Heron & Beaver

Heron & Beaver, photo by Corinne Schwarz

Here’s a cool photo from May of 20111 that I never featured for some reason. That reason might have been so I could link to this article from the Birdwatchers General Store in Cape Cod about the symbiotic relationship between beavers & blue herons. It says in part:

It is thought that the Bay State’s famed naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, never saw a Great Blue Heron nest in Massachusetts. Why? It’s partly because there were no beavers living in MA during Hank’s lifetime. Way back in the 1700s, unregulated cutting eliminated the trees beavers needed for survival.

…Today, beavers are once again thriving in MA. That’s not only great news for anyone who enjoys seeing beavers, but it’s great news for Great Blue Herons as well.

I think we all know how beavers operate. They find a secluded stream, cut down a few trees and dam it up. The area behind the dam becomes flooded and turns into a beaver pond. Why do beavers need to go through all the work to build their very own pond? The beavers create a pond so they can have underwater access to their lodge, even when everything is frozen in the winter. However, the newly built pond often entraps large trees, which eventually drown and die. Dead trees growing out of the center of a pond may look eerie to us, but they are magnets to herons. The dead trees provide excellent platforms for the birds to build their nests on. In addition, the water prevents terrestrial predators from munching on the eggs and babies. Between the swampy setting, the dead trees, the bulky stick nests and the gangly herons, the whole scene looks a Gothic nursery, but the birds love it.

Read on for lots more, and for more about these two species, see Know Your Michigan Birds: Great Blue Heron and Castor canadensis, the American beaver on Michigan in Pictures.

View Corrine’s photo background bigtacular and see more in her Water Wheel slideshow.

More spring wallpaper on Michigan in Pictures.

Torch Lake Afterglow

April 21, 2015

Torch Lake Afterglow

Torch Lake Afterglow, photo by Heather Higham

Wikipedia shares that at 19 miles long, Torch Lake is Michigan’s longest inland lake, and our second largest inland lake*.

The name of the lake is not due to its shape, rather, is derived from translation from the Ojibwa name Was-wa-gon-ong meaning “Place of the Torches”, referring to the practice of the local native American population who once used torches at night to attract fish for harvesting with spears and nets. For a time it was referred to by local European settlers as “Torch Light Lake”, which eventually was shortened to its current name.

View Heather’s photo bigger and see more Torch Lake goodness (including some nothern lights) in her slideshow.

* If you’re curious to see the lineup, Houghton is biggest and the rest are right here.

Standing Iceboater

March 28, 2015

Ice Boating in Leelanau County Michigan

Standing Iceboater, photo by Mark Smith

It’s 8 degrees right now in Traverse City, and while the weeklong run of wintry weather hasn’t been good for such popular pursuits as getting the garden ready, boxing up winter clothes and keeping your house from being declared a Cabin Fever Disaster Area, it has left the ice in many parts of the state just perfect for the sport of ice boating.

Northern Michigan AP News photographer John Russell is a Michigan in Pictures contributor and wrote Ice Boating: An Ancient Sport in a Modern World a few years ago. It begins:

Sailing on frozen surfaces is believed to have its roots in Northern Europe, where goods and people moved around the region on frozen rivers and canals, using simple sails and handmade boats.

The Dutch and others brought iceboating to the Hudson River valley and other places along the East Coast, where miles of frozen rivers made for great sailing during the winter months. Freight and people were commonly moved up and down the Hudson River in huge, slooped-rigged boats.

Ranging in length from 30 – 50 feet, the stern-steering boats are still raced today by the Northwest Ice Yacht Association, having recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

The ancient sport of sailing on frozen lakes and rivers is alive and well in our state, which has a long and involved history in the sport. Innovations developed in Michigan have enhanced and improved iceboating.

During the winter of 1936-1937, in the hobby shop at the Detroit News, boat builder Archie Arroll, along with Norm Jarrait and Joe Lodge, designed an ice boat they called the Blue Streak 60. Designed to be small enough to build in a garage, and easy enough to be built by anyone, the 12-foot hull design became known as the DN 60, for Detroit News and the 60-square-foot sail.

It is now the largest one-design boat class in the world, with over 8,000 registered boats around the world.

Read on for more including our state’s role in international ice boat racing, some state clubs, safety tips and a couple of photos from John.

Mark took this shot earlier in the week on Lake Leelanau. View it background bigtacular and see more photos (and a couple videos) in his Ice Boats slideshow.

More Michigan iceboating on Michigan in Pictures!

