Sunday, July 5, 2015

H is for Hawk, C is for Catbird

On Friday, after reading another set of glowing reviews, I purchased H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald hoping to begin reading it this long 4th of July weekend.  Sunday morning arrived and I still had not started reading.  This is thanks to other worthy distractions like a long, but completely disturbing, New Yorker article that I started reading before the book purchase.

I needed to do some gardening this morning, mostly pruning and weed pulling - baby maple trees everywhere - when around 9:30 am I heard a Carolina Wren calling from across the street and then, very shortly, calling in my yard - meaning that it was moving. I heard it again a couple of houses further in.  This was the first Carolina Wren in the neighborhood for me (but then I'm probably the only one left who pays attention anymore; all of the other birders have left) all spring and made a note of the time to enter in eBird later.  Its sudden appearance may also signal the early start of fall migration.  I called it quits on the gardening, different than finishing, to finally sit in the shade and begin reading H is for Hawk.

House sparrows flitted in and out of the pond and then a male robin with still bright plumage came to bath.  Then it was quiet.  Back to reading.  Movement around the pond caught my attention again.  It was obscured behind the blazing star and I thought the robin was back. But then a catbird jumped into view and hopped down on a rock and began drinking.  A couple of weeks earlier I heard a catbird in the neighbor's thick hedge across the street.  But this is the first time I have actually seen a catbird in my small backyard.  I wanted to get my camera but I knew that as soon as I moved the bird would be gone and the moment would be lost.  The catbird stayed for at least five minutes and then flew off to perch in my dogwood tree beyond the pond.

I went in for my camera and was rewarded with a brief appearance by a goldfinch.  This my third summer having the waterfall.  I have both regretted and enjoyed having it.  I payed way too much to have it installed (should have known better) and it's a lot of work (I had been warned).  Mostly I have enjoyed it and today was one of those days. Back to reading H is for Hawk.

Women's World Cup soccer at 40 minutes:  USA 4, Japan 2.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bog hiking

This was a much anticipated event.  I, being the novice naturalist in the group, had never hiked in a bog before.  For sure Susan Kielb has because she does research on singing Palm Warblers and it takes her there daily when she is in the UP.  For sure Artemis Eyster has - at Warterloo NWR and other LP locations - but never before in the UP. Sarah Toner is currently working for Seney National Wildlife Refuge where she is doing marsh field surveys so, for sure, she has done some bog hiking.

In my many drives to Whitefish Point and other UP locations, I've seen bogs along the roadside and have thought that they appeared both inviting and forbidding.  It wasn't even clear to me that one could actually enter a bog and hike.  Turns out that, just by looking and seeing, I was right.  They are both inviting and forbidding.

On Sunday morning, we met up at 6:00 am and with Susan driving set off for the Farm Truck Road bog where she collects data for much of her research on the Palm Warblers song.  Susan is an intrepid GPS user and I was an admirer.  I've never used a hand-held GPS; indeed, don't even know how.  In addition to experiencing a bog hike of this extent, the focus of our travels was to see if we could find nesting LeConte's Sparrow.  Susan had the spot marked for a LeConte's sparrow found on a previous year and we headed off in the direction of that location.

We saw and heard so much. 

Goldthread (Coptis trifolia

From right to left:  Artemis, Sarah and Susan.

Bog footprint

The long view.

The short view.

We GPS'd in on our singing LeConte's sparrow only to find that it was a Savannah sparrow.  Startling to see what a wide range of habitats a Savannah is comfortable nesting in.  I am accustomed to the dry, grassy sites where Savannah can be counted on.  And, here it was in the wettest of the wet locations.

Above and below terrible photos of a beautiful plant:   Bog Rosemary (Andromeda glaucophylla).

Pitcher plant flower (Sarracenia purpurea).  Unfortunately, I neglected taking a photo of the plant itself.

Unidentified scat.

Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor).

I hesitate to call this Bog Cotton because I can't find this in the small, yellow Wildflowers of Michigan field guide - (by the way, a pretty good guide for novices like me) - but I remember that the word cotton was used in its name.

Above and below: Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) in the bog.


I love the bright green of the fresh growth on the young tamarack trees.

Swamp laurel (Kalmia polifolia). Out-of-focus - really, how do I do this on a still flower?  Sometimes my photos drive me crazy.  But in this one instance I may have an excuse.  The mosquito intensity was fierce and my hands were bare and even though they were slathered in bug juice, it didn't seem to matter.  More on this later.

Above and below:  the fresh growth on the young black spruce trees.

A hummock.

Forgot which plant this is, but we watched a female hooded merganser flying around as we stood in this location, making us think we were close to her nest cavity tree.

The remaining photos are back on dry land and taken along Farm Truck Road.

Blue Flag Iris - again and a much nicer photo.

I thought this lichen was beautiful.

Above and below:  Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum) - in the Iris family

This Rosy Maple moth (Dryocampa rubicunda) was found on the road. Believe it or not, it was still alive after being struck by a car.  We laid it off the road in some soft sand under under some protective plants after taking these photos.

Pink Lady's Slipper on Farm Truck roadside.

I am a complete novice about wildflowers and wild plants.  We discussed all of the plants identified by the others as we hiked though the bog, but I was not writing down the names.  Some of the plants in the photos above remain unidentified, but I did my best to identify the others.  Hopefully, I've gotten them right.  All except a few of my photos are quite poor, but as I mentioned conditions were not the best.  

As with our visit to Whitefish Point the day before to see the Piping Plover, the bog was an intense experience with mosquitoes.  More later when I write about our Sunday afternoon adventure.