May 21, 2013
Michigan in Pictures owes a whole lot to the photo sharing website Flickr. For starters, Flickr hosts the sprawling Absolute Michigan pool, the photo group with over 175,000 photos and 3300 members from where I draw most of the photos used. Flickr is also the web service that made me realize that a blog that featured photos from all kinds of people from over Michigan could work, and the unique social features mean that I learn a lot about Michigan from the photos that are added every day.
Yesterday Flickr made a major move, replacing their 100 photo limit on free photo hosting with a 1 terrabyte limit. While Flickr has lost its status as the leading photo site, it still has a huge number of users. It will be interesting to see if this move pushes them back to the top.
Matt has been one of my favorite photographers over the years for his unique and humorous vision, and it was great to find that he had the perfect photo! See it background big and view more in his Michigan slideshow.
May 20, 2013
Castor canadensis (American beaver) from the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web explains:
Beavers are primarily aquatic animals, and the largest rodents in North America. They have a waterproof, rich, glossy, reddish brown or blackish brown coat. The underhairs are much finer than the outer, protective, guard-hairs. The ears are short, round, and dark brown in coloration. A beaver’s hind legs are longer than its front legs, thus making the rear end to be higher than the front end while walking.
- Beavers eat bark and cambium (the softer growing tissue under the bark of trees). Their favorites include willow, maple, poplar, beech, birch, alder, and aspen trees. They also eat water vegetation, as well as buds, and roots. Cellulose, which usually can not be digested by mammals, is a major component of their diet. Beavers have microorganisms in their cecum (a sac between the large and small intestine) that digest this material.
- Under favorable conditions, beavers will produce their first litters at two or three years of age. The average lifespan of a beaver in the wild is 10 to 20 years.
- Beavers usually live in family groups of up to 8 related individuals called colonies. The younger siblings stay with their parents for up to 2 years, helping with infant care, food collection, and dam building. Beaver families are territorial and defend against other families.
- Beavers build dams to slow down the flow of water in streams and rivers and then build stable lodges for shelter. The dams are engineered according to the speed of the water; in slow water the dam is built straight, but in fast water the dam is built with a curve in it.
- Beavers maintain wetlands that can slow the flow of floodwaters. They prevent erosion, and they raise the water table, which acts as a purifying system for the water. This happens because silt occurs upstream from dams, and toxins are then broken down. As ponds grow from water backed up by the damn, pond weeds and lilies take over. After beavers leave their homes, the dams decay, and meadows appears.
Head over to ADW for more information including some photos.
More Michigan animals on Michigan in Pictures.
Michigan in Pictures regularly features awesome historical postcards from Don Harrison of UpNorthMemories.com. Don emailed me the other day to let me know that the 39th National Stereoscopic Association Convention will be held in Traverse City next month (June 4-10, 2013).
The event features speakers, workshops, 3D image competitions, exhibitions and a huge 3D Trade Fair where you can view and purchase equipment and photographs. While there’s no specifically Michigan tie, I thought it was pretty cool that Brian May, CBE, PhD, FRAS is one of the featured speakers. You may know Brian as the guitarist of Queen, but he apparently postponed a career in astronomy, returning to astrophysics in 2006. He’s also a life-long stereoscopy enthusiast.
Regarding stereoscopy, Wikipedia’s explains:
Stereoscopy (also called stereoscopics or 3D imaging) is a technique for creating or enhancing the illusion of depth in an image by means of stereopsis for binocular vision. The word stereoscopy derives from the Greek “στερεός” (stereos), “firm, solid” + “σκοπέω” (skopeō), “to look”, “to see”.
Most stereoscopic methods present two offset images separately to the left and right eye of the viewer. These two-dimensional images are then combined in the brain to give the perception of 3D depth. This technique is distinguished from 3D displays that display an image in three full dimensions, allowing the observer to increase information about the 3-dimensional objects being displayed by head and eye movements.
The photo above shows the Diag at the University of Michigan. You can see it bigger along with dozens more from all across Michigan in the Bentley Library’s Michigan in 3D Stereoscopic Cards gallery.
May 17, 2013
Morels are popping up all over, and though you might not find 98 like Heather did, even a handful of these delectable mushrooms will make it all worth it. If you’re in the Boyne City area this weekend, they hold their annual National Morel Mushroom Festival. You might also be interested in Five Things You Need to Know about Michigan Morel Mushrooms on Absolute Michigan.
Lots more morel goodness on Michigan in Pictures!
