Kirtland Warbler at Tawas Point, 5-15-2010

Kirtland Warbler at Tawas Point, 5-15-2010, photo by John Britt

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources completed their annual June survey of Kirtland’s warbler, one of the rarest members of the wood warbler family that nests almost exclusively in Michigan’s northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, with a few locations in Wisconsin and the province of Ontario. They explain:

“We have a great group of DNR, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members, as well as volunteers, who are trudging through young, thick jack pine in the early morning hours,” said Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor Keith Kintigh. “The reward is getting to hear that singing male Kirtland’s warbler, which is the way we actually census the population.”

The Kirtland’s warbler census is a tool managers use to compare population numbers relative to recovery goals by listening for the male’s song. Kirtland’s warbler numbers had been very low, under 200 nesting pairs, in the mid-1980s. Michigan became the focus for habitat management, since it has been a primary location for the birds’ reproduction.

Kirtland’s warblers spend eight months wintering in the Bahamas. The males arrive back in Michigan between May 3 and May 20, a few days ahead of the females. The males establish and defend territories and then court the females when they arrive. The males’ song is loud, yet low-pitched, ending with an upward inflection – easily recognized to identify the presence of a Kirtland’s warbler.

Additionally, the presence or absence of Kirtland’s warblers determines if protection of that area is needed and allows evaluation of different habitat management techniques. The habitat requirements for Kirtland’s warbler are very specific; they prefer large blocks of young jack pine, usually hundreds of acres in size. The Kirtland’s warbler is a ground-nester, often using the living branches of 5- to 20-foot-tall jack pine trees to conceal their nests, so jack pine trees must be actively managed. Large areas of sandy soils are planted with jack pine and then cut decades later, on specific intervals, to achieve the perfect-aged stands.

Lots more about this rare songbird, including census results that show a steadily increasing population on the DNR’s Kirtland’s Warbler (Dendroica kirtlandii) page.

View John’s photo from May of 2010 background big and see more in his Animals & Wildlife slideshow.

Atop Miners Castle

Atop Miners Castle, photo by Roger Dinda

On April 13, 2006 one of the most recognizable rock formations in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Miners Castle collapsed. The Lakeshore explains:

On Thursday morning, April 13, 2006, the northeast turret of Miners Castle collapsed. One turret remains on Miners Castle, the best-known feature of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The collapse was reported via cell phone by fisherman in the area, according to chief ranger Larry Hach. Most of the rock fell north and into Lake Superior, and there were no injuries. The lower overlook platform near Miners Castle appears to be unaffected.

While the rockfall at Miners Castle on April 13 was startling, such events are not rare along the Pictured Rocks escarpment. At least five major falls have occurred over the past dozen years: 1) two different portions of Grand Portal Point, 2) the eastern side of Indian Head just east of Grand Portal Point, 3) Miners Falls just below the (now modified) viewing platform, and 4) beneath the lip of Munising Falls (along the former trail that went behind the cascade).

All the rockfalls involved the same rock unit, the Miners Castle Member of the Munising Formation. Rock units are named for places where they were first technically described. The Miners Castle Member consists of crumbly cross-bedded sandstone that is poorly cemented by secondary quartz, according to U.S. Geological Survey Research Ecologist Walter Loope.

Rockfalls along the cliffs typically occur in the spring and fall due to freezing and thawing action of Mother Nature.

Joel says that this photo was taken Roger Dinda in 1961 or ’62 “…before Pictured Rocks was a National Lakeshore, before Miners Castle lost its second turret, before they put up the boardwalks and railings. In this photo I’m just as tense as I look. I am deathly afraid of heights and this was (still is) about the scariest place I’ve ever been.”

View his photo background big more in his Lake Superior slideshow.

There’s more Throwback Thursdays, more Miners Castle & more from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Michigan in Pictures!

24 Potawatomi Falls

24 Potawatomi Falls, photo by David Hedquist

GoWaterfalling’s page on Potawatomi Falls shares:

A very scenic waterfall along an especially scenic part of the Black River. An added plus is the close proximity of the equally impressive Gorge Falls. These are two of the most impressive falls on the Black River and are also the two easiest to access.

Potawatomi Falls is just upstream of Gorge Falls and is reached from the same parking area. Potawatomi is the name of one of the native tribes. This waterfall is wheelchair accessible. Gorge Falls is just a short walk away.

In low water, the waterfall is segmented, with most of the water going to the right. In high water the river covers the entire rock separating the two segments with a sheet of white water.

