Friday, June 15, 2012

Pickerel Lake Loop

A few weeks ago, I was asked to guide a group of 8th graders on a Birding walk at Pickerel Lake Preserve. The students were from The Potter's House; (Potter's House) an excellent, private, Christian school in the Grand Rapids area. These kids were amazing! Respectful, attentive, polite. Their parents, and the staff at The Potter's House are doing something right.

These soon-to-be Freshmen looked me in the eye when they talked to me, and the handshakes were firm during our introductions.They knew how to relate to adults. Sincere curiosity guided their questions. This was a fun and friendly group of mature, young adults. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

This week, at a different event, their hand-written thank-you notes were delivered to me. Nice touch.

Near the end of June, some of these kids will have the tremendous opportunity to attend the Teton Science School in the Grand TetonNational Park (Grand Teton) in Wyoming. Wow! I've been to the Tetons about five or six times. It remains in my top five all-time of our national parks, and we hope to return. These kids are going to love it!

Today I returned to Pickerel Lake Preserve, with my camera this time. Come along now for a Walk With Father Nature as we do the Lake Loop. It's less than two miles long, and totally natural. (When you visit, know that this trail is one-way -- clockwise.)

That opening photograph, above, is  a basking Blanding's Turtle. Named for William Blanding, an early Philadelphia naturalist. This one is about seven inches long, with a speckled carapace (top shell), and downright yellow under its neck. I found him along the really long, floating boardwalk. This is a well-engineered and well-constructed structure. And a great place to fish from with your younger kids.

In a smaller pond adjacent to the larger lake, these leaves of the Fragrant White Water Lily floated flat on the calm surface. The Lily flowers appear later.

A male Red-winged Blackbird shrieked a piercing warning whistle from high overhead in a Black Willow, while this female scolded from below. Both guarding their nest.

How can they craft and weave such a marvelous nest within last year's cattail stalks, with only two clawed feet and a beak?

These are the early leaves of Pickerelweed growing in the shallower water of Pickerel Lake. Attractively designed leaves with smooth curves and up-curled edges arching out over the water. Can we please delete "weed" from its name? Later this summer you'll be able to see the beautiful purple-flowered spike, erect and a prominent part of most inland lakes here in Michigan.

Look! 40 feet up in that dead tree. An unusually high perch for this sweet little Yellow Warbler, most often found in dense, thick brush, under 10 feet. Listen! He is calling right now: "sweet-sweet-sweet-sweeter-than-sweet." Such a common resident of wetlands, but an uncommon appearance; bright, cheerful yellow with a copper-streaked breast. It's not migrating through either; but hanging around to fill our summer days with his joyful song.

Want more yellow? Right here at your feet. My feet. My knee boots are only 5 inches into the black, soupy silt. Worth it though, to bring you a view of these Yellow Pond Lilies.

Closer now. Let's look inside this small, yellow cup. Still not mature; holding what looks like dozens of flat pull-tabs.

Of course our familiar friend, the Wild Iris (see post: "Blue Flags in Wetlands") is still flowering. Still displaying dynamic beauty.

As we finish our walk a pair of Mute Swans play front guard and rear guard for their five cygnets. Paddling straight as an arrow toward the next feeding area; fertile and abundant in this Pickerel Lake Preserve.

Thanks for joining me. Come again, and bring your family. Bring all your cygnets.

I'll be happy to show you around the Pickerel Lake Loop. (Pickerel Lake)