May 16, 2013
Walk silently through the haunting landscape of the ghost forest of Sleeping Bear Point Trail
and wind spirits whisper to you and chatter among the skeletons of long dead cedars.
If you do not hear them you are not listening.
I am sure the Anishinaabek knew the song in their day on Sleeping Bear.
~Jonathan Schechter, Earth’s Almanac
Jonathan Schechter who runs the very cool blog Earth’s Almanac at the Oakland Press penned these lines about the Ghost Forest on the Sleeping Bear Dunes (thanks SleepingBearDunes.com for the link). Click through for a photographic account of his visit!
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the Sleeping Bear Dunes Overlook explains how the ghost forest was created:
The Sleeping Bear Dune is estimated to be about two thousand years old and has a fascinating history. It is classified as a perched dune because it is perched on top of a plateau, high above the lake. When the dune was forming, it was not at the edge of the bluff, but somewhat inland.Wind carried sand from the upper portion of the Lake Michigan bluff inland and deposited it to form the Sleeping Bear Dune.
Notice the skeletons of dead trees within the eroded bowl of the dune. This called a ghost forest and tells a story of alternating stability and change. After an initial phase of active sand accumulation, a period of stability followed when trees began to grow on the dune. Later, more sand moved in and buried the trees. Two layers of buried soil within the dune indicate that there was a second period of stability and tree growth, followed by another period of sand build-up and then the final growth of the trees and shrubs that now cover the sheltered portions of the dunes.
For a long time, the sleeping Bear Dune stood at about 234 feet high with a dense plant cover. However, trough most of the twentieth century, erosion has prevailed.
By 1961, the dune was only 132 feet high, and by 1980, it was down to 103 feet. The process is a continuing one. The major cause of the dune’s erosion was wave action wearing away the base of the plateau on which the dune rests. As the west side of the dune loses its support, it cascades down the hill. The wind, too, is a major agent of erosion, removing sand and destroying the dune’s plant cover. What does the future hold? It seems that the present trend will continue and it is only a matter of time until the Bear disappears completely.
More dunes on Michigan in Pictures.
May 15, 2013
NPR’s Noah Adams visited “The Ridge” to see how the apple crop was faring in 2013 after the devastation of 2012. The engaging 4 minute piece looks at methods they use to battle frost and how last year’s 99% wipeout hurt farmers. It’s well worth your time, but if you’re looking for the punch-line, the crop appears to have the potential for full harvest.
The Ridge Economic Agricultural Partners (REAP) explain:
Fruit Ridge or “the Ridge” is a topographical land feature located NW of Grand Rapids, Michigan and considered to be an agricultural mecca. The glaciers of long ago left behind gently rolling slopes. The deposits were fertile clay loam soils with excellent moisture holding qualities that provided great soil and terrain for the growing of premium fruits, vegetables and the raising of livestock, including buffalo.
Approximately 8 miles wide by 20 miles long, the Fruit Ridge is regarded as one of the prime fruit-growing regions in the world. Elevations greater than 800 feet and its location (about 25 miles from Lake Michigan), creates a unique climate (ideal growing and moderate winters) for fruit production. The Ridge supplies 60% of the states (Michigan) apples. An estimated 66% of the Ridge lies in Kent County, all within 20 miles of downtown Grand Rapids.
“The Ridge” is an area of 158 square miles (8 miles wide and 20 miles long) covering 7 townships and 4 counties: Kent (Alpine, Sparta, Tyrone), Newago (Ashland), Muskegon (Casnovia) and Ottawa (Chester and Wright).
May 14, 2013
Mallards are large ducks with hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Like many “dabbling ducks” the body is long and the tail rides high out of the water, giving a blunt shape. In flight their wings are broad and set back toward the rear.
Male Mallards have a dark, iridescent-green head and bright yellow bill. The gray body is sandwiched between a brown breast and black rear. Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes have a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.
Mallards are “dabbling ducks”—they feed in the water by tipping forward and grazing on underwater plants. They almost never dive. They can be very tame ducks especially in city ponds, and often group together with other Mallards and other species of dabbling ducks.
Read on for more including photos and some fun facts:
- The Mallard is the ancestor of nearly all domestic duck breeds (everything except the Muscovy Duck).
- Mallard pairs are generally monogamous, but paired males pursue females other than their mates. So-called “extra-pair copulations” are common among birds and in many species are consensual, but male Mallards often force these copulations, with several males chasing a single female and then mating with her.
- Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season. Pairing takes place in the fall, but courtship can be seen all winter. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings.
- The standard duck’s quack is the sound of a female Mallard. Males don’t quack; they make a quieter, rasping sound.
