Milky Otter

Milky Otter, photo by Heather Higham

The stars don’t look bigger, but they do look brighter.
~Sally Ride

Google reminded me this morning that today would have been astronaut & physicist Sally Ride’s 64th birthday. The Wikipedia entry for Sally Ride says that on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space. Along with her NASA career, Ride also wrote a number of books aimed at encouraging children to study science, something I strongly believe that all of us should remember to do with the young girls & boys who look up to us.

To put a Michigan bow on this, be sure to check out the Women in Aviation and Space exhibit at the AirZoo in Portage. The exhibit honors women including astronaut Sally Ride and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. It includes original uniforms, a visual history mural, photo collages, a timeline and a unique mosaic, which includes each of the 1,102 WASP plus Jacqueline Cochran, founder of the Women in Aviation and Space organization.

Heather took this incredible shot at Otter Creek in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. View her photo bigger and see more in her Night Sky slideshow.

PS: If you want to get your Night Sky fix at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, check out their Your Park After Dark program this summer!

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.

Its the Strt of the Breakdown

It’s the Start of the Breakdown, photo by Cherie

If I had a photo of the aftermath of Saturday’s 4.2 magnitude earthquake centered near Kalamazoo available to me,  I’d post it here. Since I don’t, here’s the kind of damage you wouldn’t see. mLive offered some facts about Michigan earthquakes, saying (in part):

When a 4.2 earthquake struck Michigan on Saturday, May 2, the common reaction was: Earthquake? In Michigan? Seriously?

The surprise was not misplaced. Earthquakes in Michigan are rare and tend to be minor. In fact, Saturday’s quake was the state’s most powerful earthquake since 1947.

The quake occurred about 12:20 p.m., with an epicenter about five miles south of Galesburg in Kalamazoo County.

Michigan has “very small probability of experiencing damaging earth­quake effects,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.

In fact, most tremors felt in Michigan originate elsewhere.

Michigan normally does not have earthquakes, the state’s emergency preparedness web page says. “However, we can suffer effects from earthquakes in neighboring states that have a higher likelihood of them.”

Michigan’s strongest earthquake on record occurred on Aug. 9, 1947, about 35 miles from the epicenter of Saturday’s quake.

The 1947 had a magnitude of 4.6 and was centered near Coldwater. It damaged chimneys and cracked plaster over a large area of south-central Michigan and was felt as far away as Muskegon and Saginaw and parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Read on for some more facts about Michigan earthquakes.

View Cherie’s photo background big and see more in her slideshow.

Sturgeon River by Sven

Sturgeon River, photo by Sven

While the ice has melted, leaving the shorelines temporarily free of peril – at least until until bodysurfing season starts – we can take a moment to worry about quicksand. Quicksand in Michigan Streams from Fichigan says:

Everything I know about quicksand I learned from Tarzan movies. The main thing to know is: bad guys don’t make it out, but good guys and gals always do. If you’re a bad guy, please stop reading. Quicksand on a trout stream is a little different than sand bogs in Africa, but there’s some similarity. They are both camouflaged so you don’t see it until it’s too late and if you make it out alive you’ll have an interesting story to tell even if no one believes you.

Quicksand on a trout stream is harder to see since it’s underwater. The stream bottom appears normal except there is no visible hole (sand covers it) so you don’t know it’s here until you start sinking. In waders it’s pretty scary since swimming doesn’t feel like an option.

I’ve found quicksand on the Pine River in Lake County and the Sturgeon River in the Pigeon River State Game Area. On the Pine, the particular spot I know of is a few bends downstream from Raymond Road. The first time I ran into it I was alone. I scrambled to get out and it was like running in place up a sand dune. It was easy to see the exact spot afterwards because a cloud of light gray silt poured out like smoke. An hour later, walking the bank downstream, the silt was still pouring out.

Read on for lots more including his encounter on the Sturgeon River.

I can find photos of almost anything View Sven’s photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his UP Michigan slideshow.

The Sturgeon River is one of Michigan’s Wild & Scenic Rivers – more Sturgeon River on Michigan in Pictures.

Stannard Rock Lighthouse

Stannard Rock Lighthouse, photo by Michigan Tech University College of Engineering

I came across this stunning video overflight of Stannard Rock Lighthouse last month and discovered a lighthouse I wasn’t familiar with.

Stannard Rock Lighthouse at Lighthouse Friends says (in part):

Stannard Rock, a substantial reef barely covered by the waters of Lake Superior, was named for its discoverer, Captain Charles C. Stannard of the American Fur Company, who charted the hazard in 1835. Because of its remoteness – the nearest land is twenty-five miles away, and the harbor at Marquette is distant forty-five miles – the lighthouse atop the reef has been called “the loneliest spot in the United States” and “the loneliest lighthouse in the world.”