Head over to GoWaterfalling for directions and more. In case you were wondering (as I was), here’s a bit of Potawatomi history from Lee Sultzman that explains (in part):

In 1600 the Potawatomi lived in the northern third of lower Michigan. Threatened by the Ontario tribes trading with the French (Neutrals, Tionontati, Ottawa, and Huron) during the late 1630s, the Potawatomi began leaving their homeland in 1641 and moved to the west side of Lake Michigan in northern Wisconsin. This was completed during the 1650s after the Iroquois defeated the French allies and swept into lower Michigan. By 1665 all of the Potawatomi were living on Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula just east of Green Bay. They remained there until 1687 when the French and Great Lakes Algonquin began driving the Iroquois back to New York. As the Iroquois retreated, the Potawatomi moved south along the west shore of Lake Michigan reaching the south end by 1695. At about the same time, one band settled near Jesuit mission on the St. Joseph River in southwest Michigan. Shortly after the French built Fort Ponchartrain at Detroit in 1701, groups of Potawatomi settled nearby. By 1716 most Potawatomi villages were located in an area between Milwaukee to Detroit. During the 1760s they expanded into northern Indiana and central Illinois.

Land cessions to the Americans began in 1807 and during the next 25 years drastically reduced their territory. Removal west of the Mississippi occurred between 1834 and 1842. The Potawatomi were removed in two groups: the Prairie and Forest Bands from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin went to Council Bluffs in southwest Iowa; and the Potawatomi of the Woods (Michigan and Indian bands) were relocated to eastern Kansas near Osawatomie.

View David’s photo background bigtacular and see many more photos and some videos in his Potawatomi Falls slideshow.

PS: David is the author of Waterfalling in Wisconsin: The Complete Guide to Waterfalls in the Badger State. I’m seeing a bunch of photos of Michigan waterfalls, so (maybe) stay tuned!

Mayfly (Ephemeroptera)

Mayfly (Ephemeroptera), photo by Todd Marsee, Michigan Sea Grant

Last year Steve Stewart of Michigan State University Extension shared The Mayflies are coming – time to celebrate!:

It’s summer, so it’s time for the mayfly hatch! There are hundreds of species of mayflies (also commonly referred to as fish flies) in North America, representing a number of Families in the Order Ephemeroptera. Ephemeroptera comes from the Greek word for “short-lived” (as in “ephemeral”), and it’s a good name because as winged adults, mayflies only live a few days. The most widespread burrowing mayfly species in the Great Lakes is Hexagenia limbata, the Giant Mayfly.

Mayflies have a very interesting life cycle. They are the only insect to have two “adult” molts, and begin life as eggs laid on the surface of the water that sink to the bottom. The aquatic nymphs of mayflies are called naiads, and creep around rocks and vegetation. After months or years (depending on the species), they float to the surface and molt to a winged, but sexually immature, sub-adult. Often within hours, another molt occurs and the final stage emerges—the winged, reproductive adults, which possess only vestigial mouth parts and cannot eat or drink and, depending on the species, live for only days or, in some cases, mere hours.

One of the most obvious characteristics of the adults is their large numbers. They can emerge in huge numbers from a body of water. So huge, in fact, that their swarms can be seen on Doppler radar! This image is from June 14 showing a mayfly swarm over western Lake Erie, pushed ashore in Monroe County by an easterly breeze. Once ashore, mayflies tend to sit on upright objects and can completely cover the surfaces of posts, sheds, and light poles. At night, they are attracted to lights.

Some people think of mayfly hatches as a nuisance, and they can be a bit annoying when they are swarming. But mayflies are a good thing. Some people think of mayfly hatches as a nuisance, and they can be a bit annoying when they are swarming. But mayflies are a good thing. They are rarely found in degraded bodies of water because their external gills in the nymph stage are very vulnerable to silting and pollution. Mayflies are, therefore, used as an indicator species when testing for environmental quality, and their presence reflects the good quality of the habitat from which they hatched.

Read on for more including photos and school lessons on the Mayfly.

View this photo from the Michigan Sea Grant background bigtacular and see more of their mayfly photos on Flickr.

PS: Thanks to Absolute Michigan pool member Steve Brown for posting the first Mayfly of the season and alerting me.

