Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Day Extinguished

cattail leaves stop swaying
golden  clouds cease growing
cumulus catch evening light
bases flat as a platter
horizon gathering darkness
birdsong tapers to silence
promise of rain diminished
late summer day extinguished.

©  2012  Richard Havenga

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Photo Location

Lake Vermillion State Recreation Area, Sioux Falls, (Sioux Falls) South Dakota

Monday, August 27, 2012

Michigan Lily

speckled petals curve
anthers-stigma tender touch

Photo Location: Home Garden

Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)

Friday, August 24, 2012


Your plumpness
defies your quickness
as you scuttle around
under brittle shrubs
feeding in this arid land.

Chuckling calls
bubbling through
dry landscapes,
when separated from group
uttering a desperate plea.

Close in a covey with
casual milling about then
sudden scurrying
over gravelly ground
during daylight hours.

Then gathering together
at family roosting sites
into higher branches
safer in numbers
as dusk descends.

Morning dawns again
birds jump to ground
to forage another day
surviving quite well
in the desert southwest.

You carry a dark comma,
a curved exclamation mark !
on your russet crown
pattering along like a
tiny avian sultan.

Your black plume bobbing
in courtly fashion
those chestnut-colored flanks
broadly streaked in white
with black belly patch.

A black face and throat
defined with white lines
outlining cheeks, and forehead
this elaborate design
you wear with elegance.

Gambel's Quail  (Callipepla gambelii)

Photo Location:  Oro Valley,  (Oro Valley)  Arizona

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Peach Moon

silent dusk descends
tree swallows give way to bats
peach moon soon will set

Photo Location: Home Woods - Cannonsburg,  Michigan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fragments of Poetry 4

About tomorrow, who knows anything.
Except that it will be time, again,
for the deepening and quieting of the spirit.

Excerpt from Mary Oliver Poem: "Swimming One Day in August"
From collection:  Red Bird  (Red Bird) c 2008

Purchased: Fact & Fiction (Fact & Fiction) - Missoula,  Montana

Photo Location:  Grand Traverse Bay,  Traverse City (Traverse City),  Michigan

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ponderous Pelican

Ponderous Pelican
yet graceful flyer
powerful stroking flight
alternating short glides
skimming inches
above the water.

Silently you sail
rarely emitting
a low croak
with your head
drawn back to shoulders
no need to soar.

Constant along coasts
you forage shallow waters
of oceans, bays and lagoons.
Nesting in colonies
on small, remote islands
loyally raising your brood.

Roosting in large groups
on preferred sandbars
resting on rocks
buoys and beaches
perching on pillars
posts and piers.

In small flocks
of synchronized sailing
a straight line of aviators
glides low over ocean water
nearly touching it
with wide wingtips.

From the salty air
you dive straight down
plunging bill first
with spectacular twisting
breaking through the surface
filling your pouch with fish.

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Size: 48 - 50 inches (122-127 cm)   Wingspan: 6.5 feet (198 cm)

Photo Location:  La Jolla (La Jolla),  California

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Pretty in Pink"

Most people probably aren't excited by the words swamp, and milkweed. But now that this beautiful flower has grabbed your attention, I can tell you that it's a Swamp Milkweed. Very pink. Don't you think?

It generally likes to have its "feet wet", often growing in shallow water on the margins of swamps, creeks, rivers, lakes, and most wetlands. These are deep pink flowers with white trim clustered atop a tall branching stem.

Here's that stem; very stout, and solitary, but sometimes clustered.

The leaves are numerous, narrow, up to 4" (10cm) long, and opposite. This leaf shape is called Lanceolate (lance-shaped, broadest above the base and tapering to the apex, but several times longer than wide) ... like Willow leaves. Look at those prominent, whitish veins.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
These soon-to-be blossoms seem to concentrate the color before they open. Can you find the five fine lines where each bud will split open?

This is a look at the top 12" of the Swamp Milkweed plant, showing stems, leaves and flowers.

A good close-up view of the flowers. First the Botanical description:

1/4" (6mm) wide; five petals, recurved; elevated central crown divided into five hoods, purplish to pink, borne in umbels at top of plant. The small but complex flowers of Milkweeds show distinctive bent back-petals with both male and female flower parts united in a single central structure called the gynostegium

Then my alternate portrait:

Compact little capsules burst into light pink crowns above, and flared pink skirts below. Like ballerinas performing for bees to arrive.

What do you see?

Honeybee arrives for the dance; nectaring without competition. The pollen occurs in waxy masses called pollinia, which adhere to the legs of insects. Insects may get their feet or tongues trapped in the pollinia slots; the sight of dead or trapped insects stuck in milkweed flowers is not uncommon.

