Michigan’s Common Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle

Female Snapping Turtle, photo by MTU_Flickr.

Regular readers may recall TurtleGate ’08. Some of you may have even been consumed by worry that this terrapin tangle would go unresolved. Fear not, for thanks to a happy find while researching the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, I can finally put the michpics universe back on firm & factual footing.

MTU Flickr says that this little lady was looking for a good place to lay some eggs in the Seney Wildlife Refuge during sunset. It’s part of their excellent Nature Made set, a collection of photos “mostly set in the Upper Peninsula” that should probably be viewed as a slideshow.

The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and probably (other than the elusive cougar), the Michigan animal you most want to be wary of. From the U of M Animal Diversity Web’s page on the common snapping turtle:

Snapping turtles are not social creatures. Social interactions are limited to aggressive interactions between individuals, usually males. Many individuals can be found within a small range; snapping turtle density is normally related to the amount of available food. Snapping turtles can be very vicious when removed from the water, but they become docile when placed back into the water. Snapping turtles sometimes bury themselves in mud with only their nostrils and eyes exposed. This burying behavior is used as a means of ambushing prey.

Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles kill other turtles by decapitation. This behavior might be territoriality towards other turtles or a very inefficient feeding behavior.

You can read much more about these agressive amphibians from the link above and also the Michigan DNR and Wikipedia. Also check out this video of a common snapper attacking a camera to get an idea of how fast they can move if they want to!

You may want to go back and read the other post too as it now has information about the wood turtle in Michigan.

Waterspouts on the Great Lakes

Waterspout from Oval Beach in Saugatuck, photo by Jim Thias

I’m not sure where exactly I should link to for Jim, so here’s his great pictures on railpictures.net.

The archived article on Waterspouts on Lake Michigan – where I found this photo – from NOAA’s National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Grand Rapids has a number of photos taken from Holland & Saugatuck on September 29, 2006. They explain that:

Waterspouts are somewhat common over the Great Lakes in the Fall season. Waterspouts in the fall occur when colder air above the surface moves over the still relatively warmer waters of Lake Michigan. Most waterspouts that occur in this type of scenario typically occur under plain showers and are much weaker than their summer counterparts. This fall type of waterspout is different from waterspouts associated with thunderstorms. They also form differently than waterspouts associated with thunderstorms.

The National Weather Service in Gaylord has a lot more about the science behind waterspout formation that includes a kicking photo of a group of spouts over Lake Huron in the fall of 1999. They say that boaters should take waterspouts seriously and seek immediate shelter when they are forecast. Waterspouts come in two types: tornadic and fair weather.

Tornadic waterspouts generally begin as true tornadoes over land in association with a thunderstorm, and then move out over the water. They can be large and are capable of considerable destruction. Fair weather waterspouts, on the other hand, form only over open water. They develop at the surface of the water and climb skyward in association with warm water temperatures and high humidity in the lowest several thousand feet of the atmosphere. They are usually small, relatively brief, and less dangerous. The fair weather variety of waterspout is much more common than the tornadic.

You can get a lot more great photos in a search for waterspout on the WOOD-TV blogs. I guess I can link over to this waterspout feature on Leelanau.com that includes my own photo of some waterspouts over the Manitou Islands.

Fall Color Tours: Marquette, Negaunee, Au Train

The Start of Autumn by Marjorie Obrien

The start of Autumn, photo by I am Jacques Strappe

You can get 100+ more photos of the Upper Peninsula in autumn from Marjorie (slideshow).

Last fall through Absolute Michigan/Michigan in Pictures we started using the great information compiled in Travel Michigan’s Fall Color Tours as a starting point to point you to some great fall color touring (and fall color photos) around the state.  We’re trying to add to what they’ve put together – not rip them off! As always, if you have links to information or photos that we missed, comments or reports, post them in the comments below!

