October 24, 2014
More eclipse photos on Michigan in Pictures. And speaking of eclipses, check out this awesome time lapse of the October 8 Blood Moon eclipse by Central Michigan University astronomy prof Axel Mellinger!
October 23, 2014
Tuesday was the 44th anniversary of the founding of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You may have heard the Chippewa tale that inspired the name of the park:
“Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tried and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear”.
You might not be aware, however, that “the Bear” was also an actual formation atop a dune about a mile north of the Pierce Stocking Overlook. The Lakeshore says that the formation pictured above…
…hardly looks like a bear now, for it has been changing rapidly in recent years. At the turn of the century, it was a round knob completely covered with trees and shrubs. You can still see some of the thick vegetation that gave it a dark shaggy appearance.
…For a long time, the Sleeping Bear Dune stood at about 234 feet high with a dense plant cover. However, through 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.
You can see what the area looks like now and read more right here.
View Don’s photo background bigtacular and get daily blasts from the past in his Northern Michigan Photo Postcards – Our History and Heritage group on Facebook!
October 15, 2014
Predicting Winter Weather: Woolly Bear Caterpillars at the Farmer’s Almanac says that in 1948, Dr. C. H. Curran, curator of insects at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sought to determine the average number of reddish-brown segments and use that to forecast the coming winter weather. For eight years, he continued to try and prove scientifically a weather rule of thumb that the wider that middle brown section is (and the more brown segments there are) the milder the coming winter will be, while a narrow brown band means a harsh winter.
Between 1948 and 1956, Dr. Curran’s average brown-segment counts ranged from 5.3 to 5.6 out of the 13-segment total, meaning that the brown band took up more than a third of the woolly bear’s body. As those relatively high numbers suggested, the corresponding winters were milder than average. But Curran was under no scientific illusion: He knew that his data samples were small. Although the experiments popularized and, to some people, legitimized folklore, they were simply an excuse for having fun. Curran, his wife, and their group of friends escaped the city to see the foliage each fall, calling themselves The Original Society of the Friends of the Woolly Bear.
…Mike Peters, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts, doesn’t disagree, but he says there could, in fact, be a link between winter severity and the brown band of a woolly bear caterpillar. “There’s evidence,” he says, “that the number of brown hairs has to do with the age of the caterpillar—in other words, how late it got going in the spring. The [band] does say something about a heavy winter or an early spring. The only thing is . . . it’s telling you about the previous year.”
Read on for more!
More weather on Michigan in Pictures!
October 13, 2014
The UM Animal Diversity Web’s entry for Parus atricapillus (black-capped chickadee) says in part:
Black-capped chickadees prefer deciduous woodlands, open woods and parks, cottonwood groves, and willow thickets. They are most commonly seen near edges of wooded areas. They are a frequent visitor to backyard feeders. Black-capped chickadees nest in cavities, usually in dead trees or stumps, and are attracted to habitats with suitable nesting locations. During the winter, small flocks of black-capped chickadees can be found in dense conifer forests.
…Black-capped chickadees hop on trees (occasionally on the ground), rather than “walking.” These birds are very active during the day, and can often be seen foraging upside-down. Black-capped chickadees form monogamous pairs which usually stay together for several years. The black-capped chickadee social system has two extremes, one shown by territorial pairs during the breeding season, and the other consisting of non-breeding flocks. These are often mixed species flocks including nuthatches, woodpeckers, kinglets, brown creepers, warblers, and vireos. Black-capped chickadees perform short-distance migrations, but remain in the same general region throughout the year.
Read on for lots more including photos and chickadee calls.
October 8, 2014
The Michigan DNR’s page on the Jordan River Valley in Northwest Lower Michigan says:
The Jordan River Valley is an 18,000-acre block of state-owned forest land in northeast Antrim County. Good wildlife watching and beautiful scenery are common along the Jordan River, Michigan’s first waterway to be officially designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Much of the area has been proposed as an old growth forest area. Access to the river valley is provided by local county roads and an 18-mile hiking trail, the Jordan Valley Pathway, that winds through this portion of the Mackinaw State Forest. The Pathway contains several loops of varying lengths. One loop begins at Deadman’s Hill, which offers a spectacular vista of the surrounding countryside and river floodplain. A second breathtaking and popular vista is Landslide Overlook. Part of this Pathway is the North Country National Scenic Trail, that when finished, will extend 4,000 miles from New York to North Dakota.
…Fall colors are noteworthy in early October due to the hardwood forests throughout the valley.
Indeed! Click to read more about wildlife in the Jordan Valley and get directions.
Lots more fall wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures!
October 3, 2014
If you’re wondering what fall color looks like in the northeastern Upper Peninsula, wonder no more! Ashley took this shot at Michigan’s largest waterfall, the Tahquamenon Falls last week. As you can see, it’s shaping up nicely.
September 29, 2014
Fall is surf season in Michigan, so I thought I’d share this photo and a link to a slideshow of nearly 500 photos from the Absolute Michigan photo group on Flickr.
More surfing on Michigan in Pictures!
PS: I feel like I should tell you that if you aren’t a very good surfer, you should stay away from the Great Lakes in high winds and waves, particularly when the water is cold!