The first plan to mark the reef came in 1849, when $1,000 was appropriated for “a floating bell at Stannard rock,” but as this amount was insufficient to moor a vessel with a bell there, it appears the effort was abandoned. In 1866, the Lighthouse Board determined the time had come to mark the nearly hidden menace to navigation:

Stannard’s rock, lying about twenty-three miles southeast of Manitou Island light, is the most serious danger to navigation in Lake Superior. This shoal is about three-fourths of a mile in extent; it rises two and a half to three feet above the water, and is fifteen or twenty feet in diameter. Its exact locality is known to but few; being so far from land it is seldom seen, and is much dreaded by all navigators. The increasing commerce of the lakes will, at no distant day, demand that it be marked by a light-house, the construction of which will, from the circumstances of its location, be a serious engineering difficulty. As a preliminary to this, and to render navigators familiar with its location, the board recommend that it be marked by a day-beacon, to be composed of a single wrought-iron shaft, not less than one foot in diameter, surmounted by a cage that would be visible not less than five or six miles.

…Stannard Rock Lighthouse stands seventy-eight feet tall and exhibits its light at a height of 102 feet above Lake Superior. The tower tapers from a diameter of twenty-nine feet at the pier to just under eighteen feet at the lantern room, while the seven floors inside the tower all have a diameter of fourteen feet.

Read on for a whole lot more about the history of this now abandoned light, including photos.

The photo comes from the Michigan Tech College of Engineering, part of the documentation of their Ecology of Lake Superior aboard the EPA Research Vessel Lake Guardian presentation. It’s pretty cool and I definitely recommend clicking through to see more photos & video and read about their mission.

View the pic big as Lake Superior and see more in their Lake Superior on board the RV Lake Guardian slideshow.

Moose Point Face-off

Moose Point Face-off, photo by Carl TerHaar

The Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan moose numbers are down:

The moose population in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula appears to have dropped over the past two years and experts warn that a warming climate could be cause for concern for the species’ future in the state.

The latest biennial survey by the Department of Natural Resources produced an estimate of 323 moose in their primary Michigan range, which includes Baraga, Iron and Marquette counties. If correct, that would be a decline there of about 28 percent from 2013, when the estimate was 451.

…Even so, surveys since 1997 turned up regular population increases of about 10 percent. Beginning in 2009, the growth rate slowed to about 2 percent.

Now it appears to be dropping.

“It might not happen in our lifetime, or our children’s, but we have to face the possibility that there might not be a wild moose population in Michigan,” Chad Stewart (deer, elk and moose management specialist with the DNR) said.

Scientists are not certain what caused the apparent decline over the past two years, he said. Bitter cold and heavy snow the past two winters is one possible culprit. Also, wolves increasingly may be targeting moose because of falling deer numbers, although Stewart said there’s no hard evidence of that.

But in the long term, a warming climate may be the moose’s biggest enemy. Blood-sucking ticks thrive under such conditions. Thousands can attach themselves to a single moose and weaken the hulking beast.

More at the Freep.

View Carl’s photo big as a moose and see more in his massive Isle Royale National Park slideshow.

More Michigan moose information & photos on Michigan in Pictures

Round Goby

Round Goby, photo by Dave Brenner, Michigan Sea Grant

The Great Lakes Echo reports that although a study has found that invasive round goby are “one of the most successful aquatic invaders” ever in the Great Lakes, smallmouth bass appear to be feasting on gobies:

25 years after their discovery in the Great Lakes, “we’re not documenting specific harms from gobies,” Popoff said, referring to feared environmental, economic and human health concerns.

In fact, there are indications of possible benefits from their presence, he said. For example, “we are seeing amazing smallmouth bass,” as well as some “amazing walleye,” while lake trout have modified their diets from sculpin to round gobies.

One possible exception, according to Popoff, is a decline in sculpin population as documented in Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay because they compete with round gobies for space and food. However, scientists haven’t determined whether the lake’s overall sculpin population is down or whether they’ve merely moved to deeper areas with fewer round gobies.

…However, the study found the round goby is now a widely available food source for many native fish because of its “extreme abundance, tolerance to a variety of habitat conditions and relatively small size.”

In lakes Erie and Ontario, round gobies accounted for 75 percent of the smallmouth bass diet, Crane said. If all other species have maintained stable populations, that means the bass are putting less pressure on other food sources.

Nice to see the Great Lakes winning a battle – read on for lots more.

View the photo background big and see more in Michigan Sea Grant’s Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) slideshow.

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