We’ll start with a driving tour of the Central Upper Peninsula that’s best from mid-September to early October and about 185 miles long. The tour starts in the UP’s largest city, Marquette. Marquette features some amazing architecture. You can read about and see pictures of it courtesy of Marjorie’s blog, Michigan Architecture, especially the beautiful red sandstone.

I recommend wandering around downtown for a while to check out the buildings and maybe grab a muffin from Babycakes and some coffee at Dead River Coffee. Travel Michigan (TM) recommends a visit the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, home of the Marquette Maritime Museum. The lighthouse (pictured right by n. weaver, part of his UP slideshow) was constructed in 1866 and is the oldest significant structure in the city and more importantly, the lighthouse is one of the most historic navigation beacons on Lake Superior. There’s a nice little park behind it where you can swim if you are totally insensitive to temperature.

TM suggests that Presque Isle Park is also worth a visit and it is, offering a slow, brief jaunt along the rugged Superior shore and lots of nice little trails. It’s also a great bike ride along the shore on an excellent bike path from the lighthouse.

Now’s probably a good time for a map – click TM’s map to see larger. Heading north on County Road 550 to Big Bay takes you on a half hour cruise through some beautiful country rich in trees and views.  You can stop and do the 20 minute or so climb of Sugarloaf Mountain (see some pics from Lake Superior Photo). In Big Bay is the Thunder Bay Inn where you are required by travel writer code to mention  “Anatomy of a Murder” which was filmed there. Unfortunately the Thunder Bay Inn has been shuttered.  You can stop in at some of the other businesses and stay at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast (if you call, they sometimes offer tours).

From Big Bay, head back on County Road 510 through the Huron Mountains and trees that arch over the roadway to form a tunnel of color. At US-41 head right and south into Negaunee (Chippewa word for pioneer) where you can visit the Michigan Iron Industry Museum, site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior region. Negaunee’s Union Station Depot looks like a neat place to stay.  From Negaunee, continue to Ishpeming, home of the U.S. National Ski & Snowboarding Hall of Fame and the Cliff’s Shaft Mine Museum.

The route takes you down County Road 476 to Palmer and from there on M-35 south to Gwinn. You can enjoy hiking and mountain biking at Anderson Lake West State Forest Campground or continue south on M-35 to Little Lake where you take County Road 456 east to US-41. A left US-41 takes you north to M-94 where you turn right on M-94 to Chatham and can ask “Honey – are you sure we’re not lost?” 3 miles north off M-94 at Sundell are the about 100′ high Laughing Whitefish Falls (photo right by Church of One).

From there it’s east until you reach H-03 located between Chatham and Forest Lake, north on H-03 along the AuTrain River and past AuTrain Lake until you reach the junction of M-28. You can go east 12 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline on 28 to Tyoga Pathway or go west back to Marquette.

Check out more Michigan Fall Color Tours on Michigan in Pictures and also our fall wallpaper collection!

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Seney, MI

Seney, MI, photo by lilrhgerl.

lilrhgerl took this Holga photo – do yourself a favor and check out her Holga slideshow. She writes that Seney is the most amazing place, and anyone who has spent time there would probably agree.

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 100,000 acres in the central Upper Peninsula. Seney was established in 1935 for the protection and production of migratory birds and other wildlife. It supports a variety of wildlife including a profusion of birds: bald eagles, common loons, trumpeter swans, Canada geese, hooded mergansers, mallards, black ducks, ring-necked ducks, wood ducks and sandhill cranes. Animals include black bear, white-tailed deer, coyote, river otter and beaver. There’s also black flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes during warmer months.

The wetlands, which are also known as the Great Manistique Swamp provide a great haven for all these animals and birds have their roots when:

…Over a century ago, lumbering operations altered the landscape of the Upper Peninsula’s great forests. The ring of the lumberman’s axe echoed through the forests as local mills depleted the region’s valuable supply of red and white pine. After the pine forests were cut, mill owners turned their axes and saws to the Refuge’s northern hardwood and swamp conifer communities.Following the lumbering operations, fires were often set to clear away the debris. These fires burned deep into the rich organic soil, damaging its quality and killing the seeds that would have produced a new forest. On many areas of the Refuge, the scars from these lumbering operations remain visible to this day.

