Tag Archives: Sandhill Crane

Finding Fall’s Rhythm

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This morning, I threw on warm, loose clothing and filled my lidded coffee cup. I added a tattered wooly blazer and a black felt hat with a large, orange silk flower in the rim. I put the camera in my pocket, and set out for a walk.

The dogs were stunned!

In the last several weeks, every invitation for a walk has turned into a disappointment to them.

Summer traffic discouraged walks down the Fox Lake Road.

Any off-road walks were necessarily abbreviated because of the mosquitoes.

All excursions were limited by my schedule.

There were days when, having arrived home late, I tried to convince them that a brisk jog two or three times around the perimeter of the yard counts as a walk.

Or a few trips back and forth to bring groceries, mail and other supplies in from the car.

A wander through the garden to pick what’s ripe. Perhaps followed by the added bonus of pulling weeds and dead stalks, and adding those items to the compost.

Most often lately (and most convincing, I might add) it has been a long meander through the berry brambles, in the woods and fields that surround my house.

In my busy end-of summer mode, multi-tasking was key.

The dogs weren’t fooled.

They know that when I have my bucket and head for the blackberry bushes, they are getting a “wander” not a “walk”. They follow for a while, then find a patch of sunshine for a nap.

They know a true squirrel-chasing, smelling-every-new-thing, heart-racing walk when they get one.

This morning they got one.

We headed out the back door, across the side yard and through the field to the old logging trail. Dodging mud puddles, we turned left toward the deep woods. We did not turn back at the moss-covered stone that marks the back of my property. The cool morning had at least temporarily quieted the insect population. We took the curve to the right.

Past the little deer blind, tucked into the woods.

Past the cut logs and treetops where Dusty has been cutting firewood.

Around the next bend to the left, then several curves more before we came to the open area with the little hunting camp.

Just beyond the building is a pond, almost completely hidden by the tall grasses this time of year. If we get close, and wait, I’ll sometimes be rewarded by the sight of a Sandhill Crane. A pair of them have nested there for several years now.

The dogs generally find something wet and mucky to roll in, and consider that their own reward.

They were thrilled for the long outing!

They didn’t realize I had more on my agenda than their good jaunt.

I was scouting the path to make sure it was passable for my planned hike with my friend, Judi, this afternoon.

I was gathering ferns and grasses to try out an idea for a children’s art project.

I was taking photos of this lovely Fall day.

Finally, now that cool weather has made the woods more accessible, I was checking to see if the blackberries were producing well out beyond my patch.

This time, happily, they were duped. They thought the walk was for their benefit alone.

This afternoon, with Judi, we retraced our steps for another pleasant walk.

Invigorating, relaxing, beautiful.

Just exactly what we’ve been waiting for, here on the Fox lake Road.

Signs of the Season

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ImageLast week I photographed snow in the woods here on Beaver Island.

The snow was soft and definitely on its way out, but still mounded impressively. I showed the photos around when I went downstate last weekend. They weren’t as shocking as I thought they’d be, as it seems Winter lingered long all through the state of Michigan.

Today, the first of May, I think the snow is finally all gone on Beaver Island.

It was a shirtsleeves kind of day, with a nice breeze and warm sunshine. .

Walking the dogs today, I went looking for signs of Spring.

In my yard, the daffodils have burst into bloom by the kitchen door. Crocus are up in clusters, scattered through the front yard. The Siberian Squill has been blooming for a week or more, in amongst the drifts of snow. Hyacinths opened today!

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The woods, from the trail, look pretty bland. You have to look carefully to see the hint of green through the dead leaves blanketing the forest floor.

So, today it was off the path and through the woods, to get a close-up view of the changing season.

The wild leeks, called ramps, are the brightest and most visible color. Though they won’t be ready to harvest for a few weeks yet, their onion-like scent already perfumes the air.

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The feathery foliage of the Dutchman’s Breeches are poking up along the edges of the tree line. Soon their flowers, each like a pair of yellow pantaloons, will hang in the shade of the lacy green leaves.

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Spring Beauties, the tiny little flowers whose color is determined by the soil, are palest purple in my woods. In other areas they are pink, white or blue. The flower is not even an inch in diameter. The stem is as fine as thread. According to my aunt, now in her eighties, when she was a child, they picked Spring Beauties by the basketful. They wove them into a crown for the statue of the Blessed Mother, for the May celebration. They made them into floral swags for the children making First Communion to carry.

“You can’t do that anymore,” she told me, “now they’re endangered.”

“No wonder” I replied.

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Trout Lilies will eventually have a small, lily-like flower. Now, in early Spring, they show only the leaves that, in shape and color, resemble a speckled trout.

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Wild Strawberries are up!

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And, finally, the Princess Pine. It used to be harvested by the peck at Christmastime, to make pretty, long-lasting wreaths. Though it’s still plentiful here on Beaver Island, it is protected in this state.

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As one additional mark of the season, though I didn’t get a photo to document it, the Sandhill Cranes have returned to the pond.

This must be Spring!

On the Edge of a New Season

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We took our walk yesterday – the dogs and I – off the road and through the woods to the east on trails that have been impassible since December, clogged with deep snow.

Some winters the temperatures drop and stay cold long enough to let a hard crust form on the deep snow. Then, I can walk far into the woods, to places I’d never dare venture without my footprints to guide me home.

Not this year.

We got plenty of snow this Winter, here on Beaver Island. We had cold, too, of course…but not extreme temperatures for days on end. The snow stayed soft, often slushy. Sometimes the little dog would run gleefully across the surface, chasing some scent or another, teasing me by refusing to come when I called. The bigger dog would usually break through, and find herself in snow too dense to walk in. Me, too.

Certainly it’s a workout, trudging through deep snow, but it’s not the type of exercise I want. It’s hard on the joints, and travel is too difficult to go any great distance. I prefer an easier walk at a better pace, where I can enjoy the fresh air and the antics of the dogs, and not be too exhausted to do anything else when I’m done.

The snow is melting, though.

There are pools and puddles where the snow has turned to liquid faster than the earth can absorb it. There are huge swaths of bare ground. In fact, I carried my camera in order to document the last of this winter’s snow.

It may have been a bit early; the forecast is now calling for more of it this weekend.

Still, it was a nice walk through an area I haven’t seen for a few months.

We took the trail that runs parallel to my house, back through the woods on the old logging road to the little hunting camp. There’s a pond behind the cabin, where a pair of Sandhill Cranes spend their Summer. I was anxious to see if they’d arrived yet this Spring. In the Fall, the course grass grows so tall and densely around the pond, it’s not possible to get close to the water. Summer, the mosquitoes keep me out of this area most days.

Spring is the time for this walk.

The pond is still covered mostly with ice. There is still snow in the woods. I did not see the birds that I was looking for.

Yet…the trees have buds at the ends of their branches that will soon open into leaves.

Two robins kept me entertained as they hopped around the yard.

Squirrels chattered and dashed around from tree to tree, keeping the dogs busy with chasing games.

And…near the pond, I’m sure I heard the frogs!

Whatever the forecast brings this weekend, Spring is close upon us here!