- Mallards, like other ducks, shed all their flight feathers at the end of the breeding season and are flightless for 3–4 weeks. They are secretive during this vulnerable time, and their body feathers molt into a concealing “eclipse” plumage that can make them hard to identify.
- The oldest known Mallard lived to be at least 27 years 7 months old.
The National Weather Service noted that the high temperature yesterday at the Otsego County Airport in Gaylord only reached 35 degrees – a new record for the coldest high temperature for the date that crushed the previous record of 44 degrees from 2003. It was also the coldest high temperature ever recorded in the month of May for Gaylord. They notched a record snowfall of 2 inches as well, beating the old record of 1 inch from 1971.
Temperatures dipped into the 20s across the state last night. Although the word isn’t in yet about the effect those temps have had, an mLive article about the apple crop on Fruit Ridge explains:
As fruit trees begin to develop and blossom each spring, their ability to withstand cold temperatures is greatly reduced. As bloom nears, temperatures in the upper 20-degree can cause considerable damage to early blooming crop varieties.
Currently on the area’s Fruit Ridge — a band of ideal growing land northwest of Grand Rapids — several different varieties of apples are in bloom, said Armock. Also, sweet cherries are nearly past bloom in some areas, he said. Tart cherries are in the flowering stage of bloom, as well as some varieties of strawberries and blueberries.
In fact, across the state, growers have been making preparations for “potentially the largest crop of apples and cherries that we’ve ever seen,” said Armock, who estimated the 2013 crop could yield between 30 and 34 million bushels of apples this year, from Traverse City down to the state line.
Read on for more, and here’s hoping their efforts at bringing in helicopters last night paid off. After the near total destruction of the apple, tart cherry and other crops last year, it would be a hard blow to stand.
May 11, 2013
A page about the Point Aux Barques – Turnip Rock geocache had the best information I found about this Lake Huron Landmark. The author explains:
This cache is accessible by a kayak, canoe, jet ski or boat on Lake Huron. Port Austin is the closest harbor which is approximately three miles west. The land around this feature is a gated community. I must stress that this cache is only accessible by a water craft via Lake Huron. If you are not comfortable navigating the waters of Lake Huron, do not attempt to do this cache. Lake Huron can be dangerous at times for small water craft such as kayaks or canoes.
…Everyone that received their grade school education in Michigan learned that glaciers pushed their way over Michigan several times. The result is glacial drift averaging 200 to 300 feet deep covering on top of the bedrock. The thickness of drift has measured over 1,000 feet in a few Michigan locations. Rarely can we see exposed bedrock that has been sculptured by non glacier forces. This is one of the locations in southern Michigan where the sandstone bedrock is exposed at the surface. The amount of shoreline that has exposed sandstone is about one mile, but a lot of beauty has been sculptured in the stone.
The locals call the main structure here “Turnip Rock”, because of it’s shape. Geologists call it a “Sea Stack”. A definition of a sea stack is an isolated pillar-like rocky island or mass near a cliff shore, detached from a headland by wave erosion assisted by weathering. Waves force air and small pieces of rock into small cracks, future opening them. The cracks then gradually get larger and turn into a small cave. When the cave wears through the headland, an arch forms. Further erosion causes the arch to collapse. This causes a pillar of hard rock standing away from the coast. Generally occurring in sedimentary rocks, sea stacks can occur in any rock type.
Read on for more and also see the Atlas Obscura entry for Turnip Rock has a map and photos. Michigan in Pictures favorite Lars Jensen has some great photos of Turnip Rock as well, and you should definitely check out Jason Glazer’s panoramic photos of Turnip Rock.
More Michigan landmarks on Michigan in Pictures.
May 10, 2013
I’m always happy when someone shares a photo of a waterfall I’ve never seen. Michigan in Pictures has a ton of Michigan waterfall photos, so it’s not often that this happens! The GoWaterfalling.com entry for Gorge Falls explains:
Gorge Falls is named for the deep and narrow gorge above and below the falls. This was my personal favorite of Black River Scenic Byway waterfalls. It is also one of the easier waterfalls to visit, being only a short distance from the parking area. There are a fair number of stairs to the falls overlook. It is only a short walk upstream to see Potawatomi Falls.
I do not know how hard it would be to get to the east side of the gorge, or what the views are like.
The Black River Scenic Byway starts north of US 2 near Bessemer. There are signs on US 2. Gorge Falls is about 14.5 miles north of US 2. The scenic area is on the right and is clearly marked.