After the fires, a land development company dug many miles of drainage ditches throughout Seney. This drained acreage was then sold using extravagant promises of agricultural productivity. But the new owners quickly learned that these promises were unfounded. One by one, the farms were abandoned, and the exploited lands reverted to state ownership.

In 1934, the Michigan Conservation Department recommended to the Federal Government that the Seney area be developed for wildlife. This proposal was accepted and Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935.

Check out Seney National Wildlife Refuge on the Absolute Michigan map and click for the Seney slideshow from the Absolute Michigan pool!

The Power of Green

We’ve Got the Power, photo by Ann Teliczan

I was just working on a simple post about Green Jobs Now, who have designated this Saturday (Sep 27) as a national day of action in support of jobs in renewable energy and other green industries so I could link to their list of Green Jobs Now Events in Michigan.

It got kind of out hand though, and ended up being a Renewable Energy linkfest of epic proportions that is now on Absolute Michigan.

As a side note, this lonely windmill just outside of Traverse City was the first utility windmill in Michigan and the largest machine in North America. As another side note, Ann has more great photos from the Leelanau/Traverse area right here!

Banded Iron Formation at Jasper Knob in Michigan

Banded Iron Formation

Banded Iron Formation, photo by Allie.P.

Alison writes that this formation is billions of years old and is the main evidence of showing when photosynthetic life first arrived on earth. This photo is part of her Fall set (slideshow) and you can order a copy online from Seneca Creek Photography.

UPDATE! Alison emailed me some great information that makes this a lot clearer!

The Banded Iron Formations (BIFs) are about 2 billion years old and are made of alternating layers of Magenetie (Fe3O4) or Hematite (Fe2O3) which are the grey shiny layers, and red layers of iron stained chert (SiO2) often called jasperite. This photo is part of the Negaunee Iron Formation. Fe2+ is soluble in water, but when iron is oxidized to Fe3+, it is insoluble in water and will precipiate and become a solid. So, the alternating layers represent Iron being oxidized, and precipitation out to form a red layer, and then iron not being oxidized so that you dont get precipitation and get a hematite layer. It is this cycle of there being oxic (oxygen present) and anoxic (no oxygen) conditions in the ocean that has scientists wondering how that could happen.

There are many models that have been put together of how this could happen, but the most interesting one says that ancient bacteria used to use iron as a nutrient. The first bacteria that photosynthesized on our planet produced oxygen, which could explain how the iron was oxidized, precipitated and formed the red layers. Some have said the layers represent the death and birth of algal blooms. Eventually, bacteria produced so much oxygen that all the iron was oxidized, and thus we don’t get BIFs forming in our oceans today since it is impossible to dissolve any iron in it. They even found bacteria in some of the BIFs in Minnesota!

-90% of the world’s BIF (>1014 tons of ore) is located in Australia (~ 27 tons), South Africa, Brazil, and the Lake Superior Region in the US and Canada. The iron that is mined in the UP is extracted from BIFs by grinding them to a powder, taking the iron out through magnets, adding bentonite clay, and then rolling it up into pellets more commonly known as taconite pellets.

She adds that she has some journals about these she would be glad to send to anyone interested, as she have done some research on these as well. Contact her through her web site!

Read more about banded iron formations, fossils in the Negaunee Iron Formation, Jasper Knob and cool spots for rock collecting in the Eastern UP.

Here’s a link to more or less the location of Jasper Hill (Jasper Knob) on the Absolute Michigan map!

Detroit Nighthawks: the core at night

the core at night

the core at night, photo by g. s. george.

When not vanquishing evil, it appears Spiderman likes to indulge in a little photography.

You can (and should) see Geoff’s photo bigger in the Detroit Nighthawks group slideshow.