That's what probably happened to the one on the bottom of this trio.

Flowering: June to August

Height: 1 - 4 feet (30-120 cm)

Range: Manitoba east to Nova Scotia, south to Florida, west to Texas, and north to North Dakota. Also in the Rocky Mountain states.

Fruit: Elongated pod; spindle-shaped, erect.  2 - 4" (5-10 cm) long, opening along one side.

If each flower were to develop into a seedpod, the plant would be loaded with them. As it is, only about five pods (each containing about 50 seeds) develop from about 75 flowers per plant.

Each seed has a tuft of hairs (similar to Common Milkweed) which assists dispersal by wind and water.


Twine and thread were made from the fibers, by rolling the fibers on the leg with the palm of the hand. Native Americans also braided the stem fibers into strong cordage. Maybe you want to make some twine or a fine line.

I will try to remember to show you the slender dried pod this fall.

The next time you hear the words swamp and milkweed in the same sentence, you will have a new appreciation for this unique plant. If you see one in a wetland near you, stop for a closer look; tell me what you think...

"Pretty in Pink"

CLICK on photos to enlarge.

Swamp Milkweed  (Asclepias incarnata)

Photo Location:  Seidman Park (Seidman),  Kent County,  Michigan

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Delicate, Dazzling, Damselfly

On a sunny summer Sunday afternoon, we were sitting in our camping chairs near a clean stream, Page Creek, that feeds the Flat River. The place: Fallasburg Park; (Fallasburg) one of the many beautiful parks well-maintained by Kent County, here in Southwest Michigan.

Mary was reading, I was writing, and my camera was waiting in the shade on a picnic table. 
I was also studying the  surface of the stream, watching the Water Striders (see post: "Striders" 6-19-12).

Flitting above the clear water I spotted another insect I have loved for many decades:

Black-winged Damselfly

Not only do I love the insect, I absolutely love this dynamic color combination. Don't you too? Only the male's body has this metallic blue-green-turquoise; the female's body is dark brown, and non-metallic.

These gorgeous insects are 1  5/8 - 1  3/4" (40-60mm). Found throughout North America along slow streams.

Sharp, biting mouthparts are used to cut up prey into bite-sized pieces.

Their long legs, unsuitable for walking, are used to hold insects captured in flight. Each leg has a row of stiff bristles on either side, which are held forward during flight to form a basket that scoops smaller flying insects out of the air and traps them until the claws can grasp them. In this way, they consume huge numbers of blackflies, and mosquitoes.

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

Damselfly eyes bulge out to the side.

While Dragonflies extend their wings horizontally to the sides, Damselflies hold their wings vertically, toward the rear.

Their four wings move independently, enabling them to move forward or backward. The flight is somewhat irregular, and erratic, more like a butterfly. Whereas the dragonfly flight is faster, more direct, and incredibly maneuverable. (For more on Dragonflies, see post: "Fast and Furious" 6-21-12)

Adults feed on small flying insects, but the immature stage, called Naiads, feed strictly on small aquatic insects, since Naiads live underwater, are wingless, and do not resemble the adults.


The male curls the tip of its abdomen to deposit a sperm packet in a chamber below its second abdominal segment. Then, if the female is receptive, the male holds the female by the neck with special claspers called cerci. The female picks up the packet using the tip of her abdomen, to fertilize her eggs.

Looks like they're right on target here; male on top, grasping the female by the neck with his cerci, and the female linking up to the right segment to collect the sperm packet. You can see a sort of heart-shape, but this is not about love. It's about reproduction.

Observe the more transparent, brownish wings of the female here.

Later, the female forces eggs, singly, into soft plant tissue underwater. This is watercress growing along the edge of Page Creek.

This is a great look at the bulbous eyes, the bristly legs, the squarish thorax containing the flight muscles, the arching segments of the iridescent abdomen, the brownish, semi-transparent wings, and the characteristic white spot on the upper tips of the wings.

I hope you get a sunny, summer afternoon, soon, to sit streamside and witness the exquisite, metallic colors of this interesting insect. Bring your binoculars, be patient, and you will be dazzled by this delicate, dynamic Damselfly.

Black-winged Damselfly (Calopteryx maculata)

Photo Location:  Fallasburg Park,  (Fallasburg) Kent County,  Michigan

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aerial Food Web

dragonfly eats flies
spiderweb snares  dragonfly
Waxwing looks at lunch

Cedar Waxwing  (Bombycilla garrulus)

Photo Location:  Big Crooked Lake, (Crooked),  Kent County,  Michigan

Monday, August 6, 2012

Wall of Trees

As late evening calms
the wall of trees
this massive bird
lifts its feathered mass
upward into dense green.

