April 17, 2014
Last year I cited the Michigan Natural Features Inventory entry for Great Blue Heron Rookeries. It remains the definitive source, so I guess a rewind is in order:
The great blue herons in Michigan are largely migratory, with almost all leaving the state during the winter months. Most leave by end of October and return in early to mid-March.
The great blue heron is mostly a colonial nester, occasionally they nest in single pairs. Colonies are typically found in lowland swamps, islands, upland hardwoods and forests adjacent to lakes, ponds and rivers. Nests are usually in trees and may be as high as 98 ft. (30 m) or more from the ground. The platform like nests are constructed out of medium-sized sticks and materials may be added throughout the nesting cycle. Nests are usually lined with finer twigs, leaves, grass, pine needles, moss, reeds, or dry gras. The same nests are refurbished and used year after year…
Most great blue herons return to southern Michigan heronries in mid-March although a few may remain through the winter if there are areas of open water. Courtship and nest building commences from early April in southern Michigan to early May in the extreme northern portions of the state. Both sexes are involved in the nest building process with males primarily gathering sticks from the ground, nearby trees, or ungarded nearby nests. Males pass sticks to females who then place them on the nests.
April 14, 2014
There’s an eclipse of the full moon tonight! It begins at 2 AM Eastern time with the total eclipse lasting 78 minutes and starting about 3 AM. While the forecast is not great, it looks like there’s a chance that those brave souls who trade sleep for a shot at viewing the eclipse won’t be disappointed.
Eastern Daylight Time (April 15, 2014)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 1:58 a.m. EDT on April 15
Total eclipse begins: 3:07 a.m. EDT
Greatest eclipse: 3:46 a.m. EDT
Total eclipse ends: 4:25 a.m. EDT
Partial eclipse ends: 5:33 a.m. EDT
If you’re up in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area, they are having a star party tonight. If anyone knows of other viewing gatherings, post them in the comments! If the eclipse ends up getting clouded out locally, you can always take to the net and watch via the live stream from the Griffith Observatory. As I wrote about last week, this eclipse is the first of four total eclipses without a partial in between known as a Lunar Tetrad.
This photo is of the ghost forest on Sleeping Bear Point created when sand of the world’s largest shifting sand dune covered living trees.
March 15, 2014
Many have cursed the cold of this winter that is almost over now though spring seems a long way off. It has caused hardships and pain but has also given rare opportunities to many who have been willing to bundle up and seek the wonders the cold has brought about.
A few weeks ago a friend asked me on somewhat short notice if I’d join him for a walk along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I’d walked the cliffs above the Lake before but the extreme cold of this wonderful winter granted us the opportunity to walk on even the Greatest of Lakes. We had two nights out with no fire to warm us but it was well worth it and a most amazing hike.
March 12, 2014
The Earth Science class for educators at Michigan Tech has an online textbook on Michigan Geography & Geology that’s pretty cool. The chapter on the Ledges at Grand Ledge includes At the Edge of an Ancient Ocean that talks about the rocks that make up The Ledges and begins:
The rocks at Grand Ledge are significant for several reasons. Grand Ledge is an “oasis” of bedrock in an “ocean” of glacial drift that blankets the Lower Peninsula, providing geologists a window into the distant past. The diverse set of sedimentary rocks contains a wealth of information on the plants and animals that dominated the Pennsylvanian Period, about 320 to 290 million years ago. The characteristics of the rocks allowed geologists to reconstruct the changing environment that marked the demise of a great inland ocean. The rocks have been quarried and hold economic value. Lastly, Grand Ledge is scenic and enjoyed by hikers, paddlers, and climbers.
Nearly all students of Michigan geology make a pilgrimage to Grand Ledge at some point in their careers. Good exposures of sedimentary rocks are rare in the Lower Peninsula. Not only are the rocks well exposed but they offer an opportunity to test your skills in identifying a variety of sandstones, some shale and limestone, and even 2 coal. The rocks are exposed in a few abandon quarries and in exposures along the Grand River. To get a good look at the rocks you will need drive between exposure north and south of the river. But don’t be discouraged; the distances are short.
As always in geology, the best place to start is at the base of the stratigraphic section, the oldest rocks. The lower part of the section contains shale, siltstone, and type of sandstone called greywacke. The shale is gray and so fine-grained that you cannot see the mud-sized particles that compose it. If you are brave, you might put a tiny piece in your mouth and push it around a bit. Shale feels smooth, almost creamy, a result of the mud. The shale is also soft and erodes to relatively gentle slopes. Shale is exposed at the base of the layers at the Face Brick Quarry. Think of the light-colored siltstone as a silty shale. You might rub the rock against your thumb and see if any small, visible grains come loose. Again, a taste test might be in order. Siltstone will leave a 3 gritty feel in your mouth. Siltstone is exposed at the base of the rock layers at the American Vitrified Quarry. The greywacke is a greenish-gray colored sandstone and the sand grains are visible to your unaided eye, no tasting required. With a hand lens you can see the rock is made of a mixture of sand sizes, what geologists call poor sorting, and a variety of sand compositions, including quartz, feldspar, mica, and fragments of pre-existing rocks. Greywacke is exposed just above the beach at the Face Brick Quarry.
More winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.
February 24, 2014
John took this shot a couple of months ago at Michigan’s largest waterfall. Several years the crew from Wild Weekend TV went to the falls in wintertime. They talked with Lark Ludlow, owner of the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub about the history & lore of the Tahquamenon Falls – click to check it out.
Lots more Tahquamenon Falls on Michigan in Pictures.
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s Geology Field Notes page has this barely comprehensible stuff to say about Miner’s Castle:
The Miners Castle Member is a soft, crumbly, quartz sandstone (with abundant garnet content) about 140 feet thick; its complete section is exposed in the Pictured Rocks Cliffs between Sand Point and Miners Castle. Sediments of this member are generally poorly sorted.
Capping the easily eroded Miners Castle Member of the Munising Formation in the western half of Pictured Rocks, is the resistant Early Ordovician (480-500 million years old) Au Train formation. The Au Train Formation is a light brown to white dolomitic sandstone that forms the resistant cap to the underlying softer sandstones. The numerous falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are the result of this caprock.
Read on for much more about the geology of Pictured Rocks. Erosion is indeed a factor with one of the most visible instances being April 13, 2006, when one of the pillars of Miner’s Castle collapsed.
January 31, 2014
At Empire, the beach was already sprinkled with about 10-15 other folks and the scene was surreal. Kids were crawling in and out of caves carved into the thick, massive ice formations built up along the water’s edge. Clouds intermittently descended and receded, offering up dramatic skies that beckoned you out.
…Once I finally convinced myself the beach was “safe” to venture out onto after watching about 14 other people successfully make the trek, I was off cresting mini ice mountains at a snails pace until I could finally peer into the water.
It was there that I finally got a sense of just how still the water was. Pancake ice floated gently on the barely breathing lake. The revelation of something so calm in such a harsh environment was almost jarring. (In a really good way.)
Read on for more and lots of stunning photos in her Why Michigan? blog.
Lots more winter wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.
January 25, 2014
Tannery Falls (sometimes referred to as Rudy M. Olson Memorial), along with MNA Memorial Falls (sometimes called Twin Falls) often get missed by unknowing visitors who follow the signs to nearby Munising Falls, leaving these two cool waterfalls in their touristy dust. Well, that’s not going to be you.
…It’s a steep uphill climb at first, but it’s short. After a minute or so of uphill walking, you’ll skirt along a sandstone cliff and end up face to face with a very cool waterfall. It’s a serene little area with more than a few little nooks and cranny’s to explore. I took my son there and he had a blast running around, saying “look at this!” a hundred times. At some point I’d like to come back with my wife and have a picnic here. Yes, I’m cheesy like that.
There are no signs urging you to “stay on the trail.” You can walk right up to, behind, and around the falls if you want to. If it’s a hot day, stand right under the thing and cool off! It might not be a bad idea to bring a swimsuit just in case. :)
Not sure about the wisdom of that today though. Read on for more including instructions on how to get there and definitely check out 1000 Things to Do in the U.P. for lots more ideas about fun in the Upper Peninsula!
Many (many) more Michigan waterfalls await you on Michigan in Pictures!
January 18, 2014
View Greg’s photo bigger and see more in his great Winter slideshow. Catch another shot of the ice caves here and here on Facebook. While you’re there, Greg is also holding a contest and giving a print to 2 winners!
Last year I shared a photo feature on the Eben Ice Caves by Nina Asunto. On Black Coffee at Sunrise, her excellent blog of explorations of Michigan’s wild places, she writes (in part):
During winter, ground water seeps over the edge and down through the sandstone where it freezes, creating huge curtains of ice and closing off the front of the outcrops to form caves.
We had both seen a few photos of the ice caves, but none of them really captured the size of this phenomenon. It was difficult to decide where to begin to tackle it photographically, and we immediately began climbing around the hillsides to get a more expansive view, and crouching and crawling around at the base of the ice to see every possible angle…
What we weren’t able to capture, however, was the amazing sound inside the cave. The drips of water falling from above created wonderful echoes and added to the cave atmosphere. There is much variation of color and texture to the ice in different parts of the cave. Some formations were smooth and clear, others were bumpy and hollow-sounding, and there were some columns that looked like dripping candle wax.
January 8, 2014
We interrupt this winter to bring you a special announcement from summer:
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”