Wednesday, July 26, 2017

July 25

Wednesday, Remi was back in Alma, while I hiked on the beach by our vacation rental house on the west side of Beaver Island. The early morning weather was sunny with a temperature of 60 degrees and a slight breeze off Lake Michigan. After being away for a year, I headed due west down the boardwalk and paused to take in the welcome sights and sounds of the lake. Heading south along the beach, I noticed the record-high lake level was flooding the shoreline and drowning some trees and shrubs. Further down the beach, I spotted blossoms of Hoary Puccoon and stopped to enjoy the herbal aroma of Lake Huron Tansy blossoms. Next, I arrived at a vernal pond created by the high lake level and noticed both a June Bug (May Beetle) and a Common Blue Damselfly clinging to a reed as well as one of many ½-inch American Toad tadpoles swimming just beneath the surface. It takes 40-70 days for these toads to develop from an egg to a terrestrial form. Nearby, the beach sand displayed tracks of the recent movements of Herring Gulls. Continuing south, I watched both a male and a female Black Meadowhawk dragonfly land on the beach. Also, remembering that I saw very few Monarch Butterflies last year, I was pleased to see one of many flying around and feeding on Milkweed flowers. Skirting the edge of another vernal pond, I couldn’t help but notice the movement of dozens of 1/2 inch, baby American Toads as they hopped over the sand. A short distance away, I spotted a 2 1/2-ft Northern Water Snake slithering along looking for food with the vulnerable baby toads being a likely source. The dainty blossoms of Water Horehound also caught my eye. Finally, I turned around and headed back to the house.

Year has come and gone
Greet you once more
Your rhythmic waves
Lap the scenic shore
Above a breezy beach
Soar some Arctic Terns
Beyond the rolling surf
Turquoise water churns
Out among the shallows
Swims a water snake
You’re a welcome sight
Great Michigan Lake

D. DeGraaf

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 19

Wednesday, Remi stayed home while I drove 16 miles west to the Village of Cedar Lake to hike another section of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. The early morning weather was partly cloudy with a temperature of 68 degrees and no wind. Parking the car along the edge of Cedar Lake Rd., I started eastward along the paved trail and immediately spotted a patch of colorful blooms of the invasive, Sweet Pea. Shortly thereafter, I came across the white blooms of a Clematis vine that will seed out in the fall as the familiar, Old Man’s Beard. Nearby, I spotted what I thought was blooming Purple Loosestrife. However, upon closer inspection, it turned out to be Beardtongue. As the sun broke through, I noticed a Drone fly resting on a fern leaf and a Soldier Fly resting on a Catalpa leaf. Continuing eastward, I started noticing Milkweed foliage and began looking more closely on their leaves for Monarch caterpillars. Despite not finding any, I was pleased to spot other insects including a: Milkweed bug, tiny immature Katydid and tinier Celery Fly. Still moving east, I noticed blossoms of Joe-Pye Weed and the invasive, Purple Loosestrife. Upon reaching Academy Rd, I turned around and hiked westward, taking in the sights and sounds. Soon, I spotted a colorful Small Copper butterfly with pieces of its wings missing. Tattered and torn wings usually mean this butterfly is near the end of its natural life. Most adult Small Coppers live 2 weeks, at most. Their delicate wings have evolved to allow them to mate (and a female to lay eggs), pollinate flowers and serve as a food source for other organisms. Next, I got a nice view of a resting Appalachian Brown butterfly and a White Wave moth. Also, the bright red fruit of chokecherry caught my eye. As the breeze picked up, I paused to observe its effect on the leaves of a Quaking Aspen tree. Finally, I returned to the car and headed back to Alma.

Volume of summer
Is turning up
Midnight howls
From a coyote pup
Babbling brook
Gurgling sounds
Hungry Downy
Pecks and pounds
Cicada’s whine
Snort of a deer
Nature’s noises
Please the ear

D. DeGraaf

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 11

Tuesday, Remi and I traveled 17 miles west to continue our quest to hike the entire length of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail from Edmore to Alma. The early morning weather was sunny, some haze with a temperature of 64 degrees and no wind. Parking the car along the edge of Deja Rd., we followed the paved trail east toward the rising sun where I spotted a Black Honey Ant resting on a Milkweed stem. Continuing east, I pausing to observe a Gray Field Slug crawling at a “snail’s pace” across the path. Also, I could see the trail of mucus it secretes to help it move more efficiently. Resuming the hike, I could see a Cottontail Rabbit sitting still along the trail before it saw us and scampered ahead with its furry white tail bobbing up and down. Nearby, I came across a Tamarack tree showing off its reddish female cones and a Witch Hazel tree with leaves displaying cone galls caused by aphids. Further ahead, I paused to listen to the soothing sounds of a small, unnamed creek as it meandered through the woods next to the trail. According to the map, its flows northeast about a mile before emptying into Wolf Creek. Still bearing east, I stopped at a Milkweed plant to observe a mass of several hundred yellow baby Garden Spiders leaving their nest. While most of them will be easy prey for other spiders, insects and birds, some will survive to adulthood. Turning around, I began heading west where I got a glimpse of a resting Appalachian Brown Butterfly. Next, I paused to listen to a House Wren hidden in the pines. Approaching the starting point, I noticed a couple of juvenile Eastern Kingbirds perched in one of many dead ash trees. Finally, we found the car, quenched our thirst and headed home.

Nature’s treasures
Scent of sweet clover
Pigments of summer
Finches fly over
Nature’s lessons
To name each plant
Know each creature
Her wisdom to grant
Nature’s reminders
Respect for the earth
From macro to micro
All life has worth

D. DeGraaf

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 4

Tuesday, Remi and I traveled 18 miles west to begin a long-term quest of hiking each section of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail, starting from Edmore to the west and ending in Alma to the east. The early morning weather was sunny with a temperature of 57 degrees and no wind. Parking in the A&O Forklift parking lot off Neff Rd. in Edmore, we followed the paved trail east toward the rising sun where I came upon a patch of fragrant Milkweed blossoms and paused to watch a honeybee feeding on nectar from one of them. Continuing east, I enjoyed a serenading Song Sparrow perched high overhead and the pleasing aroma from Elderberry blossoms. Also, I was careful not to step on a ¾-inch Gray Field Slug that was crawling slowly on the path laying down its trail of slime. Further ahead, I took in a few more sweet smells of the season including a crushed leaf of Yarrow and a crushed flower head of Bergamot. Next, I passed by a sign marking the east-west drainage divide for Michigan surface water. Soon, the path took us through wetlands where I paused to scan the landscape and listen to the sounds of some Green Frogs, Crows and Redwing Blackbirds. After hiking a mile, I turned around at Deja Rd and headed west where I noticed an Elm Leaf displaying newly formed Cockscomb Galls caused by aphids. Later, these growths will turn red like a cockscomb. Far ahead, I could barely see three young Whitetail bucks walking across the path. Continuing west, I began to see a few blossoms of Queen Anne’s lace. Knowing these plants are also referred to as Wild Carrot, I pulled one up to enjoy the strong “carrot” aroma. Just before reaching the car, I spotted an inch-long Fall Webworm Moth. While, I’ve seen several nests containing webworm caterpillars in autumn, this is the first time I’ve seen the adult stage of their lifecycle. Finally, we came to the car and headed home.

Symphony of sounds
Dawn to dusk
Array of aromas
Mint to musk
Field and forest
Flooded with green
Fruits of the vine
Creatures glean
Fragile fledglings
Take to the sky
Crescendo of summer
Nature in July

D. DeGraaf