Wide wings  thrashing
through warm air
heavy with humidity
rising to higher branches
of leaves thick and glossy.

Into old oaks that screen
the Wild Turkey's
overnight roosting site.
Perched before dusk.
Heard but not seen.

Photo Location:  Home Woods,  Cannonsburg,  Michigan

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chapel in the Woods

serenity found
give thanks to the Creator
chapel in the woods

Photo Loction:  Hartwick Pines State Park,  Grayling,  (Grayling)  Michigan

Thursday, August 2, 2012

American Lotus

Sometimes we're taken down a different path, or a new road we didn't intend to be on. Often it turns out to be a blessing; whether we recognize it or not, whether we realize it now or later.

I owe this sequence of photographs to a road construction detour off I-96 in West Michigan.  We had to take the the longer, but more scenic route, on our drive to see my 89-year old Mom. (I love you Mom)

Mary and I had been driving west, paralleling the Grand River (longest in Michigan), getting occasional glimpses of its broad current. Just before we reached Mom's condo in Spring Lake, I noticed an unfamiliar shade of yellow in some flowers growing in the calm water of the bayou.

After lunch with Mom, (Mary's vermicelli pasta salad) and a few hours of talk, I excused myself, and left with my camera. I walked back upstream, over a bridge, and shoved my way through dense vegetation down to the water's edge. Look at these spectacular flowers that I found:

This is not just another water lily. This is the American Lotus. Because American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is rare in Michigan, known only in a few localities, I was surprised, amazed, and absolutely blessed to discover it here.  As I open my old Botany books to research this exquisite plant, we will be learning together. Again.

So, take off your shoes, roll up your pants and let's wade carefully into the habitat of "Nelumbo".

It grows in quiet streams, ponds and lakes. Range: Ontario to Maine; south to Florida, west to Texas and north to Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota.

This flower bud is tight and green now.

This bud is loosening, and showing a hint of color. That's a side view of the huge leaf in the background. It resembles an upside-down umbrella, or a broad, shallow funnel.

Here the petals begin to pull away and achieve a soft, pastel yellow.

Slowly, gradually, it opens. Can you feel the potential? The invitation? Anticipation?

The height of these leaves is up to three feet  (90 cm) above the water surface; up to six feet (1.8 m) from the underwater rootstock. Do you like that yellow dot in the center? How about their very circular shape? The wavy margin around the circumference of the leaf? There is more to like as we take a closer look.

I especially like the straight lines (veins) radiating from the axis of the leaf. Very prominent. These leaves are large: 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) wide, with the leaf stalk centrally attached. It is bowl-shaped when held above the water, flat and disk-like when floating on the water. This top view of the leaf reminds me of watching someone tossing raw pizza dough.

This is a good time to introduce you to a 19-letter word: superhydrophobicity. Both species of Nelumbo exhibit it; it simply means extremely water repellent. It's also called "The Lotus Effect".

Are we getting a bit too Scientific? Need a piece of art to rest your mind? Here, hang this on your wall:

(Click on any photo to enlarge)
American Lotus flowers from July through September. Usually early August in Michigan.

The flowers are radially symmetrical, and 6-10" (15-25 cm) wide. Petals and petal-like sepals are numerous (20+); stamens many. In the center of the flower is a large, upside-down, cone-shaped receptacle 3-4" (7.5-10 cm) wide; with numerous cavities, each containing a pistil. In other words, a pretty spectacular arrangement!

Here, the withered petals fall away while the receptacle develops the seeds, hidden within.

This is the top view of the receptacle. This becomes dry, hard and brown; filled with seeds (acorn-like nuts) which retain their ability to germinate even after hundreds of years. I know, hard for me to believe too.

I absolutely love this shade of soft yellow on these delicate petals in this soft photograph.

Well, the path I was led down, the new route I took, did turn out to be a blessing. I realize that. I recognized it then, and I acknowledge it now. I continue to give thanks to God for these incredible opportunities. 

"G3" ... Give the Glory to God!

Photo Location:

Grand River  (Grand River) - Spring Lake,  (Spring Lake)  Michigan


Michigan Wildflowers - Cranbrook Institute of Science c 1961 - (Cranbrook) Helen V. Smith

National Audubon Society - Fieldguide to Wildflowers - (Audubon)  Eastern Region