Stormy Monday

June 22, 2015

Tornado Warning

Tornado Warning, photo by Jeffrey Smith

WZZM says that severe weather is becoming more likely Monday afternoon as a cold front sweeps through the state:

Monday will begin with sun but storms will develop to the west and advance quickly into West Michigan by late afternoon/early evening time frame. Models are suggesting the atmosphere will be unstable with abundant moisture by Monday afternoon, meaning storms will have a favorable environment to grow.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center has most of Lower Michigan in the ‘enhanced risk’ area (orange) on Monday meaning several thunderstorms could reach severe levels. To read more about the convective outlook Monday, click here.

Threats from this round of thunderstorms include damaging wind, hail, lightning, isolated tornadoes, and brief heavy downpours. Thunderstorms reach severe criteria when winds are at least 58 mph, hail is one inch in diameter, or a tornado is produced.

Read the detailed forecast for severe weather and you’d like to get more alarmed, check in with Fox 17 West Michigan’s Kevin Craig.

View Jeffrey’s photo bigger and click for more of his clouds photos.

Stormy Monday, T Bone Walker…. and for good measure, B.B. King.

Night and DH Day Barn

Night and DH Day Barn, photo by Heather Higham

This shot of the iconic D.H. Day barn in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from a couple of days ago is beautiful, dramatic and … wrong. While the orange looks cool against the deep blue, it’s a very visible reminder that our night skies suffer from serious light pollution, even in our most preserved spaces. I encourage everyone to learn about night-sky friendly outdoor lighting options and to advocate in your community for better lighting decisions.

On a less preachy note, if you’re in the Traverse City/Sleeping Bear area tonight, the National Lakeshore is hosting the latest in their “Find Your Park After Dark” night sky events from 9-11 PM at the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive #3 Overlook. They write:

All sky programs offered by the National Lakeshore are free. Participants need only purchase the Park Entrance Pass or have an Annual Pass displayed in their vehicle to join in the fun. Programs will be cancelled if the sky is not visible due to weather conditions. The decision to cancel is usually made three hours in advance. Please call 231-326-4700, ext. 5005, for a voicemail message with the decision. For all evening astronomy events, bring a flashlight for the walk back to your car and bug spray, if needed. Park rangers and Grand Traverse Astronomical Society (GTAS) staff will wear red glow bracelets at the events.

Each special event takes place at a different location throughout the National Lakeshore to take advantage of strategic viewing opportunities. You can come for star-gazing, eclipses, meteor showers, solar viewing, and storytelling. These events are the perfect opportunity to Find Your Park in the stars. Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity to experience this endangered resource.

“Harbors of darkness” – what a cool turn of phrase! Head over to the National Lakeshore’s website for more about this and upcoming events.

Over at her blog, the Rapid City Recess, Heather writes about her experience shooting at night with two other photographers – I encourage you to read it.

View Heather’s photo bigger, see more in her Night Sky slideshow and definitely follow her at Snap Happy Gal on Facebook!

More night photography and more Michigan barns on Michigan in Pictures.

Sunset at the Soo Locks

Sunset | Soo Locks, photo by Camaeleo

While I’ve shared numerous photos from the Soo Locks, I’ve never provided the history of one of Michigan’s defining marvels. The Sault Ste. Marie Convention & Visitors Bureau has a brief Soo Locks history:

In 1797, the Northwest Fur Company constructed a navigation lock 38 feet long on the Canadian side of the river for small boats. This lock remained in use until destroyed in the War of 1812. Freight and boats were again portaged around the rapids.

Congress passed an act in 1852 granting 750,000 acres of public land to the State of Michigan as compensation to the company that would build a lock permitting waterborne commerce between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. The Fairbanks Scale Company, which had extensive mining interests in the Upper Penninsula, undertook this challenging construction project in 1853.

In spite of adverse conditions, Fairbanks’ aggressive accountant, Charles T. Harvey, completed a system of two locks, in tandem, each 350 feet long, within the 2 year deadline set by the State of Michigan. On May 31, 1855, the locks were turned over to the state and designated as the State Lock.

The federal government took control of the property and the lock system in the 1870’s. Their stewardship continues today, administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Soo Locks are the busiest locks in the world, and include the largest lock in the Western Hemisphere, completed in 1968.

You can click through for some more information and pictures, but definitely head over to the Detroit Army Corps of Engineers Soo Locks History page for a timeline of all the locks that have been built. You can also get an animated demo of how the locks work and look in on the locks via the Soo Locks Webcams.

View Camaeleo’s photo bigger and see more in their Sault Ste. Marie slideshow.

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