m especially grateful to Betsey and Sherry – thanks guys for inviting me into your wonderful home this summer.

On the way out of town, let’s take advantage of one more opportunity to have the “Ludington Experience”, shall we?Stearns Park Collage

The REAL Ludington ExperienceMI Sunset_5732a

Coming up: Summer’s Fleeting Beauty

Michigan’s Shy Wildlife

MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Northern Pearly-eye_6060a I went to Michigan hoping to come home with lots of amazing wildlife shots. Last year I saw minks, for gosh sakes. And this year I have this great new long telephoto zoom lens. Confoundingly, Michigan critters are quite camera shy. No mink, no deer, only one chipmunk.

Birds – oh, yes, there were birds. I could hear them all around me, nattering away constantly. But they insisted on playing hide-and-seek with me, teasing with brief flashes of black and yellow, but never settling down long enough to visit.

Here are some of the animals I did manage to capture, mostly of the winged variety. Above is a Northern Pearly-eye Butterfly in Ludington State Park. Check out the natty striped antennas.

MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Bird_6213aAmerican Redstart, Ludington State Park.

MI Mitchell SP Bird_7291aSong Sparrow, Mitchell State Park.

MI Mitchell SP Bird_7415aChickadee, Mitchell State Park.

MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Bird_6402aUnidentified Warbler, Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. Maybe a female or juvenile Blackburnian? A little help, anyone?

Eagle Filmstrip 1 No text A juvenile Bald Eagle searches for prey, spots his quarry, closes in, and – IMPACT!

Eagle Filmstrip 2 No Text

To the victor goes the spoils.

Looks like fish for lunch today.

MI Nordhouse Dunes GSF Butterfly_5898aGreat Spangled Fritillary, Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. Who comes up with these names, anyhow?

MI LSP Sable River Trail Common Buckeye_7084a Common Buckeye, Ludington State Park.

MI LSP Lost Lake-Island Trail Widow Skimmer_6452aWidow Skimmer, Ludington State Park.

MI LSP Sable River Trail E Pondhawk_7051aEastern Pondhawk, Ludington State Park.

MI Mitchell SP Ruby Meadowhawk Dragonfly_7458aSometimes dragonflies, butterflies and birds of the same species come in different colors. Usually it’s a male/ female thing. For instance, here’s a Ruby Meadowhawk female. Not particularly Ruby, is it? MI Mitchell SP Ruby Meadowhawk Dragonfly_7365aBut here’s the male Ruby Meadowhawk, and now it’s obvious where the name came from. Mitchell State Park.

MI Mitchell SP Wildlife Midland Painted_7353aAnd now, for some scaly things: Midland Painted Turtle, Mitchell State Park. The front fellow’s a little shy, typical of most of the critters I saw – or didn’t see – in Michigan.

Near misses: Occasionally along the Mitchell Heritage Nature Trail I would hear “shish-shishhh-shish” as a small snake slithered off into the grass. I rarely actually saw them. I also heard the distinctive banjo-like “twang” of a Green Frog a few times.

MI White Pine Village_5430aEnding on a furry note: Chipmunk, White Pine Village.

Coming up: Mich-mash

Michigan’s Natural Heritage: Cadillac Marsh

Michigan has 101 State Parks. So far, I had only seen one of them. Obviously, that had to be fixed!

Mitchell CollageIt was also time to get away from the Lake Michigan dune area, much as I love it, so I headed inland. The town of Cadillac is home to Lake Cadillac, Lake Mitchell, and in between, Mitchell State Park.

MI Mitchell SP_7198 a Within the park is the Mitchell Heritage Nature Trail. It’s a 2½ mile trail encircling a marsh, and just the thing to keep me out of trouble for a couple of hours. Or eaten alive, which was certainly my fear starting out. The trail began as a lovely walk through an old growth forest of maple, oak and pine. Turned out it was also home to gangs of marauding vampires in mosquito disguise. Knowing that I was headed for a marsh, I thought it could only get worse. Luckily, I was wrong; apparently these were strictly arboreal skeeters.

MI Mitchell SP_7201 aA brief meadow interlude, followed by a plunge into more woods just beyond.

MI Mitchell SP Flower_7242 a Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis.) A shrub that grows in marshes or on the edge of streams or lakes. It offers nectar to bees and butterflies, seeds for ducks and shorebirds and leaves for deer. Songbirds nest in the plant and small critters like insects, frogs and salamanders use it for cover. In other words, this is a friendly plant! (Thanks to Weed Warrior pal Mike for the identification.)

MI Mitchell SP_7239The observation deck offered a wide view of the marsh. From a distance it looks like a confusing tangle of green, doesn’t it? Look closely and you may see that there are dozens of different plants and shrubs here. Great habitat for wildlife. The Goldfinches sure loved it!

MI Mitchell SP_7264 aOutside the trail was a canal that reminded me of a castle moat. This was home to lots of turtles.

MI Mitchell SP_7246 aFerns reflected in the dark waters of the canal.

MI Mitchell SP_7212 a

Birch trees. But of course.

MI Mitchell SP_7230 aFUN FACT: This is a secondary growth forest. The original forest of white pine was decimated by logging in the late 1800s, and fire after that. White birch is often called the “fire tree”, because fire exposes minerals that spur the growth of birches, and it’s one of the first trees to reforest a burned area. This is an older birch woodland that is already transitioning to a beech and maple forest.

Young birch saplings often drew nourishment from the old pine stumps and grew up around them. Eventually the stumps would rot away underneath. These weird roots are the result!

MI Mitchell SP Lake Mitchell_7512 a2Back from the trail, at the more recreation oriented part of the park, here is Lake Mitchell (above), and the Clam Lake Canal (below.) The canal was built in 1873 to float logs between the lakes for the lumber industry, and is a third of a mile long.   MI Mitchell SP Lakes_7529 aMI Mitchell SP Lake Cadillac_7523 aAt the end of the canal, Lake Cadillac.

MI Mitchell SP_7378 aHappy trails!

Coming up: Back in Time: White Pine Village