Monday, August 31, 2009

August Wildflowers & Wings

The Southeast Michigan August wildflower meadow dazzles us with an array of Knotweed, Monarda (Bee Balm), Flat Topped Aster, Goldenrod, Black Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower and Queen Ann's Lace. With the bloom of these flowers, the dance of the Monarch, Great Spangled Frittilary and Spicebush Swallowtail begins in this part of Michigan. My favorite place to observe and enjoy butterflies is at Indian Springs Metropark in White Lake, Twp. This park is a 10 minute drive from my house, which makes it a frequent place for me to enjoy wildlife all year long.

With the weather warm and on a slightly windy day, I set out to find Monarchs and other butterfly species in the wildflower meadows at Indian Springs. I was truly delighted with what I found on my photo adventure for the day. The wildflower fields were in full bloom and were swaying in the balmy breezes. A perfect day for winged creatures to nourish from nature's wildflower harvest.

One of the first winged creatures to catch my eye was a Hummingbird Moth sampling from the Monarda. Soon I spotted a Monarch butterfly, a Viceroy, a Giant Swallowtail, and one of my favorites a Gold Spangled Fritillary made its appearance in the meadow. Along the edge was a Common Ringlet, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Silver Spotted Skipper and the elusive Black Swallowtail and a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. My quest that day was to see a Spicebush or a Black Swallowtail, and I was very pleased to find them on this perfect butterfly observing day in late August.
Everywhere I looked, I found a butterfly floating on the wind onto the next flower for a quick dash of nectar as if anticipating the change of season that will soon be upon this glorious field. My butterfly experience was shared with a woman named Doris, whom I met along the trail, she is from a local chapter of the Audubon Society. However, Doris, she was looking for butterflies and not so much for birds. She was doing a count of butterfly species. We exchanged pleasantries and decided to see if we could add to each other's tally for the day. Between the two of us, we found thirteen different species of butterflies. I helped her find some of the butterflies I spotted but not on her list, and she helped me find some of the butterflies I had not spotted. It was delightful experience to meet Doris and share our love of nature and butterflies together. We even found out we have a birding friend in common; isn't that a coincidence.
We also had another delightful experience together, we happened to have a close encounter with the resident Sandhill Cranes, but I will leave that for another post tomorrow. Doris had not seen a Sandhill Crane up close like that, so she was in awe of her encounter with the Sandhill Cranes.
Doris and I parted for our homes and I vowed to get in touch with her and become more active in the local chapter of the Audubon Society. I am the lone butterfly and birder amongst my friends, so having met someone new who enjoys the same pursuits as I do, is the greatest gift I found while out chasing butterflies and birds on this late August day in Michigan. Thanks Doris, you made my day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fields and Flowers At Indian Springs Metropark

Indian Springs Metropark - White Lake Twp., Michigan. 35 Miles Northwest of the city of Detroit. Where nature is on display for all who wish to enjoy the experience.

Sandhill Cranes searching for food alongside the small lake at the Nature Center. The Environmental Discovery Center for educational and underwater pond room observations, the wildflower fields for butterfly enthusiasts and pathways to get an even closer look at the frogs, turtles and dragonflies that inhabit the many ponds at this nature park nestled in the northern suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.

Butterflies and Birds are the main attractant for me at the Nature Center and Environmental Discovery Center. The wildflower fields bring in the winged creatures and deserve a short blog about their importance for their food and shelter of birds, insects and butterflies.

Wings On The Wind

As a birder, butterfly and dragonfly photographer, choosing to go out on a windy day brings all sorts of challenges. The first being, birds are hunkering down with the change in the weather, even if it is for a change to fair skies and warmer temps. That was the kind of day I ventured out to visit my local Huron / Clinton Metropark, Indian Springs in White Lake Twp., Michigan. A fifteen minute drive from my home.

My first stop was to the Nature Center where I can usually find something to observe. Funny how the cool things hang out near the Nature Center. I stopped by the pond and found a very healthy looking Green Frog enjoying the duckweed in its environment. A few feet away, a meadow of wildflowers and milkweed attracted a Monarch Butterfly. I took a quick photo of the frog and then off to watch the Monarch. Given the windy conditions, I was surprised to see the Monarch handling the wind as well as it did. A very cooperative Monarch posed momentarily on the milkwood and I was able to get nice images with the wind whipping in my face.

The day was hospitable for the Turkey Vulture soaring in the warm winds, the Great Egret was buffeted in flight by the strong westerlies and the Cedar Waxwing was unphased as it clung to its perch on a young tamarack tree. The barn swallows and tree swallows were a delight as they seemed to enjoy the extra lift under their graceful wings.

After a trip to the pond, and was returning an unneeded tripod to my car, I happened to run into some friends who are fellow members of the West Oakland Camera Club. They were there to watch the Cedar Waxwings at the marsh lake a short distance from the Nature Center. I joined them for the short hike and conversation about the Cedar Waxwings and how they enjoyed their antics and the seemingly friendly nature of the birds. We were strategizing on how to get close to them for easier viewing. We walked closer, and the birds didn't mind, so there are more opportunities for close up photography. We concluded our visit and they were on their way. I stayed on to watch for more butterflies, but only the Monarch would make an appearance on such a windy day.

My next trip was to the Environmental Discovery Center to look for dragonflies. The center has a central pond surrounded by marsh, cattails, meadows and Massasauga rattlesnake habitat. You have you watch your step when venturing near the pond edges. The snake is shy, but is present and visitors are instructed by signage to stay on the designated pathway. The snake doesn't like the gravel paths or stoney surfaces, so one must be very observant if wandering off into the grassy areas surrounding the pond. I wasn't dressed in high boots, just my Keens, so I kept to the designated path for the most part. It wasn't very long before I found a male Widow Skimmer and a male Eastern Pondhawk perching on the grasses. The frogs were watching my every move as they lay in the shallows under the protection of the cattails surrounding the stone steps leading to the pond edge. The Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly kept returning to the same step beneath my feet as I enjoyed the scenery at the pond.

My trip lasted a few hours and satisfied my need to be in nature for the day, I returned home, but not without another life time observation, a coyote ran safely in front of my car as I drove the road that runs between Indian Springs Metropark and the Pontiac Lake State Recreation area. That was a first for me, a coyote out in the woods close to suburbia. Even the coyote was enjoying its day out in the northern woods of suburban Detroit, Michigan.

It was a beautiful day and won't think twice about heading out on such a windy and challenging photography day.
Get out and enjoy the day!