Northern Lights by Stephen Tripp

Northern Lights, photo by Stephen Tripp

Intense colors from the rare Great Aurora painted the skies around the world in vivid shapes that moved like legendary dragons. Ghostly celestial armies battled from sunset to midnight. Newspapers that reported this event considered the aurora, itself, to be the most newsworthy aspect of the storm. Seen as far south as Florida and Cuba, the vast majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere had never seen such a spectacle. 
~Dr. Sten Odenwald

I like to revisit this March 13, 1989 incident documented by Dr. Odenwald in A Conflagration of Storms. In addition to being an amazing display of the aurora borealis, this solar storm took down Quebec’s power network and very nearly much more:

In many ways, the Quebec blackout was a sanitized calamity. It was wrapped in a diversion of beautiful colors, and affected a distant population mostly while they slept. There were no houses torn asunder, or streets flooded in the manner of a hurricane or tornado. There was no dramatic footage of waves crashing against the beach. There were no cyclonic whirlwinds cutting a swath of destruction through Kansas trailer parks. The calamity passed without mention in the major metropolitan newspapers, yet six million people were affected as they woke to find no electricity to see them through a cold Quebec wintry night. Engineers from the major North American power companies were not so blasé about what some would later conclude, could easily have escalated into a $6 billion catastrophe affecting most U.S. East Coast cities. All that prevented 50 million more people in the U.S. from joining their Canadian friends in the dark were a dozen or so heroic capacitors on the Allegheny Power Network.

The Media seemed to have missed one of the most human impacts of the beautiful aurora they so meticulously described in article after article. Today the March 1989 ‘Quebec Blackout’ has reached legendary stature, at least among electrical engineers and space scientists, as an example of how solar storms can adversely affect us. It has even begun to appear in science textbooks. Fortunately, storms as powerful as this really are rather rare. It takes quite a solar wallop to cause anything like the conditions leading up to a Quebec-style blackout. When might we expect the next one to happen? About once every ten years or so, but the exact time is largely a game of chance.

Call it the ultimate Friday the 13th! The whole book The 23rd Cycle:Learning to live with a stormy star is available online, and you can read a lot more from Dr. Odenwald at his website, The Astronomy Cafe or at facebook.com/AstronomyCafe.

View Stephen’s photo bigger and see more in his excellent Northern Lights slideshow.

A whole lot more northern lights on Michigan in Pictures!

PS: Keep an eye on solar storminess and get heads up notifications when the northern lights might be visible at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

North Bar Lake

January 30, 2015

North Bar Lake by Sarah Hunt

North Bar Lake, photo by Sarah Hunt

Who’s ready for a break from snow & ice? The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore page on the North Bar Lake Overlook says (in part):

The name describes how the lake formed: it is ponded behind a sand bar. At times, the sand bar builds up and separates North Bar Lake from Lake Michigan. At other times, a small connecting channel exists between the two lakes. North Bar Lake occupies part of a former bay on Lake Michigan. This ancient bay was flanked by headlands on both sides: Empire Bluffs on the south and Sleeping Bear Bluffs on the north. Shorelines have a natural tendency to become straighter with time. Wave action focuses on the headlands and wears them back, while shoreline currents carry sediment to the quiet bays and fill them in. Deeper parts of the bay are often left as lakes when sand fills in the shallower parts.

The same process that formed North Bar Lake also formed many of the other lakes in northern Michigan: Glen, Crystal, Elk and Torch Lakes, for example.

Here’s more about the geology of the Sleeping Bear and more about North Bar Lake, to which I’d add that the lake is a great place for skim boards because the channel between North Bar & Lake Michigan is only a few inches deep!

Sarah took this photo last summer. Click it to view background bigalicious and check out lots more of her incredible and adventurous photography at instagram.com/oni_one_.

PS: If you’re still not full-up on winter and ice, might I suggest this pic she took in this area of Sleeping Bear last week!

Geminid Meteor ...

Geminid Meteor…, photo by Ken Scott

As you’re making plans for this weekend, consider including some offbeat nightlife. EarthSky has everything you need to know about this weekends Geminid Meteor Shower:

The peak night of the 2014 Geminid meteor shower will probably occur on the night of December 13 (morning of December 14). The night before (December 12-13) may offer a decent sprinkling of meteors as well. Geminid meteors tend to be few and far between at early evening, but intensify in number as evening deepens into late night. A last quarter moon will rise around midnight, but Geminid meteors are bright! This shower favors Earth’s Northern Hemisphere.

…In a year when moonlight doesn’t obscure the view, you can easily see 50 or more Geminid meteors per hour on the peak night. However, in 2014, the waning moon will dampen the display in the peak viewing hours. Don’t let the moonlight discourage you. A good percentage of these yellow-colored Geminid meteors are quite bright and will overcome the moonlit skies.

The moon will rise quite late on December 13 and 14, creating a window of darkness for watching the Geminid shower in the evening. Keep in mind that the moon will rise about an hour earlier on December 13 than it will on December 14. Click here for custom sunrise/set calendar. Check boxes for moonrise/set times..

Even as the moon rises, however, it will be sitting low in the east. If possible, find a hedgerow of trees, a barn or some such thing to block out the moon. Sit in a moon shadow but at the same time, find an expansive view of sky. Or simply look away from the moon.

Read on for all kinds of viewing tips and all kinds of info about about this December meteor shower including the chance of seeing an earthgrazer meteor, a slow-moving, long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across the sky.

View Ken’s photo from December 14, 2012 bigger and see more in his massive Skies Above slideshow.

More meteors on Michigan in Pictures!

Fall Colors On Grand Sable Lake

Fall Colors On Grand Sable Lake, photo by Gary McCormick

Gary took this back in September at Grand Sable Lake in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Get it background bigtacular and see more in his Grand Marais, MI slideshow.

More Fall wallpaper & more Pictured Rocks on Michigan in Pictures.

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